Posts for education dept

Tenaya Alattas wants to see you at the Open Day strike

Last week on the 18th of August the  NTEU and CPSU engaged in their sixth day of industrial action; and true to form the police stood behind the picket lines ensuring vechiles have a save and uninterrupted passage into the university. Yep, the NTEU and CPSU haven’t got there pay rise, Micheal Spence is still being uncompromising and staff and students still hold pickets to protect staff working conditions and our learning conditions. With one arrest on the student picket on and outrage palpably manifest banding together against the arbitrary nature of arrests: the take home message of the 18th is an injury to one is an injury to all.

“On August 31 thousands of potential students will be flocking to Sydney Uni for the annual Open Day. A strike is already planned. It’s time to bring the industrial dispute to a bigger audience!

Since Michael Spence became Vice-Chancellor Sydney Uni management has tried to sack hundreds of staff and slash wages and conditions. At the same time, they have invested hundreds of millions into campus infrastructure – cos at Sydney Uni management values buildings over people.

This is our opportunity to show prospective students what the USYD ‘experience’ is really like.

A series of actions will take place throughout the day. Everyone should help out.

Most importantly, a tent city will be set up in the Quadrangle from 7.00am on Open Day, to disrupt the functioning of the event.

Other actions that we’re planning include:
1. A ‘Banned Bloc’. Several of the students and workers who have been banned from campus in the course of the industrial dispute will congregate in the quad and invite the police to arrest them in front of hundreds of potential students.
2. Wheat-pasting the uncensored front cover of the banned issue of ‘VaginaSoit’ all around campus
3. Sydney Uni Theatre!
– the ‘Johns College experience’: imitating the fun times that students have at Sydney Uni colleges; hazing, drink spiking, sexist graffiti, wooo! Let’s mock these sexist bastards.
– Dramatic re-enactments of riot police brutalising students in true USyd style. Bring pig masks.
4. We will burn an effigy of Michael Spence and give a Spence piñata a well-deserved beat down.
5. If Spence dares show his face we will chase him across campus like at La Trobe
6. Invading seminars and talks and disrupting them.
7. Chalking and postering up a storm. Let’s write slogans and put up posters that express our disgust at USyd management.
8. We’ll hold a political cricket match on Eastern Avenue during the day, where we’ll hit Spence for six.
Invite all your friends. We’d love folks to come up with their own action ideas! Let’s fuck up Open Day!!”

education.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

Tenaya Alattas can’t forgive the Public Order and Riot Squad

The violence that occurred on the five days of industrial action at the University of Sydney last semester will not soon be forgotten: police deployments by the administration effectively militarized our campuses; picketers (students and non-students alike) were arrested en masse; a staff member suffered internal damage to her liver; a students head was stomped on, community members/ union representatives were beaten and maimed by punitive riot cops; and there was also the emotional wounds, the psychological trauma that lingers long after the physical bruises have healed. All this because students, staff and community members held picket lines in order to refuse the privatization of their universities, as do students in Europe for weeks, without any police response whatsoever.

Another consequence of the police violence is that the original political message – in the case of the students, the project of defending the rights of staff through strike action—has been drowned out by discussions about “violence,” about who gets to be a “good” or a “bad” protester. The former was the student caught up in the heat; the latter was the ‘outside agitator’ or professional protestor who knew what to say (or what not to say) when questioned by the police. My point here is that whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’ protester the police were interested in the potential violence on the picket as opposed to the violence the picketers experienced. And this is not to say that this violence is not new; it is only that for many of us, it has remained invisible at the University of Sydney. The ‘scuffle’ is the reappearance on campus of what the NSW police and the Public order and Riot Squad (PORC) do every day to poor people — without video cameras (or I-phones) present, without stories in the Guardian or letters from concerned faculty. And at USYD too the handcuffs, capsicum spray, pistols, horses, vans and those creepy leather gloves have became an extension of the bureaucratic violence of the administration.

With the next strike on the 20th of August I think it is important to stress that there can be no dialogue with the threat of violence. The VC is terrified of losing control in his ability to undermine the working conditions of staff, ‘welcomes the assistance’ of the police presence on campus and is ready to turn the riot police on anyone who dares to raise their voice in protest. But this isn’t dialogue with the riot police in the background, as they form a line, smirk, slip on their leather gloves and tell us to “get ready for the beat down”. However, I refuse to smother my rage, cover my wounds and smile as I submit to further exploitation. I hope to see you at the picket lines 7 am, August 20th.

education.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

Are the staff really striking AGAIN? asks Casey Thompson

Yes. The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) are taking further industrial action on June 5 2013. As before, it will be a twenty-four hour strike, and pickets will be at every main entrance from 7am. Many students have expressed that they’re annoyed and angry at the continued industrial action, but to let you in on a secret – so are the unions. Staff, whether academic or general, don’t want to have to continually take industrial action for their basic rights. Every day a staff member strikes they don’t get paid. Therefore, you can imagine that this is amounting to a lot of lost pay, and a lot of rent, grocery and medicine money foregone.

Sydney University staff are in the tertiary education profession because they love researching and helping students learn. Every day they strike is a day they don’t get to do this. No one particularly enjoys industrial action, and in an ideal world it wouldn’t be necessary.

However, it is unfortunately continually necessary at Sydney University as Michael Spence refuses to grant staff the basic conditions and pay levels that they require to successfully carry out their professions. Spence can afford to deliver an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) that does both of these things. Sydney University has a $93 million surplus. Therefore, even with the federal government funding cut of $45 million to Sydney University, Spence is still left with $48 million in savings to improve staff conditions and the quality of education that our institution delivers.

Please don’t go to class on the 5th of June, and even consider joining your staff and fellow students on the picket lines. The more successful this strike is (i.e. the less students that go onto campus and thus the more it brings the functioning of the university to a halt for the day) the more seriously Spence will take the unions’ EBA demands and the unions themselves as key stakeholders at the bargaining table in the future.

Therefore, the more successful the strike the quicker Spence will be at meeting the unions’ demands and industrial action will not be required in the future.

The primary purpose of this industrial action is not permanent disruption to the university, or to your education, it is temporary disruption that will help create a better quality education for all students in the long term.

Please consider sacrificing one day of your education to save your whole degree.

Bad working conditions for your staff mean bad conditions for your education. Please help us demand the quality education we deserve.

Tenaya Alattas reports back on the police violence at last week’s pickets

Contrary to the media’s portrayal of the ‘scuffle’ between police and strikers, on the 14th of May, the riot police used excessive force, which was not commensurate with the threat.

This is not an isolated incident. It is not an exaggeration to say that the fear that the police would kill a student, teacher or community member was real: a head hitting concrete, a lung punctured from being squashed or headlocks evolving into strangulation were incidences of real violence which played out in front of my eyes time and time again. Sometimes the only thing marking the difference between the life or death of us picketing was the solidarity of the people who stood alongside you on the picket lines as we yelled, screamed and tried to grasp each other out of the vice-like grip of police repression. Yesterday I saw a police officer on King St and the powerlessness and hopelessness which enveloped me reduced me to tears, as I gasped for breath and shivered in fear and I realized the trauma they inflict upon me and my friends is not only manifested in physical symptoms.

And I know the VC will turn a blind eye. He has already testified to his ability to stand by idly as a student’s leg was broken, a staff member is suffering internal bleeding in her liver, and students were trampled on, beaten, bruised and emotionally traumatised. They will say how ‘scared’ the riot police (with their tasers, batons, and protective gear) had been by whichever (unarmed, unprotected, weaponless, often very young) protester. They will ban people from campus, engage us in lengthy court procedures and have the media (and social media) shame people.

But I know for a fact that those I work with in the SRC, in the EAG, Honi, Grassroots, SLS and SWA are made of stronger stuff, and the bonds formed at picket lines, however fracticious are difficult to erode.

We already have 500 signatures to ‘get cops off campus’; we will issue a formal complaint to the Ombudsmen; we will hold legal work-shops and support training for students suffering trauma; we also have an action planned for this Thursday, 1 pm at Fisher Library to show the VC we do not want police on campus.

More so we will work with the NTEU, CPSU and other unions and collectives interested in supporting ongoing industrial disputes at USYD.

The next strike is on the 5th of June and I urge you to come to the picket lines, to support our staff and importantly, to protect our democratic right to protest.

 

Casey Thompson debunks some myths about the upcoming strike

With the National Union of Students’ (NUS) ‘Budget Day National Student Strike’, and the Sydney University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU)/ Public Service Association (PSA) enterprise bargaining campaign strike, both having occurred on Tuesday May 14, there are some things that I thought needed to be clarified.

ONE: What if I didn’t attend my classes on the strike day?
FICTION: Your teachers keep telling you that if you didn’t attend class on the strike day you’ll fail your course/ lose marks/ no one will ever love you again because your life will become a failure.
FACT: “No student will be penalised if their class does not take place or if they are unable to attend their class” (Derrick Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor). This statement was sent to every student’s university email, so if you don’t believe me check your inbox!

TWO: But my teachers didn’t tell me that they’d be on strike?
FICTION: University management told you that your staff would have notified you if they’re striking, so if they didn’t tell you and your classes didn’t go ahead because they were on strike they’ve done something wrong.
FACT: Under law employees do not have to declare if they are taking industrial action prior to this action occurring, therefore your staff do not have to have notified you. Employees have the right to anonymity in their involvement in industrial action and with their union membership.

THREE: Are the staff greedy? Can the University afford the unions’ demands, especially with the recent $2.8 billion in federal funding cuts?
FICTION: University management are saying that they would like to grant staff the 7% per annum pay increase, but that they can’t afford it, particularly now they will be losing $45 million in government funding.
FACT: The University currently has a $93 million budgetary surplus and the Vice Chancellor receives an annual salary of nearly $1 million (not including the $100 000s worth of bonuses he awards himself).
The requested 7% per annum pay increase is more than feasible if Spence accepts a lower salary (the average individual’s salary is around $80 000 per annum), because even with the federal funding cuts the University will still have a $48 million surplus left over!

FOUR: Is the University arguing in good faith and attempting to reach an agreement?
FICTION: The University is claiming that it has been attempting to negotiate but the “union does not amend its position”.
FACT: The NTEU and CPSU/PSA are attempting to reach an agreement as soon as possible. They have asked the university to agree to a thirty day time frame so that the University can function as usual, however management refuses to agree to this.
No one particularly enjoys strike action; staff lose pay and students miss out on a day of learning.
The unions have proven their demands are reasonable and will still leave the University with an enormous cash surplus.  Management are the ones unfortunately delaying the bargaining process by (for one example) originally agreeing to reinstate review committees and then backing out of this promise, requiring the negotiation process to start again.

FIVE: How does not going to class help my education?
FICTION: My education is worse off if I don’t attend on a strike day.
FACT: The staff have been taking industrial action because the quality of their working conditions and the quality of your education are under threat. The EBA management wants to introduce will lead to less staff and more students, thus you’re lectures and tutorials will become more and more overcrowded. It will increase the number of casual staff at the University, meaning your teachers are only paid for their ‘face-to-face’ teaching time and thus will find it difficult to adequately prepare for classes and offer you the support you need (and deserve!). The students at Sydney University took industrial action in support of their staff as well as with students around the country in opposition to the $2.8 billion government cuts delivered in the budget yesterday. Yes, missing out on a few days of class due to recent industrial action isn’t ideal and as I said the staff wouldn’t be taking strike action and losing pay if they didn’t have to either. However the strikes send a strong message that we won’t accept $2.8 billion in government funding cuts and we won’t accept an unfair EBA at Sydney University, because both will have a devastating effect on our education.
Therefore, sacrificing a few days this semester is worth it if it allows us to have the high quality degree (read: several years worth of education) that we deserve.

Tenaya Alattas wants to take Class Action in a safe environment

Class Action is a network formed to address the current crises in our education system. Its political impulse is caught in its title: class action. It begs the question though, is ‘class’ the primary axis on which to measure our oppression, understand our experiences and hope to be liberated from through grassroots organising? Or does the title belie something more insidious, an assertion perhaps of the primacy of class, with oppressions (of gender, race, abilities etc.) relegated to a secondary role, seen as an effect of class struggle (rather than an experience within it’s own right)?

For the organisers of the conference, facilitating a convergence for the radical left was a momentous task on its own accord. Coordinating the accommodation for those travelling inter-state (thank-you STUCCO), making healthy-vegan food for attendees (on a campus whose outlets are privatized outside of our pay-range and no communal space to access to fridges, sinks and stoves) and organising an open spaces-open-mic night, documentary viewings, party-planning, drafting safer-spaces policies, grievance collectives/conflict resolution models, creating the program (40 workshops, plenaries, strategic all-in’s) etc. etc. and ending it all with the creation of a national education-activist network. It follows that wrangling with the complexities of recognition/identity politics vs. class and distribution took the back-burner during those four days.

It is important that I clarify that the question I raised earlier is not leveled at the semantics of the title ‘class action’, but rather to stress that for us to fight for a (better, different, alternative) education, it is important for us to prefigure the world we want to create through our own actions and organisations. Therefore, for ‘Class Action’ to be a network, which is truly inclusive, participatory and capable of effecting radical change, it is important for the members to recognize that oppressive behavior will occur in our networks and is not always “out-there”. On the corollary it is important to stress that the goal of a safer environment under-writing ‘class action’ is to not police people’s language and behavior, or to be the best at safer space, but to support each other in challenging some deeply engrained cultural and economic systems.

In fact, given the prevailing cultures of racism, sexism, transphobia and ableism in an oppressive economic system it would be a miracle if we had not taken on (or internalized) ways of behaving that oppress others and ourselves.  So rather than arguing whether these ‘isms’ do exist; or viewing ‘gender, race etc’ as ‘divisive’ issues, the organising collective designated the conference a safer space, to make explicit the political decision to prioritise the voices of people who are usually silenced. In fact, we only have to look around us in our classrooms and in our activist circles to see that they are dominated by white, cis-gendered, middle-class university students.

To this end, I will finish this report with a shout-out to some of amazing organisers I had the pleasure to help realize the Edufactory vision with, a group of the strongest, most intelligent-awe inspiring, super supportive/talented amazing wom*n : Amelie, Elly, Casey, Clo, Mariana, Brigitte, Nina and Helen <3

Casey Thompson educates you further on EduFactory

The 2013 “EduFactory! – Disassembling the Neoliberal University” conference was held at the University of Sydney from Thursday the 25th to Sunday the 28th of April. EduFactory! saw concerned students from all over the country come together to discuss the current crisis of tertiary education.

University students, TAFE students, staff union members, and education activists from all walks of life, discussed the campaigns that were being run in their own corners of the world. Stories were swapped on the staff and course cuts that have occurred, with some faculties seeing their subject choice reduced by 60%. An ‘all-in’ session of national ‘report backs’ demonstrated to me just how similar all of our experiences are and how systematically our universities are being turned in to neoliberal ‘edufactories’. We used the four days to share ideas, skills, strategies and tactics and to discussion the expected increase of education cuts due to the upcoming federal government budget’s plan to remove $2.3+ billion from the tertiary sector.

Some universities were reported to have thriving activist communities, whilst others cried out for national solidarity to help them establish their dream campaigns and fight their education attacks. Therefore, more importantly than any other aspect of the conference was the fact that we used the time to put all of our ideas together and to strategize how we could best unite to defend our education and to demand the high quality, and free, education that we deserve.

“EduFactory!” demonstrated that there is strength in unity and strength in collective decision-making and collective organising. The overwhelming majority of conference attendees voted to establish a national education network, titled Class Action. Class Action will be a great thing for the future of student activism and more importantly for the future of education in Australia. It will be a unifying and guiding body for future struggles and allow our, often-divided, movement to come together and seriously challenge the neoliberal project attacking our universities and schools.

The establishment of Class Action gives me hope. We can look to the future and see the presence of a strong force fighting for students and their fundamental rights – free, quality education.

Tenaya Alattas writes about EduFactory

Welcome to 2013. Welcome to the university, in which you get to pay for the privilege of your participation (especially if you are an international student). Welcome to the tertiary education system under a Federal Labor Government, looking every day more like a production line geared towards the “needs” of a capitalist world economy. Welcome to a university system that is groaning under the weight of cutbacks and suffering a lack of democratic decision making. Welcome to a user-pays education, where you pay money you may never have for an education that is meant to be a community benefit.

Welcome to your education – to a time when it you have the opportunity to be politicised and critical about what it means to be a student in the current university system. In a society rife with sexism, racism, able-ism, homophobia (etc.) and other profound social inequities, an aim of Edufactory 2012 was to challenge both the political economy and the able-bodied, gendered and racial nature of the educational institution. In 2013, the conference will use this starting point to branch out further into the realms of critical discussion.

The Edufactory Conference 2013, comprising three days of political discussion, skill sharing, and debates on the future of national education activism. Whether its finding out more about international struggles against the corporatisation of the university, discussing alternatives to user-pays education, or plotting mischievous actions that expose the extractive-industry funding tactics of our university administrations, everyone is welcome. Faced with a fucked-up higher education system we ask all students concerned with the current crises in university education to converge at the sandstone enclave that is Sydney University for Edufactory 2013!

Come to the Edufactory Conference:

When: 25-28 April
Where: Gadigal country at The University of Sydney
Registration / cost: $10 or $30 if you’re feeling supportive
For more info: visit http://edufactory2013.wordpress.com or get in touch with the organising collective: edufactory2013@gmail.com

EduFactory! Disassembling the Neoliberal University

From Thursday the 25th to Sunday the 28th of April, the Sydney University Students’ Representative Council (SRC) will be holding the 2013 “EduFactory! – Disassembling the Neoliberal University” Conference. The conference organising collective, of which Tenaya and myself are part of, states that: “EduFactory! aims to bring together radical education activists from around the country for a weekend of political discussion, skill sharing, and debates on the future of national education activism. The objective of Edufactory 2012 was to challenge the able-bodied, gendered and racial nature of the educational institution; in 2013, the conference will use this starting point to branch out further into the realms of critical discussion. More than ever before, Australian students require a national education activism network so that we can fight the neoliberal degree factory that is the modern tertiary institution.With the threat of an Abbott-headed Coalition government at the next federal election, deregulation, further staff and course cuts and the privatization of HECS are increasingly possible threats.The Australian radical left must continue to organize to defend affordable and high quality education and continue its fight towards a system of universal free education.”

There will be over forty workshops run, including: ‘Fighting sexism on campus – building feminism for today’, ‘A radical history of occupations’, ‘Lock the campus: extracting coal and gas from the university’, ‘A history of the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN) and the Australian National Union of Students (NUS)’, ‘The interaction of education and the state from feudal times to neoliberal capitalism’, ‘Invisible Identities: breaking the Heteronormative pedagogy’, ‘Freedom Rides’, ‘Why Capitalism has failed higher education. Tracing the steps of the neoliberal agenda from Whitlam to the Dawkins reforms/ Higher Education Contributions Scheme (HECS) to Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) to now’, ‘Eyewitnesses from the student struggle in Chile’, ‘Refugees, Border Security and White Australia’, ‘The use of police against student activism’, ‘Fuck the media: culture jamming and free media’ and many more!

With the recent $2.5 billion cut to tertiary education, it is more urgent than ever before that students unite to demand quality, well-funded, and free education. Come along to EduFactory on the 25-28th of April and join in the fight back to defend your education!

education.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

Education Activists tell us about industrial action in USYD and beyond.

No apologies. No regrets.

The actions of the last few weeks shocked some people. They went beyond the polite pattern of protest in the university. Many people wanted an argument coherent to their liberal sensibilities of freedom of choice promoted in the neo-liberal orthodoxy. We are expected to maintain a polite relativism but there is nothing polite about the impositions of management and the effects they have on the lives of people that work with us everyday.

If we are as critical and intelligent as we suppose ourselves to be, why do students and staff gain their ideas about what is happening in the university out of the bullshit, misrepresentations and glib summaries from the privileged, self-interested and those completely removed from what they’re talking about? Yes, this includes Honi, the emails from USYD management, student commentators and any other organization or individual that claims to understand or represent the whole or ‘true’ situation. We are not some homogenous mass – we aren’t only students, staff, socialists, anarchists or ‘fly-ins’. And even if we do identify with these labels, we are more than them. We are diverse and complex and we disagree amongst ourselves.

If we don’t have the time to think or talk about this shit, without all these mediators, classifications and generalisations, how are we going to change things?

I am not at university to make an ‘investment’ in my ‘me first’ future prospect, to make an economic transaction. I am here to learn some theory, yes, but also to create social relations upon which I can realize my existence to the fullest of my ability and to conceive with others a future beyond the pressing limitations of contemporary society.

I don’t care if you’re completing your PhD, if you study medicine, or if you get upset and write an angry article for the next edition, you are not above other students and staff that care and take part in the conflicts of the university. Nor can you choose to be neutral in the debate and ‘just want to learn’. Your actions have power and you either undermine workers by crossing pickets or you don’t and if you do, you are a scab. People sacrificed their wages and time; they put their career and their freedom in jeopardy to guard the hard-won conditions fought for by others in the past; rights you enjoy today and will probably not complain about in the future. And if you did not know, you know now.

Wide participation in this debate is needed but it can’t be wrapped in some sexy-hipster-‘feel-good’ packaging for people to consume; it cannot be commodified with wristbands. It cannot be another product in the aisle of convictions, campaigns and causes if it is to be an honest process that sets the basis for a community that creates and liberates knowledge instead of being a space for the spectators and consumers of its marketisation.
Education is a process not a commodity.