Building the National Day of Action!

The Education Action Group has been really busy the last couple of weeks trying to build for the national day of action on March 26th. We have been contacting clubs, societies and collectives to participate, putting up posters, leafleting, chalking, making lecture announcements, and setting
up stalls to get the word out. Hopefully you have heard it’s happening by now. If not, well, shit.

Next Wednesday March 19th, exactly one week out from the NDA, we’ve planned a blitz day. The Abbott government isn’t going to fight itself and we want to try bring as many students as possible to scream against our scummy PM and his snake-like crony Christopher Pyne (eurgh). We’re going to start the day leafleting Redfern station at 8am, before setting up on Eastern Ave for a day of banner painting, placard making, and photo petitioning. Stop by if you see us!

March 26th is shaping up to be a really important day for students. Last year proved that protests can win. By hitting the streets we turned education into an election issue, and forced the Labor party to back-flip and oppose the cuts they introduced, when they took opposition. Just recently, the Senate also rejected legislation that would turn Start-Up Scholarships into loans, another victory for the campaign. But we’re not in the clear, and need to keep up the fight.

Politicians aren’t interested in meeting us and reasonably discussing our issues, they’re not interested in well articulated letters or argument. We can only force them to change their minds through mass action. March 26th is our first chance to do just that.

If you think Abbott and Pyne are fucking bastards, if you are sick of your tutorials packed to the brim, if you are frustrated by course cuts,
if you want to support staff wages and conditions, if you want to demand more student welfare not less, if you want to support international student rights, if you want quality and free higher education – you need to be at the rally on March 26th, 12pm outside Fisher library. See you there!

The education officers apologise for any content included in the 2014 Counter Course Handbook that was not attributed to its author. There was content we included from previous handbooks, and unfortunately we forgot to seek out their authors and add them to our thank-you list at the end. We apologise for this mistake.

James Leeder discusses what happens when the government raises course costs and student debt.

It is clear to anyone who has seen the QS university rankings over the last few years that Australian higher education has a funding problem. This problem has not only meant that we have seen higher education cuts repeatedly over the last few years, but also that a clear principle over how education should be funded has now cemented itself; that the cost of education should be borne by the individual.

At the moment we know that the federal government is considering moves to reduce direct funding of courses, as well as funding of universities as a whole. The removing of subsidies for courses (which means higher course costs for students), which has recently been proposed by the Group of 8 universities themselves (this includes Sydney) for law, economics and business degrees, has also been lauded as an optimal solution. Ultimately, changes that raise course costs only have negative impacts to students and to society, and this has been seen clearly when similar proposals have been implemented in other countries.

A research briefing on the effect of the 2010 higher education reforms in England was published by the British parliament in February this year. It details in clear statistics the impact that removing subsidies and uncapping fees had on students. It found that within two years of implementation, large reductions to student numbers occurred with a 12% reduction in domestic and international undergraduates and a 9% reduction in postgraduates by 2012. These drops where serious enough to warrant a response from the Governments’ Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) which described them as “significant”. Considering what the reforms did, it is not hard to see why. Students are not interested in graduating with crippling debt and for many potential students, particularly those who are less fortunate, raising fees shifts the balance in their consideration of whether or not to go to university. Making university more costly and placing the burden of fees directly onto students drastically affects the accessibility of tertiary education. For a country that prides itself on high social mobility and a deeply egalitarian culture, moves to reduce the accessibility of university should be stopped at all costs.

Unfortunately, it is clear that the government does not care what the impacts of its changes are. They have already reformed the start-up scholarship, a scholarship for students who receive centrelink, to change it into a HECS-style loan, meaning poorer students will now be graduating with more debt than their wealthier counterparts. If you care about what these changes may do, I encourage you to get involved with the SRC and
I hope to see you at the National Day of Action against the proposed cuts on March 26.

The Dangerous Road to Uni Fee Deregulation

In mid January the Group of Eight (a collection of Australia’s supposed top eight universities, of which Sydney University is) made a submission to the Federal Government’s review of the demand driven funding of Higher Education. The submission called for the first step in the ever-pressing push by some universities in Australia to fully deregulate fees and the sector.

The submission suggested that Australian Universities should be able to opt out of Government funding and in exchange charge fully deregulated fees for particular courses. The GO8 proposal was to deregulate law, economics, accounting, and commerce. The submission argued that these specific courses traditionally award with high paying jobs and therefore student’s long-term benefits would allow a higher fee. The proposed fees would be three times the current rate.

The deregulation of fees is an incredibly dangerous road to go on and one that the SRC is firmly against. Allowing Universities to choose the rate in which they charge, will evidently lead to fee increases and create a greater socio economic gap.

It will encourage a culture in which those who will be completing high return courses such as law and commerce will be the students who can afford it. The push over the last decade for Universities to increase the amount of students from low socio economic backgrounds and create a more inclusive acceptance system is counter acted by this push for deregulation of fees.

Although this proposal was submitted without knowledge from the VC Michael Spence, and has not been approved by the Sydney University Senate therefore not an official policy of the University of Sydney it is still a policy endorsed by the group of eight.

On the 26th of March the SRC will be Marching with students all across the state and the country for the National Day of Action against Abbott and Pine’s Education cuts. Join us at Fisher Library at 12pm to fight against any further cuts to your education.

Ask Abe – How to Discontinue but NOT Fail

Dear Abe,

Is it true that I can change all of my subject choices before the end of March? The Faculty says that I could only do
that in week one. What is the real story?

Changeable

—-

Dear Changeable,

You cannot enroll in new classes after 14th March. In fact it’s probably not a good idea to enroll past week one mainly because you would have missed out on vital information in the first week of classes.

You can however ‘withdraw’ before the “HECS census date”. This will give you no academic penalty and no financial penalty if you are a local student or little financial penalty for International students.

If you drop a subject after the census date, but before the end of week 7 (17th April – remember, the 18th is a public holiday so the end of the week is Thursday not Friday) you will receive a Discontinue Not Fail (DNF). A DNF does not count as a fail on your transcript, however you are liable for fees.

There are occasions where you have extraordinary circumstances that mean you have to discontinue from studies at a later date. Come and see SRC HELP caseworkers for advice about late DNF applications and possible fee refund applications.

Abe

——

Abe is the SRC’s welfare dog. This column offers students the opportunity to ask questions on anything. This can be as personal as a question on a Centrelink payment or as general as a question on the state of the world. Send your questions to help@src.usyd.edu.au. Abe’s answers can provide you excellent insight.

Harrassment & Discrimination: Your rights at Uni

“All staff, students and affiliates at the University have a right to work or study in an environment that is free from unlawful harassment and discrimination, and to be treated with dignity and respect, irrespective of their background,
beliefs or culture.”

What is Unlawful Harassment?

The University defines unlawful harassment as any type of behaviour that:

  • the other person does not want; and
  • offends, insults, humiliates or intimidates them; and is either:
    – sexual, or
    – targets them because of their race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, transgender, sexual preference or orientation (including homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and heterosexuality), disability, age, carers’ responsibility, political belief, lack of a political belief, lack of a particular political belief (including trade union activity or lack of it, and student association activity or lack of it), religious belief, lack of a religious belief, and/or lack of a particular religious belief; and
  • that, in the circumstances, a reasonable person should have expected would offend, insult, humiliate, or intimidate.
    This includes actual, potential and perceived (imputed) race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, etc.

Some types of harassment, such as sexual harassment and other forms of physical assault and/or stalking, are also illegal under criminal law. These types of harassment may result in criminal prosecution.

Other types of harassment may not be ‘unlawful’ under anti-discrimination legislation, but may nonetheless contravene the University’s staff and student Codes of Conduct or the University’s Workplace Bullying Prevention Policy and Resolution Procedure.

What is Unlawful Discrimination?

The University defines unlawful discrimination as any practice that makes an unlawful distinction between individuals or groups,
so as to disadvantage some people and advantage others. Discrimination may be ‘direct’ (specifically acting against someone)
or ‘indirect’ (inadvertently acting against someone who has a particular characteristic).

What should you do?

If you think you are being discriminated against or harassed make detailed notes about days and times of the incidents noting any potential witnesses. Your safety is an immediate concern. Talk to an SRC caseworker about how to make a complaint and what possible outcomes there are. Remember that a caseworker can give you an idea of what you can expect without forcing you to take action unless you want to.

Contact us

help@src.usyd.edu.au or call to make an appointment on 9660 5222. We can arrange to meet with you on any campus.

Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR)

This is Tabitha Prado-Richardson, an Ethnic Affairs officer at the SRC and one of four office bearers running ACAR, the Autonomous Collective Against Racism. Our first week as an official SRC collective has been both exciting and daunting as we begin to form a concrete presence on campus, starting with our stall at O-Week.

Turns out a few people have issues with the fundamental idea of our collective. Though analogies to Women’s Collective and Queer Collective usually sufficed, sitting behind a sign that said “Autonomous Collective Against Racism” opens one up to vague gratuitous statements about race, bringing up our favourite questions like “Is Australia racist?” and our favourite concepts like “reverse racism”. Times like this we hold Aamer Rahman’s sentiments close to our heart and remember that no, we can’t be racist toward white people – some of our best friends are white. Despite these fruitful discussions, the rain was insurmountable and I apologise for anyone who tried to find us towards the end of O-Week. I’m optimistic though that as we grow as a collective, the USYD community as a whole will begin to navigate the full and complex realities of racism: that it’s not about being a good or bad person, it’s about the connections between history and identity.

While a separate body to our collective, we’re helping run a Race 101 workshop on Monday the 17th of March through the Critical Race Discussion Group. Running since second semester last year, this group aims to give a non-autonomous space in which people could learn about race and racism, centring around different topics. The Race 101 workshop gives a brief introduction to ideas around identity, privilege, and structures, drawing on both theory and sharing experiences to learn about race and racism. Anyone can come along and no previous knowledge is required!
Later on this semester we also hope to run our first Autonomous Honi Against Racism — an edition of Honi Soit produced only by people who self-identify as a person of colour, a person from an ethnocultural background, an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person, or someone marginalised by white supremacy.

If you’re interested in joining and you didn’t have a chance to at O-Week, please send us an email at acar.officers@src.usyd.edu.au! If you support our cause you can also like our Facebook page: search for “Sydney Uni Autonomous Collective Against Racism”.

The ACAR officers are Oscar Monaghan, Bridget Harilaou, Shiran Mario Illanperuma and Tabitha Prado-Richardson.

Your welfare is our business

Hiya! We’re Philippa, Chiara, Brendan and Oliver – your Welfare Officers for 2014.

There’s more to the student experience than what goes on within the four walls of a lecture theatre. The stressful reality many students currently face involves juggling work and study while subsisting on measly Centrelink payments, sacrificing meals in order to pay for textbooks and rent instead. On top of all this, welfare is in danger of becoming (yet another) casualty of the ‘Abbottoir’ – but not if we can help it.

A strong and united student voice is now imperative to ensure that fairness and accessibility are prioritised by both the University and Government alike. It’s simple: every student should be able to make the most of their University experience. Your SRC recognises this, and is here to ensure that your rights, wellbeing and safety come first.

When life starts to become more thorny than rosy, our free legal service and wonderful caseworker team are able to offer advice on everything from Centrelink to academic concerns to tenancy rights. If you have any problems at all, drop in for a visit (we’re located on City Rd, below the Wentworth building), or send a messenger pigeon over the interwebs (otherwise conventionally known as an ‘email’) to help@src.usyd.edu.au.
In 2014, we’re very excited to work in collaboration with students, collectives and fellow OBs to ensure that no student’s University experience is adversely affected by any issue on campus or beyond.

Over the holidays, we were active in supporting the fight to save Medicare against the Liberals’ proposed $6 fee for GP visits.
We have also been working with other groups to radically overhaul the newly introduced scholarship for low-income housing, which supports poor students in name only.

This year, we will especially focus on mental health (particularly the improvement of existing services and practical advocacy), student housing, unpaid internships, scholarships, expansion of free education resources for students at the SRC (such as lab coats and dissection kits), and drug safety.

Last but not least, the National Day of Action is on March 26. We condemn the proposed conversion of Start-Up Scholarships into a loan system, as it will only further bar financially disadvantaged students from being able to pursue their studies. Join us at Fisher Library at 12pm for a march down to UTS to fight the cuts to education and demand a more affordable and accessible education system for all!

We’re passionate about a wide range of issues and would love to hear from the very students we’re here for. Should you ever have any comments, questions or concerns, or if you’d like to get involved with our campaigns, shoot us an email at welfare.officers@src.usyd.edu.au or swing by the SRC for a chat.

Growing Strong Launch and Self Defense Classes

We started the week off with a slam to celebrate the publication of our annual journal Growing Strong at the ever-charming and intimate Newsagency in Marrickville.

We were so excited to see so many new students coming along to the event and were really grateful to the old is that supported us. It was a fantastic evening that showcased the sheer emotional power of words and poetry as an inexpensive and accessible mode of expression. Keep your eyes peeled for our next poetry slam – we can’t wait to hold more!

If you’ve been keeping up to date with Honi and the Wom*n’s Report you might have seen that the three of us are involved in organising Autonomous Self Defence Classes open to non-cis people and wom*n identifying students. We feel that there is no one way to tackle this horrific beast, Rape Culture, that pervades our airwaves, television screens and lives. It has been designed to be a space where wom*n can feel comfortable learning some assertive moves. Although these moves might not be put into practical use, they can give us confidence in a society, where we are often taught that we shouldn’t be proud of our bodies, let alone take up as much space as cis-male people.

Next week, we’ll confer with the collective as to whether WoCo wants to endorse it as a whole, however, we, as officers look forward to continuing our support because we believe it is an important venture.

Thank you to all those who attended our first meeting on Wednesday and we look forward to seeing you next week.

Georgia Cranko, Phoebe Moloney and Julia Readett

New Education Activists get involved in Education Action Group

Our first EAG meeting this semester was a real success! After a busy O’week where dozens of students signed up to the EAG, it was great to see so many new faces along to the first collective meeting. We’ve got big plans for the national day of action for education on Wednesday March 26th. The day will begin with a Clubs Carnival to Save Student Life from the potential attacks on student organizations by the Liberal govt. We invite all students to come along to the carnival, check out the clubs, enjoy some food and lefty sing-a-longs before we all march to UTS to join the main demonstration.

For anyone who couldn’t make the first meeting, they are being held every Tuesday at 2pm on the New Law Lawn, look out for the red banner!

The next big event the EAG is holding is a forum on the radical history of Sydney Uni. Terry Irving and Rowan Cahill, authors of Radical Sydney, and Diane Fieldes will be sharing stories from the good old days when flares were cool, beards were long, and occupations of the Vice Chancellor’s office were not a rare occurrence.

Last week also saw International Women’s Day, a day started by socialists in 1910 to challenge sexism, and the system that breeds it. Unfortunately the radical traditions of IWD have been buried. These days attendees of IWD breakfasts try not to choke on their pancakes as our misogynist PM Tony Abbott declares himself a feminist and equality achieved. We’ve obviously got a long way to go in the fight for women’s liberation. So for a couple of months we’ve been involved in organizing a rally for IWD, held last Saturday March 8th to demand equal pay for women and no to Zoe’s Law no 2. (foetal personhood laws currently before NSW parliament).

For any Abbott haters, the March in March is this weekend starting on Sunday at 1pm in Belmore Park. If you support any of the following: unions and workers’ rights, the environment, refugee rights, women’s and LGBTI rights, free and accessible education, and/or Medicare, you’ve got a reason to be pissed off at the Government and need to join the rally! Thousands will march this weekend to voice opposition to the government, all decent lefty students need to be there!

Ridah Hassan and Eleanor Morley

Best Vegan Eats on Campus

Look, these reports are here to keep office bearers accountable to the student body and let you know what’s happening in the SRC’s various departments. James and I promise to do that with important issues, as we have previously done, like SRC staffing changes and campus activism. But as the occupants of the most bureaucratic position on campus, there’s only so much we can tell you without mimicking the broken-record babble of general secretaries past before you’re driven to the point of desperation and are compelled to gouge out your own eyeballs with a dried vanilla pod or some other delicious kitchen spice. At least if our writing provokes a bout of explosive dysentery you’ll now have access to Mon Droit in the likely case your nearest lavatory is out of toilet paper.

So anyway, here’s something that 5% of you might find vaguely useful: a run down of the best vegan eats on campus – something in which I have a vested interest.

1: Vegesoc – also know as The Magnum Opus of Meals. Vegesoc is back on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this semester from 12-2 on the manning sunken lawns and for $3 you get a solid serving of rice, veggies and halva. THREE DOLLARS.

2: Crispy tofu baguette from Taste without mayo. A more expensive option that is still a pretty good deal with an access card, this delightful morsel of a sandwich comes with the fillings that make salad rolls brilliant (like coriander and carrots) with the added bonus of TOFU. As delectable as the night is dark! Rejoice.

3: Salads from Raw in the Wentworth building. Clocking in at around the $5 mark, the best part about getting a salad from this joint is the option of mixing two salads together, maximising your potential for the simultaneous ingestion of quinoa and shallots.

4. Lastly, if all else fails, bring your own half-watermelon, like the one pictured here. They’re juicy and double as superb weapons. Or hollow one out
and make your own helmet!

Till next we speak.