The University and Campus Infrastructure team have recently launched an imitative to examine the lighting and safety measures around campus, in a bid to increase campus security and the safety of students. A recurring issue for students who are on campus after dark has been the complete lack of sufficient lighting, especially on Western Avenue which students who live in the residential colleges and student housing have often cited as a significant issue. The SRC has participated for the past few weeks in campus ‘walks’ to determine these areas and Western Ave and the somewhat frightening after hours’ trek to St Johns and Sancta Sophia, have been noted as areas of great concern and a priority for the University thanks to the work of the SRC President and Vice President who were very vocal about this matter. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their work on this issue.
What a year! It is a pleasure to write my last Honi Soit report as Wom*n’s Officer.
2015 has undoubtedly been a huge year for the Wom*n’s Collective. It has been one of the most difficult, but rewarding years of my life. I have been lucky to have so much support from members of the Wom*n’s Collective, who have given countless hours of unpaid labour to our campaigns and initiatives this year.
The nature of collective organising is that there are always too many names to name, but there are two people that I must thank individually: Anna Hush – there is not one campaign or initiative I have run this year without your enthusiastic involvement. You have been the greatest source of support, wisdom and friendship. Julia Readett – not only did you commit completely to your year as Wom*n’s Officer, you guided and supported me through my term (and your honours year!) as well. You were there when I needed intra-Collective grievances resolved, to answer my questions and to assure me to continue as Wom*n’s Officer, even when I considered resigning.
The year has involved too many projects to list, so I will just draw attention to the ‘biggest’ ones I’ve been a part of. The University sexual harassment and assault campaign! We are nowhere near finished with this project, but we got a great survey that will continue this important conversation on an institutional level.
Our campaign against gendered violence! From the panel at Radical Sex & Consent Week, through to the workshop recently given by Karen Willis and the money raised in collaboration with the Sydney University Law Society (SULS), each event and initiative is something we should be proud of.
The feminist education workshops! Talking to students about intersectional feminism and introducing them to figures like Laverne Cox, Stella Young and Zadie Smith has been, and will continue to be, such a rewarding experience.
And of course, the tampon tax. We did not succeed, but to be on national television with the Wom*n’s Collective holding a giant tampon behind me and to get a ‘yes’ from a Liberal treasurer, was, to put it modestly, a moment I will never forget.
Activism by it’s nature is thankless, but I want to thank everyone who has worked with me this year. I look forward to a bright future of continuing to smash kyriarchy!
Since our first meeting at ~6pm on March 4 2013, we have gradually sunk through the Hermann’s lawn to the SRC dungeon. Remarkably, this turned out to be productive. How productive, you ask?
Well, as your General Secretaries we delivered one of the best orientation handbooks in years and worked with SUPRA to produce a brand new publication distributed in the ACCESS showbags. We brought home the largest proportional increase in funding of all student organisation this year. We are proud to have used this increase to: expand the Legal Service to five days a week; fund the Casework Department to give financial advice; establish a resource pool for activists; increase funding to collectives; give the Honi editors a well-deserved pay rise; give a ~more reasonable~ amount to ‘the NUS’; and end up with a slight surplus. Throughout the year we had perfect attendance at Executive and Council meetings. In sum, we turned up and got stuff done.
To the students who will run the SRC next year: the easiest way to be an effective student representative is to forget your factionalism; use the incredible resources available to you, particularly the SRC staff; and spend more time doing things than you spend talking about doing things. Just because a project can’t be completed in your term does not mean it isn’t worth starting—the SRC needs a better long term vision. Students would benefit from wider engagement with the University policy process, more collaboration between the Executive and other representatives, and a group of Office Bearers willing to skillshare for a stronger student movement. Many of these things have happened this year, and we hope they continue to be prioritised for the benefit of students.
So we must now board the strike bus and ride off to the eternal picket. Farewell friends, comrades and those we lost along the way (Tony, SLS, optimism and Vitamin D).
For now but not forever, Unicorn Faction.
At a recent Undergraduate Studies meeting, the Committee approved a request from the Sydney College of the Arts to remove the option of part time study for an offered honours course. When the faculty’s representative was asked why this was necessary given the necessity for part time study as an option on equity grounds, they the suspension of study rates were too high for their liking.
So there it is. Yet another stark reminder that we attend a university that is more concerned with how they rank in the latest international tertiary education poll (yes Usyd, we get it and there is no need for yet another Facebook status about it) than the welfare of its students. The importance of a part time study option for undergraduate students is well documented, yet the University of Sydney continues to drag behind on this part with faculties such as Law and Medicine only offering part time/reduce load study to students with exceptional circumstances at the Dean’s discretion. The practise of applying to the Dean in and of itself can be incredibly daunting or intimidating for students who require part time study to complete their degree. It gives Deans the power to interpret ‘need’ as they see fit and gives
them absolute and unquestionable control over a student’s life. Part time study, particularly in coursework-heavy degrees such as Arts/Law or Medical Science/Medicine, the option for open part time study is crucial, as it means students are allowed to prioritise and comfortably work around work, health and other responsibilities over an arbitrary time frame of acceptable course completion.
The University of Sydney prides itself on being an institution that supports its students and gives them ‘flexible study options’ but a closer look at Senate and Faculty resolutions reveals this is not the case. In fact, Undergraduate classes have not run past 6pm in recent memory which makes most undergraduate study completely inaccessible for prospective students who are carers, live with a disability or are working. I know it’s hardly a shock to most of us that the University is caring less and less about the welfare and wellbeing of its students, but it seems the higher the University rises in the international ranks of tertiary education, the less they are trying to hide it.
The Social Justice Officer position is in need of serious evaluation and amendment. The Office’s remit is nebulous and the number of Officer Bearers makes coordination difficult at the best of times. Furthermore, the position is seen as a joke.
When I took this role, I thought that something could be made of it. I was wrong. I recommend for the position to be amended so that only one person can hold the Office so that they can be held individually accountable. The functions of the Office should be clearly defined and expectations should be set. The position should not just be another line in the CV, but something of substance.
To give you an idea of what at present is involved in being a Social Justice Officer: Soon after being appointed I managed to gain access to the email account (who knew there was one?), and the messages had not been read. During my tenure I saw a Facebook page from the USYD SRC Social Justice Department sharing an event. I was joyful that it was active. However, there was no reply to my message querying who was running it. From the activity on the page I have surmised it is merely a front for Socialist Alternative and nothing more.
For next year’s Social Justice Officers, I can only wish you the best of luck that you may do better than this year. The bar has been set very low. Unless the position is significantly amended, I would recommend that it be abolished.
Hugs and kisses, Alex Eordogh
Over the break a bunch of enviro members went down with the Australian Student Environment Network to the forests of East Gippsland in Victoria to visit blockades that are opposing logging, learn new skills and help save the forest through citizen science. They learnt new skills, surveyed for endangered species and searched for old growth trees. The collective also ran our first climbing workshop and explored our artistic side by submitting an artwork to the Verge festival to highlight the need for action at the upcoming climate talks in Paris this December.
The Paris talks represent the worlds last chance to gaet a binding international agreement to reduce emissions. Australia has an atrocious track record of attempting to derail such negotiations in the past, which is why we need to place enormous pressure upon the Australian government to be a constructive participant and up the woeful targets it has currently on the table. Recent modelling shows that the targets submitted by Australia and other nations still puts the world on track for 3.5ºC of warming by the end of the century. As a rich nation with high per capita emissions, Australia needs to do its fair share of the global effort by committing to steep emissions cuts and by providing funds to rectify global inequities so that poorer nations can meet their targets without entrenching poverty.
Sydney University can play a role in spurring this change. Thats why we are calling upon it to give fossil fuels the flick and divest before Paris. The Environment Collective will be supporting the People’s Climate March here in Sydney on the 29th of November at 1pm. Bring your friends, bring your family, bring everyone out onto the streets to tell the government and the world that it is time to act. To inspire you before the march, we will be screening Naomi Klein’s new documentary ‘This Changes Everything’, on the incompatibility of neoliberal capitalism and climate action. Stay tuned for details of this post exams event and more by by liking the Sydney Uni Enviro Collective page on Facebook.
“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”
Mean Girls, a personal and word-wide favourite and classic. Notoriously one of the most quotable movies of our generation. So it is no real surprise that a quote jumps to mind, however I am shocked that this is the first time that I’ve really considered the implications of it.
As most of us know, Halloween is quickly approaching. From the never ending Facebook events that all claim to be “Sydney’s best halloween event” to a substantial increase of terrifying clown costume present at Target, this new holiday/partying tradition grows more and more in popularity each year.
Yes it is true, Halloween is an occasion to whip out that ruined sheet you have and transform it into the classic toga, or the last minute friendly ghost but it also a time that allows folks to be/wear whatever they want to without condemnation. And to me that is sad.
We live in a society where fashion is often used to express personality, however when your clothing choices is deemed socially unacceptable, things can get bad.
There’s a real unsaid belief in the world we live in, that if you wear clothes with shorter hem lines, it’s acceptable to throw insults and names your way. That you deserve everything that is thrown at you based on that you wear.
Regardless of the length of your hemline, you should feel comfortable in leaving the house without having being yelled at, called a slut or even assaulted. One of the first things police ask you after reporting a rape is “what were you wearing?” And that’s something that is irrelevant, it never matters what you wear. you deserve to be treated with respect.
So October 31st and EVERY OTHER DAY of the year, don’t slut shame. When you do, you are doing so much more than calling someone a name. You’re contributing to a broader victim blaming system that tells victims of sexual assault that it is their fault based on what they wore.
In the wise words of all mothers out there, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
If you have experienced sexual harassment or report you can contact the sexual harassment officers at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bella O’Shannasy and Monique Newberry
This month saw deregulation dropped by the Turnbull government, in what should be recognised as a massive victory for students everywhere. This is the result of a sustained campaign against fee deregulation and further cuts to higher education funding. Higher education policy has not been championed by any political party, they only ever respond to public pressure, opposition and dissent, so congratulations should go to all the community groups that changed hearts and minds, who campaigned and rallied and ensured fee deregulation would not be pushed through. We’re seeing significant institutions like Universities Australia drop their support of fee deregulation after years of public pressure, and that’s a huge moment for the student movement.
Michael Spence went to Sydney Morning Herald recently, sensing that deregulation was not long for the Turnbull government, pleading that the government not rule out student fee hikes. This bold article of spin must have pleased the university overlords because not long after its release, Michael Spence, our own Vice Chancellor, was elected chair of Group of Eight Australia, and was praised for his “energetic commitment”. This is big news for this campus, because while Michael Spence has always been one of the more aggressive Vice Chancellors in backing the government’s reforms, the University of Sydney has been able to mobilise great numbers of students.
Following a cross campus meeting we held last week, which was initially planned to nail fee deregulation’s coffin but became about the direction of the campaign over this next period where an immediate attack does not exist, it’s been decided that the priority for the rest of the year should be on campus, where those immediate threats do exist. This includes attacks like the removal of simple extensions, the fact that students are being pursued even harder for plagiarism, concurrent with an incredibly aggressive proposed restructure of the university.
It was great to hear that the restructure had near unanimous opposition in the recent SRC elections, and I look forward to seeing what the campaign can achieve with next year’s council. I encourage any new councillors to get involved with the Education Action Group on Tuesdays at 2 PM on the New Law Lawns to join the campaign.
Hello! There are a lot of exciting things to report back on, so I won’t waste words with a witty intro. A huge congratulations to Courtney Thompson and Victoria Zerbst for organising Radical Sex & Consent Week – it was a huge success! It was a pleasure to run the sex positivity debate and sexual assault/gendered violence panel. Thank you to all the students who attended the festival, helped organise it and the speakers who gave up the time to educate us. It was fantastic to watch SRC Collectives work so seamlessly with the USU!
As a follow up to the panel we ran at Rad Sex, we are working with the Sydney University Law Society (SULS) to run a workshop about how to respond when someone discloses an experience of sexual assault. The workshop is being run by Karen Willis from Rape & Domestic Violence Australia, please come along! It is non-autonomous and entry costs $10 to recoup our costs (the rest will be donated to the Full Stop Foundation to fight the closure of Hey Sis! we reported on a few months ago). It is being held on the 24th of September, from 4.30-5.30 in the Law Lounge. Please register via e-mail at email@example.com.
We have been continuing our work with ‘fEMPOWER’ – our feminist education workshops for high school students. Anna and myself are going to Penrith high School to meet with their principal who is interested in running the program. We’ve also confirmed interest from North Sydney Girls High School. The hope is that we can run workshops at both of these schools by the end of the semester.
Most excitingly, the university is about to release a survey to collect information about sexual harassment on campus. This information will be used to help formulate university policy so that we can all enjoy a safer campus. This survey has been the product of over a years worth of work and is only happening because of the persistent lobbying of students. Look out for an article about it soon!
At this point naming the upcoming, but still distant, holiday a “mid-semester break” strikes me less as an administrative error or quaint hangover from a happier time and more as a cruel reminder that we are utterly beholden to the nonsensical whims of the University. Unless my maths fails me, as it very nearly did in first year before I took up philosophy, the halfway point of a thirteen week semester ought to be its seventh week. Having just survived week seven, we can now confirm that it not at all break-like.
With a hint of irony, mid-semester week included RUOK? day and a focus on mental health. Impending assessments and a while to go till the well earned break mean it’s as important as ever that we be aware of our own mental health and that of those around us. Few university students complete their degrees without experiencing or coming into contact with mental health difficulties and we would be foolish not to occasionally remind ourselves to be more aware of this. The University’s Counselling and Psychological Services, the University Health Service, and the SRC are all able to assist you or refer you to someone
In SRC land, Chiara and I have working away on a number of different projects. We have begun discussions with the Executive and Publications Managers about ways to improve the placement of ads in Honi Soit (because as boring as it is, any dollar spent on student activism and welfare is a dollar well spent). Collaboration with the USU and SUPRA to ensure our organisations are giving each other a leg up wherever possible continues. As does our participation in the Students Support Aboriginal Communities group, that is in the process of formalising a constitution and engaging with many of the Indigenous communities we visited at the start of this year on the Freedom Ride Anniversary.
Finally, Chiara and I have been elected to the Faculty Board of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Despite the historical impotence of many representatives to department and faculty boards, it is our hope that we can look out for the interests of Arts students over the next year. Take care of yourself; mid-semester isn’t that far away.
Students' Representative Council, University of Sydney
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