International Students’ Officer’s Report – Week 12, Sem 1, 2016

Hannah Elten, Alexander Shu, Jasmine Yu and Anqi Zhao

At the end of April, the first International Council to the USU took successfully place. One of the most prominent issues discussed was the possibility of more workshops around campus regarding fair work and labour rights for international students. Clubs and Society Executives should check their mailboxes for the invitation to the next International Council.

Furthermore, the Overseas Departments of SUPRA and the SRC held a very successful joint lunch event in Week 9, demonstrating the good cooperation between the two organizations. We also would like to draw attention to the Visa workshop held by SUPRA on May 24 in Merewether Lecture Theatre 2 at 12:45 pm.
The disappearance and subsequent murder of UTS international student graduate Mengmei Leng has raised concerns for the safety of international students in Sydney. We want to encourage all students who experience any concerns to their safety to report these concerns to the police or other trusted authorities.
Finally, we would like to congratulate Yifan Kong for being the first international student getting elected to the position of USU Board Director since 2007 – with an overwhelming number of votes.

Queer Officer’s Report – Week 12, Sem 1, 2016

Marcus Wong and Evan Jones

The past few weeks have been extremely busy and exciting for the Queer Action Collective. We’ve been present at a number of actions such as the National Day of Action protesting the cuts by the federal government to our education that will disproportionately affect queer students, the Nakba Rally in solidarity with Palestine and against the pink-washing of Israel, the occupation of Wesley College by Wom*n’s Collective, recognising that queerphobia and misogyny are not separate issues, and an action of support for Safe Schools to amplify the voices of high school students who stand to lose the most from the gutting of the Safe Schools Program. We also went along to listen to the panel that was run by The Ally Network in celebration of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) on the 17th of May, as well as their screening of Gayby Baby that evening.

The highlight of the month for many was our protest against the Sydney University Catholic Society’s event at Life Week entitled ‘Men + Women = Made for each other?” Their guest speaker was a known advocate of conversion of queer people through therapy and spoke out against queer lifestyles. The event also relied on heavily essentialist conceptualisations of gender, which erases the identities of transgender students who already face a great deal of discrimination, leading to significantly higher levels of violence and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. The protest was well-attended and gained considerable attention and support from people along Eastern Avenue on the day, as well as people from other collectives and we’d like to thank all who attended.

This month we also met with University management to begin discussion with them about the Rainbow Campus campaign that was officially launched at Pride Week last month. Although a slow, bureaucratic response from them, we are optimistic that we will be able to get through all of our demands and turn the University of Sydney into a Rainbow Campus.

We have a lot coming up in the next few weeks. On the 26th of May we will be joining a protest against Cory Bernardi from the Liberal Party and Joe de Bruyn of the ALP who have played significant roles in furthering attacks on queer people. We are also preparing for the pre-election marriage equality rally on the 25th of June and we invite all to come along to both protests and show your support for queer students on campus. We are also pleased to announce that we have begun work on a publication to educate people on transgender issues to be released later in the year. Work to send delegates to Queer Collaborations in July is also underway and promises to be a very exciting week for some of our members.

For more information or if you have any queeries get in contact with the Queer Officers at

queer.officers@usyd.src.edu.au

Education Officer’s Report – Week 12, Sem 1, 2016

Dylan Griffiths and Liam Carrigan

On May 11th, students from across NSW gathered as part of the National Day of Action in protest against 2 billon in funding cuts to higher education announced by the liberals in the federal budget. The march included shocking displays of police violence and brutality that has become the norm in NSW and on our campus, with the police forcibly ejecting activists protesting Simon Birmingham from Fisher Library and heavy police presence at the recent protests against Wesley University.

Again we see an austerity budget that if enacted will destroy any semblance of equality and fairness in Australia. Again Higher Education is under attack. Again we must take to the streets to defeat it.

As students we hold incredible power. As an activist I have been inspired by our wins fighting cuts, standing in solidarity with staff on picket lines and amassing in our thousands to beat back deregulation again and again. We will never stop fighting and will be back time and time again.

This budget screams evasion, delays and shelving the most horrific of attacks until the election is passed. However, the two billion in proposed cuts will destroy a sector starved of funding so badly that a suite of corporate restructures across the country is now the norm. Here in NSW we have the Usyd restructure, which will see faculties slashed, jobs cut and degrees destroyed in the pursuit of a neoliberal university. At UTS we have seen the implementation of balanced semesters, which has slashed course content and eroded staff conditions in order to maximize efficiency. UNSW has proposed a strategic plan that includes trimesters and a shift to online learning. Management wants to partner with corporations, industries and multinational donors, which will leave us with a hollow, corporate education system. The realities call for more funding, not less.

Students reject this budget. We reject the deregulation of flagship courses, which like the implementation of HECS will see a slow march towards the dreaded 100k degrees over the coming years.  We reject our financial contribution to our degrees being raised from 40 percent to 50 percent, because fuck shackling us with more debt for the rest of our living lives. Scrap that – they’ll probably decide to collect that sweet HECS dollar from our cold dead hands. Education is a social good – why the fuck does the ruling class think we should pay? The money is there. This budget has included a 25% tax break to big business, 32 billion in defense spending and 1.2 billion to maintain the offshore processing centers that murder refugees.

If you’re interested in getting involved in the fight against the budget and the liberals join the EAG at 2pm Tuesdays or contact the Education officers to be added to our organizing group on Facebook.

Wom*n’s Officer’s Report – Week 12, Sem 1, 2016

Anna Hush

The past week has seen the issue of sexual harassment and assault on university campuses take the spotlight in mainstream media. To see an issue usually shrouded in secrecy and silence make the front page of the Sydney Morning
Herald is very exciting, and a great step towards removing the stigma around sexual assault and empowering survivors to come forward and tell their stories.

Last Monday, in the midst of a media frenzy, the Vice Chancellor sent out an email to all students with the results of the Safer Communities survey. While the report emphasised that “it is encouraging to see this figure [the rate of incidents of harassment and assault on campus] is much lower than occurrences in the general public”, the report also contained some very alarming statistics. One quarter of students surveyed had experienced an incident of harassment or assault during their studies, with LGBTIAQ+ students particularly at risk. Of the students that reported their experience of assault, 41% felt that the University’s formal procedures did not help them at all. This is a cause for great concern, and should act as a call to action for the University to rethink completely its approach to sexual harassment and assault.

There is a vital need for a specific mechanism for students to formally report sexual harassment and assault. While the report recommends that the University ‘clarify and simplify’ these mechanisms, in reality the opposite is needed: the  evidence shows that streamlining these services does not work. Complaints about sexual assault are of a completely different nature to complaints about academic misconduct, and a generic online form is not an adequate mechanism for students to report these experiences.

We need trained specialists on hand to support students through processes that are often alienating and traumatic. We need a confidential reporting mechanism, that doesn’t suggest that students resolve the matter informally with the perpetrator, as the current complaints process does. More than anything, we need the University to listen to students and survivors throughout this process so we can create a system that students feel safe engaging in.

If you have feedback or suggestions for the ways in which reporting processes could be improved, please email usydwomenscollective@gmail.com – I would love to hear students’ perspectives on this.

President’s Report – Week 12, Sem 1, 2016

Chloe Smith

We’re almost at the end of Semester One: another one down and another six months passed in the life of the university. As things heat up with final assessments and exams, your SRC is continuing to represent and advocate for students interests, as we’ve done all year. As this year’s team reaches the six-month mark of our terms, it’s worth reflecting on what the SRC has already done so far.

Back in December we were able to secure the continuation of Simple Extensions after the university moved to scrap them entirely. Although this came with a reduction from five to two days, we also ensured that it was expanded to cover all faculties as opposed to just Arts. We worked hard to ensure that students and staff were properly notified and informed of the changes and that students wouldn’t be disadvantaged by the new system.

We also ran a fantastic O-Week which saw us talk to a huge number of new and returning students about the advocacy and services we provide, and the work we do on campus running campaigns and lobbying for improvements.
Some of this work has included things like being on the safety on campus working group, ensuring that the university genuinely looks at ways to improve its reporting and safety procedures and educates students and staff about sexual assault and harassment. We’ve also advocated for better academic dishonesty protocols, pushed for action on Islamophobia on campus, and ensured that students will continue to have a voice on faculty boards and on some of the highest decision-making bodies student representatives sit on. Of course, individual departments and collectives have also done amazing work around a variety of issues this year, too many to mention but all important to the experience of students on campus.

None of this work is possible without the hard work of student representatives, the support of the SRC’s staff, and the participation of students. Despite the challenges of running a student union in today’s Australia, with the loss of compulsory student unionism, massive cuts to funding, and obstacles to student engagement, your SRC has continued to make a difference and serve you as we’ve done for the past 88 years. We’re very much looking forward to continuing that work in Semester Two.

If you want to get involved and find out more, visit our website or drop by our offices. Remember – it’s your SRC.

Environment Officer’s Report – Week 11, Sem 1, 2016

Lily Matchett and Maushmi Power

The USYD Enviro Collective has been in full swing these past few weeks with supporting UNSW’s incredible occupation of the Chancellory (Go Fossil Free UNSW!), going to BreakFree with 350.org, preparing for Students of Sustainability and planning for upcoming Forums!

Firstly, UNSW absolutely nailed their civil disobedience in raising awareness for the University’s investment into fossil fuels!! We are seriously proud of our fellow comrades 😀 We hope we can do you justice in our own Fossil Free campaign in the upcoming weeks!

BreakFree organised by 350.org was incredible! On Sunday 8 May a bunch of people from the Collective participated in blocking one of the world’s largest coal ports in Newcastle! Blocking any coal from coming in or going out for an entire day was thoroughly empowering and really brought together people from all over the community. Participating in this mass mobilisation really highlighted that communities all over Australia are fighting for a fairer and safer environment for our future.

Students of Sustainability (SoS) is fast approaching and the Collective is working hard on promoting the conference to as many keen enviro beans as we possibly can! Publicity has been our key issue at the moment and we’ll soon be organising logistics for getting people there. For any people interested, check out this event page! – facebook.com/events/540947269408480/.

Upcoming Forums include the ASEN Just Transitions Forums on 20 May @ Carslaw Lecture Room 350 which Lily has been working endlessly on (Thanks Lil!).
Another forum is the Nuclear Power Forum held jointly by the USYD Enviro Collective and the USU on 25 May @ the Common Room, Holme Building. Both have amazing speakers from a diverse set of perspectives and I strongly encourage people to attend! For those interested, details are in the FB group – USYD Enviro Collective 2016.

Interfaith Officer’s Report – Week 11, Sem 1, 2016

Aya Mustafa and Zahra Makki

As interfaith officers, our aims are to ensure students practice their faiths comfortably on campus as well as promote understanding and appreciation of the many faiths and cultures present on campus. Throughout 2016, we hope to fulfil these aims.

During O Week, the Muslim Wom*n’s Collective managed to interact with many current and new students. The Muslim Wom*n’s Collective supported the Mummies Paying it Forward group, a group that supports local non for profit charity organisations, by setting up a donation drive in support of their Essential Packs appeal.

The donations collected were toiletries which were created into packs then sent to refuges to help women on arrival as they usually arrive with minimal belongings.
The collective also held a Meet and Greet to get to know the members as well as talk about ideas and thoughts that supports the collective in choosing the events that well be held in the future. An interfaith picnic was held at Victoria Park between the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) and the Muslim Wom*n’s

Collective. Students from both groups participated and got to know each other. The picnic resulted in good outcomes and friendships were formed, with hopes of another picnic together.
In semester two 2016, the Muslim Wom*n’s Collective is planning on creating a cross cultural events such as a Meet and Greet for students from different religions and cultures, picnics in a local park discussing different issues that are relevant to our everyday life, having regular meetings to help students around the university with academic and general information’s aiming to make students feel comfortable around campus meeting different people. Besides the face to face interactions there will be more social media updates and use to make all students interact regularly even if they were busy to attend an event!

General Secretary’s Report – Week 11, Sem 1, 2016

Georgia Mantle

Imagine this, there is a pie, you get half of it and a man gets the other half, equal right? Expect you weren’t allowed to make the pie, you weren’t allowed to decide what goes in the pie you only got handed that one half. So what do we do with this pie? We chuck it in the bin and make our own! In a world that is created and continued by ongoing patriarchal structures and oppression we can no longer just pursue equality because equality in a patriarchal world is not true equity.
Struggling for equity in this world is different for each wom*n – while some may be fighting for a life free of sexism, some are fighting for their lives and some are fighting to be recognised as the wom*n they are. It is essential in our understanding of feminism and sexism that we consider the way in which intersectionality affects all wom*n differently and not assume we are all fighting the same oppressions in the same way.
Sexual Harassment and assault on campus has reached the point of epidemic and the University has been dragging its feet in dealing with this. As students I urge you all to make it know to university management that you demand more from them. It is every student’s right to feel safe on campus and to not live in fear of assault. The high rates of sexual assault on campus are not being ignored by the SRC as a number of your female student representatives are working hard to put pressure on the University to do more for students. Remember if you have experienced sexual assault there are people who can help you, you can call 1800 RESPECT to speak to someone who can help you. You are not alone and you are not responsible for what has happened to you.

President’s Report – Week 11, Sem 1, 2016

Chloe Smith

This past week has seen some disturbing reports and allegations come to light concerning rates of sexual assault and harassment on campus. Claims of slut shaming of female students at colleges, of a culture of publicly documenting and rating sexual experiences between students, of feeling unsafe on and around campus, not only at parties but also while studying and traveling through. It’s important, and depressing, to stress that these incidents don’t appear to be restricted to one or two parts of the university, but unfortunately are widespread experiences for students, particularly women.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect is the almost universal feedback that, of the students who did report their experiences to university and college management, the response was lacklustre at best and non-existent at worst. Sexual assault and harassment at universities is not new. Only a few years ago, students at St Paul’s College were found to have set up a “pro-rape” Facebook page. Just last year a student was accused of distributing a recording of a sexual experience with a fellow student without her consent, whilst residing in university housing. The Talk About It survey run by the National Union of Students has found that, at campuses right across the country, experiencing sexual harassment and assault is almost part and parcel of going to uni.

And yet, despite all this, it seems the majority of staff still don’t really know how to respond to such cases. The university has set up a working group to look at how to improve responses to harassment and assault, and yet the findings of a university-run survey from last year still haven’t been released. Despite repeated requests from the SRC and other student reps, the working group has only met once this year with no follow up since. It is vital that universities ensure they have procedures in place to support victims and punish perpetrators, as well as educate staff and students on what sexual harassment and assault is, how to report it, and how to respond if you witness it. Students need to know they will be believed and provided with the appropriate support networks if they come forward, and unfortunately at the moment that cannot be said at the University of Sydney. This must change and your SRC will be working to ensure it does.

Education Officer’s Report – Week 10, Sem 1, 2016

Liam Carrigan and Dylan Griffiths

Treasurer Scott Morrison did not mention higher education in his 2016 budget speech – but make no mistake the Liberals remain determined to squeeze students. They have had to walk away from their preferred policy of full fee deregulation, citing “community concern”. We can chalk this up as a victory for large student demonstrations in 2014.

We won the battle, but not the war. Major reforms have simply been delayed by one more year. They are hoping to keep these plans quiet until after the election in July. Our demonstration on May 11 will be crucial to putting a spotlight on the Liberals’ plans and making sure they aren’t re-elected.

The 2016 budget contains $2 billion worth of cuts over the next four years. To achieve these cuts, they have left open the option of a 20 per cent funding cut to undergraduate degrees.
At the same time a “discussion paper” has been released which outlines other “optional” proposals to be implemented from January 2018, including:

  • Deregulation for “flagship” courses, which could enroll 20 per cent of students
  • Increased student fees to raise students’ contribution from 40 per cent to 50 per cent of cost of degrees
  • Lower the income threshold for HECS repayments (eg. from $54,000 to $42,000)
  • Collect unpaid HECS from the dead, or tie HECS repayments to household income

The Liberals are determined to claw more money off ordinary students and those who can least afford it. Yet they have handed down a budget with a massive tax cut for big business, down to just 25 per cent.

Funding cuts will encourage further corporatization of the sector as universities slash jobs and courses to make up for lost funding. At the same time, universities will rely more on corporate “donors” and industry partnerships, which distort our education.
Whilst they have dumped full deregulation, they are trying to get a watered-down version through the back door. The discussion paper suggests that perhaps 20 per cent of students could be enrolled in deregulated “flagship” programs – if this goes through, it could mean 1 in 5 students paying skyrocketing fees! The Sydney University Vice Chancellor has already named veterinary studies, medicine, agriculture and music as courses he wants deregulated at USyd. This could still mean that $100,000 degrees become a reality.
As it stands, there is no crisis. $32 billion has been budgeted for defence spending this year. It costs about $1.2 billion annually to maintain offshore processing centers that detain refugees. Now Turnbull is cutting the corporate tax rate further. Yet the government has ruled out changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax that could save upward of $11 billion.

Spending priorities, as always, are political priorities.

As a social good, university should be free – just as primary and secondary education are. It can be publically funded through higher corporate tax and closing tax loopholes for the rich. When university fees were first introduced, it was just a tiny “administration fee”. Now we can see clearly this was the thin edge of the wedge. We have to stop this trend in its tracks.

The fight we need:

The fight against Abbott’s 2014 budget showed that protesting works. Student rallies, along with “Bust the Budget” demonstrations, and a vigorous campaign to Save Medicare, helped keep public opinion against Tony Abbott – and even got him kicked out of office!
The May 11 rally is our first chance to send a warning signal to the Turnbull government, and show we are prepared for a fight if they are re-elected.

There is every reason to believe we can beat Turnbull. His popularity has been falling. The gloss has come off. People can see he stands for everything Abbott did: refugee cruelty, homophobia, climate inaction, attacking Medicare, union-bashing, and handouts for the rich.

We need to connect these fights and build a united fightback against the Liberals’ agenda. Students can help lead this fight.

Join the National Day of Action, Wednesday May 11, 1pm, Fisher Library, Sydney University.