In what has been described as an “historic event,” the University of Sydney SRC has called the first Student General Meeting (SGM) since 2007.
Organised by members of the USyd Enviro Collective, the purpose of the SGM is to support the upcoming School Strike 4 Climate Strike on 21st May. It is the only SGM in the SRC’s history to focus on environmental demands.
“[The climate strike] comes at a critical time in the climate movement and has an urgent role in mobilising a strong fightback against the Morrison government’s gas-fired recovery,” read a statement published on the SRC’s Facebook page.
“Instead of investing in renewable energy, Scott Morrison and the Coalition Government are planning a massive expansion of projects to extract gas, a carbon-intensive fossil fuel.”
SRC Councillor and Environment Officer Lauren Lancaster told Honi that “this strike moves beyond just radical environmental claims. It really reflects the changing core of the environmental movement: workers’ demands and a just transition.”
Pointing to how mining and gas industries dominate Australia’s exports, Lancaster noted that “the shutdown of that industry is totally futile unless we offer concrete avenues for workers to be supported and retrained.”
The SRC’s demands for the strike include “100% publicly owned renewable jobs by 2020,” “a just transition to climate jobs,” “no new coal and gas projects,” and “Indigenous-led land management.”
Calls to waive academic penalties
At the SGM, students will vote on two motions: one to join the strike and another calling on Acting Vice-Chancellor Stephen Garton to waive penalties for staff and students who attend.
In a statement to Honi on Wednesday, a University spokesperson confirmed that staff and students “won’t be penalised for supporting the upcoming global climate strike, as we’ve done for previous recent strikes for action on climate change.”
“We’ll ask teaching staff to avoid holding assessments while the strike is taking place. Staff will also be advised to discuss appropriate leave, time in lieu and other cover arrangements with their managers to maintain the services our students and staff need to work, study, and be safe on campus.”
Lancaster said that “the University has already shown us through their investments and continued funding of research into fossil fuels and gas expansion that they don’t really give a shit about the environment.”
“A no-penalty position is one small way that they have made amends for the decades of environmental damage that they have contributed to.”
While recognising that this was a “big win,” Enviro Collective member Adam Adelpour said that the original motion still stands. “The vote we put at the SGM represents a call for the unconditional right to strike.”
“As it is — particularly with general staff — managers have discretion over whether they can go… So we are demanding a situation where everyone can go, not just academics and students with other staff left chained to mops and phones.”
SGM represents ‘collective recognition’ for urgent climate action
The SGM requires 200 undergraduate students to attend in order to reach quorum. With over 700 signatories previously supporting the SGM in a petition, activists say it is shaping up to be an “historic event.”
“Things like an SGM go a way towards rebuilding a public sphere for students and a collective consciousness, which is integral if we ever want to achieve collective ends.” SRC President Swapnik Sanagavarapu told Honi.
“Climate change is a generation-defining issue and it’s easy to be nihilistic about the prospects for change. It’s events like these that give me a glimmer of hope.”
“The SGM represents a collective recognition of the urgency of the climate movement,” Lancaster added. “It’s difficult to feel confident to come out and attend protests, particularly considering the post-COVID context in which we find ourselves.”
“But it’s so important now more than ever. We need to have a say in the decisions that will materially affect our lives. ”
The SGM will be held at 4:00pm on 28 April. Register your attendance here.