Universities are significant social assets and contributors to public good. They enable innovative research, engagement with complex issues, and transformative education. But we should continuously work to make the University of Sydney more sustainable, inclusive, and democratic.
Raewyn Connell argues that realising this requires convincing strategies of change. This is critical considering the University’s fundamental inertia. Generations of students have worked to induce this change by protesting, convincing, and lobbying University management. Because management answers to the Senate, campaigns to improve the University would benefit from having progressive student Fellows of Senate.
Students deserve principled advocates in University decision-making forums who dissent to problematic proposals rather than silently rubber-stamping. For example, the student representatives in the Academic Board were integral to the defeat of proposed 12-week semesters.
Widespread casualisation is convenient for universities as businesses but degrades staff wellbeing and the capacity of universities to provide quality education. Last semester, I taught a ‘tutorial’ of 55 students and had to do unpaid work to teach this unreasonably large class. As one inquiry into job security surfaced, my experience is not a unique one in the university sector. We need students in the Senate – which has the final say on University resourcing – who are committed to improving teaching and learning conditions.
Over the past 45 years, as Rodney Tiffen summarises, Australian universities have experienced declining public investment despite significant growth. So electing progressive students to the University of Sydney Senate is by no means a silver bullet. But it’s definitely an enabler in the continual struggle for a better University