The entire student body and staff of the Australian Catholic University (ACU) in NSW have been advised to not vote for the Greens at the request of the Australian Catholics Bishops Conference.
Close to 8000 students and 400 academics were sent “The Greens Agenda: A Message from Catholic Bishops in NSW” just five days before the election by ACU’s Directorate of Identity and Mission.
The document warns that the Greens would seek to “force non-government schools to employ teachers whose views, values and lifestyle are contrary to the religious traditions of these schools,” would reduce funding for private schools, and would treat personal drug use as a health and social issue, “and therefore acceptable”.
It also warns that the Greens would remove abortion from the Crimes Act, legalise euthanasia, and push for same-sex marriage.
The Star Observer was contacted by ACU staff and students who were appalled that the university had been used for a political purpose.
A member of ACU’s teaching staff said he strongly objected to the email and colleagues had asked to be removed from the Directorate of Identity and Mission’s database after receiving it.
“Here we have a publicly-funded university whose email system is being used five days out from an election to lobby the entire student population with a strongly political message from a religious organisation,” he said.
“Many of our students are undergraduates and will be first-time voters at this election. It’s hard enough for young people to get involved in the political process without being influenced in this sort of way.”
He said colleagues were concerned about plans by ACU to compel students to undergo two core units in Catholic Identity if the email was any indication of what that would entail.
An ACU student said she was, “stunned, upset and distressed,” after reading the email.
“I felt like my trust had been violated, like the university had invaded my private inbox and then forcefully told me what to think and who to vote for. The more I read, the more angry and ashamed I felt,” she said.
“It was a grossly inappropriate email to send to students. ACU is a public university open to all and receives significant public funding. It should not be party political and should not be telling students who to vote or not vote for.”
An ACU spokeswoman defended the email, saying it merely informed students about Greens policies and was not a directive on how to vote.
“ACU is a Catholic university, and it is therefore appropriate for us to occasionally circulate matters of Catholic interest,” she said.