One of the SRC Education Officers gives her reflections on the strike campaign. (Not the Education Officer Tenaya Alattas)

On the 8-10th of October the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) will once again be taking industrial action. The members of the NTEU (casual and academic staff at Sydney University) will be stopping work for these three days and encouraging students not to go to class in an act of protest against the University’s current treatment of its staff. The NTEU is doing this because they believe our staff deserved to be treated with dignity and respect in their workplace, and deserve to be paid a respectable wage so they can afford life’s necessities, like food, shelter, clothing, and so on.

The NTEU is also taking this action as they believe students deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and deserve to receive world-class education. Students cannot receive the level of education they deserve if their staff are treated poorly. Staff working conditions really are student learning conditions.
You can’t exploit people and expect wondrous results, just like you’d cry out in protest (rightly so) if your boss overworked and exploited you and then complained that your productivity hadn’t increased.

If you want to take this down to its most basic (and crude) level – a car won’t run if it doesn’t have petrol in its tank and its engine isn’t looked after. The driver can’t expect results if he does not do this, just like bosses of all sorts cannot expect results if they mistreat and exploit their staff. The product or service these workers produce will not be of a high quality if the workers themselves are not looked after. This is obviously not even beginning to consider the most important argument here that these are human beings that deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, no matter what their occupation (and whether they have one or not). However, if you wish to look at this only as an economic debate, you’ll see that it is actually in the University’s interest to agree to the union’s requests for respect and dignity at work.

I feel extremely uncomfortable comparing the incredibly talented and hardworking staff at our university to cars or machinery of any sort. However, I fear that is how the University views them – as cogs in their machine. So, I have two requests to the University management. Firstly, to realise that you can provide the best service possible (providing quality education to the current generation) when you nurture and respect your employees. And secondly, and even more importantly, that you start treating these people as more than just workers. They are first and foremost human beings, like yourselves. Human beings that are entitled to fundamental rights, and who won’t stop until they get them.

If you agree with these sentiments, please consider not going to class. You may be hesitant about supporting the NTEU’s campaign, and joining the strike, due to the behaviour of some of the students involved in previous strikes. The, so called, “rolling-picket” may have come into your lecture, where the protestors turned off the lights, shut the doors and stood at the front of the theatre yelling and screaming at you. Understandably, this could leave you less than enthused about the campaign. I want you to know that this is not what the campaign is about and this is definitely not what the NTEU is about and not what many in the SRC are about.

This is not militant industrial action that ‘politicises the masses’, as those involved may have tried to sell it to you as, it’s nothing but the quickest way to alienate the students that would have otherwise considered supporting the campaign. Those that claim they’re being militant with actions like these misunderstand what militancy is and misunderstand what unionism is. They misunderstand collectivism and solidarity.

Unionism is about everyone coming together for the common good, to protect everyone’s interests and ensure all workers are treated with respect and dignity and are fairly compensated for their labour. Militancy is about passionately defending workers’ rights and ensuring that bosses are not allowed to get away with exploitation, it is about demanding fundamental human rights are upheld. It is about the strategic use of industrial action and direct action. It is not about abusively yelling and screaming at those who do not yet understand what the campaign is about, and are not responsible for any mistreatment of the workers. However, it is not really ever about abusing people. It is about collectively coming together to strategically use industrial action to have our rights upheld. Many misunderstand the term militant industrial action and misunderstand the best ways in which to explain the union’s demands to potential supporters.

If you have been treated in this way, I am sorry. Not because of personal responsibility of this “flying picket” (because I have never participated in it, and in fact have argued passionately against it at all points of the campaign). I am sorry because this is not what unionism is about and I am sorry that this was, for many of you, your first experience with unions and industrial action. This is not what unionism, militancy or industrial actions are about – not in any sense of the words.

Abusive actions are not what the NTEU is about and not what I, as one of the two SRC education officers, are about. I hope this report clarifies slightly what the campaign, and unionists, are really about. I’m for helping the most vulnerable; i’m for equality, respect and dignity. I’m for everyone having his or her fundamental human rights upheld.  If you too, share these values, please realise you can support the campaign without endorsing the behaviour of a minority (albeit a very loud minority) of individuals involved. They do not represent the campaign.

If you’re for equality, collectivism and respect, and you will passionately defend those values, – you’re a true militant unionist.

Names were ommitted from this article due to SRC Electoral regualtions.

We cannot live on Mi Goreng alone. (This report is not by the Welfare Officer Eleanor Morley)

You’ve probably already had this one yelled at you by a campaigner in a garish and ill-fighting t-shirt, but here goes.

This year’s SRC election is the most important in living memory. Because of Tony Abbott’s commitment to ending the SSAF, the election of a Liberal government presents an existential threat to every service the SRC can offer you when you’re in trouble, from legal advice when your boss is mistreating you, to the caseworkers who help you get Special Consideration, to the CounterCourse that helps you avoid the subjects that are just a little bit shit. I can only urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to vote for the candidate who’ll make sure that there’s still an SRC this time next year. That means a candidate who will be able to sit down with the Vice-Chancellor and convince him that continuing to fund the SRC is a worthwhile use of University money, and who won’t prioritise radical appearances over real results for students. No matter who you vote for, make sure your vote counts.

Even in these dark times of an Abbott government, however, everyday life goes on. This month, SRC Student Welfare have been fighting against your university’s excessive textbooks costs. It’s a massive joke that some faculties (looking at you, Science and Law) seem to expect their students to live off two-minute noodles just to afford the material they need to pass their courses, and this barrier to entry disproportionately affects the lower-SES, International and regional students who are already struggling with Sydney’s rising cost of living.

The interesting thing about these course costs is that they have very dubious legality, since your educational institution is *meant* to provide you with all these materials as part of your HECS fees. The University *claims* that you can *technically* pass the course by borrowing the textbooks you need from the library on a weekly basis, but given that they often provide three of four copies for classes of three or four hundred the claim is more farce than tragedy.

How could your university stop you from having to live off Mi Goreng to afford your textbooks? Other universities around the world have already adpoted policies that resolve this.

Second, they could stop telling you to buy textbooks you don’t really need. There’s no need to buy the whole book when you really only need that crucial paragraph in page 148. Next year’s CounterCourse will hopefully include a section about which subjects actually require the textbook, but your university could go one better by putting those particular pages into free online course readers instead.

Third, they could point you to ways you can acquire pretty much the same textbooks for a significantly lower price. Some so-called fifth or sixth editions are actually earlier editions with slightly different page numbering and an extra sentence here and there, so shopping online for an earlier edition or dropping by the SRC bookshop near the ISL is definitely worth it.

Nobody should ever have to live off Mi Goreng to afford textbooks. If you’d like to get involved in the fight against student poverty, shoot your Welfare Officers an email – we’d love to chat!

The Women’s Collective wants you to help reclaim the night

In recent years, discussions about violence against wom*n have become more frequent and more widely heard. From the backlash against Robin Thicke’s creepy song ‘Blurred Lines’, to the creation of a new foundation to help prevent violence against wom*n in Victoria, more and more community members are becoming informed and speaking out about violence against wom*n in all its varied forms. Since 1984, Reclaim the Night has been annually actively campaigning against all forms of violence against wom*n. Every year, wom*n from around the world hit the streets to Reclaim, or Take Back, the Night.
In recent years, members of the University of Sydney Wom*n’s Collective have taken an active role in organising Reclaim the Night Sydney, and this year is no different. Several members from Wom*n’s Collective, along with other wom*n from across the community, have been meeting up weekly to discuss their visions and plans for this year’s events. Traditionally, Reclaim the Night takes the form of a rally and march where the public take to the streets and join together to take a stand against violence towards wom*n. This year the main event will be held on Saturday 26 October at Prince Alfred Park, preceded by a family-friendly picnic.

In the lead-up to the main event, Reclaim the Night Sydney is holding a panel discussion on Thursday 26 September in the Holme Building at the University of Sydney. The panel is made up of three wom*n speakers all speaking on the general topic of “Violence against wom*n in modern Australia”. Our speakers are Cassandra Giudice, a criminal defence lawyer who has regularly defended people accused of committing domestic violence crimes; Dr Kyllie Cripps, a Pallawah woman and UNSW Senior Law Lecturer with research interests including Indigenous family violence; and Zahra Stardust, the policy officer from Scarlett Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association. Our speakers reflect the three-pronged theme of Reclaim the Night Sydney 2013 – speaking out against institutional, domestic, and street violence.

Please feel free to come along with your friends to the panel discussion this Thursday! Entry is by optional gold coin donation, and refreshments will be provided. The event will also be AUSLAN interpreted. To find out more, visit the Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/300712536733633/ or Reclaim the Night Sydney’s website at http://www.RTNSydney.com. Also, keep an eye out for the upcoming Reclaim the Night events, including an autonomous dance party hosted by Black Cat, and the rally and march on 26 October!

Fight for your right to study

So there we go then. An Abbott government. The most reactionary Prime Minister in our nation’s history, replacing six years of social democratic stasis.
Without a doubt, the SRC and NUS need to prioritise the fight against the Liberals’ policies for students next year. Some of the things we can expect include the re-introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism (destroying the SRC), the deregulation of university fees and the stripping away of funding from higher education. Obviously, there are limits to what a student union at one university can do to fight the mighty apparatus of the state.

But there are some things…

First of all, we can demonstrate. During the Howard era student protests could involve very large crowds, shouting very loudly, and in a very real way making opposition to anti-student policies known to people. Just think for a second about the Iraq War protests in 2003. They were organised primarily out of the basement of your very own SRC – we are one of the few civil institutions that have the capacity to organise demonstrations.

We can lobby. We can make media releases. We can print propaganda and have it distributed across the city. But given that the government exists outside metropolitan Sydney, clearly geography places a block in place of what we can do.
Which is why the National Union of Students is so important.

I anticipate next year the calling of multiple National Days of Action and student strikes.

We should take a lesson from the NTEU as well, and take the political decision to create an NUS Fighting Fund of students’ money which we can use to hold political parties to account. If the Minerals Council of Australia can do it, why can’t we?

Well, we used to. In 2004 the NUS spent $255 307 on a campaign against the Liberal Party in marginal electorates.
I happen to think that this would be a good thing.

Queer identifying members of women’s collective have put together a manifesto to create a more inclusive space for women

Given that both patriarchy and queerphobia are premised upon essentialist ideas about gender and sexuality, it would follow that feminism and queer activism would be profoundly interlinked and co-operative. However, this is not always the case. Indeed, queer people have often been marginalised in the women’s movement, and women have also been marginalised in the queer movement. Some of the queer identifying members of women’s collective have put together a manifesto of sorts that outlines ways in which queer activists can change their behaviour to create a more inclusive space for women. It is as follows:

[list type=”check”]

  • Don’t assume it’s okay to touch women without their consent because “you aren’t attracted to them”.
  • Never justify making a joke about assaulting me by saying: “I’m gay, how could I rape you, haha?’’
  • Don’t think that because you’re a gay man it means you can’t be a misogynist.
  • Don’t assume your oppression gives you an understanding of mine.
  • Please stop saying vaginas are gross.
  • Don’t tell femmes that they ‘aren’t really queer’.
  • Don’t question my identity just because I’m currently dating a man.
  • Do not assume heterosexuality because someone doesn’t embody camp/butch/femme/queer culture stereotypes.
  • Don’t assume people of colour can’t be queer.
  • Having your own breasts/butt doesn’t entitle you to touch mine.
  • Don’t label bisexuality as ‘less queer’ or ‘transitional’.
  • Don’t ask us how we fuck.
  • Don’t assume someone’s sex, sexuality, or gender identity on appearance/behaviour.
  • Respectfully ask for preferred pronouns.
  • Do not enforce queer stereotypes by assuming people’s sexuality with your ‘gaydar’.
  • Do not regard polyamorous relationships as less serious/important/intense as monoamorous ones.
  • Don’t brag about ‘turning’ me.
  • Don’t make assumptions about my genitalia.
  • Our movements can only be strengthened through co-operation and open discourses, so let’s start respecting each other.

[/list]

 

Eleanor Barz looks back on an exciting year in the collective and Fahad Ali reflects on the meaning of the word ‘queer’

The Queer Action Collective (QuAC) has been working hard all year to ensure that Sydney Uni is a great place to be queer. Our main goals are to represent the needs of LGBTIQ students, and to provide a safe, friendly environment for them to make new friends and engage in queer activism.

In March we spent hours together building a cardboard Quadrangle, complete with a clock tower, to create the first official University of Sydney Mardi Gras float. Marching down Oxford Street in our lab coats and academic gowns was definitely one of the most exhilarating experiences that I have had this year, and was a wonderful way to begin my term as Queer Officer.

In 2013 we have been committed to queer women’s issues, working with the Women’s Collective the University of Sydney Union’s Women’s and Queer Events coordinators to establish a Queer Women’s Network. We started out in O-Week by stocking our stall with plenty of material from ACON’s Young Women’s Project. Last semester, we organised a movie night and an afternoon tea at Verge Gallery. Look out for the upcoming autonomous Queer Women’s Tea party (Part II), which will take place this Friday at 2 pm in the Manning Loggia as part of Pride Festival!

Other social events this year included  the fortnightly USU sponsored Queer Beers, a trip to the aquarium (‘Aqueerium’), bake sales, and more!  As you probably know, this week is Pride Festival so be sure to check out the schedule to find out what’s on.

But being a part of the collective isn’t just about making friends and supporting queer students. It’s also a major avenue for student activism. We have organised QuAC contingents at numerous rallies this year, including those against police brutality, the inhumane treatment of refugees, and of course the queerphobic laws banning marriage . In semester one, we collectively wrote a  submission to the NSW Legislative Council inquiry into same-sex marriage, which was published on the Parliament of NSW website and even cited in the resulting report! Over the semester break, we sent almost thirty delegates to the annual Queer Collaborations conference for an intensive week of workshops, conference floor and political action.

Nominations for the 2014 Queer Officer positions are currently open to anyone who is a current queer-identifying undergraduate student, and who has attended at least three QuAC meetings this year. If you have any questions about the role or how to nominate, then either email us or come to our meetings at 1 pm on Mondays in the Queerspace (Holme Building). As always, new members are more than welcome!

Eleanor Barz

We are all queer by choice.

There is a significant and under appreciated distinction between LGBTI and queer. Being LGBTI is an intrinsic, immutable property of the self—certainly subject to fluidity, but wholly involuntary.

I am a gay man, and I understand this to mean (in the context of myself), that I am sexually and romantically attracted to people who are male-bodied. But, like my love for Lianne La Havas or my aversion to blue cheese, my identity as a homosexual really says more about what I’m into rather than who I am as a person—it doesn’t define me in the slightest.

My identity as queer is something more substantial, and one that I am more proud of. Queer is a political identity, one that is defined in opposition to the heteropatriarchy and the structures that oppress us. Queer is resistance; it is a constant challenge to the social hegemony that divides us into worthy and unworthy, accepted and estranged.
In our context, our sexualities and our sexual and/or gender identities are constructed as ‘abnormal’. That is what lies at the heart of our identity as queer—it’s an affirmation of our existence as deviant and different.

But we are an extraordinary community. It was political and activist mobilisation of the gay and lesbian community that effectively shattered widespread social stigma and often-violent homophobic prejudice and discrimination and suppressed the AIDS epidemic.

An overview of the radical history of the gay liberation movement would be a lengthy piece in itself, but one does not need to look far to find authentication for the effectiveness of direct action in achieving social change.

We have overcome so many challenges, some that at the time seemed insurmountable, but we now face the threat of social conservatism—an insidious, destructive force that is obsessed with immobilizing progress, restricting freedom, and limiting a heterogeneity of expression
An absolute stasis of social structures is infeasible, which is why conservatives have excised the G, L, and the B from LGBTI, and extended an olive branch to a small circle of middle-class homosexuals who pose minimal threat to guarded social structures.

But we must resist. We cannot allow ourselves to become subject to the whims of the social conservatives. Marriage equality will be won in the same way as the suffragette and civil rights movements: on the streets, with rallies, together as one community. It may even be delivered in the term of a conservative government, as it was in Britain. But we must never make the mistake of supporting a conservative agenda, or going to lengths to appease these fundamentalists. The truth is that this virulent strain of faux-progressive conservatism affords equality to only part our community. What is to become of the poly, intersex, and sex and gender diverse communities? They will be left behind, excluded and oppressed.

An injury to one is an injury to all—as long as there are people in the queer community who are being marginalised by prevailing social norms, I will continue to show solidarity with my fellow queers and challenge those structures that hold us down.

The theme of this year’s Pride Festival is ‘pride, passion, power’. Let us take pride in our community, and remember that our passion and power will deliver us a better world, as long as we stand united.

Fahad Ali

Fahad Ali reports on the latest queer news on campus

The University of Sydney Pride Festival is coming our way: a spectacular, week-long burst of energy and colour on campus to celebrate our queer community. It’s on from 16th to the 20th of September, and here are some of the highlights.

On Sunday the 15th, join us at 12:30 on Eastern Ave for the first Queer March! It’s own little (less corporate and more exciting) Mardi Gras. We’ll parade our colours down Carillon Avenue, followed by celebrations in Camperdown Memorial Rest Park.

The Queer Honi Launch Party will kick off at the Verge Gallery at 6:00 pm on Tuesday the 17th. Celebrate the launch of the annual queer edition of Honi Soit, Australia’s oldest student newspaper—the most fabulous edition of the year. At 10:00 pm on Friday, SHADES will be holding ‘Super Queer-os’ at Zanzibar in Newtown, celebrating the end of Pride Festival and the superheroes of the queer community.

Beyond Pride Festival, look out for the University of Sydney Union’s Glitter Gala on October 10th. It’s a celebration of the queer community on campus, and includes a three-course dinner with drinks, and tickets are available from the Access Desk (Level 1, Manning House).

Parties are pretty great, which is why between the SRC’s Queer Department, the USU’s Queer Coordinator program, and SHADES, we’re holding so many! But when you’re out having a good time, make sure you’re aware of your rights, especially if you’re using illicit substances.

It is illegal for police to conduct a strip search without a warrant or reasonable suspicion. Sniffer dogs only warrant a search if they sit down next to you—it is not enough for them to simply sniff you. They cannot conduct a cavity search. It must be conducted in private, and they must tell you their name, command, and the reason for the search.
If someone is having an overdose, call 000 and you will not get in trouble. Ambos and medics will not call the police or report you. They’re there to save lives, so be up front and honest. People have died because emergency wasn’t called in fear of being caught out. Remember, call an ambulance and you will not get in trouble.

Police brutality, illegal searches, and misconduct are common, especially at large queer events. ACON’s Rover team works to help make sure that people are staying safe at parties, and legal observers from the Inner City Legal Centre (ICLC) make sure that police are acting by the book. If you suspect police misconduct, contact the ACONAnti-Violence Project or the ICLC and they’ll provide you with advice and support.

The SRC supports the full legalisation of all drugs. Drug use can be safe, as long as you’re informed and know what you’re doing. If you need any information, get in touch with the queer officers and we’ll be happy to direct you to the resources you need.

Tenaya Alattas talks about free school and collective strength

At the University of Sydney the struggle for worker’s conditions has been at the forefront of education campaigns; with student-run protests guided by an allegiance to staff. In 2012 we saw mass rallies, petitions, a referendum and an occupation to fight against the decision of VC Michael Spence to fire 350 staff. 2013 has been marked by the NTEU and CPSU industrial dispute; with students linking arms with staff to ensure them better wages, conditions and job security

There comes a point, however, when the need to reflect becomes necessary. Problematically, participating in industrial action is increasingly underpinned by the threat of violence- more injuries, more arrests. Already this process is marring livelihoods of picketers with expensive (fines and barrister costs) and elongated court cases swallowing up time and even hopes of their future. I think it is important at this point in time to reflect WHY are we throwing ourselves in front of cars and police with guns and WHAT is it that we are trying to defend.

Across Australia, universities have been engaged in similar struggles with staff to rally against cuts to courses, degrees and staff. Interestingly there are also three well-established Free Schools: in Brisbane, the University of Wollongong and the University of Melbourne. Each of these starts from a point of defence- against the user-pays, outcome based (whether career or degree), and hierarchical (by subject, by constant rankings on tests etc.)- Form of education, which characterizes the neoliberal university. However it is important to note that they are also a form of offense insofar that they offer an alternative platform to learn which is free, accessible, and not bound by course curriculums and constant testing.

It offers its participants an unmediated form of education. Learning for education’s sake and not as a means to an end. I think one way in which to deepen the bonds between staff and student is to realize what is this university that we are trying to defend. More so it is important to note that there has been no ‘golden age’ of the university – it has never been an institution in the common interest. So I think its time that Sydney starts capitalizing on the current context of political unrest, of the whittling away of barriers between staff and students and the camaraderie on the picket line that unites those for a cause and against management (economic) and police violence. By establishing collective strength and rejecting the binary inherent to the profit driven model of higher education, integrated student/staff/faculty groups and actions can effectively organize towards an alternative non-market paradigm of education. If you are interested in getting involved in starting up a free school at Sydney University please contact

education.officers@src.edu.au

Emily Rayers reports on the NDA against sexual assault

The National Day of Action Against Sexual Assault occurred last Thursday. In conjunction with the sexual assault services at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Women’s Collective volunteered at train stations across Sydney to hand out flowers, pens and materials reflecting the main goals of the NDA:

• Celebrate victim’s survival of sexual assault
• Draw attention to the continuing need for public education and support services
• Inform SA survivors of support options available to them
• Inform potential perpetrators that sexual assault is a crime, the victim is never to blame and that ‘just because she isn’t saying no, doesn’t mean she’s saying yes’

It is estimated that 1/3-1/5 of women and 1/20 men in Australia will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. This is still a pervasive problem in our society and it is important to use opportunities like the NDA to consider sexual violence, reflect on the role you have to play in preventing it, and remember that these are not just statistics – these are most likely people in your life that are important to you, whether you know it or not.

So what can you do?

1. Know how to respond if someone you know reveals an experience of sexual assault or isn’t sure if they have been sexually assaulted. For anybody studying, working or living in the area (regardless of gender, home address, nationality, financial status, language skills) the RPAH Sexual Assault Service offers free counseling, medical/forensic support, special consideration application help and support and information about reporting to police and the court process – if you choose to do so. There is no obligation to report, no Medicare or full name or address required, and translators are available free of charge. Phone 9515 9040 during business hours or 9515 6111 in a crisis situation, or turn up to the ground floor of the King George V building or Emergency Department. For people living away from Sydney or NSW, a good start is the National Sexual Assault, Domestic & Family Violence Line on 1800 737 732 or the NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017 who can help them to find local resources or services.

2. Stand up against sexual assault whenever you feel safe to do so. Don’t laugh at a dodgy rape joke, call out the guy who is ‘hitting on’ the drunkest girl he can find, stand up against victim-blaming because it is never their fault. Always check with your partner(s) if you are not 100% sure that they are knowingly and enthusiastically giving you consent.

These statistics are too damn high, and it’s on each and every one of us to contribute towards changing them.

Dylan Parker is not a fan of Abbott

I know I am starting to sound like a bit of a broken record on this but I think it is important that all students realise the potentially rough future ahead for the SRC.
I write this because a week out from the Federal election it is looking like sadly a foregone conclusion that on Sept 8 we are all going to wake up to of Prime Minister Abbott.
Ok so what does this have to do with the finances of the SRC? It means that VSU is coming back and will potentially see the further decimation of student associations across the country.

Undeniably, the SRC survived VSU mark 1 however this was only due to the VC at the time seeing merit in our services. VSU mark 2 will mean once again that the SRC will have to rely on the continued benefaction of the University to dip into its own funds in order for our services.

This is a big problem as it ultimately puts the independence of the SRC at risk.  Students expect us to stand up for them and speak truth to power when necessary. It becomes much harder to do so when those we need to influence can budget us out of existence according to the mere whim of the VC.

Look, I don’t mean to be overly political. But I would be a negligent General Secretary, if I wasn’t honest in saying that if Abbott wins the SRC may again be in trouble.