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PostNEW ZEALAND: Academic freedom (Ronald Hilton, USA, 07/30/03 10:49 am)
For the past three years, newspapers, national periodicals and television programmes have provided coverage about the Joel Hayward affair, a story of a New Zealand student who wrote a controversial thesis. Contestable work and arguable conclusions are not uncommon in modern universities, but Hayward's unpublished work as a student seems to remain, after 10 years, a point of unusual and continuing interest. Does Canterbury University support holocaust denial? The university answers no. Is Hayward a denier? He claims he is not. Does his thesis constitute holocaust denial? His critics say yes (some without having read it); others (who have read it) answer in the negative.
In June 2002, Joel Hayward resigned as senior lecturer in history at Massey University, where he had been respected as an effective teacher and productive scholar. His departure generated applause from some quarters. Others lamented academe's loss. What brought Hayward, a year and a half after the Hayward affair, still in the early stages of a potentially distinguished career, to this act of professional extinction? In 1993 Hayward was awarded a master of arts degree with first class honours in history by the University of Canterbury for a thesis on the historiography of the Holocaust. He later wrote a PhD thesis, and in 1996 was appointed to a lectureship at Massey University.
In late 1999, the MA thesis was publicly denounced. The New Zealand Jewish Council alleged that the work amounted to historical revisionism constituting Holocaust denial, and called on the University of Canterbury to revoke the degree. Hayward repeatedly apologised for any harm or distress his thesis might have caused, agreed to the extraordinary step of including an appendix to his thesis modifying his findings, co-operated with the subsequent investigation and appears to have made efforts to distance himself from Holocaust denial.
Under pressure, the university appointed an independent working party to investigate the claims against the thesis. This committee consisted of retired High Court judge Sir Ian Barker and academics Professor Ann Trotter and Professor Stuart Macintyre. Their lengthy report concluded that the thesis was seriously flawed, and that Hayward should not have essayed a judgment in such a controversial area. The report did not recommend withdrawal of the thesis by the university and did not agree with the allegations that Hayward's argument was racist or motivated by malice.
For the full text, see http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storyprint.cfm?storyID=3514153
RH: This case has been dragging on for some ten years. "Hayward should not have essayed a judgment in such a controversial area". This is an indictment of our graduate system. Students are advised to choose a dissertation topic which will not arouse controversy. The well known Stanford historian of the Middle East, Joel Beinin, himself a Jew, was advised not to select a topic about Israel because it would be too controversial. The same is true of peer review committees. They often knew little about the subject of a manuscript; they simply protest if they find anything they disagree with. Incidentally. I am surprised that the Jewish lobby should be so powerful in New Zealand.