The University of Sydney is a Group of Eight institution, an elite academy for the brightest minds of a generation. Within Australia, it dominates leagues tables. Its graduates have held the top jobs in Federal Parliament, the High Court and innumerable Not-For-Profit and corporate boardrooms.
However, current students know all too well the foibles and fuck ups of Sydney University: the particulars that aren’t catalogued in glossy brochures or international leagues tables.
Honi Soit cuts through the public relations, promotional material, and the irrelevant indicia the University promulgates. Our stories aren’t the results of focus groups and extensive surveys. As a student newspaper, with a critical distance from the University, we have shed light on USyd mismanagement and administrative negligence.
Here are six articles that take a peek behind the sandstone.
In 2012, the University – much as it is now – was facing a funding crisis. It reacted by announcing wholesale moves to sack staff. However, Madeleine King’s report suggested academics’ wages weren’t the source of Sydney University’s fiscal woes: rather, it was a combination of financial mismanagement, dodgy contracts and blown-out executive salaries.
“Staff costs are the university’s single biggest cost item, taking up 65 per cent of total revenue. “It’s the obvious one they attack first,” Oscar, says.
But does he think there would be enough money to keep the staff had there been better financial management?
“Oh, without a doubt.”’
- “Let me know when you want that milkshake”: Emails establish close relationship between University and police
Last year, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) took industrial action in a bid for fairer wages and work conditions. However, testimonies of police violence – broken bones, cracked ribs, choking – against student protesters often overshadowed the strikes, themselves. Throughout the conflict, the University maintained that it desired to protect the welfare of students: those behind the picket lines as well as those walking through. However, Hannah Ryan’s feature report revealed an uncomfortable closeness between the administration and Newtown police.
Anonymous shares their experience with the University administration’s unnecessary and invasive registration and gender “verification” processes.
“I wonder if the University is aware, in asking trans* students to have their gender officially changed on their birth certificates, that they are asking us to engage in a baffling, invasive, expensive, and emotionally taxing administrative process that requires most of us to (a) undergo a procedure that would render us sterile, and (b) be unmarried (god forbid an existing state-sanctioned relationship be allowed to subsist if it’s going to be officially, rather than de facto, queer).”
University can be a stressful and anxious period for many students. Natalie Czapski uncovered chronic shortages in the University’s strategy in tackling mental illness.
“This university does recognise that mental illness can impact students as severely as physical sickness. Its great omission is the myopic, inflexible deployment of mental health services; the belief that time and extensions heal all wounds.”
It’s not just students affected by upper management as Sam Jonscher’s report on bullying at the Sydney University Conservatorium demonstrates.
‘In an email exchange with Human Resources Manager Antoinette Holt, Kramer says of Dorigo, “Duct tape can’t fix stupid but can muzzle it” [sic]. In an email to two other lecturers in the OperaSchool with the subject line “Confidential- FYI”, Kramer told them Dorigo had been presented with the consultation paper for her redundancy and asked, “Are we having fun yet?”’
It’s difficult – and perhaps unfair – to pin the blame on one man, as so often occurs in debates about the management and direction of Sydney University. In an exclusive interview with the Vice Chancellor, Max Chalmers spoke with Michael Spence about his time at the helm of Sydney University and some of the issues outlined above.
“Spence’s reaction to reports of these injuries is emblematic of something far greater than his personal view of industrial action, legal process, or the role of police on campus. It’s a demonstration of his failure to sift through the criticism hurled at him and take on board those that deserve hearing.”
Illustration by Monica Renn.