As online campaigning for the SRC Elections finally opens and dozens of Facebook profile changes, USyd’s most seasoned and new hacks descend back in the dens of New Law to debate the pressing issues of the day.
Lancaster also notes that a permanent increase to the stipends of Honi Soit editors, an additional two caseworkers are included in the SRC’s SSAF applications. Should USyd accept these proposals, then SHAKE for Honi will be receiving the doubled stipend that editors currently receive.
On the other hand, SRC Vice President Emily Storey said that the SRC x USU Foodhub continues to gain significant traction with students, with more than 1,200 students accessing essential groceries, food, ready-made meals and other items from the space over its three weeks run thus far.
Responding to Honi’s question on Foodhub’s visibility, Storey said that a potential solution to alleviate Foodhub’s physical obscurity is distributing items in Courtyard. She noted that this is an ongoing conversation with the University of Sydney Union (USU).
The SRC needs to do better for low SES students
Moved by Jack Scanlan (NLS), a first-year student Science student and Labor newbie, this motion cites USyd’s woeful record on access for low SES students and pushes for a research report into the barriers for students from disadvantaged communities. Hailing from rural Queensland, Scanlan spoke of the need to drill down to the “nuts and bolts” to figure out the challenges and solutions that can be done to increase low SES student numbers on campus.
“It doesn’t take much maths skill to figure out that 3.7 per cent is really below 25 per cent, which is what they [USyd] were declaring to be low SES,” he said.
“We have survivorship bias, going through the possible solutions that the SRC could do.”
Scanlan then proposed that the SRC compile a research report into the barriers facing low SES students’ entry and retention rate.
In 2017, former Honi editor Maani Truu proposed that the SRC create a dedicated low SES Officer in recognition of the disadvantages facing students from lower income families and communities. Truu argued then, that “this university [USyd] was not designed for ‘poor’ people”, citing law tutors asking students to resign from their part-time jobs in order to fulfil the demands of their course. Scanlan’s motion, in many ways, echoes Truu’s sentiments.
SRC Education Officer Lia Perkins (Grassroots) agreed, lamenting the fact that the vast majority of USyd students were not low SES, pointing towards a “broader problem in the education system” that favours old money over meaningful support for students.
“I think the report is a good idea, there’s quite a few things we could push that are more than just increasing places for low SES students,” said Perkins, in an apparent reference to Federal Education Minister Jason Clare’s announcement of 20,000 extra university places for disadvantaged students.
However, the proposal drew opposition from Socialist Alternative (SAlt), with Simon Upitis labelling Scanlan’s research survey idea as “useless”. In an odd turn, Upitis compared Scanlan’s proposed report to surveys surrounding casual underpayment by the NTEU. Honi finds the comparison odd, as it appears to undermine the union’s efforts to uncover the scale of wage theft and underpayment.
At this point, SRC General Secretary Grace Lagan waded in, accusing SAlt of a failure to “understand the intricacies of the issue”. She criticised n Upitis’ claim that NTEU surveys were ineffective in enacting change, and said that research surveys simultaneously generate press momentum for issues and also allow a comprehensive understanding behind the data.
This promptly set off a shouting match between SAlt and Labor, with the former accusing Labor factions of abstaining from the Australian Financial Review’s Higher Education Summit due to conflict of interest with Federal Education Minister Jason Clare’s presence.
“It is incredibly hard to commit the time to activism on Council in factions when it’s all unpaid labour, and so I think it’s actually important to pay attention to what people are saying,” Lagan said.
Despite SAlt’s opposition, the motion passed.
Condemning police repression in NSW
Tiger Perkins (Grassroots) condemned police brutality during the Higher Education Summit protest in a motion, particularly the NSW Police’s use of pepper spray and alleged switching off of body cameras.
“Police could be seen taking out canisters of aerosol sprays made from chilli peppers that induce severe burning,” Perkins said.
“Not so long ago, many of us were chased across Victoria park fighting for education and being dragged off Broadway. Over the years many students have been brutalised, injured, arrested and fined.”
Chiming in with his motion, SAlt Councillors, including SRC Education Officer Deaglan Godwin, used the occasion to point to Labor Councillors’ absence during the AFR Higher Education Summit protest.
“Sometimes activism has consequences for your personal career. And we saw last Tuesday, NLS and Unity both put their careers ahead of a fighting student movement and rebuilding student activism,” Godwin said.
For SAlt, Federal Education Minister Jason Clare’s presence at the summit represented a conflict of interest that the Labor factions could not overcome, much to the ire of both NLS and Student Unity representatives in the room.
In response, Scanlan (NLS) and Lagan (Unity), threw their hands in the air, citing their study commitments as the reason why they did not attend the AFR Summit action.
Wrapping up the discussions, Eddie Stephenson (SAlt) implored councillors to “meditate” on the need for more mass protests, meaning that the position passed comfortably.
Supporting the campaign against deadnaming
SRC Queer Officer Yaz Andrews took to the floor to speak on the Queer Action Collective’s (QuAC) campaign against deadnaming. Deadnaming refers to the use of a trans person’s birth name instead of their preferred name.
Citing statistics from a student survey, Andrews pointed out that 83 per cent of students noted that “persistent issues” concerning deadnaming exist on their campuses, another 43 per cent on their university accounts, and 20 per cent by university staff.
“We’re asking the SRC to condemn deadnaming on our campus [USyd] especially on student-based platforms such as Canvas. The SRC should promote staff having sensitivity training and an understanding of deadnaming, and why it’s such a risk,” Andrews said.
Following Andrews’ lead, Valerie Comino spoke on the bureaucratic hurdles she faced, labelling the obstacles she is experiencing at USyd to not be dead-named a “nightmare”.
“It just gets to a point where it gets really difficult and it should just be a much more streamlined process,” Comino said.
Although Owen Marsden-Readford (SAlt) agreed with Andrews and Comino on the need to abolish deadnaming, he pivoted to alleging the National Union of Students (NUS) of using a campaign against deadnaming as an “excuse” to not participate in protesting Mark Latham’s Religious Discrimination Bill. Singling out NLS and the Grindies, he cautioned the floor on viewing the deadnaming campaign as the main focus of queer activism.
“It’s worth being clear about these campaigns and I think it’s worthwhile, but it also does not excuse and cannot be used as a replacement for mass mobilisation.”
Reforming University mental health provisions
Among the final motions of the night was Grace Wallman’s call for Council to press the university to enhance CAPS. Drawing extensively from a recent Honi report on special considerations, she said that the administrative burdens facing students were excessive and is giving rise to a mental health crisis in the university.
“Students frequently report really long wait times, overworked staff members that cannot adequately complete their roles, which is obviously not their fault,” Wallman said.
Upon finishing her clarion call, Wallman’s motion passed without any controversy.
And with that, only two Council meetings left to go until the next generation of hacks and editors, including Lia Perkins, SHAKE and the yet-to-be determined motley crew of Council representatives takes the helm.
Council will convene for its penultimate session in October to coincide with the blossoming of USyd’s jacarandas.