The SRC’s Education Action Group (EAG) held a speakout at Fisher Library today, opposing the University’s planned cuts in Arts, Business and Dentistry. Speakers criticised the corporatisation of higher education, and protested against fewer subject choices, staff redundancies and proposed faculty mergers.
The event saw over 40 staff and students in attendance, and followed last week’s Student General Meeting where students passed a motion to oppose all course cuts. The SRC’s incoming Education Officers, Lia Perkins and Deaglan Godwin, chaired the event. Perkins opened the speakout, declaring a need for opposition to education cuts “at every level”.
Ella Haid, a student in the Faculty of Science, discussed the broader neoliberal landscape of Australian higher education. She made reference to the cutting of faculties, and a centralised and streamlined model that limits subject choice. However, Haid emphasised that this trend is “happening everywhere,” criticising the dismissal of 300 staff at Macquarie University. She also mentioned Monash University’s $259 million budget surplus, which still led to the suspension of 277 staff members.
Nick Riemer, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, spoke of a “massive neoliberal fist, posed to strike our faculty.” He lauded the benefits of a liberal education, one which “fosters diversity and provides students with pathways to different ways of being human,” and criticised the University’s contempt for students and workers. Riemer denounced Interim FASS Dean Lisa Adkins, Provost Annamarie Jagose and Vice Chancellor Mark Scott for their “shameful, anti-intellectual actions” in cutting any subject with less than 24 students.
“They are intent on creating a world which is even more unequal, even more unfree, and with even fewer means of resistance,” said Riemer.
Kimmy Dibben, Women’s Officer and student in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies (GCS), criticised the merger between GCS and the School of Social and Political Sciences. Dibben decried the class divide at the University, and noted how an education in Gender Studies can challenge that “two-tiered” system. Dibben suggested that education should exist for the “pursuit of knowledge, not to fuel capitalism.”
Following speeches, protesters marched to F23 Building, which was consequently locked down in fear of the event. There, Andy Park, EAG activist and Arts student, spoke of the “fundamental divide between professors, students and tutors.” Park labelled upper management as “parasitic”, and criticised proposed cuts to FASS as antithetical to intellectual development and “unjustifiable” under a $135 million surplus. Park insisted that students fight for our “dream university.”
To end the rally, the EAG presented a gift to Jagose: an oversized cardboard replica of a pair of scissors. Godwin encouraged attendees to join the EAG and help build momentum over the summer, as chants echoed down Eastern Avenue: “No cuts, no fees, no corporate universities.”