Dylan Parker updates us on how our SSAF money is being spent by the SRC

While the happenings of your student Office Bearers may not be the sexiest of topics but reporting what we get up to is definitely important when as an organisation we are funded with your money. So as much as I would love to make every report a musing on the merits of smashing the state or flying the flag of free markets as some do, it is probably worth updating you all on what I’ve been up to in the last couple weeks as your General Secretary.

Regarding the budget, in recent weeks David (Pres), Chitra (Admin Manager) and I have been putting together the budget attempting to transition the SRC through a $70,000 reduction in SSAF funding. In addition, the SRC is undergoing several staffing changes that will impact the bottom line and due to their fixed nature will the need to look at more discretionary elements of our expenditure.

Due to our staffing changes I have along with David been involved in several selection committees screening CVs, conducting interviews, and recommending applicants to Executive. Having been involved in several over the course of the year, I have consistently been impressed by the calibre of applicants.

As a progressive student association, I am glad we affiliate to the National Union of Students so that we have a voice at the table on a national level. Recognising that student interests are best represented when all student associations carry their weight rather than just a select few being involved, I have been negotiations with the National General Secretary of NUS in order to find a reasonable outcome for affiliation that will be pleasing to all groups  Left, Right, and in between.

As a requirement of our final instalment of the SSAF, the University has requested that the SRC formulate Key Performance Indicators for our departments. An ongoing process, while I am open to the use of KPIs I am cautious of their use by the University as an attempt to subvert our independence.

Dylan Parker wants student associations for students

So normally I try not to stray into the overtly political with my weekly reports especially if we are talking on a topic as introspective as our decision making processes. However, this week a concern I think worth raising is the little problem Council has had meeting quorum this year. Now, I don’t want to name or blame any particular people because at different times we all have good and sometimes impeccable reasons why we can’t come. But when as an organisation we spend nearly $39 000 on elections for President, Honi Soit, and 33 Councillors it’s a little worrying that our meetings have hovered around 17 to 18 Councillors so far.

Last Wednesday for the first time in two years an SRC meeting was inquorate and unable to meet. The requirements are relatively straight forward; you need a majority of Councillors elected to be present, not including proxies in order to hold a meeting. I get that people are busy. I work two jobs, study, and do activism off campus in the evenings and on weekends so I expect others to miss meetings here or there. But when as an organisation we are continually on the brink of being inquorate then something must be up

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if we ran the SRC through its Executive. Having been a Councillor, an Ordinary Executive member and a General Secretary I can honestly say Council is presented with a skewed view of the SRC, missing so much of the service, lobbying, advocacy, and publication sides of our student association. In fact, the other side is why I am still involved in the SRC because our casework services, our publications, our lobbying the university, our second hand bookstore, our free legal service, and emergency loans matter to real students in real ways. The SRC should be for students who are struggling, not those with the means to use the SRC for their own pet political projects and campaigns.

Sadly, Councillors spend too much time arguing over frivolous ideological motions wholly unrelated to our welfare or education. Look, nearly everyone has non-student related politics Left, Right, or in between but if you want to argue over boycotting country X, condemning the Government for Y policy, or pass self congratulatory motion Z intended to somehow dismantle neoliberalism, start a club or join a political party. Our student association should be for students and low SES, Indigenous, queer, international, rural and regional, and female students just to name a few are all missing out because our Councillors may not be seeing the point of meetings they were elected to attend.

Dylan Parker thinks you should pay attention to the Union Board Elections

So the coloured T-shirt wearing, pamphlet packed, and down right unpunny pandemonium of Union Board 2013 will soon be upon us and I thought that it is probably high time to mention why you should get involved on the representative side of your student associations.

Look, I get that for a tonne of people student politics makes Saturday exams not look half bad and frankly if that is the case then this week’s report probably isn’t for you. However, if you do care about the future of your student associations, the kind of education you receive and the quality of your student experience then student elections are worth thinking about or at a bare minimum paying a shred attention to.

As someone who has been on both the giving and receiving end of a million 60 second spiels, lecture bashes and caf-bashes I get how frustrating, in your face, and at times just plain shit student elections can be for everyone involved. However, I promise you the poor bastard out campaigning is 9 times out of ten doing it because their heart is in the right place. It takes a bleeding heart to stand up in front of hundreds of people and put themselves out there with nothing but a flyer, a coloured T-shirt and maybe a couple buzzwords to keep them covered.

Student elections matter because if you don’t pay attention you might miss a Liberal sneaking in the back door under the label progressive or a closet anarchist more interested in smashing the state than providing student services. Or worse you only have to look at the disgusting example of ‘Fresh’ at UQ where the Liberals stacked the deck so they practically had to win and then went on to flagrantly spend lumps of their student associations’ cash on their own self promotion. Love them or hate them, student elections matter because they’re all you have to make sure that the people you are putting into positions of power believe in the things you believe in and actually impact you.

Dylan Parker, SRC General Secretary

Your SRC – Delivering important services to students

If there are three slogans I’ve heard over and over across the course of my time involved in uni activism, there are three that really stick out in my mind. The first is the lofty yet frankly ambiguous demand for fair education because frankly fair for the son of a QC in Lane Cove is going to look very different to fair for the daughter of fish shop owner in Lakemba. The second, is the even more amorphous claim of political ‘independence’, a misnomer if I’ve ever heard it. Claiming ideals without ideology, practicality that rejects political pragmatism, fighting factionalism as a faction. The third is student control of student money. Honestly, this too is repeated ad nauseum just like the other two. However, it is by far the clearest message and in my mind the most important message we should making.

I’m for student control of student money not because I think that students have a God-given or inherent right to total autonomy over our affairs free from University oversight and suggestion to run pet political projects around fringe issues or use student associations to stack CVs, but because I honestly think students understand what other students want and more importantly need.

A 21-year-old who’s been screwed over in one of their classes is going to understand that lecturers are more likely to side with an unscrupulous tutor they have to work with, than a student they’re never going to see again. Ask a student a student and an impartial casework service seems like a no-brainer. Ask a uni bureaucrat, and well, it’s got to be put to a cost benefit analysis to meet a strategic plan. We also get that when you want need an emergency loan you might be a bit embarrassed, and might need it on the spot rather having to jump through hoops justifying X, Y & Z.

One thing that really impressed me when I started as General Secretary at the SRC was actually how lean & trim an organisation the SRC is. Student control over student money has meant the SRC has been able to, on a shoestring run a casework service that each year sees more students, a free legal service that will take you from advice to representing you in court, on the spot emergency loans, an Honi Soit that pumps out hilarious papers for you to read every week, diverse activist departments that fight for your rights on and off campus, and a second hand book store where you can pick up dirt cheap copies of your textbooks.

Dylan Parker
SRC General Secretary

Pinching from Peter to pay Paul

As General Secretary of the SRC and as a student I kind of have a responsibility to call it how I see it in terms of Higher Education.

This week, the Government announced a reduction in university funding by $900 million, changes to Start Up Scholarships so that they are repaid once you earn a certain income, saving $1.2 Billion, and removing the HECS 10% up front discount, saving $230 million, as well as caps to tax deductions on self education expenses. These changes were announced to pay for the Gonski reforms.

While three of the four changes are by no means unpalatable, I was struck by the $900 million dollar reduction in university funding. We shouldn’t be pinching from Peter to pay Paul when it comes to education funding.

As students, we all know that cuts are in the Liberal Party’s DNA; Howard cut funding far more in 1996 and Abbott has already announced the return to Domestic Undergraduate Full Fee (DUFFs) places and slashing Start Up scholarships. It’s also clear that the Greens, as a minor political party will never realistically be tested on their promises.

Look, I love Gonski. It’s a once in a life time chance to reform school education funding so that all student’s and especially the disadvantaged see funding go where its needed across public, independent, and Catholic schools. Australian primary and secondary education is chronically underfunded and we all know disadvantage actually takes root much earlier in school education so that sadly, too often only the well-to-do get to step foot on USYD’s sandstone.

I get that governing is about choices, often hard ones. However, higher education is a public good with a clear measured social benefit and just like school education it deserves to be better funded.

In 2013, for students the choice over higher education should be simple. Only one party removed domestic undergraduate full fee places, one party removed HECS concessions for the rich, one party lowered the age of independence, one party provided student organisations with a new revenue streams with the SSAF, one party tripled the tax free threshold so that many students will never have to file a tax return, and only one party uncapped the number of places so that more students get the life-changing opportunity to study.
Sadly, I fear with this announcement a clear choice got harder to see. I love Gonski but we shouldn’t be giving with one hand and taking with another.

Dylan Parker let’s us in to the SSAF allocations

Hey,
So I’ve been holding off on any SSAF and budget related reports until we received more of an indication from the University in regards to our 2013 funding. On Friday, we finally received the SRC’s funding outlook from the University for 2013, so from now on I can get a little nerdy.
In total, USyd student organisations will be allocated $10,203,401 in SSAF funds, with the breakdown between organisations being:

SRC:    $1,420,000
SUPRA: $1,000,000
CSG: $605,000
SUSF:  $3,763,401
USU: $3,110,000
Student Support Services: $305,000
TOTAL: $10,203,401

So for 2013 this means that the SRC will receive $1,420,000 in SSAF funds,  a reduction the $1,493,093.64 in 2012. From a budgeting perspective this means I can begin to finalise the budget for the 85th Council.

Look, I’ve said it before USyd’s SSAF process isn’t perfect. In fact, its not even great. The University has the power over your money and student organisations are forced to play along. Last year we had to negotiate between ourselves over a fixed figure and the University substituted historical funding with SSAF student money. A large new injection should have been possible.

Frankly, the situation is by no means ideal because with new funds being raised the SRC deserves to be better funded. We provide vital services to students and should be expanding them. However, the good news is that this reduction won’t result in any significant changes to our overall operations. Our caseworkers, legal service, publications, and second-hand bookstore are going to keep on being awesome for another year.

Dylan Parker thinks you should join your union already

After a quick survey of my uni mates, unions get a bad rap. They’re either thugs and business busters or unwilling to smash the state and bring on the revolution. All of them agreed that today’s unions weren’t relevant to students.

Look, I totally get why you might think that. With a Murdoch press gunning for them on the right and young radicals shit-canning individual ones on the far left, why bother?

Well, unions matter and they matter to students. They matter because if there is anyone who is going to get screwed over by an unscrupulous boss it’s a student. We work casual jobs, are probably in retail or hospitality, and don’t have the skills to demand a hefty pay packet. Hell, I’ve even been there justifying to myself getting paid in cash, not getting overtime or giving up my penalty rates because my boss is awesome. Fair enough, but in the end it almost never adds up. We even get a raw deal under the law with youth wages, meaning an 18 year old gets paid 30% less than a 21 year old for the same work. Fortunately, the retail union the SDA is campaigning for 100% pay at 18.

A couple of months ago a bartender mate of mine had a pay slip that just didn’t add up week after week. Luckily, she was a member of her union United Voice. They checked it out and it turns out not only had her boss been underpaying her but half the staff there for months. United Voice took the company to court and they paid out the tens of thousands of dollars in back-pay they had been cheating her and the dozens of other employees.

Look, that’s just one story but stuff like that happens all the time and it’s almost always students getting screwed over. Unions are all we’ve got as young workers and as someone who has interned for one I can promise you their people care. We all think it won’t happen to us but when it does, only your union is going to have your back.

Dylan Parkergeneral.secretary@src.usyd.edu.au

The SRC’s got your back.

So its week 3 and classes are in full swing, textbooks have been bought and ignored, and some of us have assignments already (Eughh). Hopefully, you’re killing it and your biggest problem is choosing between Manning or Hermann’s.

However, it’s probably worth knowing where to go if shit hits the fan and you need somebody to help. That’s why the SRC provides a free casework service catering for all of your academic and welfare needs as well a FREE legal service.

Come see a Caseworker!

Providing information, advice and advocacy, the casework department is arguably a core reason the University continues to fund the SRC. We have at your call 5 caseworkers, including one dedicated to satellites worker. You can either drop in or book an appointment.
What’s great about the casework service is they’ll help you with almost anything matters to a student. Just to name a few, academically whether its an unfair mark, getting help with appeals, special considerations or even an exclusion we’ll provide advice and even represent you. Another great thing is that our caseworkers fight for your welfare as well, helping break down the daunting bureaucracy of Centrelink, getting tenancy rights advice so your landlord doesn’t screw you, or even help with international student concessions to figure out if your actually any better off.
We also have a dedicated satellite worker that regularly visits Cumberland, the Con, Westmead, SCA, Mallet St, and at Camden campus so if your not at Camperdown your not out in the cold.

Yup, a FREE Legal Service!

You read it correctly, we provide a FREE legal service for Usyd students. Whether its help with a fine, debt issues, or just generally need advice the SRC has two solicitors who can provide help from even the most initial consultation to representing you in court.
The craziest bit is, it doesn’t cost you a cent. Hopefully you won’t need our solicitors but hell shit happens.

Dylan Parker
SRC General Secretary