28 Sep 2018

Māori staff back uni vice-chancellor amid controversy

4:29 pm on 28 September 2018

Māori staff at Massey University are backing their vice-chancellor who's under fire for cancelling a Don Brash speaking engagement.

Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas and Don Brash

The Māori staff association Te Matawhānui say Jan Thomas had its support in the Don Brash controversy. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The professor for Māori and Indigenous education Huia Jahnke said the Māori staff association Te Matawhānui support Jan Thomas continuing as vice-chancellor.

"We don't think that all of this fuss is being warranted and that there's far more things for us to focus our energy on than what a few people have blown up in the press."

The Matawhānui met this week and support Dr Thomas in her role and commitment to the principals of the Treaty of Waitangi.

"Our support of her is in the work she is doing as the vice-chancellor and her leadership as a tiriti led university," Dr Jahnke said.

This follows calls for Dr Thomas to resign over her decision to ban Dr Brash from a speaking engagement at Massey's Manawatū campus.

Dr Thomas' said security concerns were the reason for cancelling Dr Brash's speaking engagement at its Manawatū campus.

Emails obtained under the Official Information Act showed Dr Thomas didn't want the university to be seen endorsing racist behaviour.

Prof Jahnke said talking about free-speech from a Māori point of view, the context of colonisation needed to be taken into account.

"We can't talk about free speech without talking about white privilege, about white male privilege," she said.

"Because there's various levels of who's free to speak and who isn't free to speak."

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