Education Officer’s Report
This month saw deregulation dropped by the Turnbull government, in what should be recognised as a massive victory for students everywhere. This is the result of a sustained campaign against fee deregulation and further cuts to higher education funding. Higher education policy has not been championed by any political party, they only ever respond to public pressure, opposition and dissent, so congratulations should go to all the community groups that changed hearts and minds, who campaigned and rallied and ensured fee deregulation would not be pushed through. We’re seeing significant institutions like Universities Australia drop their support of fee deregulation after years of public pressure, and that’s a huge moment for the student movement.
Michael Spence went to Sydney Morning Herald recently, sensing that deregulation was not long for the Turnbull government, pleading that the government not rule out student fee hikes. This bold article of spin must have pleased the university overlords because not long after its release, Michael Spence, our own Vice Chancellor, was elected chair of Group of Eight Australia, and was praised for his “energetic commitment”. This is big news for this campus, because while Michael Spence has always been one of the more aggressive Vice Chancellors in backing the government’s reforms, the University of Sydney has been able to mobilise great numbers of students.
Following a cross campus meeting we held last week, which was initially planned to nail fee deregulation’s coffin but became about the direction of the campaign over this next period where an immediate attack does not exist, it’s been decided that the priority for the rest of the year should be on campus, where those immediate threats do exist. This includes attacks like the removal of simple extensions, the fact that students are being pursued even harder for plagiarism, concurrent with an incredibly aggressive proposed restructure of the university.
It was great to hear that the restructure had near unanimous opposition in the recent SRC elections, and I look forward to seeing what the campaign can achieve with next year’s council. I encourage any new councillors to get involved with the Education Action Group on Tuesdays at 2 PM on the New Law Lawns to join the campaign.
Sexual Harassment Officers’ Report
Bella O’Shannasy and Monique Newberry.
“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”
Mean Girls, a personal and word-wide favourite and classic. Notoriously one of the most quotable movies of our generation. So it is no real surprise that a quote jumps to mind, however I am shocked that this is the first time that I’ve really considered the implications of it.
As most of us know, Halloween is quickly approaching. From the never ending Facebook events that all claim to be “Sydney’s best halloween event” to a substantial increase of terrifying clown costume present at Target, this new holiday/partying tradition grows more and more in popularity each year.
Yes it is true, Halloween is an occasion to whip out that ruined sheet you have and transform it into the classic toga, or the last minute friendly ghost but it also a time that allows folks to be/wear whatever they want to without condemnation. And to me that is sad.
We live in a society where fashion is often used to express personality, however when your clothing choices is deemed socially unacceptable, things can get bad.
There’s a real unsaid belief in the world we live in, that if you wear clothes with shorter hem lines, it’s acceptable to throw insults and names your way. That you deserve everything that is thrown at you based on that you wear.
Regardless of the length of your hemline, you should feel comfortable in leaving the house without having being yelled at, called a slut or even assaulted. One of the first things police ask you after reporting a rape is “what were you wearing?” And that’s something that is irrelevant, it never matters what you wear. you deserve to be treated with respect.
So October 31st and EVERY OTHER DAY of the year, don’t slut shame. When you do, you are doing so much more than calling someone a name. You’re contributing to a broader victim blaming system that tells victims of sexual assault that it is their fault based on what they wore.
In the wise words of all mothers out there, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
If you have experienced sexual harassment or report you can contact the sexual harassment officers at firstname.lastname@example.org
Environment Officer’s Report
Over the break a bunch of enviro members went down with the Australian Student Environment Network to the forests of East Gippsland in Victoria to visit blockades that are opposing logging, learn new skills and help save the forest through citizen science. They learnt new skills, surveyed for endangered species and searched for old growth trees. The collective also ran our first climbing workshop and explored our artistic side by submitting an artwork to the Verge festival to highlight the need for action at the upcoming climate talks in Paris this December.
The Paris talks represent the worlds last chance to get a binding international agreement to reduce emissions. Australia has an atrocious track record of attempting to derail such negotiations in the past, which is why we need to place enormous pressure upon the Australian government to be a constructive participant and up the woeful targets it has currently on the table. Recent modelling shows that the targets submitted by Australia and other nations still puts the world on track for 3.5ºC of warming by the end of the century. As a rich nation with high per capita emissions, Australia needs to do its fair share of the global effort by committing to steep emissions cuts and by providing funds to rectify global inequities so that poorer nations can meet their targets without entrenching poverty.
Sydney University can play a role in spurring this change. Thats why we are calling upon it to give fossil fuels the flick and divest before Paris. The Environment Collective will be supporting the People’s Climate March here in Sydney on the 29th of November at 1pm. Bring your friends, bring your family, bring everyone out onto the streets to tell the government and the world that it is time to act. To inspire you before the march, we will be screening Naomi Klein’s new documentary ‘This Changes Everything’, on the incompatibility of neoliberal capitalism and climate action. Stay tuned for details of this post exams event and more by by liking the Sydney Uni Enviro Collective page on Facebook.
Social Justice Officers’ Report
The Social Justice Officer position is in need of serious evaluation and amendment. The Office’s remit is nebulous and the number of Officer Bearers makes coordination difficult at the best of times. Furthermore, the position is seen as a joke.
When I took this role, I thought that something could be made of it. I was wrong. I recommend for the position to be amended so that only one person can hold the Office so that they can be held individually accountable. The functions of the Office should be clearly defined and expectations should be set. The position should not just be another line in the CV, but something of substance.
To give you an idea of what at present is involved in being a Social Justice Officer: Soon after being appointed I managed to gain access to the email account (who knew there was one?), and the messages had not been read. During my tenure I saw a Facebook page from the USYD SRC Social Justice Department sharing an event. I was joyful that it was active. However, there was no reply to my message querying who was running it. From the activity on the page I have surmised it is merely a front for Socialist Alternative and nothing more.
For next year’s Social Justice Officers, I can only wish you the best of luck that you may do better than this year. The bar has been set very low. Unless the position is significantly amended, I would recommend that it be abolished.
Hugs and kisses, Alex Eordogh