On 13 October, students from a host of clubs and societies convened in an online forum to speak against the ‘Future FASS’ plan, which would put up to 250 undergraduate Arts subjects and half of postgraduate units at risk.
On the same day Honi reported on the damning extent of the proposed cuts, 14 clubs launched the ‘Clubs Against the Cuts’ campaign.
Within five days, several open letters amassed over 800 signatories and 250 testimonies.
Drawing on this momentum, Alice Stafford, President of the Sydney University Dramatic Society (SUDS), opened the forum by emphasising the campaign’s intention to engage “students who will be both directly and indirectly impacted,” and to allow “students who haven’t necessarily had a space to voice their anger or take action.”
Several speakers protested against FASS management’s ignorance towards students. In response to former FASS Dean Annamarie Jagose’s statement that “student choice is poor pedagogical practice,” Angelina Gu, Secretary of the Sydney Arts Student Society (SASS), said that “cutting 250 units is poor pedagogical practice.”
Gu also revealed that the then-Dean had not responded to several requests for contact from SASS President, Nicole Baxter, since the start of her term. “I’ve had the USU themselves assume that SASS is given upwards of $20,000 a year from FASS because that is the standard for faculty societies… we receive $0,” added Baxter.
Madeline Clark, SRC Education Officer, contextualised these cuts against the University’s slated sale of a property for $40 million.
Several students gave testimonies on the value of studying Arts. President of the German Society Arkady de Jong said that “language subjects represent the best of what an Arts degree can be,” through “build[ing] relationships with academics” in one-on-one instruction.
de Jong noted that six out of the eight subjects he took to make up his Language major now do not meet the 24 student requirement for courses in the Future FASS plan.
Ella Haber, a Gender and Cultural Studies (GCS) student and member of the Linguistics Society, highlighted that GCS feels like “home in more ways than one” for students. It was also mentioned that one of the notes posted on the walls of F23 at the GCS Day of Action read: “Black queer theory saved my life”.
“[Subjects which are] beacons of joy and genuine academic fulfilment will always be the target of neoliberal austerity because they don’t make sense in the logic of capitalism,” said Haber.
In light of the recent wins for Save USyd Arts which saw the Religion and Theatre and Performance Studies departments saved, there was an air of optimism around students banding together to make change.
This month will continue to be important for the movement, as the revised Draft Change Proposal is set to be released on 20 October. A Student General Meeting against the Arts cuts is scheduled for 27 October, requiring 250 students to reach quorum.