This afternoon, more than 150 protesters gathered at an Education Action Group (EAG) rally to protest the cuts to staff and courses in the School of Medical Science.
Coinciding with the start of Radical Education Week 2020 on campus, and co-chaired by USyd SRC Education Officers Jazzlyn Breen and Jack Mansell, the rally opened at the Quad lawns for an extended speakout.
The first speaker was Aunty Rhonda Dixon, who delivered a Welcome to Country. As a masters student herself, assisting in the development of an education module about studying and learning on Gadigal land, Aunty Rhonda affirmed her solidarity with student protesters fighting against education cuts.
Next, SRC Welfare Officer Maddie Clark condemned the university for continuing its harsh austerity measures in spite of a large budget surplus this year, as revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald last week. She also spoke to the victory that student protesters achieved in pressuring the NSW government to raise the cap on protests in the Public Health Act to 500.
The final speech delivered on the Quad lawns was given by NTEU USyd Branch President Kurt Iveson, who first apologised for discouraging student protesters from occupying the F23 Administration Building last week, stating: “I’m sorry. I fucked up.” Iveson also referred to the especially difficult employment challenges experienced by Indigenous staff at the university, adding that the “task of decolonising this campus is an ongoing process.”
Afterwards, student protesters marched to the Anderson Stuart Building, where classes for Medical Science are taught. Gathering outside, MedSci students Campbell and Stuart censured the misleading data and wage theft being committed by the School of Medical Science in order to justify the wide staff cuts. They also spoke to the rapidly degrading quality of education in the School as particularly concerning when staring down pressing contemporary issues like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.
“What’s going to happen to the postgrad students who have worked for years, when their supervisors and labs are gone overnight?”
Finally, Dr Meloni Muir, a Physiology professor facing the threat of redundancy, delivered a passionate speech dismantling the supposed ‘strategic management’ from the School of Medical Sciences as nothing more than unjustified austerity.
Protesters then marched to the F23 Administration Building, where international student Aman Kapoor, who was recently allowed to re-enrol after an extended occupation of the Student Centre by activists, described the financial hardships he, and other international students, faced with the unprecedented lockdown this year.
Students then took to City Road and marched down from Eastern Avenue to Victoria Park. Chants included: “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” and “No cuts! No fees! No corporate universities!”
Around 30 police officers quickly arrived to herd the protesters off the road, with some being shoved to the sidewalk. Police then blocked off every exit from the University and Victoria Park.
Finally, student protesters decided to redirect the march to the Quad, wrapping up the rally outside the door of the Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence’s old office.
The next related rally is this Friday, and takes the form of a picket outside a USyd Senate meeting to stop the Higher Education Reform Package, which exponentially raises the cost of arts and humanities degrees, from passing.