Posts for education dept

Education Report: Fighting a uni restructure, funding cuts and Job losses

The University of Sydney discussion paper released just over a month ago on the “strategy” of  “undergraduate offerings” at the university has signalled a massive restructure of the University through the 2016-2020 period.

The discussion paper and statements Vice Chancellor Michael Spence has made to the media suggest that the University of Sydney is to emulate the “Melbourne model”, a model of tertiary education based on the University of Melbourne, in pursuit of a top ranking for the country or region.

What this means in practice is cutting over a hundred undergraduate degrees, resulting in a broadened (generic) education to push more students into more expensive postgraduate study. Already the University is suggesting necessarily extending three-year degrees to a further fourth year, and changing double degrees from “horizontal” (two concurrent undergraduate degrees) to “vertical” (an undergraduate degree followed by a postgraduate degree ($$$)).

These changes would have a big impact on the amount of money you’d need to study here, and appears to be an internal response to a) a very real lack of funding from the government (Australia ranks 33rd out of 34 OECD countries in terms of higher education funding as a percentage of GDP) b) the failure of university fee deregulation to pass the Senate, which included a further 20% cut in higher education funding, for which Michael Spence was a devout and adamant advocate.

Join students and staff from the NTEU and the EAG on the 5th of August outside the Madsen building at 1 PM to protest the hundreds of job cuts this would mean for staff, and on the 19th of August at 1 PM on the New Law Lawns to join a nationwide campaign for better conditions for universities. Get further involved by coming to EAG meetings on the New Law Lawns on Tuesdays at 2 PM throughout semester.

The statistics say it all about wom*n and education

For Wom*n’s Honi, I thought I’d talk about exclusively wom*n’s education things and that brought me around to how much graduates who identify as wom*n earn.

Let’s have a little guess at how much less than men they earn? $500 a year? $3000? Nup, it’s a whopping $5000 less than graduates who identify as wom*n earn in comparison with their male counterparts.

Trans wom*n earn even less comparatively, and there’s barely been any research into it because it’s easy to ignore gender issues if you’ve never had to deal with any.The truth is, trans people are ignored by everyone. In fact, just last year at their annual conference, the National Union of Students (NUS) made the incoherently ignorant decision to pass a motion to remove the asterisk from wom*n for their collectives.

Let me just say that the asterisk is there in order to protect wom*n from discrimination and hate based on the very term they rely on.

Trans wom*n will be the ones who want to join a collective with an asterisk in its name in order to seek support and friendship, and the fact that NUS decided to try and strip all collectives of this statement of solidarity is disgusting.

The excuse given by the wom*n’s officer and member of Labor right faction Unity who moved the motion was that explaining the reason for the existence of the asterisk was too hard.

She managed to ~explain~ to an entire conference floor of students that the asterisk alienated “women” from collectives and was unfair because who even remembers why the asterisk is there and who can even be bothered explaining it because that’s not the entire reason you were fucking elected campus Wom*n’s Officer or anything.

A member of NLS spoke against moving the motion based on NOWSA’s definition of wom*n (a little bureaucratic but ok) and a Grassroots member also spoke out against the motion in defense of trans people, but it passed anyway.

Then someone from Unity got up and started talking about how stupid the asterisk was. And read out a list of words that had ‘men’ or ‘man’ in them to derisive laughter from the Unity cohort.

Because gender issues are funny right?
Especially if you’ve never had any.

Let’s burn transphobic organisations to the ground, starting with NUS.

Defend Civil Liberties on Campus Campaign

Following a well-documented student protest at a talk given by Colonel Richard Kemp on campus, several students face disciplinary action from the University and an academic faces the sack. Accusations of anti-Semitism at the protest encouraged a witch hunt, for which student protestors and a member of staff in the audience are being punished. Importantly, an inquiry into the protest has found that the staff member’s conduct did not constitute “anti-Semitic behaviour”, but they still face dismissal or other disciplinary action for allegedly not treating a university visitor “with respect, impartiality, courtesy and sensitivity”.

The threats to these staff and students represent a significant threat to our civil liberties at university, and the political freedom that is vital to the university community. The University of Sydney has a long, proud history of demonstrating dissent, and a disgraceful recent history of punishing students who engage politically on campus. Too many times in recent history have student protestors ended up brutalised on and banned from campus for asserting their freedom of speech and freedom to protest, whether that be by demonstrating against war crimes, conservative governments, or supporting staff striking for fairer work conditions.

Interestingly, the University also disallowed a Socialist Equality Party (SEP) forum against militarism to take place over the ANZAC day weekend. The university reportedly bowed to pressure from groups associated with ‘The Great Aussie Patriot’ to cancel the event, which has links to the fascists at ‘Reclaim Australia’. The University feared disruption of the event, and formally uninvited the SEP; a risk they were apparently prepared to take when it came to Richard Kemp’s lecture. Give ‘Defend USYD Civil Liberties’ a like on Facebook, and come to their student and staff meeting this Wednesday from 1 – 2:30 PM in the General Lecture Theatre, Main Quad.

Also come to Education Action Group meetings at 1 PM on Tuesdays on the New Law Lawns. The next major action for education movement in NSW will be on May the 12th, 2 PM at Town Hall, called by the NSW Education Action Network – rally against education cuts, course fees and cuts to welfare. We know the score by now and have a pretty good idea what to expect from this government, and will be ready to strike back as soon as the budget is announced.

David Stokes

Continuing the Fight for a Fair Education

First of all, David and I would like to thank and praise those who turned up to the National Day of Action on the 25th of March and yelled, carried banners and exercised their democracy. It was such a touching and energetic demonstration that didn’t lose momentum once all the way from Sydney Uni to UTS and then to
Town Hall.

Speeches on our end were wide and varied, calling from students from the Disabilities and Carers, Queer and Indigenous collectives, as well as members of the NTEU (that’s the National Tertiary Education Union). Having a diverse and intersectional selection of people to represent the Sydney University community is really important to us as we believe Queer and POC (People of Colour) voices have always been foundational to radical social movements yet are also those more likely to be silenced.

With contingents from all over the university community including massive Wom*n and Queer blocs, as well as an incredible Indigenous bloc, assembled at UTS.

The fight against the Liberal government’s cuts to education doesn’t end with the defeat of fee deregulation, something many of us are beginning to believe might actually happen due to the latest Pyne defeat a few weeks ago.

Abbott and Pyne will come back for our SSAF or increase other fees for students, which will only serve to target those who have trouble affording to come to uni as it is.
We can fight back though, and have more fun, creative actions up our sleeves as the year rolls on, so if you want to come to some of our panels or law and Photoshop sessions, please look up the EAG on Facebook.

EAGs (Education Action Group) are held on the law lawns (weather permitting) every Tuesday at 1 and the Ed Officers are always keen for a chat, should you want to look us up on Facebook. Maintain the rage.

Fighting Fee De-regulation

Last week, our Vice Chancellor Michael Spence appeared on the 7:30 Report with Glynn Davis, Vice Chancellor of Melbourne University, and Rose Steele, President of the National Union of Students (NUS). They were there to publicly condemn the Abbott government for tying research funding to the university fee deregulation package. If the package is voted down in the Senate, no research funding will be assured, leaving 1,700 science jobs at risk, and potentially setting back research and innovation projects by several years. It’s outrageous that the government would hold research funding hostage in the name of gutting the higher education system.

At one point, Michael Spence spoke about the fantastic “19th Century” movement for a free, public, secular education system in Australia which afforded both him and the other Vice Chancellor a free university degree. He then made a smooth segue into corporate greed, maintaining the “accepted wisdom of Australian politics, on both sides of politics” is that students should have to front costs, as universities are businesses, and education a private investment. It is important to remember that indeed it was the Labor party who opened the door for more brutal attacks on the higher education through the Gillard government’s cuts to higher education.

Spence argued further that university fees should be deregulated so that universities could compensate for the lack of government funding, and to respond to “local conditions”. Spence basically reckons he should be able to determine how wealthy you must be to study at the University of Sydney. The other VC agreed wholeheartedly; the most prestigious universities in the country encourage competition and consumer choice. Living and studying in Sydney doesn’t permit many a particularly glamorous lifestyle, but the university does offer a whole lot of opportunity. Most students live under the poverty line, but how much more would/could you pay? How many meals will you sacrifice for your education?

Fee deregulation is being heard in the Senate on the day that this edition of Honi goes to print. The government is desperate to broker a deal with cross benchers to get the bill through. We hope the cross benchers hold strong in their opposition, and students have another chance to enter the public debate by demonstrating in numbers on March 25th in the first National Day of Action for higher education of the year, outside Fisher Library at 1 PM. And join the EAG. Now would be the time.

Fee Deregulation – What it means for students

This O Week, sure to be one of my last as I’m close to graduation- was by far the most satisfying. I talked to so many students concerned about what they were getting out of their education and how they can fight for it that I really have begun to feel as though this year will be one of activism’s most productive.

During this time, however, I also talked to some students who weren’t so concerned about deregulation. I was met with opposition and disinterest. Male students talked over me or completely ignored me, and a few heated conversations left a sour taste in my mouth as I mulled over what had happened to make fee deregulation seem so appealing to some.
To regulate something is to open it to everyone and make it equal and accessible.

The deregulation of university fees flies in the very face of this notion. It promises to continue to widen the gap between people of colour, women and students from low socio-economic backgrounds and the privileged class of student (the kind who were overall most in favour of fee dereg) that profits most readily from the deregulation model.

Students are banding together all through this month in order to demonstrate against our government’s proposed cuts to universities. On Wednesday March 4th a feeder rally will be held outside Fisher Library at 1pm in order to educate students on why they should care about the future of education in Australia and why they should attend the National Day of Action on the 25th of March.

This demonstration will be much larger-scale, one that spans all national universities and will move through Sydney from our university to UTS and down George Street and is the best way for you to help the fight against fee deregulation in order to ensure everyone can access education. The hindrance fee deregulation presents will only make the education system in Australia worse. Please come and help us continue the fight, things will improve for students if fee deregulation is beaten and we want to make sure future generations can study like we have. You should too.

Fighting Racism on Campus – Protesting Barry Spurr

This week we organised a protest against Barry Spurr following revelations by New Matilda, which exposed the professor as a bigot-extraordinaire. His vile comments are absolutely reprehensible and should have no place on a university campus. Organising a snap action was important in letting Spurr and the university know that students unequivocally reject his views and demand his dismissal.

Outside the office we removed and tore up the academics name card. In its place, we pinned the more accurate “Barry Spurr, Professor of Bigotry.”
Chants of ‘Racism? No way! We got Barry banned today!’ echoed down the halls of the John Woolley building where Spurr has been intricately crafting his hate-speech for the last two years (at least) as a tenured professor at Sydney University.

International Students’ officer for the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association Maral Hosseinpour addressed the rally to condemn the government in their ongoing racist fear campaign, “They are building a wall of racial hate, xenophobia and misogyny to divide us and rule; to teach us and our children to hate and suspect immigrants and asylum seekers; to hate and harass women wearing Hijab in public; to hate and deny indigenous culture and to humiliate and discriminate against women and sexual minorities.”

[The government] are sending out calls demanding to ‘say something if we see something.’ Yes, we fucking see something, and we will say something, so loud and clear that everybody including Professor Spurr can hear and appreciate its rhyme; say it loud, say it clear; racists are not welcome here!”

Mid-rally we found out that Spurr had been suspended and banned from campus. To celebrate our victory, we engaged in our own “whimsical linguistic games,” with a poetry recital. ‘The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by the academics favourite T.S Eliot was adapted by student protestor April Holcombe into the “The Hatesong of Barry Spurr,” ending with the resolute:

“Streams of hatred fill your odious argument

With insidious intent
To read you surely overwhelms digestion….
Oh do not ask, “What is it?”
With our answer, we come visit.
In his room the students come and go
Barry Spurr: his job no more, my, no.”

Given that this is our last report for the year, we’d like to acknowledge what a brilliant year it’s been for the student movement. We successfully rallied in our thousands, turned our campus into no-go zones for Liberals and are a whisker away from defeating deregulation. Sydney Uni has been one of the key campuses around the country for the the campaign, and we’re proud to have done our part to contribute to the revival of such defiant and vibrant national student movement.

Thanks to everyone who has marched, chanted, and chased Tories alongside us this year, it’s been a pleasure.
In solidarity,

Ridah & Eleanor.

As the legislation is debated in parliament in coming weeks, students will continue to protest to defend our education.

Last Monday evening Sydney university hosted the Town Hall style meeting to discuss the wider university community’s thoughts on fee deregulation and the other proposed attacks to higher education currently on the liberals agenda.

The consensus was overwhelming; out of 26 speakers comprised of various staff member, student representatives and alumni only one speaker spoke in open favour of fee deregulation (the speaker is also the the president of the NSW young Liberals so no surprises there). The other speakers shared moving stories of the struggle many students face in trying to access tertiary education, as well as addressing how fee deregulation will entrench a two- tiered US style education system.

This coupled with a student protest out the front of the meeting and heckling of the vice chancellor spread the message loud and clear: public opinion overwhelmingly opposes the neoliberal restructuring of our universities.

Despite all this, in the following days Vice Chancellor Michael Spence has proven what a sham his tightly orchestrated ‘consultation process’ is. He
has been singing the praises of deregulation in the media, and joined the other Group of Eight University Vice Chancellor’s in Canberra to lobby politicians currently opposed to the policy, which entered parliament last week.

Those heading the elite institutions have partnered up with Pyne in an attempt to attract only the most privileged students in society. Students at Sydney University will continue to protest not only the Abbott government, but our own VC as well, who has been responsible for a wave of attacks on staff and students in recent years.

The Education Action Group held a forum the following day to discuss the strengths of the campaign so far, and where we’re heading next. Senate member Verity Firth addressed the forum, reiterating the detrimental effect deregulation will have on equal access to higher education, as well as highlighting the current inequalities entrenched in the Australian education system.
National education officer Sarah Garnham also spoke about the national campaign, and in particular the leading role that Sydney has played, through active campus Education Action Groups and the NSW Education Action Network.

As the legislation is debated in parliament in coming weeks, students will continue to protest to defend our education. If you would like to get involved with the campaign, come along to the EAG meetings every Tuesday at 2pm on the new law lawns, or send us an email at education.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

2014 Education Officers

here’s message from National Union of Students Education Officer Sarah Garnham

After another successful national day of action for education, here’s message from National Union of Students Education Officer Sarah Garnham who has been overseeing the campaign so far: Well done to all the students who came out to protest on the August 20 National day of action against the deregulation of fees, escalation of interest rates, and massive government funding cuts to education.

The day was an enormous success. We showed that despite the budget being released many months ago and the concerted efforts of the government to distract attention away from it, students are still angry and motivated to protest.

Further it shows that while it’s great that the ALP, the Greens, and PUP have come out to say they will votedown all of the government’s “reforms” to higher ed, students are healthily distrustful of their word and we will continue to protest until we actually see Pyne’s education package defeated in its entirety
in Parliament.

The protests received a lot of media attention, particularly over the burning of effigies of the loathsome Christopher Pyne.
Pyne himself, in his usual smug and idiotic way, yet again promoted our campaign when he said on the afternoon of the national day of action: “Does asking students to pay only 50% of their total fees really warrant burning effigies?”

Well yes it does Chris. Because not only do we stand for free education but also, your reforms will see students paying double if not
triple what they currently do.
Your reforms will also see poor people and women paying considerably higher fees due to enormous interest rate hikes. Your reforms are about setting up an education system which only benefits the rich and where vice chancellors can make super profits off the backs of already struggling students. Your reforms are about setting up a US style education system. There is over 1 trillion dollars worth of student debt in the US and are cent study showed that 94% of college graduates find their debt repayments “unmanageable”.

We will continue our campaign against Pyne and the Abbott government and we will be organising another National day
of action in the near future.

Students will be wishing Education Minister Chris Pyne an UNhappy birthday

Last Wednesday we celebrated Chris Pyne’s unhappy birthday, after all lizard people age too. We wanted him to know that even on his special day, we won’t let up in our campaign against his higher ed. reforms. So exactly one week out from the next education protest on August 20, the Education Action Group set up a stall on Eastern Ave, handed out a bunch of cake, and got the word out about the upcoming protest. Students also signed a card to Chris, mostly leaving an impressive array of insults and curse word combinations. My favourite was the eloquent “m8 get fucked.” Truer words have never been written.

Later that day, the cross-campus education action network organised a protest at NSW Liberal Party HQ. We brought our card, sang happy birthday and even brought a cake to cut and share. The security thugs and NSW pigs were the most discourteous party hosts we’ve come across though. They tried to steal our banners and physically force us out, then even threw the cake in the bin. Bastards. Nevertheless, we occupied the lobby for a while and made our message clear.

This Wednesday is the next national day of action for education. So far this year we’ve disrupted live TV, countless Liberal party love-ins, rallied in our thousands and refused to be silent in the face of the Liberals’ attacks on higher education and welfare. Our protests have made a real impact on the public debate with Labor, the Palmer United Party and the Greens all committing to block the cuts when they hit the Senate. The National Tertiary Education Union also recently published research results which found that around 69% of people oppose the deregulation of fees, making it among the most unpopular measures in the budget. The campaign is also hitting Chris Pyne personally; he now sits on a 50% disapproval rating which gives him the title of most unpopular government minister.

There’s a real chance that we could win, and that the reforms could be trashed. But it’s important to keep fighting and putting pressure on the opposition parties to keep their word.
So join us next Wednesday, Aug 20, 1.30pm outside Fisher for another day of action for education and sticking it to the Liberals.