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Standing up for free speech at USyd

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Newly-elected undergraduate Senate Fellow, Francis Tamer, at Sydney University. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

A devout Maronite Catholic is determined to stand up for freedom of speech at the University of Sydney after being elected to the Senate in a landslide victory.

Third year Computer Science student, Francis Tamer, secured one of two student positions on the University’s Senate—the highest governing body—with a staggering 1,800 votes at the recent election.

“I think what we need at the highest level is to try to implement measures to protect the free exchange of ideas on campus,” Mr Tamer told The Catholic Weekly.

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“USyd is essentially the left-wing heart of Australia. Everything happening at USyd will be happening in the mainstream in 20 years. The growth in left-wing ideas has gone unchallenged for a long time but I think in this current generation there is a group willing to challenge it.”

“I’m not ashamed about how Catholic I am. I’m not ashamed how pro-life I am and I’m not ashamed about my belief in traditional marriage.”

“The Catholic faith dictates everything for me. I think every Catholic has responsibility to embrace their faith to the fullest. We’re not only Catholics on Sundays. We should be Catholics every day and night.”

The 22 year-old from Penrith received more votes than all the other 23 candidates combined, attracting over 50 per cent of the total student body vote, much to the chagrin of Left-leaning student publication, Honi Soit.

In an article following the election result, Honi Soit, referred to Mr Tamer as a “Vote No protester” because of his opposition to the redefinition of marriage during last year’s plebiscite. Accompanying the article is a photo-shopped image of Mr Tamer dressed as a royal—possibly King Henry VIII—seated on top the Sydney University’s iconic law building.

The photo-shopped image of Mr Tamer featured in Honi Soit, the student publication at Sydney University.

The article seeks to cast doubt on Mr Tamer’s credibility by referring to his “controversial” involvement in organising events in 2017 opposed to same-sex marriage, such as a talk titled, Man + Woman: Made for each other, and the Catholic Society’s ‘Vote No’ stall.

“The way Honi Soit works is that anyone who doesn’t align with their political views, they’re pretty much going to crucify publically,” Mr Tamer said.

“That article was just to associate me with everything that their readers and people of the Regressive Left would hate.”

Mr Tamer said it was the size of his victory in the Senate election that has angered a lot of the Left-leaning agitators like those at Honi Soit.

“It was a landslide victory mainly because of my campaigners who put in a lot of effort.

“That’s the thing that’s angered a lot of people, the size of the victory. They take it to mean we cheated or that something must have gone wrong with the process. The reality is we just campaigned harder than anyone else.”

“Overall it was just an opportunity to try and get a conservative voice and a Catholic voice on the Senate.”

Mr Tamer said he hopes to eradicate violent protests on campus and allow the free exchange of ideas. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Mr Tamer said he would use his new position as the undergraduate Senate Fellow to protect freedom of speech on campus. During last year’s plebiscite on marriage he said members of the Catholic Society who set up a stall campaigning for traditional marriage were abused and intimidated by those with opposing views.

“When you’ve got a first year girl standing on the side not saying or doing anything, not even holding up a sign, just watching, start to have condoms thrown in her face, it’s become abusive. It’s no longer protesting but abuse under the guise of protesting.

“We had our own members in tears after the protest last year, many were upset and shaken by how they were treated.”

Having zero tolerance of violent protests on campus would be an important part of protecting the free exchange of ideas, Mr Tamer said.

“I’m happy to talk to these protesters about my views anytime they want but the problem is they don’t like to talk. They yell and scream, they’ve abused our people, thrown things.”

“I think most people have caught on now that these people are the furtherest thing from tolerance.”

Mr Tamer said as the main influence in his life, the Catholic faith would undoubtedly shape his two-year term on the Senate, however he seeks to serve the interests of all students.

“Freedom of speech is not a conservative or Catholic issue. It’s a people issue. Everyone deserves the right to speak, and everyone deserves the right to be free from violent resistance.”


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