SRC Reports – Week 3, Semester 2

All your SRC news from Week 3, Semester 2.

President’s Report: Jen Light

Housing affordability in Sydney is a myth – because it is not affordable.

However what is most concerning is the unaffordability of student accommodation around The University of Sydney. There are a few options that are offered: colleges, self catered rooms on campus, self catered rooms off campus, or going through private landlords.

There is college accommodation:

– St Paul’s College starts (all male) at $10,350 a semester (or $796.15per week)
– Mandelbaum House (co-ed) starts at $508 per week for a single room – St John’s College (co-ed) starts at $484.50per week Sancta Sophia College starts at $420 for a shared room, and $490 for a single room.
– International House (co-ed) starts at $367 per week for a shared catered room, $470 per week for a single catered room, and $438 for a single self catered unit.
– St Andrew’s College (co-ed) starts at $516 per week for a single room – Weasley College (co-ed) starts at $484 per week
– Women’s College (all female) starts at $515 per week

The cost of college’s does include three meals a day, and all utilities included. There is Sydney University Village (SUV) – privately owned: which is a self-catered room in shared apartments range between $271.50-$475 per week.Urbanest Cleveland Street – privately owned: self catered room’s start at $299 per week.

The University is planning on having 4000 new rooms available for students by 2020 and there are conversations happening about the affordability of rooms, what is defined as affordable and how much the University is asking students to pay for a bed. Student accommodation is particularly difficult for students who are required to live out of home in order to study at the University.

Student accommodation is just a single component to the great complexity of student welfare, and the absence of funding to ensure it. The SRC will be presenting the University with an in-depth proposal for affordable student accommodation in next few weeks.

General Secretaries’ Report: James Leeder and Mariana Podesta-Diverio

Now that we’re past the halfway point in our elected term, we’ll give a rundown of the things we’ve worked on this year. The General Secretaries occupy an extremely bureaucratic Executive position with limited visibility which is crucial to the functioning of the organisation. We got involved so we could use the position in a more active way than it has been used in previous years, particularly by emphasising consultation with collectives and being involved in SSAF negotiations. The work of the SRC Executive is ongoing, time-consuming and sometimes goes unrecognised – so we want to give a shout out to the rest of exec, who attend regular meetings, discuss circular motions (to approve campaign spending) via email in between meetings, and help organise the activities of the SRC. The majority of readers are probably unfamiliar with the nature of our role, so in case you’re interested in getting involved in the SRC (do it!), or you just want to know more, here’s a brief run down.

The general secretaries attend regular executive meetings to do things like organise funding for collectives and campaigns, have sat on panels for the hiring of two new staff members, and are on the board of the Legal Service (which also involves staffing decisions and restructuring). We also produced an O-Week handbook containing all original material and handed these out to new students at O-Week, met up individually with some newer office bearers (ACAR, Welfare, Queer, Disabilities and Carers, Indigenous) to discuss funding and SRC functions, assisted the VPs with regulation changes, publicised the SRC full-time every day at the O-Week stall and handed out showbags, we wrote up the SSAF proposal along with the President, participated in SSAF negotiations with other student organisations, and have been involved in SRC staffing matters. Our biggest project, perhaps (well, the cornerstone of our job description) was the budget. After consulting with extensively with auditors, the administration manager, and collectives, we put out the budget. We increased funding to the Indigenous, International, and Ethnic Affairs departments and have a surplus. This was a pleasing outcome and a proactive reevaluation of spending priorities has enabled us to provide financial support to students arrested during activism on campus. We’re working on some other things at the moment – some that we can’t tell you about (but get excited – it involves jurisprudence) – and some that we can (extensive handover documents, information packs for collectives, general housekeeping).

This year has been active for the General Secretaries. We hope that future gen secs can continue to increase SRC’s visibility on campus and find ways to provide as much financial support to collectives and campaigns as possible. We won’t drop the ball while SRC elections are on in September, so rest assured that if you have any enquiries or require assistance, we’ll get back to you promptly:

Education Officers’ Report: Ridah Hassan and Eleanor Morley

All across the country, students will be wishing Education Minister Chris Pyne an UNhappy birthday, this Wednesday august 13. Recent polling has proved Pyne to be the most unpopular senior Liberal minister, with a 50% disapproval rate. While some of this hatred for Pyne must be attributed to his own insufferable nature and the glee with which he announces further attacks on workers and students, it is undoubtedly also the success of the student campaign that has lead to such a woeful approval rating.

Last May, when the Liberals made clear their plans to follow a deregulated, US-style education model, an essential poll found that only 43% of people opposed the deregulation of fees. Since then, students across the country have launched a campaign against the cuts in conjunction with the National Union of Students. In May we witnessed thousands of students marching on every capital city in opposition to Abbott and Pyne, in addition to a number of protests targeting Liberal MPs both on and off campus. So far at Sydney Uni we have managed to disrupt both Julie Bishop and the hated man himself, Chris Pyne. Since then, there has been a dramatic shift in public opinion. Fee deregulation is now one of the most unpopular measures in the budget, with recent polls showing 69% of people oppose it.

Students have also succeeded in putting pressure on Labor, the Greens and Clive Palmer, who have all promised to vote against the bulk of these attacks. But we can’t passively rely on Members of Parliament to block deregulation for us, we have to continue the fight by taking to the streets in opposition Abbott, Pyne, and their neoliberal attacks.

So this Wednesday join the Education Action Group on Eastern Avenue to take part in a variety of birthday “celebrations” throughout the day. Then at 1pm we will be joining the NTEU at a rally outside Fisher library to protest the library restructuring which has resulted in the uncertainty of 60% of library staff jobs. The “unhappy birthday” celebrations are the prelude to the main event which will be taking place next week; on Wednesday August 20 there will be another national day of protest against deregulation.

Wom*n’s Officers’ Report: Phoebe Moloney, Georgia Rose Cranko, and Julia Readett

First up, we’ve change our meeting time to Thursday 2pm. Hope you can make it! We’ve had a great start to the Semester in the Wom*n’s Collective. Many of us attended the film screening, hosted by Xiaoran Shi and Andy Mason, of Black Panther Woman, the story of Marlene Cummins, an Indigenous activist in the 70s whose story is incredibly powerful and moving. As one member commented in a reflection, it is a privilege to be able to complain or report men’s behaviour and for it not be perceived as a reflection of your culture, race or community. We’re looking forward to collaborating with Xiaoran and Andy to screen regular documentaries and movies over the semester. We’ve also been at work finalising our Grievance Policy which contains the shared self-edcuation and skill-sharing that we’ve done over Semester 1 to effective practice being non-oppressive as a collective and take these attitudes and behaviours into the wider world. We’re also very excited to be supporting Bebe D’Souza in organising Radical Sex and Consent Day which will be held on September 4th, in just a few weeks. Get ready for film screenings, facilitated discussions, hands on workshops and all the things you wanted to know but were too afraid to ask. Finally, we were lucky enough to collaborate with the UNSW and UTS Wom*n’s Collectives in a workshop called “How to Call Out and Apologise”. It was a great opportunity to share experiences in being called out and discuss strategies in calling out oppressive behaviour in activist spaces. We’d like to thank Amy Knox for her organisations skills and Georgia Cranko for an amazing workshop in disability politics. Georgia’s workshop, through an old-school game of Simon Says, allowed us to experientially understand the social model of disability; where society arbitrarily constructs what a “normal” body is, builds infrastructure and attitudes around it, then blames people who might not be able to conform to those norms.

Vice Presidents’ Report: Max Hall and Laura Webster

If there is a talent that every politician, administrator and rising member of an organisation’s middle management has to have it’s the ability to talk without saying anything.

For every article written and protest held about the changes to university fees (you know: deregulation, larger fees, probably fewer university places and a bonus hike in your HECS debt) Sydney Uni has responded with promises to consult and reason their way through an approach to the changes. This is great. Truly. If deregulation is to become a reality, then a process of consultation that prioritises the interests of students is our best chance of securing changes to fees that minimize the impact on students, particularly those from groups already marginalized in the education system.

But there is a significant difference between talking about consultation and actually doing it.

The announcement last week by the university senate of a town hall style meeting in response to calls for a convocation is a positive first step towards including all groups of the university community in deciding what to do about fee changes. Including current students alongside graduates and staff members is a sensible move on the part of the university. However, there is good reason to be concerned with the lack of detail accompanying the announcement. To make the meeting more than a publicity presentation from the powers at be, students, graduates and staff need an equal ability to speak and argue to that of the university administration. Relinquishing the moderation of the event to students or staff would be an ideal step to ensuring that discussion is meaningful and legitimate.

On that note, a single meeting is not enough. If they are to fulfill their stated desire to consult widely and reasonably with students then there needs to be greater access to the vice-chancellor and his views. Ideally this first forum would lead to several more and the university would establish a means of making written submissions that students and student organisations could expect to be publicly responded to. Without comparable measures the universities lip service to consultation will remain just that.

This is the view that we’ll be taking to the university in the coming weeks, hopefully resulting in a series of opportunities for you and anyone interested in saving public education in its current form to meaningfully influence the machinations of the university machine. In the meantime, come to the NDA and stay angry.

Environment Officers’ Report: Marco Avena, Clo Schofield, Steven Kwon

The SRC Enviro team has been very busy over the break. 23 students from USyd went to the Australian Student Environmental Network’s annual conference Students of Sustainability in Canberra. We learnt about the importance of an intersectional environmentalism that fights for Indigenous sovereignty. We learnt about the theory of Just Transitions, an environmental movement that creates jobs through worker’s cooperatives building renewable technologies (check out the new Earthworker Cooperative in Victoria!), and the history of environmentalism in the worker’s movement from Jack Mundey of the Builders Labourers Federation famous for the Green Bans.

Since then we have been working hard on the Fossil Free Sydney University campaign to encourage the University to divest from (cease investment in) fossil fuels and stop profiting from climate change. We are on track, through collecting the constitutionally required 450 undergrad signatures, to having a student referendum on the following question included in the ballot for the upcoming SRC Elections:

“Should your university stop investing, via its shareholdings, in companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing and transportation of coal, oil and gas (fossil fuels)?”

Although it is yet to be finalised, there is support from the campaign from all sides of politics, and we are confident that the referendum will yield a positive result to demonstrate to management students support divestment. Even Council’s sole Liberal councillor, Matthew Wollaston, seems to be making the right noises.

Coming up, we will be running some exciting events with the USU. #LeardBlockade Information night will be at the Verge Gallery at 6pm on Tuesday the 2nd of September. In addition to live music and photography of the site, there will be talks about the Leard State Forest and the variety of different ways students can save it from open cut coal mines. Divestment Day will be held from 11am – 3pm on Wednesday the 10th of September. There will be stalls from divestment organisations and workshops will be run throughout the day to facilitate people getting involved in the campaign, and educating SRC campaigners from various political groups about divestment so they will be able to answer voter questions about the referendum.

***If you want to sign the petition there is one at reception in the SRC and another copy in the USyd Food Co-op on Level 4 Wentworth Building.***