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Student General Meeting passes motion to oppose course cuts

Over 270 staff and students attended the second Student General Meeting of the year.

This afternoon, the SRC’s Education Action Group (EAG) held a Student General Meeting (SGM) to pass a motion against the University’s planned cuts in Arts, Dentistry and Business.

The SGM was only the second held since 2007, and saw over 270 staff and students in attendance over Zoom. 

The motion passed with an overwhelming majority, despite some attendees questioning the relevance of the inclusion of a point opposing the AUKUS alliance in the motion. Education Officer Maddie Clark described the meeting as a huge success. 

“The huge number of students who came to the meeting shows how unified students are against these cuts. There is mass student resistance against these attacks to our education, and students are prepared to continue this fight into next year.”

The meeting was opened by SRC President Swapnik Sanagavarapu. He noted that the University’s moves to undermine education also undermine their very own traditions, and that the basis which they do so holds little logic. 

Sanagavarapu also made reference to an Australia Institute report which found that 30,000 higher education jobs could have been saved if public universities had been granted JobKeeper in 2020.

Eddie Stephenson, an education activist, took a jab at management’s use of buzzwords, saying they mean nothing while courses are cut and schools merged. Stephenson made clear that students should be tackling management head on.

Lia Perkins, SRC Welfare Officer and incoming Education Officer, then provided a background on the education campaign and the lead up to the SGM, speaking on last year’s anti-fee hikes campaign and the police repression faced by student protestors. 

Perkins noted that the fight faced by students now is a continuation of last year’s, and that both of them are because of management’s views of education.

“Senior management are being paid better than business execs and politicians, while they have millions of dollars in reserve…If they don’t need to make these cuts, then why are they?”

Alice Stafford, President of the Sydney University Dramatic Society, spoke on the way the current cuts attack the arts, both directly and indirectly, saying “if creative arts education does not survive, then the creative arts will falter – by killing one, the uni is simultaneously killing the other.”

Hamish Wood, a casual tutor and PhD candidate at USyd, spoke on the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Draft Change Proposal, countering the former Dean Annamarie Jagose’s idea that less choice is a better educational ideal. Wood noted “an attack on courses is not an attack on the few, but the many. Fewer students taking risks early in their degree, or learning things they otherwise wouldn’t…Options got me where I am. This feels like a privilege, but it shouldn’t.”

Business school staff academic and unionist Catherine Sutton-Brady also spoke on the attacks faced by professional staff in the business school. Sutton-Brady said that this is because the University knows they can’t use the same arguments to back the same actions – “they can’t use the same logic as FASS, such as small classes, so instead they’re targeting other staff”.

The last speaker was Deaglan Godwin, one of the 2022 Education Officers. Godwin spoke on how students should not rely on management listening to the pleas of students, saying “our intelligent, well-reasoned arguments will fall on deaf ears in comparison to the millions of dollars they can save… we need to disrupt the normal running of the University and expose the nature of the corporate university”.

There will be another speakout against the cuts next Wednesday, November 3rd.

The Motion passed at the October 27 SGM reads as follows:

  • To wholly oppose the Draft Change Proposals for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Business School and the School of Dentistry. 
  • To oppose all cuts to units, schools and departments. 
  • To oppose all restructures of schools. 
  • To oppose casual job losses and support greater permanency conversion provisions for casuals. 
  • To oppose the university’s connection to the Australian military in light of the recently announced AUKUS submarine deal 
  • To stand in solidarity with staff if they choose to strike during their Enterprise Bargaining Period and support the NTEU’s log of claims. 
  • To commit to building a mass campaign against all university cuts. * To support the No USyd Cuts campaign.