A Public Letter to Annamarie Jagose,
We, a group from within the Gender and Cultural Studies Department at the University of Sydney, feel compelled to respond to your recent message to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS).
We feel the need to do this specifically in our capacity as members of Gender and Cultural Studies. In your message, you weaponise modes of argumentation from feminist, queer and critical race theory to obscure the fact that your vision of the University has particularly negative ramifications for women, queer people and people of colour.
It is first worth highlighting the inherent power expressed in your ability to send a FASS wide message presenting yourself as victimised in your role as Executive Dean. This is a power that you fail to acknowledge, and one that is certainly not shared by the casual workers whose exploitation you enforce.
You claim that the managerialism of your position as Executive Dean is not a fact—not a product of you continuously overseeing the implementation of austerity measures—but rather an effect of discourse, interpellated into being by the chants of student protestors. You also insinuate that there is a specifically gendered and racialised dimension to how these student protestors use your first name and/or pronounce your last name.
We wish to publicly refute both of these claims. We find it unfortunate that you attempt to elicit feelings of sympathy from the reader by marking parallels between yourself as Executive Dean and Brittany Higgins. This attempt is made all the more offensive by the fact that you continue to push an agenda with significant gendered and racialised implications.
It is a perversion of queer theory to claim that the proposed cuts are ‘interpellative’. You have explicitly cited the closure or reduction of departments and programs as possible cost-saving measures. Most recently, you have refused to rule out cutting either Studies of Religion or Theatre and Performance Studies.
In the face of slashed federal funding and student fees rising, you have made the choice not to stand up for the value of education. Instead, you have ensured that the effects of the current university sector crisis are not felt by senior executives or management but by the most precarious, yet essential university workers—casuals.
In a workforce that is two thirds women, the attacks on jobs and conditions are inherently gendered. The steadily increasing reliance on casual work is stripping women of rights to superannuation, parental leave, sick leave, and job security. This is also racialised, with workers on visas disproportionately impacted by chronic job insecurity, many of whom are also international students who are treated as mere revenue and forced to pay exorbitant university fees.
As members of Gender and Cultural Studies, we are well-positioned to identify this attack on women, queer people, and people of colour for what it is. To borrow a line from your message, you don’t have to be much of a queer theory maven to understand that women, queer people, and people of colour are far more likely to experience precarious employment involving poor wages and conditions, and systematic underpayment.
For all of these reasons, we unreservedly express solidarity with casual academics in our Faculty and across the University, and call on all casual academic staff in FASS to join the underpayment claim. You can do so here.
A group of concerned students from within the Gender and Cultural Studies Department,
University of Sydney