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Western Sydney University student paper at risk amidst uni-wide austerity measures

Siobhan Ryan and Justine Landis-Hanley report.

The future of Western Sydney University’s student paper W’SUP is in doubt after a decision by the university and its Vice Chancellor, Barney Glover, to remove the paper’s Publications Officer.

The decision is part of several staff freezes implemented under WSU’s austerity measures, announced at their most recent Academic Senate meeting on June 17.

Over 115 people have since signed a petition created by W’SUP editor Nicole Gismondo, demanding the University ‘Keep the W’SUP Staffed!’

According to the petition, the Publications Officer plays a crucial role in producing the paper, managing printing and distribution, advertising, liaising with the university, and providing continuity between annually elected editorial teams.

“While we love to run W’SUP, this will impact on our ability to have the paper running as smoothly as we’d like and impact on its capacity to act as a voice for students,” the petition says.

“We are now left to fend for ourselves, alone and severely disadvantaged when compared to other Universities.”

By comparison, the two part time Publications Directors at the University of Sydney are employed by the SRC, not the university, and together provide five days’ support to Honi Soit’s ten student editors.

The W’SUP editorial team was initially informed of the decision on 27 June, giving them only one week’s notice of the decision, but have since been granted a four week extension after starting a petition to have the decision reversed, editor Nicole Gismondo told Honi.

“We’re not sure if that’s just a changeover period or if they might change their minds,” Ms Gismondo said.

The move threatening the operation of W’SUP, a branch of student representation, seems at odds with the first point of WSU’s Securing Success: 2015-2020 strategic plan, to create “a distinctively student-centred university.”

The decision was also announced to students during the winter break, leaving many students “fairly annoyed at the move,” as Ms Gismondo told Honi.

Students have also been left in the dark about the extent of the staff freeze and its impending impact. The minutes from the University’s June 17 Academic Senate Meeting, where the changes were announced, have not yet been released.

This isn’t the first time that the arts have been sacrificed as part of a University’s strategic plan: most recently, the University of Sydney announced the proposed closure of the Sydney College of the Arts at Callan Park.