We’re almost at the end of Semester One: another one down and another six months passed in the life of the university. As things heat up with final assessments and exams, your SRC is continuing to represent and advocate for students interests, as we’ve done all year. As this year’s team reaches the six-month mark of our terms, it’s worth reflecting on what the SRC has already done so far.
Back in December we were able to secure the continuation of Simple Extensions after the university moved to scrap them entirely. Although this came with a reduction from five to two days, we also ensured that it was expanded to cover all faculties as opposed to just Arts. We worked hard to ensure that students and staff were properly notified and informed of the changes and that students wouldn’t be disadvantaged by the new system.
We also ran a fantastic O-Week which saw us talk to a huge number of new and returning students about the advocacy and services we provide, and the work we do on campus running campaigns and lobbying for improvements.
Some of this work has included things like being on the safety on campus working group, ensuring that the university genuinely looks at ways to improve its reporting and safety procedures and educates students and staff about sexual assault and harassment. We’ve also advocated for better academic dishonesty protocols, pushed for action on Islamophobia on campus, and ensured that students will continue to have a voice on faculty boards and on some of the highest decision-making bodies student representatives sit on. Of course, individual departments and collectives have also done amazing work around a variety of issues this year, too many to mention but all important to the experience of students on campus.
None of this work is possible without the hard work of student representatives, the support of the SRC’s staff, and the participation of students. Despite the challenges of running a student union in today’s Australia, with the loss of compulsory student unionism, massive cuts to funding, and obstacles to student engagement, your SRC has continued to make a difference and serve you as we’ve done for the past 88 years. We’re very much looking forward to continuing that work in Semester Two.
If you want to get involved and find out more, visit our website or drop by our offices. Remember – it’s your SRC.
The past week has seen the issue of sexual harassment and assault on university campuses take the spotlight in mainstream media. To see an issue usually shrouded in secrecy and silence make the front page of the Sydney Morning
Herald is very exciting, and a great step towards removing the stigma around sexual assault and empowering survivors to come forward and tell their stories.
Last Monday, in the midst of a media frenzy, the Vice Chancellor sent out an email to all students with the results of the Safer Communities survey. While the report emphasised that “it is encouraging to see this figure [the rate of incidents of harassment and assault on campus] is much lower than occurrences in the general public”, the report also contained some very alarming statistics. One quarter of students surveyed had experienced an incident of harassment or assault during their studies, with LGBTIAQ+ students particularly at risk. Of the students that reported their experience of assault, 41% felt that the University’s formal procedures did not help them at all. This is a cause for great concern, and should act as a call to action for the University to rethink completely its approach to sexual harassment and assault.
There is a vital need for a specific mechanism for students to formally report sexual harassment and assault. While the report recommends that the University ‘clarify and simplify’ these mechanisms, in reality the opposite is needed: the evidence shows that streamlining these services does not work. Complaints about sexual assault are of a completely different nature to complaints about academic misconduct, and a generic online form is not an adequate mechanism for students to report these experiences.
We need trained specialists on hand to support students through processes that are often alienating and traumatic. We need a confidential reporting mechanism, that doesn’t suggest that students resolve the matter informally with the perpetrator, as the current complaints process does. More than anything, we need the University to listen to students and survivors throughout this process so we can create a system that students feel safe engaging in.
If you have feedback or suggestions for the ways in which reporting processes could be improved, please email email@example.com – I would love to hear students’ perspectives on this.
Dylan Griffiths and Liam Carrigan
On May 11th, students from across NSW gathered as part of the National Day of Action in protest against 2 billon in funding cuts to higher education announced by the liberals in the federal budget. The march included shocking displays of police violence and brutality that has become the norm in NSW and on our campus, with the police forcibly ejecting activists protesting Simon Birmingham from Fisher Library and heavy police presence at the recent protests against Wesley University.
Again we see an austerity budget that if enacted will destroy any semblance of equality and fairness in Australia. Again Higher Education is under attack. Again we must take to the streets to defeat it.
As students we hold incredible power. As an activist I have been inspired by our wins fighting cuts, standing in solidarity with staff on picket lines and amassing in our thousands to beat back deregulation again and again. We will never stop fighting and will be back time and time again.
This budget screams evasion, delays and shelving the most horrific of attacks until the election is passed. However, the two billion in proposed cuts will destroy a sector starved of funding so badly that a suite of corporate restructures across the country is now the norm. Here in NSW we have the Usyd restructure, which will see faculties slashed, jobs cut and degrees destroyed in the pursuit of a neoliberal university. At UTS we have seen the implementation of balanced semesters, which has slashed course content and eroded staff conditions in order to maximize efficiency. UNSW has proposed a strategic plan that includes trimesters and a shift to online learning. Management wants to partner with corporations, industries and multinational donors, which will leave us with a hollow, corporate education system. The realities call for more funding, not less.
Students reject this budget. We reject the deregulation of flagship courses, which like the implementation of HECS will see a slow march towards the dreaded 100k degrees over the coming years. We reject our financial contribution to our degrees being raised from 40 percent to 50 percent, because fuck shackling us with more debt for the rest of our living lives. Scrap that – they’ll probably decide to collect that sweet HECS dollar from our cold dead hands. Education is a social good – why the fuck does the ruling class think we should pay? The money is there. This budget has included a 25% tax break to big business, 32 billion in defense spending and 1.2 billion to maintain the offshore processing centers that murder refugees.
If you’re interested in getting involved in the fight against the budget and the liberals join the EAG at 2pm Tuesdays or contact the Education officers to be added to our organizing group on Facebook.
Marcus Wong and Evan Jones
The past few weeks have been extremely busy and exciting for the Queer Action Collective. We’ve been present at a number of actions such as the National Day of Action protesting the cuts by the federal government to our education that will disproportionately affect queer students, the Nakba Rally in solidarity with Palestine and against the pink-washing of Israel, the occupation of Wesley College by Wom*n’s Collective, recognising that queerphobia and misogyny are not separate issues, and an action of support for Safe Schools to amplify the voices of high school students who stand to lose the most from the gutting of the Safe Schools Program. We also went along to listen to the panel that was run by The Ally Network in celebration of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) on the 17th of May, as well as their screening of Gayby Baby that evening.
The highlight of the month for many was our protest against the Sydney University Catholic Society’s event at Life Week entitled ‘Men + Women = Made for each other?” Their guest speaker was a known advocate of conversion of queer people through therapy and spoke out against queer lifestyles. The event also relied on heavily essentialist conceptualisations of gender, which erases the identities of transgender students who already face a great deal of discrimination, leading to significantly higher levels of violence and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. The protest was well-attended and gained considerable attention and support from people along Eastern Avenue on the day, as well as people from other collectives and we’d like to thank all who attended.
This month we also met with University management to begin discussion with them about the Rainbow Campus campaign that was officially launched at Pride Week last month. Although a slow, bureaucratic response from them, we are optimistic that we will be able to get through all of our demands and turn the University of Sydney into a Rainbow Campus.
We have a lot coming up in the next few weeks. On the 26th of May we will be joining a protest against Cory Bernardi from the Liberal Party and Joe de Bruyn of the ALP who have played significant roles in furthering attacks on queer people. We are also preparing for the pre-election marriage equality rally on the 25th of June and we invite all to come along to both protests and show your support for queer students on campus. We are also pleased to announce that we have begun work on a publication to educate people on transgender issues to be released later in the year. Work to send delegates to Queer Collaborations in July is also underway and promises to be a very exciting week for some of our members.
For more information or if you have any queeries get in contact with the Queer Officers at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hannah Elten, Alexander Shu, Jasmine Yu and Anqi Zhao
At the end of April, the first International Council to the USU took successfully place. One of the most prominent issues discussed was the possibility of more workshops around campus regarding fair work and labour rights for international students. Clubs and Society Executives should check their mailboxes for the invitation to the next International Council.
Furthermore, the Overseas Departments of SUPRA and the SRC held a very successful joint lunch event in Week 9, demonstrating the good cooperation between the two organizations. We also would like to draw attention to the Visa workshop held by SUPRA on May 24 in Merewether Lecture Theatre 2 at 12:45 pm.
The disappearance and subsequent murder of UTS international student graduate Mengmei Leng has raised concerns for the safety of international students in Sydney. We want to encourage all students who experience any concerns to their safety to report these concerns to the police or other trusted authorities.
Finally, we would like to congratulate Yifan Kong for being the first international student getting elected to the position of USU Board Director since 2007 – with an overwhelming number of votes.