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Sydney University academic suspended over offensive emails

Barry Spurr. Photo: Twitter

Sydney University Professor Barry Spurr was caught exchanging offensive emails with university colleagues last week.

Sent from his university email account over a two-year period, the emails included a series of offensive remarks. In one instance, Mr Spurr referred to Sydney University Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson as an “appalling minx”.

The emails, uncovered by New Matilda, also referred to “abos”, “mussies”, and “chinky-poos”, and included offensive remarks about a victim of sexual assault.

University students staged a protest on Friday, October 17 to put pressure on the university to discipline Mr Spurr.

Sydney University education officer Ridah Hassan told City Hub the incident is indicative of a much broader problem.

“The issue is that his views reflect not just his own, but the entire establishment’s. This is demonstrated by the fact that Spurr has been rewarded and promoted over the years to a position of tenure at Sydney University,” she said.

“Say it loud, say it clear, Barry is not welcome here,” students chanted.

“(Spurr) is a professor in a university that claims to be one of the most progressive universities in the country. We want to know why he is still employed here,” said Kyol Blakeney, President of the Sydney University Student Representative Council.

Following the protest, Mr Spurr was suspended by the university “from teaching and engaging in any other University business” and is “precluded from attending any University campus, while the matter is investigated”, according to a statement released by the university.

“Racist, sexist or offensive language is not tolerated at the University of Sydney,” said Sydney University Vice Chancellor Michael Spence.

Mr Spurr has allegedly initiated legal action against New Matilda, the publication responsible for revealing the offending emails last week.

Mr Spurr was also recently commissioned by the Australian Government to take part in the National Curriculum Review.

The results of this review, which was established to investigate any revisions needed of the national English curriculum, were delivered to the Government last week.

Ms Hassan condemned Mr Spurr’s appointment to the review board.

“It is highly concerning that Spurr’s bigotry could find its way into classrooms across the country,” she said.

“It’s clear that his prejudices have found their way into the review, demonstrated by his dismissal of Indigenous literature, and recommendations to promote Judeo-Christian values above all else.”

Ms Hassan said she believes these prejudices exist within the federal government as well.

“These recommendations align with the broader racist campaign of the Liberal government at the moment, and their long-term project of white-washing Australia’s genocidal and racist past.”

Mr Spurr’s offensive statements regarding victims of sexual assault were exposed in the same week as Sydney University was accused of failing to respond to a sexual harassment complaint. The university has since responded to these complaints and disciplined the perpetrator of the harassment, according to a statement issued on Wednesday, October 22.

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