“Indigenous
Letters //

Letters – Week 6, Semester 2

It’s spelt “latte-sipping”, actually Dear Honi, I am deeply disappointed at the University’s recent decision to give in to bullying and take financial and investment advice from Christine Milne and muesli munching, late sipping activists. Indeed, the University on its own website advertising courses states that ‘The mining and resources industry is…intrinsically linked to our…

letters 1

It’s spelt “latte-sipping”, actually

Dear Honi,

I am deeply disappointed at the University’s recent decision to give in to bullying and take financial and investment advice from Christine Milne and muesli munching, late sipping activists.

Indeed, the University on its own website advertising courses states that ‘The mining and resources industry is…intrinsically linked to our economic future and global influence’.

What we have been seeing is nothing short of financial terrorism, with the likes of Jonathan Moylan more than happy to spread lies at the cost of everyday Australians and Australian business.

The divestment campaign is driven by environmental extremism and fuelled by scaremongering and misinformation. It is a slap in the face to the more than 20,000 coal miners in NSW. These same activists would be the first to call for government subsidy for failing industries, but ironically go out of their way to destroy an industry that creates  real jobs and has huge flow on effect of real growth due to the availability of cheap energy for production to the rest of the economy; all without the need for government subsidy. These activists have no care for real jobs or real growth; their only concern is engaging in activism to cloak their narcissism.

Coal fired power has led to unprecedented increases in standards of living for millions around the world including in some of the world’s poorest areas, due to the availability of cheap energy. Were the radical agenda of the divestment campaign realised, it would lead to the consigning in impoverishment of the poorest in Australia and the world due to higher electricity costs and more expensive goods and services.

I have little doubt that in the future, technology will become greener with innovation. But current renewable technology is highly inefficient and until such time as the market decides that alternative technologies are more efficient than coal, then investors including the University should not give in to such financial terrorism. The costs for our society, particularly to the poor, will be high and for little gain.

I urge the University as a matter of principle to consider the message they are sending by their decision: that such bullying via misinformation and scaremongering is acceptable. The University has much influence, and no doubt its current decision will put pressure on other institutions to give in for the sake of positive PR. For the sake of our nation’s well-being, the University should re-consider its decision.

Yours in #realjobs and #realgrowth

Chaneg Torres

BPESS III

President, University of Sydney Conservative Club

No lack of queer people in Revues

Dear Eds,

Two weeks ago Georgia Kriz (very excellent performer – congratulations) made some significant claims about the Union’s attitude to minority revues which struck me as unfair. I don’t write this as a snarky director of another revue, but instead as a queer person who has been involved pretty extensively in the performing arts on campus, and I really resent the suggestion that we, on the grounds of our sexuality, “aren’t worth enough” to the Union.

This is partly because there is not, as birthed the first and (reputedly) best iteration of the Women’s Revue in 2007, a lack of representation of queer people in revues particularly, nor the performing arts on campus generally. This year, the Arts Revue had two queer directors. From 2011 – 2013, Sam Farrell was the crowning jewel of the Law Revue (his time at the helm culminating in one of the most beautiful, pointed musical numbers ever performed about sexuality). No major revues actively shy away from queer-progressive content, and those that push boundaries of homophobic bad taste are usually and rightly derided. I think Queer Revue might be the only exception to that.

The reason I auditioned for Arts, and not Queer Revue, is because my sexual identity has never involved huffing amyl, party drugs, drag shows or sequins – and even if it did, I struggle to understand the inclination to make a show that revolves around it. This is true of Sophia, with whom I directed The Arts Revue this year, as well.

I appreciate that there is value to a group of people having a good time together on stage; it is integral to the revue program and to that end Queer Revue is invariably a success. What’s awful is that minority status seems to have conferred a kind of impunity. Predominantly, Queer Revue’s content rarely goes beyond tiring gay stereotypes. This year, when it did, it was only to mock Gender Studies strawm*n, undermine legitimate criticisms of institutional sexism, and to make rape jokes about the very real abuse by those in positions of creative power. This year, as in the past, was mostly alienating.

Queer Revue’s rightly lauded, truly funny stand outs, like The Secret Life of Brenda from HR, or the Ghost of Margaret Thatcher emerging in a fruit hat, are entirely removed from the cultural baggage attached to an aggressively sexual throughline. You don’t need to make light of drug overdoses and ‘waking up somewhere fun’ to get a laugh, especially when productive cultural inversions are already done – more rigorously and discerningly – in plenty of other arenas.

I don’t think that, in the event of rain, we should just shove the gays in a basement. Booking venues is nightmarish through C&S at the best of times – but that is no reason to accept that second-rate venues just fall to smaller groups – regardless of minority status. To use this administrative inadequacy to suggest systemic Union oppression is rubbish. For all its deficiencies, the USU is very loudly progressive – especially on questions of sexuality. But they are not infinitely resourced.

Christopher Hitchens was a chauvinistic arse, and the 2007 Women’s Revue, Objectify This! not only proved him wrong again, but went on to sell out at the Edinburgh Fringe. This was a case of an entirely unprecedented show, widely acclaimed, going very far. It didn’t matter that it debuted in the Sound Lounge, because it nailed a need and was hilarious.

Rather than support, what Queer Revue actually lacks is a coherent artistic or social impetus. A show’s worth is ultimately measured by how good it is, and ticket sales have never reflected quality.

Patrick Morrow

MECO III

An absolute farce, I tell you

Dear Honi,

The “Town Hall-style” meeting about fee deregulation organised by VC Michael Spence and the Senior Executive Group has to be called out for what it is: an absolute farce.

The terms of the debate have been cast completely in favour of the pro-deregulation executive group: Instead of debating the “pros” and “cons” of fee de-regulation in an open, public forum, the speakers will speak to the executive’s own carefully worded topic that commits to “economic growth” and an “equitable balance between students and government contributions”.

They will speak to a room of 250 people, who pre-booked, at an event held at night, when most students are unlikely to be anywhere near campus. The list of 25 speakers, who each have 2 minutes to make their case either way, whom only a handful will be students, have been cherry-picked by the executive. There can be no doubt that the exec’s idea of “balanced” input will not reflect the 70 per cent of the public who disagree with the changes to universities.

The nature of the meeting itself is also such that, while staff and students may be given some very limited time to speak against fee deregulation, they will have no opportunity to influence the decision making process in an official capacity. In other words, they will come, they will speak, and the executive committee will make its decision the way it was always going to.

The benefit of a convocation is that staff are able to put official recommendations to the senate, which the executive is then forced to consider after a substantial debate. There are limitations even to this, in that only academic staff and alumni can do so, to the exclusion of students and general staff. But to say that Spence’s alternative to the “anachronistic” convocation originally proposed by some members of the senate, with support from the NTEU, is somehow more democratic or “modern”, is completely misleading.

Last week’s Honi editorial said that Spence had been forced to take on the role of “community consultant”. But Spence, along with the other VCs of the G8 unis, has been fighting hard for years to have uni fees deregulated. Where was the “consultation” when he started lobbying the government to uncap fees four years ago? What about when he tried to cut courses and fire over 300 academic and general staff in 2012? Or when he decided to fire 150 library staff and do away with thousands of books and study spaces?

This stage-managed meeting has been nothing but a fig leaf for Spence and the executive’s own agenda. While giving the impression of allowing open discussion, they made the decision years ago, not in the interests of staff and students, but with the intention of further corporatising our university and raking in ever bigger profits from student fees.

It was only widespread opposition to fee deregulation from staff and students that forced this meeting on Spence, otherwise it would not have happened. We have to be clear that he is our opponent, not our ally, in the fight for equitable, quality education. Students will be meeting out the front at 5.30 with placards, leaflets for a speak-out.

Students Bust the Budget Group

Just having a cheeky nap

Dear Honi,

Does the USU President’s job description include excessive drinking (with student funds) before attending revues (with student funds) and falling asleep, or did Tara Waniganayaka just decide to go that extra mile out of respect for campus culture? We’d have asked Waniganayaka after the show, but said booze-scented President had to be escorted home during intermission.

Yet we didn’t just write to complain. You see, a few of us happen to be job-searching ourselves, and since student leadership roles seem to require so little of those in them we may as well give them a go. We just have some questions first.

How much does it pay to drink away students’ SSAF and ACCESS contributions? Is disrespecting student performances the norm, or is politeness usually expected? And are insipid, grating puns mandatory for election campaigns, or could we just run on a platform of not discouraging people at their own shows?

If you could get back to us sometime soon that’d be great. We’ll be around campus, trying hard to respect our fellow students (even if that doesn’t make us USU President material).

Yours sincerely,

Several Members of:

Queer Revue MMXIV

Preaching to the choir

Dear Honi,

Thank you for drawing to my attention the seminal production of God’s not Dead in your week 5 issue. As a devout follower of Jesus I was shocked and horrified that such a film could have slipped by me. I don’t go to a mega-church, but I am reasonably aware of the wider Christian community. I was therefore appalled that I had missed the memo of such an important film that mega churches apparently want me to see.

As a Christian who has studied philosophy, I have personally experienced being “outed” as the crazy religious guy, receiving stares in my philosophy tutes whenever anything vaguely religion-related was uttered. It’s a real thing and I sincerely thank Mary Ward for raising this issue.

I am therefore puzzled that instead of highlighting defensible and rational public figures of the Christian faith (the names Timothy Keller and John Lennox spring to mind) Mary Ward has chosen to bemoan a whack-job film dripping on Americana that I would suggest most Christians probably haven’t heard of (I certainly hadn’t.)

Indeed, it is worrying that Mary seems to think that the word “Christian” is synonymous with “white American”. I suspect churches in other parts of the world (particularly in persecuted regions like Iraq, China and South Sudan) would find this equation slightly offensive.

Unfortunately, I feel picking on such an easy target as a God’s Not Dead will only serve to convince the converted (pun intended). Doing so only entrenches pre-existing stereotypes about religious (esp. Christian) students on Campus.

If you want to challenge the erroneous equation of secularism with intelligence
and religion with idiocy then stop confirming the stereotype. Picking on a straw-man is, well, patronising and pathetic. I, like most other considered Christians, am not scared of justifying
what I believe.

Come at me, bro.

Much love,

Luke Tucker, Arts II

Got faith?

Dear Editors,

I am writing in reply to the interfaith officers report which, when I started reading, it was with a trepidation that turned out to be fully founded and then some.

I can copletely side with the idea conveyed that people need to listen to each other and research other peoples religious belief systems and world views. What really shows the intellectual decrepitude shown in the article this week is the way they treated faith. The approach that faith is somehow a good thing is an abhorrent approach and should be completely rejected by any semi-educated individual, let alone people who have made it into a university.

When talking about a claim, religious or otherwise, faith is the acceptance of this as true in the absence of, or opposition to, evidence. This use of faith as a justification is a deeply damaging and detrimental to any society and it is time that it was recognised as such.

That the interfaith directors talk about faith in terms such as “beauty of faith” and “we need to approach faith with an open mind” truly shows the intellectual sabbatical that they have been on this year. I can only hope that we all start to demand a higher standard of justification for everyone and stop giving a free-pass to religious claims.

Yours Sincerely,

Alex Rothman

Porque no los dos?

Dear Honi,

According to Matilda Surtees, writing in the last Honi, charitable consumerism takes away from institutional change. As the girl from the Old El Paso ad asked us, ‘Porque no los dos’ – bastardised Spanish for ‘why can’t we have both’? I don’t know enough about the Homepage for the Homeless to rely on the logic that every time you shop there, issues of homelessness gain more prominence in your head, but I am aware that the division between charity and institutional change is much blurrier than Surtees imagines. That’s pretty obvious when she cites John Falzon of St Vincent de Paul, a charity, advocating for institutional change. If ethical consumerism funds charity, what’s to stop charities advocating for institutional change?

Apparently, the problem is that charitable consumerism leads to the idea that individuals have control over their circumstances. That’s ‘an ideal, not a reality’. Sure, but so is an equitable society with a great social safety net. Charitable consumerism is not a silver bullet, but the programs that the Homepage for the Homeless supports give people a little more control over their circumstances by providing things like training programs. In the same way, we get closer to an equitable society by funding people to lobby for big changes, like the NDIS. Charitable consumerism could be a lot better; more money could go to advocacy, for example. However, simplistic sentences like ‘Systemic inequality requires systemic change’ ignore the people trying to actually make that change happen and others trying to improve lives on the margins in the mean time.

Nick Bonyhady

Arts/Law

LETTER OF THE WEEK

So I heard that Roald’s book has been cut
From Aldi, because he had to write “slut”
To make his fairytales rhyme –
seems he didn’t have time
To find another word rhyming with nut.

Now the parents are all in uproar,
They won’t have his poems in store.
But sadly they care
More that the word’s a swear
Than that sexism is inherent in “whore”.

Quite frankly, I’m going to be blunt:
As a fan of Dahl I take affront.
Just talk to your progeny
About sexism and misogyny
And stop censoring things, you [redacted]

Sam Langford

Psychology I

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