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‘I’m not sure what girlboss feminism is’: Arts dean censured by students in her own lecture

Jagose began her response by remarking that “I seem to have lost sight of my own self.”

Students in the unit FASS2100, ‘Ideas and Movements that Changed the World’, today passed a motion opposing the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (soon to be Deputy Vice-Chancellor) Annamarie Jagose’s ‘Future FASS’ austerity plan – right to her face.

The ‘Future FASS’ plan would see $3.6 million in annual cuts made in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, a faculty which is projected to return a $67.9 million surplus over 2021.

This plan could potentially include the closure of the Departments of Theatre and Performance Studies and Studies in Religion and the disbanding of the School of Literature, Art and Media, as previously reported in Honi Soit.

Last week, an open letter was signed by over 200 students demanding more information about the cuts and opposing the Dean’s austerity measures, as part of the ongoing ‘Save USyd Arts’ campaign organised by staff and students in the affected FASS disciplines. This letter also called for a publicly open and transparent meeting between the Dean and students for consultation and discussion.

In response, the Dean invited students to nominate six student representatives who could pose questions in a half hour time slot at a regularly scheduled staff meeting. However, she did not clarify whether this meeting would be closed or open to other students – a key demand of the letter.

In response, campaigners mobilised this morning and spoke to students in all eleven Friday morning FASS2100 tutorials, receiving overwhelming support for their proposed motions, with many students donning an orange ‘#SaveUSydArts’ Zoom background to display in the lecture. 

In the lecture, FASS2100 student Talia Meli proposed a motion opposing staff and course cuts in FASS. The majority of the hundred-plus students raised their hands in support in front of the Dean.

The motion also demanded that Dean Jagose confirm that she would hold an open meeting with students. Jagose claimed that she would ‘reply to the email’, and refused to comment on whether the September 9th meeting would be open to students.

Such was the sight of the sea of orange ‘Save USyd Arts’ Zoom backgrounds that Jagose began her response by remarking that “I seem to have lost sight of my own self.”

The Dean claimed that ‘Future FASS’ was not an austerity measure, and that there was in fact no concrete proposal in the works – despite the fact that staff have been subject to threats of departmental closures under the title of ‘Operation Bluestar’ since Semester 1. 

Faced with further questioning, Jagose said that she was “not going to accept the kind of stereotypical characterisation of a vicious managerial type with an axe hacking away” at staff and students, saying that it was hard work being the Executive Dean of FASS. She also responded to accusations of austerity during a time of record surplus by pointing out that she was the one who had released those surplus figures.

“These cuts are completely unjustified on a financial basis,” said Stuart Rich, a ‘Save USyd Arts’ campaigner and FASS2100 student. “The Faculty is recording a record surplus this year. Students and staff deserve transparency and accountability, but instead they have axes hanging over their heads. In such a context, it is hard to know why students should believe management’s previous promise that there would be no more cuts after the record job losses in 2020.”

“Girlboss feminism? I’m not sure what girlboss feminism is,” Jagose said, before commencing her lecture on Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on 9 September to reflect that FASS is projected to return a $67.9 million surplus.