President’s Report: Jen Light
So a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the upcoming SRC elections; nominations closed on the 20th August and it is now time for the campaigning to start.
Why should you care? And why should you vote?
Well out of 32,000 undergraduate students there is a voter turnout of approx. 4000students. This can be attributed to the voluntary voting system and the fact that there is no physical incentive. But I will ask you PLEASE VOTE.
The SRC is the peak body at Sydney University representing all undergraduate students and it is up to all undergraduate students to choose who will be their next SRC president, councilors, and Honi Soit editors.
Student Elections can be overwhelming, annoying and seem completely irrelevant to your day-to-day life. This is partly true but I will tell you this. Who you elect will be responsible for the for a $1.5 million budget, will be the head of the legal service, will negotiate funding from SSAF (student services and amenities fee) and ensure that the irreplaceable services like the casework and legal service are up and running to help you out when you need.
The President of the SRC is responsible for sitting on many University committee meetings. This year I have been pushing to ensure there are no longer 100% exams for any subject you do, that lecture recordings and slides will become an opt out system instead of an opt in system. As well the SRC has been fighting for fair and affordable student accommodation, so that all students are able to live while they are at University.
Prominent former Presidents of the Sydney SRC include a Prime Minister of Australia, Cabinet Ministers, and Members of Parliaments, State and Federal, Justices of the High Court of Australia and the Supreme Court, including a Chief Justice of New South Wales and a Court of Appeal President.
It is important to make your voice heard and vote during the election season.
The elections will start on 8th September and the elections will be held on the 24th and 25th September. Hope to see you voting
General Secretary’s Report: James Leeder
Each year thousands of students vote to elect a new group of representatives to run the SRC. For many students, perhaps most, this is their only interaction with the SRC. Many students are not even aware of the SRC, or the services and representation the SRC provides, as anyone who’s worn a lurid shirt during elections can attest to.
This is due to the fact that in many ways the SRC is a democratic anomaly. It’s a weird conflation of a student union with some form of representative democracy. It acts pre-emptively in a representative fashion but is also beholden to its council members and the wider student body. It provides behind-the-scenes help in the form of services but also publically negotiates with the university. The SRC operates on many fronts, many that are less visible, and it is from this that many students can attend the university and remain unaware of its purpose.
Despite the lack of knowledge about the SRC within the student body, SRC elections remain an important aspect of the organisation and are a reaffirmation of the principles on which it operates. In conducting an election each year the SRC brings in a new wave of students with new concerns and ideas.
That being said, like most elections, some candidates are better suited than others. Candidates with organisational experience have a better understanding of the organisation they will have to oversee, as well as a better idea of what the SRC can actually do. Year after year candidates run on impossible platforms that are never achieved. As students, you should hold your representatives to account. Further to this, the SRC is an organisation that has prided itself on diversity. In ensuring that students of any cultural, socioeconomic, religious or sexual background can become a part of it, the SRC has ensured that it best represents the diverse concerns of the USYD student body.
As elections approach, I encourage you to find out more about your SRC, to question the experience of the candidates running, and to look for candidates that represent the diversity of our student body.
Education Officers’ Report: Eleanor Morley and Ridah Hassan
Last Wednesday we celebrated Chris Pyne’s unhappy birthday, after all lizard people age too. We wanted him to know that even on his special day, we won’t let up in our campaign against his higher ed. reforms. So exactly one week out from the next education protest on August 20, the Education Action Group set up a stall on Eastern Ave, handed out a bunch of cake, and got the word out about the upcoming protest. Students also signed a card to Chris, mostly leaving an impressive array of insults and curse word combinations. My favourite was the eloquent “m8 get fucked.” Truer words have never been written.
Later that day, the cross-campus education action network organised a protest at NSW Liberal Party HQ. We brought our card, sang happy birthday and even brought a cake to cut and share. The security thugs and NSW pigs were the most discourteous party hosts we’ve come across though. They tried to steal our banners and physically force us out, then even threw the cake in the bin. Bastards. Nevertheless, we occupied the lobby for a while and made our message clear.
This Wednesday is the next national day of action for education. So far this year we’ve disrupted live TV, countless Liberal party love-ins, rallied in our thousands and refused to be silent in the face of the Liberals’ attacks on higher education and welfare. Our protests have made a real impact on the public debate with Labor, the Palmer United Party and the Greens all committing to block the cuts when they hit the Senate. The National Tertiary Education Union also recently published research results which found that around 69% of people oppose the deregulation of fees, making it among the most unpopular measures in the budget. The campaign is also hitting Chris Pyne personally; he now sits on a 50% disapproval rating which gives him the title of most unpopular government minister.
There’s a real chance that we could win, and that the reforms could be trashed. But it’s important to keep fighting and putting pressure on the opposition parties to keep their word.
So join us next Wednesday, Aug 20, 1.30pm outside Fisher for another day of action for education and sticking it to the Liberals.
Queerkat Collective Report: Elsa Kohane and Robin Eames
Queerkats is a fabulous new collective created this year as a subset of the Queer Action Collective. Queerkats aims to create a safe and welcoming space that acts as an alternative to spaces and groups that are often dominated by cis men (cis men being people who were assigned male at birth and agree with that assignation). At the beginning of the year we were defining ourselves as a ‘non cis male’ collective, but this definition has proved insufficient, and we are currently workshopping a better and more inclusive definition. At the moment we are defining ourselves as a queer collective for those who identify as women (trans, cis, butch, femme, transfeminine), nonbinary folks (genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, androgynous, bigender, demigender, polygender), people who are gender diverse (including non-Western and indigenous gender identities such as two spirit, hijras, and third gender), intersex people, trans men, and anyone who experiences oppression for their gender identity. We’re still working out a definition that fits us, but part of our concerns stem from our desire to define ourselves by what we are rather than what we are not.
So far this semester we have already organised and created a magnificent zine made up of collaborative work from our community. This was for the USU’s Pride Festival, and aimed to showcase the voices of people who aren’t usually heard in mainstream society. The party to launch it was super successful, with spoken word performances, readings from the zine, and lots of rad queer dancing.
Continuing on from this great start, we have a lot of exciting plans and ideas. We will be starting up a fortnightly workshop/social event on Tuesdays, the first being a poly discussion group held Tuesday from 5-7 in the Queerspace. In the future this time can be used in a variety of ways, from dry events, to potluck dinners, to drinks, to informative workshops and skill shares, and movie nights. During this regular event and beyond, we will be working towards a celebratory Art Party to showcase the creativity and scope of non-normative queer experiences, to be held at the end of the semester. We’re also hard at work organising the production of Queer Honi, which we’re hoping to make a particularly inclusive and intersectional issue.
Queerkats meet 1pm Thursdays, and we always love to see new faces!
Interfaith Officers’ Report: Harry Maher and Monique McKenzie
The interfaith portfolio within the SRC is concerned with ensuring that all religious and spiritual expression within our community is accepted and approached with dignity and respect. The world around us is one of growing religious and racial intolerance and this needs to come to an end. We need to actively move towards a society where all culture and faith is both respected and recognized.
The foundation of peace lies within mutual understanding and respect of each other’s beliefs and religious expressions. Our world is rich with an elaborate fabric of expressions, culture and faith, which simultaneously challenges and enriches our lives. The beauty of faith is that is can touch us all in different ways; it is unique to us, our morals and our view of the world. We view the world with unique eyes guided by our individual worldviews, whether it is informed by faith, science or anywhere in between, our understanding of our surroundings is unique to us. It is the combination of our unique expressions of worldviews that creates a world flooded with both complex and conflicting views, which can either, enrich or damage society. But that depends on how we approach faith.
We need to approach faith and religious expression with an open mind and a keenness for understanding rather than an attitude filled with assumptions and unfounded misconceptions. Whether you are deeply religious or anti-religious, it is vital that we are accepting of each individual’s expression and view of the world. You do not have to agree with it but you should respect the individual and listen to their explanation before pushing your assumptions onto them. Our society then, rather than being built on suspicion and judgment, can be founded on curiosity and mutual respect.
So we encourage you to go to seminars, read widely and deeply, listen to those who share different view to you and enrich your lives with an increased understanding of the unique worldviews of those around you. It is not hard to sit and listen rather that jump in and judge.
Disabilities & Carers Officers’ Report: Sarah Chuah, Alexandra Radburn and Jasmin Camdzic
If you are a student with a disability there are a huge range of supports that you can access by registering with the university’s Disability Services. It is not compulsory to disclose your personal circumstances to the university, however, by registering with Disability Services, you can avoid struggling needlessly with your condition whilst individually negotiating assessment protocols. Instead, Disability Services provides support through a formalised mechanism which maintains your privacy around your exact circumstances to your teaching staff while advocating for the necessary adjustments you are entitled to. If you are considering registering with Disability Services or would like to seek independent advice in doing so, you can make an appointment to see an SRC Caseworker by calling 9660 5222 or visit the SRC at Wentworth Building Level 1 for a Drop-in visit on Tuesdays & Thursdays, between 1 and 3pm.
Our Access & Inclusion for Carers in Higher Education Campaign is continuing into semester 2 this year. When this campaign launched last year, we sought to raise awareness at the national level about the barriers that young and mature-aged students with significant caregiving responsibilities face in accessing and successfully completing an Australian university education. The campaign this year has focused on advocating for carers’ support in universities within NSW, particularly those in the Sydney area and above all Sydney University. With the recent launch of the NSW Carers Strategy 2014-2019, the support and transition of primary and high school student carers into higher education is a major objective, and will likely see numbers of young carers reaching university increase. For this reason, it is ever more important that universities are prepared and willing to support this valuable group in realising their full potential through education. We are particularly impressed with the momentum with which the University of Western Sydney is moving toward the implementation of meaningful support for their student carers.
Seeking Student Involvement
We have formed a Student Consultative Group and are encouraging students to get involved and give their input in the development and progress of the university’s current Disability Action Plan. The first meeting is coming up soon and will meet again in October. The Disabilities & Carers Department is also looking for students who are interested in helping plan some activities throughout the remainder of the semester. We are looking to hold some picnics in Victoria Park when the weather warms up, and also a gardening and art workshop so students can get together for some food and fun activities to encourage everyone to take the occasional break from their studies when assessments kick in. If you would like to get involved in any of these activities, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.