News //

Women’s Collective shut down F23 calling for the abolition of colleges

The rally concluded with a clear demand for a substantial reform of colleges and the oppressive culture they create — replacing them with student housing.

CW: Discussions of rape and sexual violence on campus

The USyd SRC Women’s Collective (WoCo) hosted the annual Abolish the Colleges rally outside F23 on 17 May. 

USyd SRC Women’s Officer Iggy Boyd chaired the speak-out and began with WoCo’s two demands: the abolition of the colleges, and an improvement in USyd management’s handling of these self-governing institutions in which sexual violence is rife. 

Boyd emphasised that the self-governing arrangement of USyd colleges is “unprecedented”, divergent from residential facilities in other universities. Boyd criticised the bureaucracy that obscures justice for victim-survivors at USyd.

USyd SRC President Lia Perkins, a longtime WoCo member, discussed the nefarious links between the colleges’ existence and USyd’s reputation. She spoke about how privately-owned colleges are “networks of wealth”, attracting affluent students and boosting USyd’s reputation as an “elite” institution. Perkins explained that this is not the interest of students since colleges are “extremely unsafe”; a fact of which they are aware, given their meagre measures to introduce in-person consent training. 

Perkins emphasised that abolishing the colleges would provide ample land on which USyd could build affordable student housing, saying that this would “help more than the elite few”.

NTEU Representative for casuals, Finola Laughren spoke on the sexism found in an overwhelmingly feminine staffing environment. Laughren emphasised that without the fair treatment of casuals, including the adequate and equal pay deserved, the university can not function. Laughren concludes with comments on the prevalence of sexual violence in the workplace and the demand for “decisive action” by the university management.

Riley Brooke from the Tenants’ Union spoke on the current rental crisis and how it disproportionately affects victim-survivors of family and domestic violence. Brooke emphasised that “a safe, secure, affordable home” is a human right which too many people cannot access. Brooke stepped through the safety that a home offers for victim-survivors and how many cannot physically leave due to the difficulties of the rental crisis. 

Brooke brought this issue back to students, emphasising how when priced out of private renting, students may be left with the dangerous choice of sleeping rough or staying with unsafe people. As a salve, Brooke emphasised the importance of expanding public and community housing; social housing spaces currently have waiting lists of over ten years. 

Eliza Crossley, WOCO member and USyd SRC Sexual Harassment Officer, called for the colleges to be abolished as they perpetuate an elitist and classist environment. Crossley highlighted how profit-mongering colleges are inherently inexcusable particularly in the context of the housing crisis. Crossley reiterated that the only solution to dissolve the rape culture is to “abolish the colleges” and to demand institutional accountability. 

Notably, Crossley outlined that this culture of misogyny, sexism and sexual assault is not “something a couple consent modules can fix”.

USyd SRC Disabilities Officer and International House alumni, Khanh Tran, spoke on the unthinkable profit margins the colleges make. Tran recounted their positive experiences in affordable student housing, highlighting the significance of expanding these fairer alternatives.

The rally concluded with a clear demand for a substantial reform of colleges and the oppressive culture they create — replacing them with student housing. Boyd stressed the significance of collective solidarity in the battle for transparency and accountability. 

As a last feat of demand, Boyd revealed a pair of scissors, snipping the red tape in two, and ultimately reminding onlookers that the University remains complicit in and responsible for the perpetuation of destructive sexual violence in college and campus spaces.

If this article has caused you any distress you can contact any of the following organisations for assistance: