Emily France, Olivia Ronan, and Michael Rees explain what social justice has to do with your mental health

As semester hits its peak with essay season, student elections and the weight of exams just around the corner, students can be forgiven for forgetting the most important aspects of life: health, emotional wellbeing and self-nourishment.

While many of our policies pertain to financial or demographic disadvantage, we are pleased to announce our current work-in-progress; the introduction of professionally run support groups for students suffering mental illness and/or emotional challenges. An initiative proved successful by numerous London universities, we envisage a collaborative effort between the university and relative organizations such as the Butterfly Foundation and Beyond Blue.

As mental illness continues to be a leading factor for deaths of young people aged 18-25, there is no time like the present to proactively incorporate support services within the university’s largest student organisation. Free support networks run by relevant charities and mental health facilities already function throughout NSW. The Social Justice Office hopes to expand this through introducing a strictly anonymous, easily accessible branch on campus, so that students looking for peer support and guidance are afforded it.

As we intend to line up a number of relevant consultation meetings, the planning for our scholarship assistance program is also shaping nicely. We will be distributing an online survey in the very near future to accurately indicate areas of this policy which are most beneficial for the student body. We ask that all students keep an eye out for this, as any contribution will be invaluable for the opportunities of future USYD applicants.

SRC Social Justice Officer Report

 

Hannah Smith thinks feminists should be part of the vocal majority

Last Monday, me and some members of the Women’s Collective were lucky enough to attend Vocal Majority’s Let’s Get Loud conference at the ANU in Canberra. Vocal Majority is a relatively new activist youth organization aimed at promoting and protecting reproductive rights. At the conference, we heard from Dr Anne Summers AO as the keynote speaker, who spoke on where the feminist movement is now and where it has to go. We heard from a great number of panelists including Julie McKay, Executive Director of UN Women Australia and Stella Young, Disability activist and editor of Rampup! We also had great workshops with Clementine Ford, writer and Anna Rose, Founder of AYCC.

One of the main things I learned from the conference was the importance of reflection within any social or political movement. Stopping at taking stock of your achievements and considering ‘where to next?’ is necessary so as to prevent burnout and to build connections and skills.

I was also reminded of Australia’s archaic reproductive and sexual health laws and provisions.  In both Queensland and New South Wales, Abortion is a crime, unless doctors believe a woman’s mental or physical health are in danger.  In comparison, the ACT and Victoria do not count abortion amongst the criminal code.

One of the biggest problems facing women who require an abortion is the limited access and prohibitive costs. Most abortions are performed in private clinics, and these clinics are heavily concentrated in urban, city areas. For women in regional and rural areas, this means extensive travel, and additional costs to what is an already expensive process.

While Australia has far to go, in comparison to the world at large, we have a lot to be thankful for. The World Health Organisation has estimated that 21.6 million unsafe abortions were performed in 2008 alone- causing approximately 48, 000 deaths. These sorts of statistics emphatically prove that restricted access to abortion does not stop abortion happening- it just stops abortion happening in a safe environment.

Evidence also suggests that the liberalization of abortion laws actually sees a fall in abortion-related deaths. In 1996, South Africa changed it’s laws-and saw a 91% drop in instances of related deaths.

In New South Wales, we need a better system- one which is empirically proven to be safe and better for women.  And most people agree- consistent polling shows that 80%- a (vocal) majority of Australians support the removal of abortion from the criminal code.

[if you are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, call Family Planning NSW on 1300 658 886]

Hannah Smith,
SRC Women’s Officer

Casey Thompson educates you further on EduFactory

The 2013 “EduFactory! – Disassembling the Neoliberal University” conference was held at the University of Sydney from Thursday the 25th to Sunday the 28th of April. EduFactory! saw concerned students from all over the country come together to discuss the current crisis of tertiary education.

University students, TAFE students, staff union members, and education activists from all walks of life, discussed the campaigns that were being run in their own corners of the world. Stories were swapped on the staff and course cuts that have occurred, with some faculties seeing their subject choice reduced by 60%. An ‘all-in’ session of national ‘report backs’ demonstrated to me just how similar all of our experiences are and how systematically our universities are being turned in to neoliberal ‘edufactories’. We used the four days to share ideas, skills, strategies and tactics and to discussion the expected increase of education cuts due to the upcoming federal government budget’s plan to remove $2.3+ billion from the tertiary sector.

Some universities were reported to have thriving activist communities, whilst others cried out for national solidarity to help them establish their dream campaigns and fight their education attacks. Therefore, more importantly than any other aspect of the conference was the fact that we used the time to put all of our ideas together and to strategize how we could best unite to defend our education and to demand the high quality, and free, education that we deserve.

“EduFactory!” demonstrated that there is strength in unity and strength in collective decision-making and collective organising. The overwhelming majority of conference attendees voted to establish a national education network, titled Class Action. Class Action will be a great thing for the future of student activism and more importantly for the future of education in Australia. It will be a unifying and guiding body for future struggles and allow our, often-divided, movement to come together and seriously challenge the neoliberal project attacking our universities and schools.

The establishment of Class Action gives me hope. We can look to the future and see the presence of a strong force fighting for students and their fundamental rights – free, quality education.

Dylan Parker thinks you should pay attention to the Union Board Elections

So the coloured T-shirt wearing, pamphlet packed, and down right unpunny pandemonium of Union Board 2013 will soon be upon us and I thought that it is probably high time to mention why you should get involved on the representative side of your student associations.

Look, I get that for a tonne of people student politics makes Saturday exams not look half bad and frankly if that is the case then this week’s report probably isn’t for you. However, if you do care about the future of your student associations, the kind of education you receive and the quality of your student experience then student elections are worth thinking about or at a bare minimum paying a shred attention to.

As someone who has been on both the giving and receiving end of a million 60 second spiels, lecture bashes and caf-bashes I get how frustrating, in your face, and at times just plain shit student elections can be for everyone involved. However, I promise you the poor bastard out campaigning is 9 times out of ten doing it because their heart is in the right place. It takes a bleeding heart to stand up in front of hundreds of people and put themselves out there with nothing but a flyer, a coloured T-shirt and maybe a couple buzzwords to keep them covered.

Student elections matter because if you don’t pay attention you might miss a Liberal sneaking in the back door under the label progressive or a closet anarchist more interested in smashing the state than providing student services. Or worse you only have to look at the disgusting example of ‘Fresh’ at UQ where the Liberals stacked the deck so they practically had to win and then went on to flagrantly spend lumps of their student associations’ cash on their own self promotion. Love them or hate them, student elections matter because they’re all you have to make sure that the people you are putting into positions of power believe in the things you believe in and actually impact you.

Dylan Parker, SRC General Secretary

David Pink reports back from the alternative education conference, EduFactory

An Education Network

“Previously activists in education have been disconnected, geographically fragmented, without the capacity for coordination, and dependent on the whim of bureaucracies beyond our control. We aim to resolve these difficulties, and to take immediate action on education.

We propose that there be a national education network established, to fight attacks on education. This network will prosecute campaigns against cuts against fees, for autonomy, for diversity and for education funding. We believe that education should be democratic and participatory, and not run by bureaucrats in the interests of capital and the state; we stand for a democratic society.

This network regards itself as wholly distinct and autonomous from any other existing groups that claim, truly or falsely, to represent us, though it does not exclude the possibility of working with such groups. This network instead regards itself as an association of activists in the education sector and not as representatives.

This network will maintain a Facebook Group and Email list. It will endeavour to have members in every state and territory, or if that is not possible, from a broad geographic range, as part of this project it will endeavour to establish state networks. Anyone involved in education who agrees with the objectives of the network may join by attending a meeting.

This network will be governed by meetings at Edufactory, and by phone linkups between conferences. All decisions, unless delegated, will be made through these meetings. The method of decision-making will be consensus, and if consensus should not be achieved, a two-thirds majority vote.

This network will support local and regional organising by education activists and, where possible, work with activist associations on relevant campaigns.

This network sees grassroots education action groups (or other local activist formations) as vital to building a network of education activism nationally, and encourages those groups to actively participate in the network. This network will if capable, support these grassroots groups in forming.

For the name of this organisation we propose, ‘Class Action’.”

Passed by an overwhelming majority of participants of EduFactory 2013.

26 April 2013

Jay Ng explains two issues that are particularly relevant to USYD international students

Last week, the SRC had a council meeting and there was a motion being discussed that is important for international students:
The SRC urges the Dean of each Faculty of the University to exercise their discretion and allow the international students who are members of the Council as defined by Part One of the SRC regulations, to study part time should such requests are made and their memberships to the Council are verified by the President of the SRC.

AND

The President of the SRC to verify a person’s membership to the Council as defined by Part One of the SRC regulations upon request.
It had been pointed out by a few council members that this motion is not viable due to the fact that international students’ study visas to Australia have restrictions in terms of study load and work hours. (International students must study full-time, no less than 4 units of study and work no more than 40 hours a fortnight). However, as an international student, I support this motion in the sense that international students should have their own freedom to choose the study load they desire to engage in – especially when we are paying ~$12,000 per semester. It has been absolutely difficult for the other international students officers and I to carry out campaigns to help international students having to balance between university work and SRC campaigns. Therefore, I am hoping that there will be more discussions open on this subject matter and see what could be done. Please feel free to send the SRC an email to let us know your opinions.

Alan Jones’ Comment on Boston Bombing: Alan Jones has made a ridiculous comment on the Boston Bombing tragedy on Channel 7 Sunrise the other day. He links the tragic incident to foreign students, gave a racist presumption that the foreign student population initiated the bombing and that the Australian government has to keep an eye on foreign students.

His statement is completely horrific and inaccurate. The SRC International Students Collective thinks that it harms the relationship between the local Australian community and the huge international population. We strongly believe international students from all over the world come to Australia for the quality education and a different life experience. Education service for international students is an important and growing industry in Australia that cannot be undermined. Recent statistics show international students contribute an estimate $15 billion per year to the Australian economy. Furthermore, international students do not solely contribute to Australia’s financial benefits. The population helps shape the nation’s multiculturalism, contributes to labour and volunteering as well.

Tenaya Alattas writes about EduFactory

Welcome to 2013. Welcome to the university, in which you get to pay for the privilege of your participation (especially if you are an international student). Welcome to the tertiary education system under a Federal Labor Government, looking every day more like a production line geared towards the “needs” of a capitalist world economy. Welcome to a university system that is groaning under the weight of cutbacks and suffering a lack of democratic decision making. Welcome to a user-pays education, where you pay money you may never have for an education that is meant to be a community benefit.

Welcome to your education – to a time when it you have the opportunity to be politicised and critical about what it means to be a student in the current university system. In a society rife with sexism, racism, able-ism, homophobia (etc.) and other profound social inequities, an aim of Edufactory 2012 was to challenge both the political economy and the able-bodied, gendered and racial nature of the educational institution. In 2013, the conference will use this starting point to branch out further into the realms of critical discussion.

The Edufactory Conference 2013, comprising three days of political discussion, skill sharing, and debates on the future of national education activism. Whether its finding out more about international struggles against the corporatisation of the university, discussing alternatives to user-pays education, or plotting mischievous actions that expose the extractive-industry funding tactics of our university administrations, everyone is welcome. Faced with a fucked-up higher education system we ask all students concerned with the current crises in university education to converge at the sandstone enclave that is Sydney University for Edufactory 2013!

Come to the Edufactory Conference:

When: 25-28 April
Where: Gadigal country at The University of Sydney
Registration / cost: $10 or $30 if you’re feeling supportive
For more info: visit http://edufactory2013.wordpress.com or get in touch with the organising collective: edufactory2013@gmail.com

Eleanor Barz explains the rainbows popping up around campus

Over the past week, you have probably noticed the hundreds of chalk rainbows that have been brightening up the streets of Sydney. Part of the DIY Rainbows movement, they were created in protest against the premature removal of the Rainbow Crossing on Oxford Street. The Queer Action Collective did not hesitate to bring this beautiful initiative to Sydney University last Sunday, when dedicated student activists and talented artists alike spent hours decorating Eastern Avenue and City Road. Anyone who has seen the product of our efforts will agree that the sunburn, chalk-induced sneezes, and raw fingertips were definitely worth it. This week’s rain washed many of our rainbows away, but on Thursday QuAC was at it again, and Eastern Avenue is now covered in beautiful drawings once more.

Aside from contributing to a Sydney-wide chalk shortage, QuAC has also been busy celebrating. Earlier this month, the SRC’s submission to the New South Wales Legislative Council’s Inquiry into same sex marriage was published the Parliament of New South Wales website! Of the 10 000 submissions, only 1300 were published. To help us continue the fight for marriage equality, be sure to join us at the next rally, which will be held at 1pm at Town Hall on the 25th of May. See you there!

Of course, QuAC isn’t just about activism. For the first time this year we have united with the Women’s Collective and the USU Queer Events Coordinators to put on a female-focused afternoon tea. This queer-friendly autonomous women’s event is open to anyone who identifies as female or has lived experience as a woman. This Wednesday we will be serving tea, cakes and other (non-alcoholic) refreshments from 4:00 pm at Verge Gallery. Afterwards we will head over to the Hermann’s Bar Lawns for Queer Beers. Kindly organised by QuAC’s Officers of Fun, this very successful fortnightly event usually takes place every other Thursday at 6pm, but has been moved to Wednesday because of ANZAC Day.

QuAC meets in the queer space every Monday and Tuesday at 1pm. If you would like to know more about the collective, please feel free to email either myself or Fahad Ali at queer.officers@src.usyd.edu.au.

Your SRC – Delivering important services to students

If there are three slogans I’ve heard over and over across the course of my time involved in uni activism, there are three that really stick out in my mind. The first is the lofty yet frankly ambiguous demand for fair education because frankly fair for the son of a QC in Lane Cove is going to look very different to fair for the daughter of fish shop owner in Lakemba. The second, is the even more amorphous claim of political ‘independence’, a misnomer if I’ve ever heard it. Claiming ideals without ideology, practicality that rejects political pragmatism, fighting factionalism as a faction. The third is student control of student money. Honestly, this too is repeated ad nauseum just like the other two. However, it is by far the clearest message and in my mind the most important message we should making.

I’m for student control of student money not because I think that students have a God-given or inherent right to total autonomy over our affairs free from University oversight and suggestion to run pet political projects around fringe issues or use student associations to stack CVs, but because I honestly think students understand what other students want and more importantly need.

A 21-year-old who’s been screwed over in one of their classes is going to understand that lecturers are more likely to side with an unscrupulous tutor they have to work with, than a student they’re never going to see again. Ask a student a student and an impartial casework service seems like a no-brainer. Ask a uni bureaucrat, and well, it’s got to be put to a cost benefit analysis to meet a strategic plan. We also get that when you want need an emergency loan you might be a bit embarrassed, and might need it on the spot rather having to jump through hoops justifying X, Y & Z.

One thing that really impressed me when I started as General Secretary at the SRC was actually how lean & trim an organisation the SRC is. Student control over student money has meant the SRC has been able to, on a shoestring run a casework service that each year sees more students, a free legal service that will take you from advice to representing you in court, on the spot emergency loans, an Honi Soit that pumps out hilarious papers for you to read every week, diverse activist departments that fight for your rights on and off campus, and a second hand book store where you can pick up dirt cheap copies of your textbooks.

Dylan Parker
SRC General Secretary

Fighting cuts to higher education

The federal government’s decision to cut $2.3 billion out of higher education funding is a disgrace. The idea that the only way we can fund public education is by robbing Peter to pay Paul – to cut university funding and student support, in order to boost Gonski  – is absurd. It’s definitely going to see the quality of your education decrease, and without a doubt harm educational opportunities for new tertiary students (even if their schools are great).

Last week, at Academic Board, I had an opportunity to ask the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Garton, what sort of cuts we were looking at. His answer: something in the order of $50 million. Where were these cuts going to come from? All areas, including faculties.  Would this affect the EBA negotiations? It would sharpen discussion about what was realistic. Would there be redundancies? The University would obviously like to avoid dismissing anyone, and priority would go to simply not filling vacancies, but staff cuts would definitely be on the table. General staff cuts and administrative efficiencies would be prioritised over cuts to teaching and research.

The SRC really wants to avoid a fight with the University over cuts, like we had last year. Our side won that battle, but there’s no guarantee the outcome would be the same this time around.

We want to keep this fight national, against the government and their disastrous cuts.

So what will we do?

Both staff unions, the NTEU and the CPSU/PSA, and the national student union, NUS, have indicated there will be a real and powerful fightback.
The National Union of Students has indicated that May 14 will be the day for a national student strike. Whether this will involve student pickets around every university in the country, or something more resembling a massive rally in every capital city, is yet to be determined.

The NTEU will be discussing at their National Executive meeting the prospect of calling a Community Day of Action on May 14 in co-ordination with the NUS. It is as yet unclear whether or not this will involve industrial action.

The CPSU/PSA have indicated that they will be “consulting with [their] members state-wide to identify the areas of greatest risk to jobs and services and develop a plan to protect university education in NSW.”

The SRC is fully behind NUS’ plans for May 14. As a snap action, we will be holding a speak out with the Cross-Campus Education Action Network next Wednesday April 24 at 12 pm outside Fisher Library.

The EduFactory! Conference being held at the University of Sydney from this Thursday-Sunday (April 25-28) will be an important opportunity to organise the national student strike. There will be over 300 activists from around the country all in one place, and the timing could not be better.

Check out the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/489445797742449/?fref=ts

It’s not too late to register. And there has never been a better opportunity to get involved.