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Cumbo Uncut

Honi Soit investigates the culture at Cumberland campus.

map of cumberland campus

CUMBO RANGER (one person leads and everyone repeats):

I wanna be a Cumbo Ranger

Living life of sex and danger

69er

Scuba diver

There once was a girl that I liked best

I use to suck her on the breast

Now she’s dead but not forgotten

Dig her up and fuck her rotten

Fuck her lying

Fuck her dying

If I had wings I’d fuck her flying

***

This year’s Eastern University Games were held in the regional hub of Wagga Wagga. USyd’s Cumberland Campus, whose teams enter the Games separately to the rest of USyd, performed particularly well. Cumbo’s “Beavers”, akin to USyd’s “Lions”, took home the Per Capita Champion trophy, awarded for the best pound-for-pound performance by a university.

Much of this was thanks to Cumbo’s men’s football team, which won its respective tournament undefeated  and was the only team from Cumberland to achieve a top-three finish.

For nine of the team’s fifteen players, victory was even sweeter. Two years earlier, at the 2013 EUGs in Wollongong, they reached the grand final but did not play in it. A day before the decider, the team was sent home. They forfeited all points and all team members were banned from attending the 2014 EUGs in Newcastle.

Wagga was redemption.

***

FLINTSTONES:

Cumbo, We’re from Cumbo

We’re the health science faculty

From the, town of Lidcombe

We’re the fucking university

When you, come and see the beavers play

You will, say that we are fucking great

When you’re, with team Cumbo

Have a suckie suckie good time

A fucking great time

You’ll never sleep all night

***

Cumberland Campus is home to USyd’s Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS). Cumberland Student Guild (CSG) is the local equivalent of Camperdown’s University of Sydney Union (USU). Like the USU, CSG facilitates clubs and societies (C&S) on campus, offering free use of its facilities for C&S events. Only two events are run directly by CSG each year: O-Camp, an orientation camp for new FHS students which is led by older students, and Cumbo’s annual EUGs excursion. Sometimes CSG also plays a role in orientation day.

The C&S scene at Cumberland is pretty quiet. Apart from the Evangelical Christian Union, the society with the biggest presence is the Exercise and Sports Science Student Association (ESSSA). Its motto, “Scientia Cum Laxus”—translated as “science in looseness”—reflects the society’s party culture. ESSSA’s Facebook page description explains that “ESSSA is the heart and soul of this otherwise faceless educational facility. Coming to Cumbo and not joining ESSSA is like going to ancient Rome and not participating in elaborate mass orgies and honour killings or going to Michael Jackson’s house and not getting molested.”

ESSSA has pretty close ties with CSG. Last year, ESSSA’s President was also Treasurer of CSG. This year, one of ESSSA’s co-presidents is also one of the two student directors of CSG. CSG staff post about upcoming first-aid courses on ESSSA’s Facebook page and ESSSA’s highlights video for its annual lab-coat pub crawl (where students don USyd-emblazoned lab-coats, start drinking at Cumbo and make their way into Kings Cross by train) finishes on an image of CSG’s logo.

***

RUNNING DOWN THE SIDELINE – Female Version:

Running down the sideline with my tits in my hand

I’m a mean motherfucker I’m from Cumbo-land

Lick sip suck

Nibble nobble chew

I’m a Cumbo chick

Who the fuck are youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

***

What exactly happened at the 2013 Uni Games remains unclear. Australian University Sport (AUS), organiser of the Games, would only say that it believed the incident “was handled well by both the university and AUS at the time”. CSG spoke broadly of a “bad team culture” and mentioned “banter” but were unable to be more specific.

Honi understands that the team’s removal from the Games relates at least in part to its public recital, by at least some of the team, of the “Cumbo chants”.

The Cumbo chants are not difficult to find. The chants—excerpted throughout this article—are available on ESSSA’s Facebook page, which was where we found them. In short, they are a number of ditties that contain, among other things, references to Soulja Boy, necrophilia and oral sex.

It was their public recital at a sports ground in Wollongong as well as their resurfacing at night-time frivolities that triggered complaints and the team’s removal from the Games.

The nature and number of complaints is under contention. CSG told Honi that no formal complaints and “not really” any informal complaints were lodged. Others sources understood that three complaints were lodged by other universities to AUS.

What is uncontested is that CSG voluntarily withdrew the team from the Games (rather than an AUS-imposed removal). If AUS were to have removed the team, its members risked “something going against their degree”. Additionally, acting pre-emptively meant that Cumberland’s other teams avoided collective punishment—something that happened to Macquarie University in 2012.

Upon the team’s return to Sydney, its two (student) managers attended an AUS disciplinary hearing via telephone. At the hearing, AUS made the decision to ban all fifteen team members from the following year’s EUGs.

Apart from the telephone judiciary attended by the team’s two managers and resultant ban, team members were not subject to further disciplinary action. In our interview, CSG spoke of the team’s “rehabilitation” but only detailed standard measures taken ahead of subsequent EUGs, which all teams took part in, like AUS’ “Be the influence” program.

According to CSG, the Faculty was notified of the incident. When asked how the Faculty responded, CSG said “they didn’t”. A spokesperson from the Faculty wrote “The University’s relationship with the Cumberland Student Guild and any enquiries in relation to this are managed by the Registrar’s Office. To our knowledge the Faculty of Health Sciences was not formally notified of any issues relating to teams competing in the 2013 Eastern University Games.”

What occurred in Wollongong did not stop players on the team from receiving SUSF scholarships the following year.

Nine members of the 2013 team returned to the EUGs this year, led by the same captain. No questions were raised about their behaviour. CSG called them “a beautiful group of boys”.

***

BEERS AND BONGS – Female Version:

Beers and bongs and nuts and dicks

Hurrah hurrah

The Cumbo chicks are off their tits

Hurrah hurrah

Big fat dicks are very nice

We’ll suck them once and we’ll fuck them twice

And we’ll go out and get on the piss again

***

CSG is structured such that several paid staff work together with the unpaid student Board of Directors to “enhance the student experience on campus”. When Honi sat down with two members of that paid staff, CSG’s General Manager and Sports and Student Experience Coordinator, they explained that the chants have “been around forever”. CSG’s staff members agreed that some—but not all—of the chants were “disgraceful”, “horrendous” and “banned”. If students were to sing them in the presence of CSG staff, “they’d be going home, no second chances”.

Other Cumbo chants are “really funny and they’re not inappropriate and they’re not gross”, but the staff conceded that they “might get the filtered version”. Aware of the chants, CSG’s staff were resigned to them—“how can I eradicate that many years of foul, engrained culture?”.

To its credit, in 2011 CSG attempted to change the chants. It ran a competition that offered $500 prize money to “create a new, media-friendly Cumbo chant” that would “be taken away to the Eastern University Games 2011 and O-Camp 2012”. A winner was chosen, but the culture was hard to change—uptake was minimal and students quickly reverted to the old chants.

The old chants are still publicly available on ESSSA’s Facebook page. They were posted by Laura Patterson, 2014 CSG Treasurer and ESSSA President, eight months after the Wollongong incident.

The occasion was ESSSA’s 2014 lab-coat pub crawl, and Ms Patterson wrote “Shouldn’t need to post this, but for all you maggots who didn’t go to O camp or haven’t had the honour of representing Cumbo at uni games yet, here are all of our chants. You will need to know these for tonight as we will be yelling it from the roof tops!!!”.

One commenter replied “‘Cause a gang bangs such a thrill! when I was younger, and in my prime, I used to gang bang all the time’ Classic cumbo chant.”.

Patterson is currently overseas and  was unable to respond to questions about the post.

***

I WISH THAT ALL THE LADIES/FELLAS

I wish that all the ladies

Were just like Chrissy

I wouldn’t even touch her

I find her a bit too pissy

Singing hey bop-beruba

Ohhh bop-a-ruba

***

Another post to ESSSA’s Facebook page features a video of the current President of CSG, Michael Inskip, leading a rendition of “I wish that all the ladies” (the above chant) on a NSW Transport train. The footage, from before Inskip was elected President, was filmed en route to Kings Cross for ESSSA’s 2014 “Back 2 Skool” Party. In the video, USyd students wearing their high school uniforms take turns leading the Cumbo chants, which are echoed by the rest of the carriage.

ESSSA has not escaped controversy either. In March this year, the society released the pictured t-shirt, which was designed by its executive with the assistance of a concept artist.

Picture of ESSSA t-shirt

***

BEERS AND BONGS – Male version:

Beers and bongs and buts and sluts

Hoorah, Hoorah

The Cumbo boys are off their guts

Hoorah, Hoorah

Tits and clits are very nice

We’ll suck them once and fuck them twice

And we’ll all go back and get on the piss again.

***

When Inskip was approached for comment, he provided a two-page response on behalf of the Guild explaining its decision to cease contact with Honi Soit, “pending legal advice.” He did not respond to later specific questions about his chant. Mr. Inskip also wrote “The campus has a very inclusive culture that promotes free thought and proliferates the notion that as future allied health professionals, our role is to serve the broader community and help those that are most vulnerable. We support the university policies on gender equality and discrimination and are proud of the inclusive environment on our campus, where in CSG there exists a significant representation of female staff, inclusive of executive officers and board members, as well as a diverse cultural community.”

A common thread in Honi’s correspondence with CSG and ESSSA was the notion of Cumberland Campus being proudly apolitical. Mr. Inskip “will diligently defend the right for members of the Cumberland campus, the constituency represented by the Guild, to have an environment that is free of political agenda and influence, and allow constituents to formulate their own view free of excessive media influence.”

The Cumbo chants have a place in the culture of CSG and ESSSA events. Both their teaching at O-Camp and their dissemination through social media have assisted their survival. Perhaps the lack of external critique has had something to do with it too.

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence.

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