Universities are built to be places of critical thought, social reform, and advancement through education. Many have a proud history of challenging social and historical norms, encouraging students and academics to not simply accept things as they are, but to agitate and work towards what we want an ideal society to look like. We have seen this in many of the revolutionary social movements that evolved out of universities and changed societies forever, including the Freedom Rides for Aboriginal justice, the Vietnam War moratorium, and broader movements for feminism and LGBTQI rights at Sydney Uni over the last century.
Unfortunately, such struggles are often accompanied by a backlash, as we have seen in more recent times: incidents of Islamophobia, racist graffiti, religious intolerance, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia on campus are well-documented in these pages and elsewhere. Just a few weeks ago, threats were made against the SRC and individual students by members of an extremist group on social media, simply for providing a forum for discussing topics like religion, capitalism, and American imperialism.
These cases are obviously at odds with the values the university claims to espouse and be founded on, that it is the right of every person, regardless of their origins, to be educated to make a positive contribution to the progression of society. For many students, especially those not personally targeted by such incidents, they might seem like extreme outliers amongst a broader landscape of diversity and acceptance, committed by an angry few. But these acts do not occur in a vacuum.
Consider what we have seen over recent months regarding institutional responses to sexual harassment and assault on campus and in our colleges: a reticence to acknowledge the extent of the problem and take immediate, meaningful action to stamp it out, with a focus on preserving reputations rather than protecting victims. Consider the university’ refusal to publicly endorse marriage equality, or their unwillingness to act on ensuring that trans and intersex students can have the same rights as the rest of us, to be addressed by the name and pronouns they identify with.
We all must take individual responsibility for how we choose to engage with others. But we are also products of the world we live in. We’ve seen it in our parliament: when the people leading us express intolerance, overtly or not, or refuse to call out bigotry for what it is, it is a message that this behaviour is normal and tolerable. Students and staff need to start taking serious steps to ensure that the same effect is not repeated at our universities. We are building the next generation of leaders here, and we want them to lead us forwards, not back.
The Black Lives Matter and Support Student’s Safety, End the War on Women rally took place during July and both were attended by members of the Women of Colour Collective. A banner painting afternoon was held the day before and the response to some of the signs we painted was extremely positive! In future the collective resolved to take more photos at events and rallies.
The collective meetings of the semester will be held every second week on wednesday at 1pm in the Women’s Room in Manning.
The collective also hopes to plan a cross campus vigil for victims and sufferers of domestic violence – particularly focusing on the disproportionate way women of colour and LGBTI women of colour are affected by domestic violence.
Currently workshopping constitution – hoping to clearly define things like eligibility of voting as well as the definition and aims of the collective itself.
Looking toward expanding and building the collective after the huge blow suffered at the beginning of the year which has disengaged a huge amount of members. It has been difficult to engage more students as new and existing members of the collective now have a visible discomfort around getting more involved. We hope to combat this by trying to encourage collective members who were previously engaged with the collective to get involved again with the positive direction the collective is moving in. We also hope to start being more visible on campus, with things like: bake sales, picnics and stalls.
Muslim Wom*n’s Collective
In Semester 2, the Muslim Wom*n’s Collective have started our own blog. Every month, a topic is selected and members of the collective submit pieces related to the topic with the deadline being the end of the month. For August, the topic is ‘Hijab’. The pieces may be pictures, essays, a poem or as simple as a sentence. The topics are not specific to allow members to interpret it as they like forexample someone may write about physical and social aspects of hijab whereas someone else may write about what the hijab means to them.
Meetings have been taking place to discuss events and issues, if any that the members would like to talk about. A bake sale was suggested and the Sydney Period Project was picked to raise funds for.
The bake sale will take place on Tuesday 30 th August from 10am-3pm which will include an hour of henna art from 12pm-1pm. During the meetings, film screenings were suggested where we would play a movie/talk/documentary related to the topic of the month which will hopefully be happening soon.
The Muslim Wom*n’s Collective together with AUJS organised a book swap. The book swap took place on Wednesday 17 th August between 12pm-1pm where wom*n from both groups came together to discuss their chosen books and swap with each other. The book swap was not limited to a genre.