Posts for education dept

Despite the rain over 200 Sydney Uni students rallied outside Fisher Library to oppose Abbott and Pyne’s cuts

Last week was the national day of action for education! Despite the rain over 200 Sydney Uni students rallied outside Fisher Library to oppose Abbott and Pyne’s cuts to higher education. There we heard from a library staff member on the proposed restructuring and what it could mean for the workers in the library, and Sherry one of the International Student Officers in the SRC who spoke about the problems international students face at universities, stating pretty sharply that “international students are not ATMs for the government!”. Hear hear.

We then moved to the Quad, where we took to the precious grass to let our infamous VC know what we think of him and the decision of the Group of Eight universities to propose full fee places for Law, Accounting and Commerce. We also heard from SUPRA Education Officer Tim Scriven and SRC Enviro Officer Amelie while students chalked ‘education is a process not a commodity’ in solidarity with the Sydney Uni student facing suspension for chalking the same message at the strikes last year.
After that, we marched down Eastern Avenue pretty loudly, drawing in students along the way to UTS to join the main demonstration. Hundreds of students from Macquarie, UNSW and UTS were waiting there for us, for another lively rally and march into the city.

Across the country hundreds more students took part in the day, sending a strong message to the government that we won’t tolerate further funding cuts to universities, we won’t tolerate attacks on welfare, and we won’t tolerate the undermining of staff wages and conditions. The fight against Abbott and Pyne is just beginning though. Just last week the Liberals pledged themselves to implementing the conversion of Start-up Scholarships into loans when the take control of the Senate in July.
All in all, the first national day of action was a complete success, around the country and here in Sydney despite the miserable weather.

EAG activist Chloe Rafferty was quoted on the ABC declaring that “They’re carving up TAFE. They’re making the biggest cuts to university funding we’ve seen in 18 years…It’s protests like this and mass actions like the March in March that we need to challenge, not only this government, but the rotting system that brings about these corporate universities.

Hear hear. The anger and defiance that marked the protests put us in good stead to fight the Liberals the rest of their term.

Ridah Hassan and Eleanor Morley.

The Education Officers think that Beauty is on the streets!

A slogan from the student protests in Paris in May ‘68 reads “la beaute est dans la rue” or ‘the beauty is in the streets’. I’m sure anyone who went to the March in March last weekend can attest. Over 10,000 in Sydney, and 100,000 people across the country around rallied and shut down city streets to protest the government in an inspiring display of opposition. Because contrary to what they teach you in Government, voting once every three years for one right-wing tosser or another isn’t democratic. It’s self-evident these days when the results of elections mean we live in a world where Tony Abbott is Prime Minister and Gina Rinehart’s poetry is displayed publicly. Come on. Nobody wants that. The March in March showed us what real democracy looks like. It gave a voice to plebs like you and me, who find ourselves excluded from the pages of the Australian and the Daily Telegraph, excluded from the backrooms and boardrooms, and from the rotten halls of Parliament. A refreshing reminder that Tory-haters are not alone and that we can fight back (and not by voting Labor).  

Last week the EAG hosted Rowan Cahill and Terry Irving in a forum on ‘The radical history of Sydney Univesity.’ Over 100 students, staff members and community members attended the forum to hear brilliant stories of student activism and rebellion.

On the national day of action on this Wednesday, it’s time for students and education staff to March in March. We’re faced with a fraught and underfunded education system, with a further $900 million in cuts on the table. We’re faced with a stone-age Education Minister who wants
to further entrench the celebration of Western values (racism, colonialism, mass murder) in the curriculum, and erase women and Indigenous people from history. We’re faced with attacks on student welfare, which could see HECS increase by up to 40% for working class and low SES students. We’re faced with the Group of Eight universities (which include Sydney Uni) suggesting they forgo government funding for certain degrees like Law, Accounting and Commerce, i.e removing their HECS status and replacing them with full-fee paying places. And we’re faced with the pièce de résistance of reasons to come to the rally: Tony Abbott. Enough said.
Defend your education – PROTEST: Wednesday March 26th, 12pm @ Fisher Library.

See you there!

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.

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

Taking the fight to the Abbott government.

Education Officers, Ridah Hassan and Eleanor Morley

With conservative creeps like Abbott and Pyne calling the shots, students have a fight on our hands. They’ve been in office for roughly 5 months and already they’ve discussed cutting $2.3 billion from higher education, privatising HECS and the removal of the Student Services and Amenities Fee. The Liberals in government is bad news for students.

The $2.3 billion in cuts will include a slashing of $900 million from university budgets, which would put more pressure on the already under-funded higher education system; less course diversity, bigger class sizes and the undermining of general and academic staff conditions and wages. It is predicted that if these cuts go ahead $50 million will be slashed from Sydney Uni. The cuts also include attacks on student welfare, primarily the conversion of the start-up scholarships to HECS loans, which would mean that students who receive the scholarship could now finish university with up to 40% more debt than our wealthy counterparts.

But we’re not going to take these attacks lying down, students need to take a stand against the Abbott government. We need to organize together to demonstrate our opposition, and pressure the government to back down.
And Tony Abbott is used to fighting with the lefty students. In fact when he was a student at Sydney Uni he once warned about the “Marxists…that are operating in the universities.” Well, here we are. And apart from education activism, we’ve also been planning the Marxism 2014 conference which takes place in Melbourne over the Easter break. Marxism is Australia’s biggest left-wing conference, featuring speakers from across Australia and the world, discussing radical history, theory and ideas to challenge the system. For more info see marxismconference.org.

But the first step in taking on Abbott and Pyne is coming out to the education demonstration on the 26th March. This will be an opportunity for students everywhere to stand up for our education, with protests being held all across the country on the same day. Sydney Uni students are meeting at 12pm outside Fisher Library to march as a contingent to UTS where the main demonstration will be held. For more information about the protest or how to get involved in the education campaign contact Ridah Hassan on 0402 667 707 or Eleanor Morley on 0448 029 165 or at education.officers@src.usyd.edu.au.

The first Education Action Group meeting for the year will be held Tuesday week 1 on the New Law Lawns at 2pm.

Tenaya Alattas defends the importance of un-glamorous grassroots activism

Of significance this year to the education department has been the 7 days of industrial action undertaken by staff at Sydney University.

There are many tensions inherent in the traditional narrative given by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and other SRC office bearers including assumptions about the desired return to some previous golden age, or the problems of a promised future itself. More so is the lack of ability to respond reflexively to this period of (class) struggle in anything but a celebratory light.

What one loses in this is the fact that many students failed to engage or even understand the basis of their staff on strike. This is not because students are stupid, apathetic or lacking in empathy.

But for many a student of more pressing concern is:  Where will we live? How will we be able to afford such expensive rent in Sydney? How will we find jobs that pay enough so that we can enjoy ourselves and still live in comfort? Will we pay for rent or food this week? When will we pay back our student debt? How?
So, who’s at fault for the poverty of student movement? Are the student politicians to blame whose activism propped up conveniently around election times? A spectacle largely consisting of drab bureaucrats-in-training seeking to undercut each other on who could deliver the most alcohol.

Is the left to blame? Did the pickets begin to feel like the ritualistic repetition of demonstrations without purpose, a rally or march, operating under a logic of registration of dissent, that if somehow the right number of voices were raised, we would change things.

As Education Officer I think it is important to impress that as a student at Sydney University, we have #nofuture. This is not as mighty or noble an idea of immiseration, nor is it a lofty ideal espousing a return to times once past of #freeeducation. Rather it’s the sober acknowledgement that ‘housing, higher education, debt, no future, your life getting worse forever, unless we do something together as a political project #jdemoley”. Privatising debt, deregulating fees, precarious insecure casualised employment (like that of our teachers) or minimum wage, no collective bargaining and no safety net.

Given that one of the first effects we’ll see from the Abbott agenda is a widening inability to meet basic costs of living, this means projects like eviction resistance, food projects, simple, less glamorous activities which are nevertheless the heart of building an effective resistance.

Lastly I would like to express my solidarity to all those arrested during the strikes. With 17 arrests, 11 court trials it not just the charges themselves, nor the outrageous prospect of being jailed for having the temerity to protest but the suspension of life between charge and verdict which is punitive.

Many of those arrested at the strike have not yet faced trial, meaning extraordinary gaps between charge and trial process. In this time, the very possibility of a future, a life, the ability to travel, or to study is suspended. So even if we have #nofuture as part of the left we must come to understand how vital it is that we defend those victimised by the courts, deprived of their liberty, that we do not sit licking our wounds. The strike is not ever over. So, on December 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11 come to the Downing Centre to demonstrate solidarity with those arrested.

Casey Thompson explains potential changes to tertiary education under the new Government

The recently elected Abbott-led Liberal/National Coalition government will dramatically restructure education policy. Whilst Abbott’s final policies have not yet been announced we have a reasonable expectation of the nature of these policies due to Abbott’s, and other Coalition members’, comments on their education policy intentions in the past.

1. The Coalition has stated it will uphold the Labor Government’s $2.3 billion worth of tertiary education cuts (which were intended to fund the Gonski review that Abbott, however, will not fund). (As reported by Stephanie Peatling in the Sydney Morning Herald on April 22, 2013). It has been estimated by USYD management that these cuts will translate to the removal of $50 million worth of annual government funding to Sydney University.

2. Abbott has indicated he will likely deregulate fees for tertiary education, seeing an expected 25% increase in costs.  The Government currently regulates the maximum amount that a tertiary institution can charge an individual for a degree – they place a ‘cap’ on the fees we can be charged. Abbott has suggested he wishes to remove this so that universities can charge students as much as they desire. The costs of subjects has already been increasing however, in the past, it has had a level it could not exceed. The Coalition will allow students to be charged more for a less high quality degree. This will make university education inaccessible to those who are not wealthy.

3. The Coalition has indicated it will very likely privatise the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS). This will mean your HECS loan will no longer be provided to you by the government but instead by a private capital firm. Unlike the government, these firms have as their primary interest profit maximisation, and thus HECS loans will become subject to the same treatment as all personal loans – repayments will include a market-set interest rate. This will mean that if you are charged $2,500 for a subject today, you will be repaying a much greater amount as interest has been added. A Bachelor of Arts graduate currently takes almost a decade to repay their debt; this timeframe will be extended as the debt is ever increasing. This, coupled with the deregulation of fees, will lead to an American-like education system where students are graduating with $100, 000+ worth of student debt. Many American graduates are unable to afford basic life necessities after university as the majority of their income is dedicated to repaying their student loan.

4. Christopher Pyne, the current Minister for Education, will not structure funding and policy in a way that will attempt to improve the quality of education. When commenting on school education  Pyne has claimed that he does not believe that large class sizes are a barrier to quality teaching and has said that attempting to reduce class sizes to improve the staff to student ratio would be a “waste of money” (as stated in an ABC LateLine interview on  July 16 2012).Pyne has in fact stated that he intends for our education system to have less teachers and that at least 43 000 Australian educators should be sacked (as reported by State School Teachers’ Union of Western Australia).

The Education Action Group (EAG) meets each Tuesday at 2 pm on the New Law Lawns and is currently organising a campaign in opposition to the Coalition’s education plans. Please feel free to come along and share your thoughts. You can also find out more about us on

Facebook at  www.facebook.com/SydneyUniversityActionGroup

Tenaya Alattas urges students to get involved in deciding the future of their education

In the last semester the education department has undertaken two actions in support of staff in their ongoing industrial dispute, namely the strike on August 20 and the strike on Open Day, August 31.
But the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has conceded a deal with University management, and the three-day strike, which was to be held from October 8-10, has been called off.

In regards to the USYD-specific actions, the NTEU and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) called a strike on August 20. The Education Action Group (EAG) worked to: a) hold weekly EAG meetings at 2pm on the New Law Lawns, b) design, write copy for, print and distribute material to promote the strike and student support thereof, c) organise legal support and observers (one filmer, one note-taker) for each picket line; liase with the SRC solicitors to ensure they are on hand if there are any arrests; and have a legal skillshare with independent solicitors in the lead-up to the strike, d) liaise with the street medics’ collective to support efforts to ensure that first aid, distribution of water, snacks and sunscreen was available throughout the day,  e) lecture bash in the lead-up to the strike, f) hold working bees to create and design more placards, posters and banners for the day of the strike, g) engage with different collectives, clubs and societies and other campuses’ student organisations who were able to attend and support USYD strike actions and lastly, h) organise a convergence point for students to discuss how to work together on the days of action and publicise this point as an open point for students wishing to be involved on the day.

The strike on August 20 coincided with the National Day of Action (NDA), which organised across campuses with the focus on protesting the $2.6 billion tertiary education cuts announced by the previous Labor government.
The education department was involved in organising weekly EAG meetings; attending Cross-Campus Education Action Network (CCEAN) meetings and designing and making (VERY LARGE) banners for the NDA. Campus-specific actions included holding a stall which engaged in outreach through banner painting and photo petitions for the two weeks prior to the action.

There was also communication with different collectives and clubs and societies to bring along contingents to the strike/NDA with emphasis on using relevant email channels to bring attention to as well as making ‘organisational’ specific banners (for example Queer bloc, Women’s Collective, Greens on Campus, Enviro Collective, and the ECOP and Fabian societies). The University of Sydney Union (USU) also helped out on the day with  Board Director Bebe D’Souza and

Vice-President Tom Raue handing out USU-subsidised water and sandwiches to picketers at each entrance.
There was also a legal collective organised fwhich used the cameras provided by the SRC to film and take notes from each picket with the intention of compiling evidence of police misconduct in the event of police endangering student safety. There was one student arrest made on the day, and as usual the police acted disproportionately and arbitrarily. The legal collective collected details of people with cameras and a solidarity contingent went to Newtown police station to welcome back the political prisoner.

On August 31 the education department was also involved in organsing in solidarity with the NTEU who were on strike on Open Day to ‘Reclaim USYD’. This involved disrupting the University’s official public image as one which has the lowest staff satisfaction rate and an administration prone to calling in the Public Order and Riot Squad (PORS) on students who express political dissent on campus.
The actions on the day were centred on causing a ruckus by having a roaming picket and handing out copies of Vagina Soit, disrupting lectures and chalking to raise awareness of some unhappy USYD students. The NTEU and CPSU have engaged in a long-drawn-out and tough fight with University management. I commend their tenacity and appreciate their support to students involved in supporting the staff actions. If people are interested in becoming engaged with education issues on campus, please come to the EAG meetings which are held at 2 pm on New Law Lawns on Tuesdays.

One of the SRC Education Officers gives her reflections on the strike campaign. (Not the Education Officer Tenaya Alattas)

On the 8-10th of October the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) will once again be taking industrial action. The members of the NTEU (casual and academic staff at Sydney University) will be stopping work for these three days and encouraging students not to go to class in an act of protest against the University’s current treatment of its staff. The NTEU is doing this because they believe our staff deserved to be treated with dignity and respect in their workplace, and deserve to be paid a respectable wage so they can afford life’s necessities, like food, shelter, clothing, and so on.

The NTEU is also taking this action as they believe students deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and deserve to receive world-class education. Students cannot receive the level of education they deserve if their staff are treated poorly. Staff working conditions really are student learning conditions.
You can’t exploit people and expect wondrous results, just like you’d cry out in protest (rightly so) if your boss overworked and exploited you and then complained that your productivity hadn’t increased.

If you want to take this down to its most basic (and crude) level – a car won’t run if it doesn’t have petrol in its tank and its engine isn’t looked after. The driver can’t expect results if he does not do this, just like bosses of all sorts cannot expect results if they mistreat and exploit their staff. The product or service these workers produce will not be of a high quality if the workers themselves are not looked after. This is obviously not even beginning to consider the most important argument here that these are human beings that deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, no matter what their occupation (and whether they have one or not). However, if you wish to look at this only as an economic debate, you’ll see that it is actually in the University’s interest to agree to the union’s requests for respect and dignity at work.

I feel extremely uncomfortable comparing the incredibly talented and hardworking staff at our university to cars or machinery of any sort. However, I fear that is how the University views them – as cogs in their machine. So, I have two requests to the University management. Firstly, to realise that you can provide the best service possible (providing quality education to the current generation) when you nurture and respect your employees. And secondly, and even more importantly, that you start treating these people as more than just workers. They are first and foremost human beings, like yourselves. Human beings that are entitled to fundamental rights, and who won’t stop until they get them.

If you agree with these sentiments, please consider not going to class. You may be hesitant about supporting the NTEU’s campaign, and joining the strike, due to the behaviour of some of the students involved in previous strikes. The, so called, “rolling-picket” may have come into your lecture, where the protestors turned off the lights, shut the doors and stood at the front of the theatre yelling and screaming at you. Understandably, this could leave you less than enthused about the campaign. I want you to know that this is not what the campaign is about and this is definitely not what the NTEU is about and not what many in the SRC are about.

This is not militant industrial action that ‘politicises the masses’, as those involved may have tried to sell it to you as, it’s nothing but the quickest way to alienate the students that would have otherwise considered supporting the campaign. Those that claim they’re being militant with actions like these misunderstand what militancy is and misunderstand what unionism is. They misunderstand collectivism and solidarity.

Unionism is about everyone coming together for the common good, to protect everyone’s interests and ensure all workers are treated with respect and dignity and are fairly compensated for their labour. Militancy is about passionately defending workers’ rights and ensuring that bosses are not allowed to get away with exploitation, it is about demanding fundamental human rights are upheld. It is about the strategic use of industrial action and direct action. It is not about abusively yelling and screaming at those who do not yet understand what the campaign is about, and are not responsible for any mistreatment of the workers. However, it is not really ever about abusing people. It is about collectively coming together to strategically use industrial action to have our rights upheld. Many misunderstand the term militant industrial action and misunderstand the best ways in which to explain the union’s demands to potential supporters.

If you have been treated in this way, I am sorry. Not because of personal responsibility of this “flying picket” (because I have never participated in it, and in fact have argued passionately against it at all points of the campaign). I am sorry because this is not what unionism is about and I am sorry that this was, for many of you, your first experience with unions and industrial action. This is not what unionism, militancy or industrial actions are about – not in any sense of the words.

Abusive actions are not what the NTEU is about and not what I, as one of the two SRC education officers, are about. I hope this report clarifies slightly what the campaign, and unionists, are really about. I’m for helping the most vulnerable; i’m for equality, respect and dignity. I’m for everyone having his or her fundamental human rights upheld.  If you too, share these values, please realise you can support the campaign without endorsing the behaviour of a minority (albeit a very loud minority) of individuals involved. They do not represent the campaign.

If you’re for equality, collectivism and respect, and you will passionately defend those values, – you’re a true militant unionist.

Names were ommitted from this article due to SRC Electoral regualtions.

Tenaya Alattas talks about free school and collective strength

At the University of Sydney the struggle for worker’s conditions has been at the forefront of education campaigns; with student-run protests guided by an allegiance to staff. In 2012 we saw mass rallies, petitions, a referendum and an occupation to fight against the decision of VC Michael Spence to fire 350 staff. 2013 has been marked by the NTEU and CPSU industrial dispute; with students linking arms with staff to ensure them better wages, conditions and job security

There comes a point, however, when the need to reflect becomes necessary. Problematically, participating in industrial action is increasingly underpinned by the threat of violence- more injuries, more arrests. Already this process is marring livelihoods of picketers with expensive (fines and barrister costs) and elongated court cases swallowing up time and even hopes of their future. I think it is important at this point in time to reflect WHY are we throwing ourselves in front of cars and police with guns and WHAT is it that we are trying to defend.

Across Australia, universities have been engaged in similar struggles with staff to rally against cuts to courses, degrees and staff. Interestingly there are also three well-established Free Schools: in Brisbane, the University of Wollongong and the University of Melbourne. Each of these starts from a point of defence- against the user-pays, outcome based (whether career or degree), and hierarchical (by subject, by constant rankings on tests etc.)- Form of education, which characterizes the neoliberal university. However it is important to note that they are also a form of offense insofar that they offer an alternative platform to learn which is free, accessible, and not bound by course curriculums and constant testing.

It offers its participants an unmediated form of education. Learning for education’s sake and not as a means to an end. I think one way in which to deepen the bonds between staff and student is to realize what is this university that we are trying to defend. More so it is important to note that there has been no ‘golden age’ of the university – it has never been an institution in the common interest. So I think its time that Sydney starts capitalizing on the current context of political unrest, of the whittling away of barriers between staff and students and the camaraderie on the picket line that unites those for a cause and against management (economic) and police violence. By establishing collective strength and rejecting the binary inherent to the profit driven model of higher education, integrated student/staff/faculty groups and actions can effectively organize towards an alternative non-market paradigm of education. If you are interested in getting involved in starting up a free school at Sydney University please contact

education.officers@src.edu.au