President’s Report: Jen Light
Welcome to week 1 the party is over and after months on break we all have to get back into study life.
Now, my job is to represent all undergraduate students. I took over as president in December, so while everyone else has been on holidays the SRC has been open for business, and so has the university. There have been many changes going on over this time, and in particular there has been a revision of the entire scholarships programme. The accommodation scholarship which provides assistance to students at university accommodation on an equity basis has been changed to be allocated evenly between equity and merit. There are only 60 scholarships being distributed meaning only 30 of those will be given to students who are struggling economically, and the other 30 will be given out to students without any background of their financial position, only their academic records.
Merit scholarships exist widely around the university, and it is very likely that those being offered the merit accommodation scholarships will also be offered a wide range of academic excellence scholarships. I am not against merit scholarships. I understand the need for the University to offer them to continue to attract the brightest students. However with statistics stating that two thirds of Australian university students live below the poverty line, accommodation scholarships should be completely equity based to ensure that those most in need are receiving the funds. Studies show that students who have a stable home do better academically as it is all about living a balanced life. Therefore student accommodation scholarships should be an area the university is increasing funds to and ensuring they are equity based.
Stay tuned for updates on these scholarships and the process on affordable student accommodation especially since 700 new university beds will become available next year. This is an area I will be fighting at from every
PLUG: don’t forget about the National Day of Action against higher education cuts on the 26th of March
Enjoy your first week and don’t drink too much coffee 😉
General Secretaries’ Report: James Leeder & Mariana Podesta-Diverio
Hopefully by now those of you in first year have begun to descend into the blackened, demonic depths of undergraduate obscurity. It’s a hellish reality of university life that nothing gold can stay and you’ll soon end up as jaded as the rest of us.
The end of another rained-out O-Week means we have to face an unfortunate fact: class has started this week. For those of you who, like us, begin tutorials hungover, cupping a glorious double shot cappuccino: welcome back. To those of who eagerly wait outside your lecture theatre early: you’re embarrassing us. Leave.
A hot tip for those of you who haven’t caught on already: you should always pre-order your course readers from the copy centre so that you can avoid waiting in line and instead breeze past all of the schmucks that haven’t yet wizened up. Similarly, do not feel pressured to buy your textbooks yet, or at all. Speak to your lecturer, they’re normally pretty frank about whether or not it is actually beneficial. If you do decide that an 800 page tome on differentials is necessary, stop by SRC Books, our secondhand bookstore located on Level 4 of the Wentworth Building, to get affordable education resources. We also buy back your books at the end of semester!
University, as you’ll soon learn, is all about climbing over your classmates in order to screw them over as best you can while propelling yourself to the top of the food chain. Just kidding! Everyone has the right to a free and accessible education. The National Day of Action is coming up very soon – on the 26th of March. It is a crucial time in the history of education activism because we are potentially facing the most austere cuts to tertiary education we’ve ever seen. Join us at Fisher Library at 12pm for a speak out and a march down to UTS, where we will continue the protest.
In recent news, we would like to acknowledge the contribution of Maggie Hayes, who has just retired as the founding Legal Practitioner Director of the SRC Legal Service, for her tireless work and initiative. We also welcome Thomas McLoughlin, our new LPD, who comes to us with a diversity of experience and a keen interest in student legal issues and education; we’re very excited for the coming year.
Stay hydrated, stay sane, and stay in school.
Education Officers’ Report: Ridah Hassan & Eleanor Morley
Sydney University has a history of student radicalism, and we need to keep those traditions alive now we are staring down the barrel of an Abbott government. Along with his snakish crony Christopher Pyne, Abbott is on the warpath and has us in his sights.
$2.3 billion of higher education funding is currently facing the chopping block, with $900 million of University funding to be cut in addition to the conversion of the start-up scholarship for students receiving Centrelink into a loan. This direct attack on welfare will make University even less accessible for students who were not raised in the privileged world of the North Shore and private schools.
On top of these cuts, a full-scale review into the state of higher education has been announced. It is being lead by David Kemp and Andrew Norton, who were responsible for the last wave of attacks to Universities under the Howard government. Needless to say this “review” is simply an exercise in ascertaining where further cuts will be made.
So it’s time for students and staff to take to the streets in opposition to Abbott and Pyne’s education-bashing agenda! The past year has seen a revival of student activism in Australia, with the National Union of Students leading a campaign against the cuts, where thousands of students across the country rallied to defend their education in 2013.
The fight will continue this year with the campaign Abbott and Pyne: Hands off our Education! March 26, that’s wednesday of week four, marks the first National Day of Action for the year, where students from across New South Wales will be meeting at UTS at 1pm to protest against the cuts, in conjunction with rallies held at the same time in every major city across the country. Here at Sydney Uni we will be starting the day with a Clubs Carnival, co-hosted by the USU, to celebrate the vibrant student life that exists on this campus.
Come join the SRC and various clubs and societies on Eastern Avenue in the morning to take part in the carnival, and then march with us to UTS to send the message loud and clear; Abbott and Pyne, hands off our education!
Wom*n’s Officers’ Report: Georgia Cranko, Phoebe Moloney & Julia Readett
We are very excited to be a part of the SRC this year and have had quite a lot of fun learning
the ropes throughout the break. Over the summer we had a great time organising our annual publication Growing Strong.
We can’t say that we completely “get” InDesign and Photoshop just yet but thanks to our publications managers and some very talented wom*n students we were able to produce a beautiful celebration of wom*n’s writing, art and creativity. Drop by the Wom*n’s Office in the SRC and grab a copy or two!
The publication was officially launched at O-Week and was a huge (at times soggy) success; we spotted a few students reading it in the rain, and thankfully no students attempting to use it as an umbrella. We are really excited for the Growing Strong Launch Party, which will be held at the Newsagency in Marrickville.
It’s a great chance to hear some slam poetry from GS’ contributors, drink tea, meet new students and catch up with some old favourites. Our O-Week experience was nothing but positive with over 120 sign ups and lots of enthusiasm and passion from students all round. Thank you for all the collective members who helped out and all those who signed up! You made our week! We loved selling our consent underwear that featured embroidered phrases that raised awareness about consent and sex positivity. We were also very excited to promote the Wom*n’s Self Defence workshops that we’ll be running this semester. Lots of students were really receptive to the idea despite the fact that many felt pre-emptive strategies should never be considered the sole solution to ending violence against wom*n. Hopefully the classes help develop confidence and empowerment.
We would like to thank all those students and staff who have helped us throughout the summer and those planning to help prepare us for the year ahead. We are really looking forward to working more with staff, office bearers and students to make wom*n’s experience on campus this year as positive, supported and enriching as it can be. If you are keen to get involved in wom*n’s activism come to the International Women’s Day Rally this Saturday where we will be pushing for reproductive rights and equal pay – we’d really love to see you there.
Disabilities and Carers’ Report: Sarah Chuah, Alexandra Radburn and Jasmin Camdzic
It was fantastic meeting so many great students at our stall during O-week who were interested in disabilities and carers issues and keen to find out more. It became apparent that many students we encountered during O-week only likened ‘disability’ to overt physical or intellectual impairments however this is not the case. In Australia, 1 in 5 people have a disability. Take a look around and you will realise that you cannot see disability at such a high rate- actually, 90% of disabilities aren’t visible. Mental illness, sensory impairments, chronic medical conditions, and learning impairments also fall inside the umbrella term ‘disability’ along with more hidden physical impairments including respiratory disorders such as asthma, neurological disorders such as MS, cerebral palsy or epilepsy, musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis or spinal injuries, and immunological disorders such as HIV/AIDS. Whether you identify with the label disability or not, it is important to remember that, as a student, you can access a whole range of practical support and adjustments for your studies by registering with USYD’s Disability Services and that this process is private.
What we also realised during O-week was that many students thought we had a typo on our signs. ‘Carers’ was interpreted as ‘Careers’. To clarify, by ‘carers’ we are referring to students who provide support to someone they know with a disability, ongoing illness, drug or alcohol condition, or who is elderly or frail. Providing ongoing care for another person who couldn’t otherwise manage without your support can be isolating and impact greatly on your studies. Unfortunately, if you miss classes or assessment deadlines because of your caring commitments, an application for Special Consideration is just about the only avenue you can currently pursue to rectify your course requirements.
In addition to campaigning for carers’ support at USYD, this year the Disabilities & Carers Student Network is focusing on wellbeing and will get together on campus each fortnight and take part in a range of activities centred on maintaining social and mental wellbeing. We’re open to undergraduate students who identify as having a disability or being a carer, or those just interested in these areas and wellbeing. It’s free, so to find out more about what we’re doing or join our mailing list, email us or ‘like’ our Facebook page (facebook.com/USYDdisabilities.carers). Our first meeting is lunch this Thursday at 1-2pm at the USYD community garden (New Law School Seminar 100 if raining).
We look forward to meeting you soon!
Alexandra, Sarah & Yaz