Federal Politics


School should go to institution which appreciates its value

It is useful to hear Professor Ian Young's side of the ANU School of Music dispute (''School's future must be secured'', May 15, p13) but most will find him no more convincing than his colleague, Prof Marnie Hughes-Warrington, was a week earlier. The vice-chancellor claims it is his job to ''ensure the health of the whole university'' yet he proposes to degrade one of its best schools to a mediocrity already available in other ''lesser'' institutions. He talks of appealing to a ''wider'' group of students (i.e less talented and less dedicated) and having them swim ''in streams'' of ''music and media technology, the music industry [and] music education''.

Only after these does he mention ''performance'' which comes in a poor fourth. The hi-tech ''music software'' he praises is an important adjunct but it is no substitute for personal teaching and interaction.

Professor Young and his predecessors were happy enough to accept the kudos of having a world-class music institution on their campus but now they simply don't want to pay for it. They'd rather have a big, healthy surplus. If the ANU bureaucracy really doesn't want its music school then it should seek out an institution or government which understands the school's importance and hand it over, intact. Not run it down brutally so that no one of musical substance would want to study or teach there anyway.

Geoff Page, Narrabundah

I read Professor Young's Opinion piece (''School's future must be secured'', May 15, p13) with interest and disappointment - his voice seems to be more of the administrator and less of the visionary. Taking the discussion to another level, I would ask: What does the SoM stand for? What's its cachet? They need to find someone who can articulate these things, then shape the school's academic and cultural life to confirm, nourish and strengthen that cachet. Along the way such a person would likely develop a funding model that would support the school over the longer term, almost by virtue of that focused approach. That person will be less of the administrator and more of the visionary.

Peter Eddington, Carwoola, NSW


So Professor Young says it is all about costs, and, by inference, bugger the value. What about our own costly and minimalist ANU medical school - how is it adjudged to meet its costs? Closure of the ANU medical school would have little impact on the ACT community, except on a few recently crowned ''associate professors'' who can always go back to their core specialties. So many un-answered questions! How exactly is the SoM ''$1.4m subsidy'' calculated? Do the (un-realistic ) hiring fees charged for Llewellyn Hall go to the SoM budget, or just the operating costs? Have the ''arts and languages'' schools cited by Young also been required to develop an ''administration degree'' for arts graduates who can't utilise a classics education in the real world, as proposed by the vice-chancellor for the future students of the SoM. Does the vice-chancellor really believe a student can obtain high quality one-on-one musical tuition over the net at 2.30am, and secondly, how long does the $600 voucher last?

Young's tactics are no better than the average union official - an outrageous ambit claim, followed by soft ''consultation'', arriving ultimately, and after much pain, at his desired goal - profitable mediocrity.

Canberra does not deserve you Professor Young. Perhaps Hong Kong can beckon you.

Bill Brown, Holt

The latest developments in the ANU School of Music crisis do not address the issue of the nature of the proposed changes to curriculum and course structure. Management is still intent on cutting essential one-on-one tuition for performance students and making the SoM into an open entry (non auditioned) institution. This will change the nature of music education offered in the ACT irrevocably.

It also does not address the plight of first-year students enrolled in HECS fee paying B Mus courses which ANU has already changed, or the unethical advertising of courses to year 12 students that the university will not honour. It would be better for ANU to relinquish the SoM to other institutions better able to uphold standards as suggested by Chris Peters of the ACT Chamber of Commerce (''Business tells UC to save the music'', May 14, p1). Holding on to the SoM while gutting it reeks of the old ''dog in the manger''.

Stanford Harrison,Fisher