In an email to all staff and students on 3 March, the University condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This denouncement came with changes to the University’s formal relationships with Russian institutions, but stopped short of requiring individual academics cut their own ties with the invading nation.
The ANU has accused Russia of “fundamental breaches of international law and the UN Charter,” in a statement signed by Chancellor Julie Bishop, Vice-Chancellor Brain Schmidt, and the Chair of the Academic Board, Prof. Joan Leach. As a result, the University will be “suspending all ties and activities with Russian institutions, indefinitely and with immediate effect.”
Additionally, Brian Schmidt has commented that this “will add to the global pressure on the Russian people to consider individual and collective responsibility for what is happening in their name”, in an op-ed for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Furthermore, a group of academics from the ANU responded with an open letter rebuking the suspension of ties, arguing that this will hurt attempts to “slow down the country’s descent into the dark ages” by hurting academics “who may be the last remaining voice of reason in [Russia].” They argue that this will support the “state’s propaganda of aggression and isolation” and narrative of “western [R]ussophobia.”
A day after the announcement, ANU clarified in FAQs that this only impacts institution-to-institution relations. ANU academics can continue to work with Russian scholars and institutions, including publishing with Russian academics.
The change is only in “all formal activities, exchanges, and research programs that involve the University, as an institution.” The University is not withdrawing from consortiums and organisations like the Association of Pacific Rim Universities which contains Russian universities, but said such decisions “to make a similar stand” is up to the leadership of such entities.
Paired with the University’s denouncement was an op-ed in The Sydney Morning Herald, Australian scholars choose to stand on ‘the right side of history.’ The Vice-Chancellor contends that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is indicative of “how world wars begin,” and that Putin’s actions are “enabled by active and passive complicity across large parts of Russia’s state and society.”
Schmidt acknowledged that “[t]he international community, including ANU, continued its cooperation with Russia even as it first attacked Ukraine in 2014.” He warns that there will be many who commit the “sin of omission” this year.
The University’s denouncement “urge[d] institutions of all types across Australia to join us [in responding to the Russian invasion].” The Group of Eight, a collection of Australia’s top research universities, has condemned the invasion in a statement, but ANU is the only member university to have taken further action above offering support to staff and students.
Until now, ANU had formal agreements with the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and the National Research University of Higher School Economics. Last year ANU academics published research papers in collaboration with many Russian institutions, including Moscow State University, Saint Petersburg State University, the Russian Academy of Science, Lobachevsky University, ITMO University, and Ioffe Institute, among others.