This week, for one of the last reports of my term, I want to talk about student representation and the important role it plays within the machinery of this university. Many of you don’t really understand the nature of what student reps do, and that is our fault and to our detriment: we don’t publicise our work well enough or take the time and effort to communicate with students about what we do. But it is important and vital for all of us.
The reason I want to discuss this now is because of some recent changes the university has made to the nature of student representation. A few weeks ago, the SRC was alerted, by chance, that the University Executive had removed the presidents of the SRC and SUPRA from “ex officio” members of the Senior Executive Group Education Committee (SEG Ed) and replaced them with one student member to be nominated by the Chair of the Academic Board from the pool of student representatives on the Board.
SEG Ed is one of the most important committees student reps sit on, as it reports directly to senior university management and can approve a range of policies relating to curriculum, admissions, teaching and learning, academic standards and practices, and so on.
This change was made with no student consultation, nor any warning that it was happening. Effectively, it cuts the number of student reps on the committee in half and allows a member of staff to make a captain’s pick rather than it being the elected undergrad or postgrad rep or their nominee. This is fraught with potential issues about who is chosen and whether the choice was made with the best interests of students in mind. Additionally, the presidents of the student organisations are paid a fulltime wage, have a team of experienced staff to brief them, and by virtue of sitting on a range of other committees, possess a broader understanding of the issues that the committee discusses. Students without these resources available, who may be juggling a range of other commitments, might not be able to provide the same level of understanding and commitment to the role.
University management likes to say that it values student representation, but this process suggests that we aren’t given the same respect afforded to other members. It suggests that management doesn’t care about ensuring that student representation is effective and engaged rather than tokenistic. And it shows that management doesn’t understand the importance of students being able to raise and resolve issues at an early stage, rather than allowing them to develop and multiply because no one else realised there was a problem to begin with. The best people to represent students are their fellow students, who they have elected to the role. This should be a fundamental principle. Clearly, it is not.
We have raised these concerns with the university. But our voices can be bolstered if our fellow students write to their faculty representatives, both students and staff, and back our case up. You can find out who yours are by looking up the Academic Board members at http://sydney.edu.au/secretariat/academic-board-committees/academic-board/membership.shtml. Don’t let your voice be ignored.
Enjoy your week!
Well this is it, the final report, my term has come to a close. Well technically it ends on November 30 but the point is, this is the last time my words will grace honi soit. It has been a rewarding and enjoyable experience being one of your two general secretaries. Mostly people recap the year in these final reports, and that is what I will do to the best of my ability. We start off with OWeek preparations, which arguably fell to me and Georgia, when inevitably as is a time honoured tradition, the OWeek Committee failed to deliver in terms of attendance. Thankfully, that has been restructured, so no future general secretaries will have to deal with the awkwardness of calling a meeting which no one will actually turn up to.
Georgia and I, also had the pleasure of doing SSAF negotiations, which secured funding for the SRC for another year. With these funding, we did something that all fiscal conservatives can be proud of, and passed a surplus (who says that the left can’t be fiscally responsible), which of course will mean that more ‘jobs and growth’ within the SRC was achieved, through secure investments, at least that’s something that would occur if Georgia and I didn’t want to adequately fund services and activism for students. I am proud of us boosting funding to the legal service to cope with the higher demand that the SRC’s Legal Service. I am also proud, that we managed to find the funding for EDCON to be hosted at USYD this year, which saw numerous students attend to constructively debate and learn about educational policy and activism.
I am also proud of my efforts regarding business school referencing policy, with most schools in the faculty continuing to elect not to include references in the word count. I would now like to take time, to commend and thank Georgia for her efforts throughout the year. Georgia has truly been an exceptional counterpart, going above and beyond the job description regarding her activism and enthusiasm in fighting for students and wish her the best of luck in her coming years. I wish the next person/people to take the role of General Secretary the best of luck and hope that they will be able to serve students to the best of their ability, knowing that I will probably be the last
‘NLS’ person to hold this position for a while. I also wish Isabella Brook luck with her term as President of the SRC, I know she will be amazing.
As for me, I have enjoyed myself but now it is back to return to the excitement of commerce and out of the factional warfare that student politics can be. As far as regrets, I have none, including the way I got my position, but I stand by my decision. Well If you need me, I will be busy preparing for Quidditch Nationals (arguably my true passion in life). Long live the SRC,
Liam Carrigan & Dylan Griffiths
Considering the seemingly unstoppable neolibralisation and corporatization of Sydney University and the mainstream narrative of student apathy to activism it’s pretty humbling to once again sign off on another year of incredible education activism. Since 2012 this campus has been the scene of the last vestiges of radical student struggle. We have stood in solidarity with staff, struggled against fee deregulation and fought against the restructuring of our University.
2016 begun with our ‘Insipid’ poster campaign that called out the hypocrisy of the University’s marketing campaign. We worked with the NTEU to hold a rally against the restructure on March 16th and oppose the cuts in senate representatives. We have opposed the presence of Liberals on campus, protesting Simon Birmingham in with Fisher library and opposing the University awarding an honorary doctorate to the very undeserving John Howard. With the scrapping of the start up scholarship, two billion in cuts to Universities and lowering of the HECS repayment threshold we worked in conjunction with the National Union of Students to organize student resistance. Education activists were also involved in the organizing of the inaugural Radical Education Week.
By far the most significant campaign of the year was ‘Let SCA Stay’, a blueprint for opposing the restructure and student radicalism. The attempts by the University to destroy this community of artists sparked a mass campaign that included hundreds storming the senate; the most visually striking action EVER at the Archibald prize and a hugely successful student strike on August 17th.
Oh and we saved simple extensions so remember to thank the SRC every time you use one!
As the NTEU enters the EBA period students must be ready to stand in solidarity with staff if they go on strike as we did in 2013. Staff teaching conditions are after all student-learning conditions. The fight to save SCA must continue as they attempt to move them onto main campus and sack staff in the process. We must continue the fight for free education and fee deregulation.
Dylan and myself are proud to have continued the tradition of an unapologetically radical education department this year. Thanks to our comrades, families and every student who involved themselves even in the smallest way in the fight for a better education.
Never forget, study, be silent and die. Question authority, fight the system and oppose the liberals at all turns. Be radical and never let anyone make you feel bad about it.
Aparna Balakumar, Lamya Rahman, Una Madura Verde, Adam Ursino
2016 has flown by, and it’s hard to believe that this is our last report for the year! We’d like to thank everybody who’s been involved in the Autonomous Collective Against Racism this year, whether it be in the form of popping by our OWeek stall and picking up a badge, getting involved in ACAR Revue (or even just seeing the show), coming along to the Black Lives Matter rally with members of the collective, posting in our Facebook group, performing in our Verge Festival event last week, attending or speaking at the SUDS/ACAR panel discussion, writing in the brilliant ACAR edition of Honi Soit that came out last week, or any of the other events or initiatives we’ve held throughout the year.
2016 has been a big year for ACAR, and it’s been a privilege to end the year by releasing ACAR Honi. Last week’s edition was brought to you entirely by writers, artists, and designers of colour, and we hope you thoroughly enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed creating it.
Also last week, we held our Verge Festival event “Rehearsals for Life”. We’d like to thank all the talented dancers, musicians, poets, writers, and comedians who contributed to the celebratory and heartwarming night.
The end of the year is fast approaching, but we’re not done yet: next Wednesday at 4pm is also the launch of the USU Ethnocultural Space, a room on campus available to those self identifying as an ethnocultural minority. Previously the Loggia Room, this room will now be used as a meeting room, social room, and relaxation space for all ethnocultural students and members of ACAR.
We also welcome our 2017 Office Bearers: Maddy Ward, Radha Wahyuwidayat and Sophia Chung. We’re sad our time is over however we’re certain that the incoming OBs will continue to build on our successes and learn from our failures in order to transform ACAR into an even better collective in the year ahead.