General Secretary’s Report – Week 11, Sem 2, 2017

DANIEL ERGAS and ISABELLA PYTKA

It’s almost over – you’re almost there (wherever that is) and, for that matter, so are we. This is our penultimate report (truly a tear-jerker if ever there was one), and, in a reflective spirit, we’ll be reviewing the year in our final two reports, and offering suggestions to all (four of) the hacks out there who actually read this.

O-Week, that chariot of co-branded stress-balls and corporate stalls, gave us our first opportunity to get the SRC’s name out there (the erstwhile goal of every single election campaign ever run). As we handed out several thousand calico bags (we still fill with pride and stare whenever we see a #mainstream student using one), the collectives smashed it in recruiting new students; WoCo’s several hundred new members is unlikely to be beaten in quite some time.

There are several lessons to be drawn from O-Week. The first doesn’t particularly relate to the SRC, but instead to student organisations more broadly: how do we fund the fun, wild, and creative events without selling our soul in the process? We took free tampons – and, in our estimation, that was a good op – but should we have taken the free Red Bull we were offered, too? We tend to be a bit upset at the CommBank bonanza, but we seem to be more OK with free Dendy Newtown tickets. It’s a tough balancing act; and it’s one the Uni loves to see us struggle with. It is, after all, purely a consequence of how the Student Services and Amenities Fee – that pesky couple of hundred $ you pay / defer each year – is distributed. If less of it went, say, to SUSF, and more of it went, say, to actual student organisations that you have a voice in, student orgs wouldn’t need to make the choices they do.

That doesn’t mean that we need to live an aesthetic life of piety and solemn contemplation. It just means that any incoming OB needs to accept that there will need to be trade-offs, and to consider them methodologically and carefully. It also means that student orgs need to work more closely in delivering – and conceiving of – these big ticket events. A lot of criticism comes down to lack of communication, rather than any meaningful political or ideological differences, and can be solved beforehand, with cooperation, rather than after the fact, with awkward half-hearted mea culpas and pledges to ‘do better next time’.

The second lesson, directly for the SRC, is to plan early. You – and I’m going to guess you’re an incoming OB, because why else would you read this? – need to start fast. It is an awkward time of the year to come into a role (December 1, for those playing along at home, is when the new SRC officers start), and the annual shutdown comes quick. Source quotes fast (trust us, Alibaba is great – but always always always go for escrow), decide on a plan for what you want, and work closely with collectives to make their dreams come true. O-Week will come faster than you think, and it’s your best opportunity to make an impact and lay the groundwork for the SRC and your collective for the year. And make sure to coordinate early with the USU, and their O-Week coordinators; they helped us immensely in our term, and they’ll help you too if you make your requests clear, and aren’t afraid to reach out early.

Next fortnight, in part 2, we’ll be looking at the rest of the year and signing off. Until then, in solidarity, D+B.

SRC Wom*ns Officers’ Report – Week 11, Sem 2, 2017

IMOGEN GRANT and KATIE THORBURN

Welcome to week 11! This semester is flying by, and I can’t believe this is one of my final reports as Wom*n’s Officer! As you may know, the R&DVSA is going through a difficult time after facing a new subcontract by MHS – a health insurance giant – in which a number of other non-for-profit organisations replace the R&DVSA workforce with non-specialised counsellors on much lower wages. The R&DVSA has also raised privacy concerns for callers about the new requirements to record all calls and share these, along with existing case files, with MHS. As a result of this, following the expiration of its current contract in October, 1800RESPECT will no longer be staffed by R&DVSA counsellors.

The Government’s plan is to turn a crisis line into a profit-making venture, sack skilled workers and hand out to the lowest bidder the provision of specialised counselling on 1800RESPECT. For the profits to flow, the union workforce need to be replaced by lower skilled non-union workers paid rock bottom wages. Current job advertisements are offering $20 or less an hour without proper clinical supervision for staff.

To make things worse, as a Government funded service, the R&DVSA have not been permitted to put aside money to cover redundancy payments for its staff. If the Government does not provide the $1 million needed for the redundancy entitlements, the R&DVSA will have no choice but to liquidate its assets and close its doors – and with it, vital services will be lost such as the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, Sexual Assault Counselling Australia, and the NSW Community Based Counselling Service. The Government is abdicating its responsibility to the highly committed and skilled workers who have been providing the 1800RESPECT trauma counselling service for the past seven years. What we are seeing is privatisation, competition, sacking workers and rock bottom prices just to make a profit out of rape and domestic violence. This government is sick.

If you wish to get involved with the Wom*n’s Collective and the fight to support R&DVSA, like us on Facebook and email usydwomenscollective@gmail.com for more details.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault, support is available by contacting NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017.

SRC Presidents Report – Week 11, Sem 2, 2017

This week members of your SRC protested outside the Vice Chancellors office to demand that Sydney University publically support marriage equality. The university and Vice Chancellor Michael Spence have chosen to remain neutral on the issue of marriage equality. Their reasoning for this is that universities should be a place for intellectual freedom, where debate and respectful discussion can be had around important issues. However marriage equality isn’t just an important issue, marriage equality is a fundamental human right. Countless other universities across the country have announced their support for marriage equality and its time for Usyd to do the same.

Our university claims to support the LGBTI+ community. They proudly fly the rainbow flag atop the quad, they boast of their ally network and of the universities involvement in Mardi Gras. Beyond that the university’s latest marketing campaign ‘unlearn …’ includes an image of two men getting married with the tagline ‘unlearn love’. The university cannot use the LGBTI+ community as a marketing tool to make them money whilst refusing to support their fight for a basic human right. They cannot claim to support LGBTI+ students and staff when they continue to refuse to acknowledge the LGBTI+ community’s struggle.

As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” and its extremely clear what side our university has chosen. They have chosen the side that tells LGBTI+ students and staff that they are not equal, that they are not a part of our community and that they don’t deserve to marry who they love.

We can’t afford to be complacent in the fight for marriage equality. Make sure you vote YES and that your ballot is posted back before November 7.

SRC Presidents Report – Week 8, Semester 2, 2017

As you’re reading this report there’s probably a collective sigh of relief spreading over the student body. We’re only a few days away from mid-semester break and it’s almost the end of the SRC elections. If you’re reading this on Wednesday or Thursday and you haven’t voted in the SRC elections, please consider taking 5 minutes out of your day to have your voice heard. It’s super easy to get overwhelmed by the swarms of people in coloured shirts and forget why these elections are important. They’re important because this is your SRC. The SRC is here to represent you and we’re funded by your money. So vote to make sure that the people leading this organisation next year are people who are experienced, people who you can trust and people who will fight for you.

Last Wednesday the SRC joined the NTEU in their 24 hr strike action. SRC activists and office bearers joined the picket lines and spoke to students about why the strikes were happening and why it’s important to support our staff. While the strikes were successful in shutting down most of the uni, the fight continues. University management is still yet to commit to job security for staff, they have not offered an actual pay rise and they refuse to increase the conditions of casual workers.  The NTEU has voted to take further industrial action for 48hrs on the 4 and 5 of October and the SRC will continue to stand in solidarity with their struggle.

Unfortunately last week a homophobic stall appeared on eastern avenue with “It’s Okay to Vote No” signs. Students at this stall were overheard equating homosexuality with pedophilia, incest and bestiality. The SRC strongly condemns this hurtful and hateful rhetoric and we have written to the Vice-Chancellor to express our disappointment. I wanted to take this time to remind you all that we can’t be complacent when it comes to marriage equality. In order to win we need to shut down these bigots wherever they appear. There’s a post office in the Pharamcy Building on campus – don’t forget to vote YES and drop off your ballot.

SRC General Secretaries Report – Week 7, Sem 2, 2017

You’ll be reading this either the day before, the day of, or a day or two after your teachers and staff strike. So we thought that this could be a useful cheat sheet to get you up-to-speed with what you can do to help.

Why is there a strike? First things first – what even is a strike? A strike is when people collectively refuse to work until their employers grant them fair working conditions. On strike days, the striking staff (who take leave without pay for the day) form picket lines – ie. congregate at Uni entrances – and ask other staff, and all students, not to come onto campus that day, to show the Uni their strength and resolve. It is vital that you do not cross that picket line.

This strike has been precipitated by the need for a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement between the University management and its staff. The University has offered staff a real wage cut, and refused to extend standard conditions to tutors (casual staff), such as sick leave. As a result, the staff union (the National Tertiary Education Union, or NTEU) balloted its members – ie. literally sent a ballot to their home addresses – and the staff voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action (above 90%).

Why does this affect you? As we covered in our last report, staff working conditions are student learning conditions – it is pretty obvious, for example, that if your tutors are overworked (and unable to even take sick leave) the quality of your education will suffer. You accrue the benefits of a stronger staff negotiating presence.

So what can you do about it? If you’re reading this the day before the strike (ie. Tuesday, Sept 12) – message your lecturers and tutors, and let them know you support them, and their industrial action; message your mates, and make sure they know what’s going on. You should join us on the picket lines that next morning!

If you’re reading this the day of – what are you doing?! If you’re not already on the pickets, get there; and join us for the rally at 1pm. (And take a picture with the people’s rat, Scabby. We love you, ETU Victoria.)
If it’s the days after the strikes – don’t worry, there will likely be more strike action for you to get involved in. We’d love it if you signed the petition Daniel’s been working on to force the USU to support our teachers’ fight, and close in solidarity on strike days – which is accessible at form.jotform.co/danielergas/ourUSU.

SRC Presidents Report – Week 7, Sem 2, 2017

This week there are two important things happening on campus. On Wednesday, the NTEU (the union representing staff at usyd) will be striking for 24 hours. This is due to the university’s refusal to improve the working conditions and pay of staff. Striking is a way for staff members to exercise their power by withholding their labour. It puts pressure on university management to meet the key demands of the NTEU and treat our staff with the respect they deserve.

It’s important that as students we acknowledge the contribution that our staff make to the university community. Our learning conditions are directly shaped by the working conditions of our staff. Cuts to the pay and conditions of our staff means less face to face teaching time, more overcrowded tutorials and lectures, and overworked staff who will have less time to mark our work and provide detailed feedback.

We need to support our staff to put even more pressure on the university. Our staff have the best interests of students at heart and we should have their back in return. So on Wednesday join the strike and don’t go to class, visit the picket line to show your teachers some support and join the rally at 1pm.

The second important thing happening this week is the beginning of the SRC elections. I know that most of you are probably groaning at the thought of overly enthusiastic people in coloured shirts trying to talk to you on your walk to class in the morning but hear me out.
The SRC is yours. We exist to represent you, to fight for your rights and we’re funded by your money through SSAF. You deserve a say in who runs the SRC in order to ensure that they are working in your best interests. I encourage everyone to read over the policies of the candidates running for election, visit their Facebook pages, and have a chat to a campaigner on eastern ave. Most importantly I encourage you all to find a polling booth and vote on the 19 th -21 st of September.

ACAR Officers Report – Week 5, Sem 2, 2017

Maddy Ward, Radha Wahyuwidayat and Sophia Chung

Hello and good day. We are mad. Very mad. The ethnocultural space, gifted to us by our Union overlords, has been vandalised, disrespected and stolen from a number of times. Most recently, someone tore up a beautiful poster drawn by a collective member and threw it in the bin. We elaborately reconstructed it with sticky tape and fury, so suck on that racists. We’ve found empty Heineken bottles, mess and white people in the space on a number of occasions- most recently an OB had to boot two of the latter out of the space at once, one who was playing dungeon and dragons and the other watching ultimate frisbee. Also, stop stealing our furniture. Who the fuck steals a futon?

On a lighter note: we’ve got some real fun shit coming up. We have a poetry and dance night for verge festival, which is currently seeking performers! If you’re a poc and you dig poetry and dancing please sign up. We’re also releasing a cookbook! Submissions for recipes and family stories close in late week six. You should submit if you like food and hate socialist alternative, who think cookbooks aren’t real activism. Why miss out on a good opportunity to piss off the trots? Submit recipes, enquiries, and nominations for the variety night to acar.honi@gmail.com
As much as we joke about it, we would really love for people to stop fucking with the Ethnocultural space. This rarely happens to the women’s and queer rooms- we should be treated with the same respect. We get you’re jealous of our lush furnishings and sweet views but honestly you can occupy literally anywhere else on campus. Also, give us back our futon.

Yours in love and rage,
Madeline, Sophia and Radha

SRC Environment Officers Report – Week 5, Sem 2, 2017

The Environment Collective has had a great year so far. Through the NSW branch of the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN), we helped to organise the annual Students of Sustainability conference in Newcastle. This is the longest-running student environment event in the country and was a great success again this year, with over 600 people attending from all parts of Australia. Sydney Uni was well represented with 30 students attending from our campus. The conference featured a wide range of speakers from environmental and social justice campaigns across the country. One highlight was a panel about ‘just transitions’ – a transition away from coal for the Hunter valley region which has historically been economically dependant on coal mining. The panel featured a speaker from the regional Trades Labour Council, giving the perspective of 70,000 mining and energy workers in the area who are often ignored by mainstream environmentalist discourse about climate change. The panel argued that mining and energy workers must be actively involved in a renewable energy transition in order for it to be democratic and equitable, and indeed that the labour movement will play a key strategic role in such a transition happening at all. Other presenters included representatives from Aboriginal groups throughout the country engaged in fighting the environmental destruction of their country, and Greens senator Lee Rhiannon discussing the need for massively expanded affordable housing initiatives in Australian cities.

The Enviro Collective has a number of upcoming events. On Thursday 31st August from 5.30pm we are hosting a screening of Guarding the Galilee, a film released earlier this year which documents the struggle against the Adani coal mine in central Queensland. This will be a must for all students interested in climate change and the climate movement. On-campus location TBC – text Andy on 0467 809 319 for details.

On Sunday 3rd we are holding a bushwalk, visiting regenerated bushland and the abandoned naval installations around Malabar. Contact Andy again if you’re interested in coming along.

Along with other campus groups, we are planning a road trip in the mid-semester break to visit a number of communities affected by coal and coal seam gas mining in the Hunter and the north-west of NSW.

If you’d like to get involved with the collective, our weekly meetings are at 1pm on the law lawns. You can also join our Facebook group, “Usyd Enviro Collective 2017” to stay tuned about upcoming events and opportunities to get involved, or email us at environment.officers@src.usyd.edu.au.

Your 2017 Environment Officers,
Andy Mason, Maushmi Powar, Seth Dias and Jodie Pall.

SRC General Secretary Report – Week 5, Sem 2 2017

Daniel Ergas and Isabella Pytka

As Billy Bragg put it in his classic 1913 banger, ‘There Is Power In A Union’, there is “power in the hands of a worker / but it all amounts to nothing if together we don’t stand”. Billy Bragg got it. He understood that trade unions are formed of, by and for the workers they represent; because, after all, as individuals here at USyd we are often atomised, swept along university currents that we barely understand, much less control; it is only when we come together that we have power.

On Saturday, our teachers and their union, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) went on strike at Open Day. They went (and will continue to) go on strike due to the ongoing enterprise bargaining with the University. The Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) process is a long one – negotiations have been happening for about six months, and, despite the NTEU’s best efforts to come to an agreement, the University refuses to offer anything except a real terms pay-cut (!) and a continuation of the shameful practice of treating casual staff as expendable (denying them a pathway to permanency, or even the superannuation that all other staff are offered). The next strike will be September 13.

Why does it matter that you get involved? It is obvious enough that your teachers’ working conditions – the precarity of their work, whether they are paid fairly for their labour, and whether they are able to undertake the cutting-edge research that our university is known for – are your learning conditions, and determine how much you’ll get out of your time here. But what may not be obvious is that – if you scab (ie. attend class during a strike) – you are signalling to the university that you don’t care that much about the conditions they force your teachers to work under; you are proof positive that the university can do what it likes with impunity.

Impartiality is not an option here. You are either with your teachers – staying at home on strike days or, even better, helping out at a picket line (ie. the entrances to the university where staff and students will stand on strike days, telling students that the strike is on, and classes are cancelled) – or you are against them, weakening their collective power and letting the university get away with whatever it likes. The university needs you. It needs you for the big obvious reasons – you are its piggy bank – but it also needs you for the less obvious ones – for example, you are its reputation; if it loses you, and it thinks that you’ll tell your family and friends that this is a shit-hole, then it affects prospective enrolment, alumni donations, etc. and it is all downhill from there. Your decision on strike days matters. We can win the strike for our teachers, or we can lose it for them.
It is not only because the benefits accrue to you for it (!) but because what happens here, at our university, sets the trend for what will happen at universities all across the country.

Industrial action gets the goods. We all have an obligation to support it. See you on the picket lines.

SRC Presidents Report – Week 5, Sem 2, 2017

This week the FASS Board voted to increase their late work penalties from 2% per business day to 5% per calendar day. Whilst this change will only effect one part of the university, it comes at a time when our University Executive is considering a university wide late work policy.
I can already hear your groans “I’m in ‘x’ faculty and our late penalty is ‘x%’ per day’ or ‘how about you just learn to hand assessments on time”. And I hear you loud and clear, knowing how to meet deadlines is an important life skill, but hear me out. Harsher late penalties and late penalties calculated via calendar days rather than business days are inherently anti student.

Higher late penalties unfairly target disadvantage students who, due to circumstances out of their control, often find themselves having to submit work late. With the current state of the university’s special consideration and simple extension systems, it’s extremely difficult for students with reasonable ground to apply for an extension to do so. We should not be harshly penalising these students. Additionally deducting marks per calendar day rather than business day unfairly targets the many students who have to work on weekends to meet inordinate living costs. Your SRC will continue to advocate for a late penalty policy that is fair on students and compassionate to their circumstances.

Over the weekend your SRC joined the NTEU’s strike action at Usyd’s open day. We’re proud to stand in solidarity with university staff fighting for better pay and conditions. Staff working conditions are student learning conditions. Join the fight to ensure the quality of our education by joining the next strike action on the 13th of September.

Your SRC has also been busy talking to students about how we can win the fight for marriage equality and making sure that students are enrolled to vote in the upcoming postal survey. In order to win we need passionate young people to get involved, get active and join the campaign. Make sure you join us at the USyd says YES to Marriage Equality Rally on Wednesday 30 August at 1pm on Eastern Ave.