Responding to the findings, UNSW said it was “totally committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech” and its existing policies and procedures went further than the model code’s requirements.
“We will not restrict the right of staff, students or others to express their views however challenging or controversial, as long as they remain within the law,” a UNSW spokesman said.
Federal education minister Dan Tehan, who released the Walker report on Tuesday, said all universities had given a commitment to make their policies consistent with the code.
“The French model code ensures freedom of speech and academic freedom are paramount values of Australian universities,” Mr Tehan said.
“Universities have until the end of the year to honour their commitment to align their policies
with the French Model Code and I strongly urge those universities that have not already
done so to take action.”
Carnegie Mellon University, in South Australia, was the only university to provide no information on its progress towards adopting the code.
Mr French, a former High Court chief justice, proposed the code in his government-commissioned review of free speech at Australian universities in 2019.
The code spells out protections from disadvantage, discrimination, threats, intimidation and humiliation, but states there is no duty to protect staff and students from “feeling offended or shocked or insulted by the lawful speech of another”.
The Walker review found that eight universities had not yet completed their work on their policies, including the Australian National University, the University of Canberra and Swinburne University.
A spokesman for the ANU said it had an “unwavering commitment to academic freedom”, reflected in part by the fact that then Chancellor Gareth Evans worked on the French Review.
“We are now in the process of ensuring the spirit and substance of the French Model is embedded in and aligns with all our relevant policies,” the spokesman said.
Professor Walker said the universities that adopted a single, overarching code or policy had addressed academic freedom and freedom of speech “in a more authoritative manner.”
“I have recommended that the sector develop more transparent reporting arrangements and
a heightened role for governing bodies, but university leaders have to provide the day to day
leadership to create an environment where freedom of speech and academic freedom are
understood and supported,” Professor Walker said.
Lisa Visentin is a federal political reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, covering education and communications.