Retiring professor slams Waikato University's 'fascist society'

University of Waikato Emeritus Professor, Dov Bing.
DONNA-LEE BIDDLE/STUFF

University of Waikato Emeritus Professor, Dov Bing.

Waikato University has a "fascist society" where staff aren't free to say what they think, a retiring professor says.

And current vice-chancellor Neil Quigley "made it worse".

Emeritus Professor Dov Bing slammed the tertiary institution's culture during an exit interview after 46 years of teaching political science.

Quigley disagreed, saying academic freedom is not less important, it just looks different these days.

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Bing's comments were made as he reflected on his first years as a professor in the protest era of the '70s.

But that culture is no more, he said.

"[Quigley] calls [staff members] and tells them that they are wrong and tells them what they should think.

"This is a democracy - people can have their opinions. He doesn't tolerate it. He doesn't know what academic freedom is or collegiality - it's managerialism."

However, Quigley said people should be able to debate without getting hot under the collar.

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"I find it interesting that people think that if I express a view about something, that it's contrary to academic freedom.

"It's better that people know what I think and, occasionally, it will create that reaction. The intention is not to stifle debate but to encourage it."

Bing also criticised the university's proposal to cut jobs from the arts department and, in particular, music.

"Music to us is more than just a student/staff ratio," he said.

"It's the biggest public relations vehicle you've got for the community. And here we are, letting students starve of music."

Bing gave a farewell speech to a room of colleagues, friends and family at the university in late July - highlights and accomplishments from his life's work were crammed onto six A4-sized pages.

It detailed moments such as the anti-Springbok protest at Rugby Park in Hamilton.

"I was with four of my students and we had no intention to invade the pitch and were not aware of plans to do so but we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the field," Bing said.

The 1990s witnessed the blossoming of social sciences, Bing said, where staff were friendly with radio hosts and newspaper journalists.

But his fondest memories are in the lecture halls.

"I love teaching. I love the students. It's a great pleasure to teach," Bing said.

"The last number of years I've also taught the first year course on the Middle East and the conflict of Israel versus the Arab countries.

"It's important for a human being to be part of a community and to know people, than to hop from one place to another."

Bing said he even taught second generation students.

"I speak straight from the cuff," he said.

"I look at a student and if I see in the student's eyes that they don't understand, then I go over the point again without embarrassing them.

"To make as many people understand what you're talking about, that's your job."

 - Stuff

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