Barry Spurr trending on Facebook

Currently the topic University of Sydney is absolutely dominated by the unfortunate Bazza. Honi Soit reports:

A rally titled ‘Sack Barry Spurr, Professor of Bigotry’ ended with an announcement that Professor of Poetry and Poetics Barry Spurr has been suspended from teaching and banned from campus.

Over the last two years Spurr used his university email account to send messages littered with racist and sexist slurs, New Matilda revealed yesterday.

“Professor Spurr is suspended, effective immediately, from teaching and engaging in any other University business and is precluded from attending any University campus, while the matter is investigated and dealt with in accordance with the terms of the University’s Enterprise Agreement,” Vice-Chancellor Spence wrote in an email to students.

“Racist, sexist or offensive language is not tolerated at the University of Sydney. The expectations for our staff and affiliates in respect of their professional and personal conduct are clearly set out in the University’s Code of Conduct.”…

USyd staff and students were shocked by revelations of Spurr’s private correspondence.

“Barry’s reputation is for conservatism, not the kind of shocking prejudice and racism there is in these emails”, Dr. Nicholas Riemer, a senior lecturer in the English Department, told Honi.

“It’s important that natural justice be observed in this case just as in any other, but the first priority has to act unequivocally against racism and sexism in the university.”

“I had a great deal of respect for [Spurr],” said Bryant Apolonio, a fifth-year law student, who majored in English. “I’m appalled and angry and what he’s done.”

When asked whether he thought Spurr’s recently discovered views informed the content of his teaching, Apolonio said: “Unsurprisingly every poet he taught was a white dude.”

“I guess you could dismiss that by saying that almost every Modernist poet was a white dude,” he said. “But then he co-ordinated Reading Poetry, every poet was still white and a dude.”

Chris Warren, a first-year arts student, called Spurr a “dinosaur” who lacked “the ability to relate to his fellow human beings.”…


Cartoon from Honi Soit

I participated in some of the Facebook and Twitter responses. For example:

  • Neil James Whitfield I really think he has tipped over the edge, Adam — if the reports are accurate. He was always a reactionary, but this? Weird! 16 October at 21:19 ·

     Adam Aitken He liked me enough to invite me to St Pauls College to have dinner with him and a few of his student friends. I must say I felt a bit ‘out of place’, and am not sure if that had something to do with my ethnicity and the way they talked about me, and talked to me. It’s all a long time ago. 16 October at 21:22 ·

  •  Neil James Whitfield Perhaps he hoped you would join his Latin Mass coven…

The last refers to Church under attack for ‘fifth-rate trendiness’ (2003):

…Dr Spurr bemoaned the way the Church has jettisoned much that was beautiful – the ancient Latin Mass, the Gregorian Chant, graceful architecture, dignified ceremonial – in exchange for “fifth-rate trendiness, social and political correctness, and infantile worship accompanied by badly-strummed guitars”.

The result, all in the name of capturing a younger generation of worshippers and revitalising the Church’s role in the modern world, has been the destruction of the liturgy, the collapse of religious orders worldwide and dwindling congregations. All these factors combined to produce a spiritual life “dumbed down to the level of the consumeristic bread-and-circuses junk culture of modernity,” he said.

He also managed to direct a barb at two favourite Spurrian targets, TV and sport: “Television is the principal transmitter of this gruel-like diet, vomiting endless sport and soft porn … to fill the vacuum where the pro-active imagination and heightened sensibility of the mutely-receptive, ever-sedentary viewers should be.”…

Barry Spurr has mounted a defence on the grounds the offending emails did not represent his real views but were a joking linguistic role-play adopting a kind of Alf Garnett persona and competing with his intended reader to see who could be most outrageous,

Believe it or not I am actually willing to believe that because I once did something analogous with a colleague, though certainly not racist, and not by email! See Still trawling through archives.

And finally, for the time being:

30 December 2001. Childish… but it was fun at the time.

For the past several years a colleague, Max J., and I have amused ourselves at work with a copy of Nuttall’s Dictionary of Quotations that happens to be in the staff room. A product of the early 20th century, Nuttall features hundreds (probably thousands) of quotations from the Greek and Latin, as well as other European languages–and English, of course. Max and I began “translating” some of them, combining in equal parts: some knowledge of Latin, French, German or Greek; sheer perversity in punning and word association; evil. Here are some samples, from a very limited “collected edition” I made several Christmas Holidays ago:

1. Vitae philosophia dux, virtutis indagatrix.
The dux lived for philosophy, but found virtue in doggy tricks.
2. Qui non proficit, deficit.
He who does not make a profit will be shat on.
3. Nec vulta destrue dicta tuo.
Your penis is like the neck of a dead vulture.
4. Sardonicus risus
An erection is a touch comical.
5. Formosa facies muta commendatio est.
In Taiwan, silence at stool is highly prized.
6. Nullum est sine nomine sexum.
Nothing is sinful if it is done in the name of sex.
7. Sumo petit livor.
The Japanese wrestler is looking for a flatmate.
8. Est naturae hominum novitatis avida.
It is natural to show passion towards novices.
9. Fama crescit eunda.
Celebrity makes the nether parts longer.
10. Justitia virtutem regina.
The queen has the power to moisten nipples.
11. Forma bonum fragila est.
An ant’s erection is very delicate.
12. Non obstante veredicto.
Do not oppose a real dickhead.

Well, it was funny at the time… 😉 A couple of my regular readers will be amused at least, if only to see in what aberrant ways teachers may relieve their boredom and/or stress.

Dear me!


In passing, I am delighted to find Nuttall is available online.

That Barry Spurr was one of the reviewers who helped give the Review of the National Curriculum the outcome Christopher Pyne desired is not surprising. I noted Dr Spurr’s form ages ago: The HSC English moanings of Miranda…

…and her mate Barry Spurr.

From the esoteric mind of a Latin Mass Catholic HSC crib writer and a right-wing Catholic newspaper columnist comes this “objective” analysis of the 2009–2012 NSW HSC prescribed texts

Go and read the list for yourselves, carefully. You will see that the real objection may be that some of the texts appear a touch “politically correct”, at least to people like Miranda Devine. If the collected columns of Miranda were set for study, I am sure she would not have complained in the least.

Meantime, HSC students from 2009 will still be able to read Shakespeare (in fact a very large number of students — those doing Advanced — have to) and Jane Austen and, for the first time I can remember, may even read Banjo Paterson. (In the past it was usually the more left-friendly Henry Lawson.) I see John Donne is back too; Professor Sam Goldberg (English Dept Sydney University mid 1960s) would be pleased! But so am I about that one…

There is not one complaint being made about this new list that was not made by the same people in precisely the same way seven years ago about the first set of prescriptions for 2001-2008 when that appeared in 2000. Experience has taught me that the reservations I had about some of it myself in 2000 were unjustified, except I still feel the course is too ambitious, but Miranda and Barry would find that very odd..

Barry managed to adapt his crib empire to it and has no doubt prospered, and will no doubt continue to do so, and despite all I have said I have made good use of Barry’s cribs myself.

Links in that post may not work any more.

See also my post Right-wing education critique is historically inaccurate and perpetuates myths (2007). This is a very substantial entry which is worth rereading, even if I do say so myself.

Big claim? Yes it is, and it is also true.

I have come to this conclusion after reading Shelley Gare’s often entertaining Triumph of the Airheads (Sydney, Park Street Press, 2006) — especially Chapter 7, “How to Educate a Goldfish”, which purports to explain the decline of education at all levels in Australia since the 1960s. In that respect it parallels Kevin Donnelly’s work.

That is not surprising as her “evidence” is largely anecdotal,  based on conversations with Kevin, of course, several advisers to George Bush, Luke Slattery, a Canadian called Catherine Runcie, cognitive scientist Max Coltheart (who in common with several in this list was not in Australia between 1969 and the 1980s and seems to have little idea what actually was being discussed here among teachers, especially English teachers), Barry Spurr, and others. The most reputable figure cited, in my opinion, is writer/critic Pierre Ryckmans (Simon Leys) whose work I do respect for its courage, clarity and subtlety. He is head and shoulders above the rest of that lot….

Minor coda: on Thomas’s old blog I found this comment from The Rabbit, whereby does hang a tale or two that I will leave hanging….

I tried reading Paradise Lost once. I think I was trying to impress The Evil Doctor Spurr (of study guide fame). Since then I’ve decided to read what I like.

Neil, Thomas is going to become a public school teacher — BA BEd (Syd). Muhahahahaha!

On the Catallaxy Open Forum is an article from the Oz that represents the second part of Barry Spurr’s defence – and this is worth pondering.

So a couple of Alinskyist wreckers (Graham/Bacon) have found an unscrupulous useful idiot in IT to help execute political enemies. Unless this is quickly upgraded to a police investigation, University of Sydney will become an outlaw badland where anyone can have email accounts hacked and confidences can’t be kept:

Professor Spurr said his email account had been illegitimately accessed and he suspected it was “payback” for his participation in the curriculum review.

“I allege that my account, my emails, have been illegitimately accessed,’’ he said. “Somebody has gone into my university email, which is password sensitive. I don’t give my password to anybody, ergo someone has got into it illegitimately.

“This is being investigated. This is payback for the curriculum review … they decided to go after the messenger.”

When asked whether he was certain the emails were not leaked by others in the chain of recipients, he said he was “absolutely certain.” He said most of the emails were sent to an old friend, with whom he has an ongoing mock exaggerated exchange of language. While New Matilda claimed emails had been forwarded to a dozen university recipients, Professor Spurr said some of the emails obtained by New Mat­ilda had never been forwarded.

“Some of the emails they quote were only sent to my friend,’’ he said. He was positive the friend had not leaked the mat­erial: “I am absolutely sure. He is my oldest friend and he has been assisting me in this matter.

“I don’t know how they got into my email account and trawled through it, but they did.’’

A spokeswoman for the university confirmed “the allegations of email hacking would be investigated and an investigation is under way”. That would form a separate investigation to the one into Professor Spurr’s conduct.

Still, what possessed the man to write things like these? Even in jest?

Line from Spurr’s emails:

“One day the Western world will wake up, when the Mussies and the chinky-poos have taken over”

“He [Australian prime minister Tony Abbott] should have put his foot down and said, ‘No more Abos’. But he’s as gutless and hypocritical of the rest of them”

“No Abos, Chinky-poos, Mussies, graffiti, piercings, jeans, tattoos. BCP [Book of Common Prayer] in all Anglican chruches [sic]; Latin Mass in all Roman ones. Not a woman to be seen in a sanctuary (church) anywhere. And no obese fatsoes.”

I find the jape far from jolly, I’m afraid. And how silly to email the stuff as well! Even the Daily Terror characterised the events in headline as Nutty professor’s bizarre racist rant… What makes me particularly uncomfortable is that some of the views expressed by Alf Garnett Barry are not a hair’s breadth from the known views of Professor of Poetry Barry – on the churches and women in worship in that last quote, for example.


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  1. Pingback: Barry Spurr is still trending | Neil's Commonplace Book

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