SRC Presidents Report – Week 3, Sem 2, 2018

BIG NEWS! This Tuesday at 12:30pm outside NSW Parliament House, the “International students need travel concessions” campaign group will be handing over their petition to be tabled in Parliament. See event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/243138486506764/
NSW is home to the largest number of international students studying in Australia — 300,000 in 2017, and the number is set to rise. In 2016-2017, international education raised $7.2 billion for the state. It is now NSW’s biggest service export, and the NSW government is keen to grow it further.

NSW benefits from having international students study here — culturally, educationally and, of course, financially. Yet, it is the only state in Australia that does not offer international students concession prices on travel.
International students pay at least twice as much for their degrees as domestic students and we do not believe that they should have to pay higher transport costs. The fact that they do is discrimination.
Come along with the SRC and international student activists as they hand over the petition to NSW Parliament. Follow it live through the twitter hastag #FairTransport.

On another note, last week we co-hosted a forum with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) on “No to Ramsay, The Myth of Western Civilisation”. Keynote speakers included Raewyn Connell – a prolific author, prominent sociologist and gender theorist, former University Chair at University of Sydney – and Lily Campbell – SRC Education Officer. The event was a complete success and proved that USyd SRC continues to set the example for political organising on campuses in Australia.

Raewyn Connell spoke at length about Western civilisation as an educational concept and traced it back to the early 1900s during attempts to codify the ideology of empire and the idea of a supreme ‘Western Culture’ into a library and curriculum which gave birth to the ‘Great Books’. The curriculum proposed by the Ramsay Centre seeks to revive the ideology of empire and has racism embedded in its agenda. Universities should be a place to challenge dominant ideas, institutions and systems – not a place where billionaires can buy influence over curriculum, staffing and pedagogy in order to pedal racism disguised as appreciation for “Western Culture”.

At the forum we also unanimously passed a motion stating “That the Sydney University EAG and Sydney Branch of the national tertiary education union wholly reject the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. We condemn Sydney University management’s decision to continue with ongoing negotiations with the Centre. We commit to protesting the centre on August 15 and continuing our campaign into the future.”

Come along to our protest against the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation THIS WEDNESDAY 1PM, Eastern Avenue. See event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/398552780634589/
Feel free to email me at president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any concerns or wish to get involved with the SRC. If you are experiencing any academic, personal or legal issues and wish to seek the advice of an SRC caseworker or solicitor, contact us at 9660 5222 or help@src.usyd.edu.au.

SRC President’s Report – Week 2, Sem 2, 2018

SRC President
Imogen Grant

Last week myself, the casework team and the Women’s Officers were busy responding the University’s botched sexual assault reporting portal. In case you haven’t been following the news, the University of Sydney has developed an online portal for students to report their experiences of sexual assault, and has been criticised by the SRC as “unethical and irresponsible” due to a series of egregious flaws. The portal was thrown together in less than a month in order to be released in time for the anniversary of the Australian Human Rights Commission ‘Change the Course’ report.

It also sets word limits on survivor’s stories, only current students and staff can lodge reports, and has no clear safeguards around which staff can access the portal’s sensitive data.
It is clear that this portal is not trauma-informed and does not restore power and control to survivors. Placing arbitrary restrictions on how survivors express themselves undermines survivors and exacerbates trauma.
Total anonymity is not at all ensured, as students must access the portal through their university log-in, with no sense of clarity as to who is accessing survivors’ reports. This also excludes members of the public who may need to report, such as a year 12 student raped at a college formal.

The portal also asks survivors for their gender, sexuality and post-assault therapeutic history.
This is an intrusion and irrelevant to how the University processes the complaint. Students should not feel like their ability to lodge a complaint is conditional on their willingness to have their privacy violated.
Asking about therapeutic history is as appropriate as asking about what medical services they might have accessed post-assault such as STI testing or abortion.
The primary purpose of the reporting portal is for survivors to lodge complaints – not to survey them for internal data analysis purposes.

The Students’ Representative Council pushed for the University to delay the release of the portal and to consult with experts and staff in its development. University management failed to act on any of the major concerns, instead pushing ahead with releasing the portal.
As a result of the rushed release, the portal was released with additional flaws – a student was transferred to the staff not student reporting options. And the link to the reporting portal was broken for days after the Wednesday 1 August release.
We are now in talks with senior management to find out how this occurred and will continue pushing for our recommended changes to the portal, including consultation from experts.

Finally, nominations for the SRC’s annual elections are officially open. These elections will determine the new President of the SRC, the editors of Honi Soit, the councillors for the 91st SRC Council as well as your delegates to the National Union of Students. If you have ever wanted to get more involved in the SRC this is your chance. You can visit srcusyd.net.au/elections/ for more information.

Feel free to email me on president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any concerns or wish to get involved with the SRC. I wish you the best of luck for the year ahead and look forward to seeing you on the streets!

SRC President’s Report – Week 1, Sem 2, 2018

Imogen Imogen Grant

Welcome back to Semester 2! The SRC has been working hard over the break to help students with academic appeals and show cause. I have also spoken at a number of orientation events to ensure that new students know about the SRC.
Unfortunately, the University is still charging ahead with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation in hope to score a deal to establish a racist Bachelor of Western Civilisation degree.

The Ramsay Centre aims to give academic respectability to racist ideas under the guise of celebrating ‘Western Civilisation’ and its supposed supremacy. Speaking to the course content of the proposed Ramsay Centre, Abbott affirmed the Centre’s conservative and Eurocentric vision, emphasising “it’s not just about Western Civilisation but in favour of it.”

University staff have expressed well founded concerns regarding academic independence. Ramsay Centre CEO Simon Haines has said they will review all course content, not hire academics who have criticised Western civilisation and will withdraw funding if they think the course isn’t sufficiently pro-West.

Universities should be a place to challenge dominant ideas, institutions and systems—not a place where billionaires can buy influence over curriculum, staffing and pedagogy in order to pedal racism disguised as appreciation for ‘Western Culture’.

The University is selling control over its curriculum to the highest bidder and turning a blind eye to academic freedom and integrity to do so. The SRC, along with the NTEU, is taking a strong stance against the University entering into any arrangement with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. On Wednesday 8 August 6pm-9pm we will be hosting a forum on the fight against the Ramsay Centre. See the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/489536344793156/
Finally, THIS Wednesday is the one year anniversary of the Australian Human RIghts Commission’s landmark report on sexual harassment and sexual assault on university campuses. The National Union of Students and women’s collectives across the state will be holding a National Day of Action at 12pm Wednesday 1 August outside Fisher Library. See the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/491353347980626/

The anniversary will inevitably see university managements use the report to posture as being at the forefront of institutional reform when, in reality, it’s the result of the hard work of survivors and feminist activists.
At USyd, management plan to launch an online sexual assault reporting portal that they know is not trauma-informed and will artificially reduce reporting rates by deterring survivors.

This portal includes a 10 minute time limit on leaving the form inactive which means survivors cannot take breaks and are forced to write an account of their rape in a single sitting. It also places strict word limits on survivors describing “what happened”, asks for your gender, sexuality and what health services you have accessed post-assault, and there is still enormous ambiguity as to whether the University can guarantee confidentiality & anonymity with a range of staff being able to access the information at the back end, including ICT staff.

The SRC Casework team and I believe that it would be unethical and irresponsible to proceed as planned and, therefore, are taking every step to ensure the University does not launch the portal on 1 August. Having a functional policy and set of procedures, far outweighs celebrating an anniversary. Rushing to meet that deadline undermines the efficacy of the project, and neglects meaningful collaboration, placing survivors in a position where they will bear the brunt of a broken portal.

Feel free to email me on president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any concerns or wish to get involved with the SRC. I wish you the best of luck for the year ahead and look forward to seeing you on the streets!

SRC President’s Report – Week 12, Sem 1, 2018

It was discovered last week that University of Sydney’s two main support hotlines for student survivors of sexual assault have not been working. The discovery was made after a person seeking support was unable to make contact.
Those who called the Student Liaison Officer hotline were given a message that the hotline was “temporarily out of service”. In addition to this, the 1800 SYDHLP hotline has been automatically re-routing callers to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre during business hours instead of being answered by staff.

While the hotlines have now been fixed, it’s not clear how long they were down for or how many students who attempted to make contact and were left abandoned.

Stress and desolation are common feelings for students who are seeking support after a traumatic sexual experience. By creating inoperative hotlines USyd is exacerbating survivors’ trauma.

This is an impact that can last a lifetime. The first response that a survivor of sexual assault receives often dictates how they will navigate their recovery. If that response happens to be white noise on the other end of the phone line, it may discourage the student from seeking any help altogether. Without help, student survivors are much more vulnerable to mental illness. How will students suffering from trauma reach their academic potential, attain their degrees, and regain a sense of trust in their everyday interactions?

It is clear that USyd lacks a coordinated and proactive response to sexual assault which is enabling the problem to persist.

Even when the University does endeavor to provide support, these services are drastically understaffed, underfunded and lack counselling staff with trauma specialist training.

USyd has millions upon millions to spend on new buildings, yet fails to sufficiently resource support services. The University has twisted priorities that ultimately leave survivors in the lurch.

This comes off the back of Universities Australia abolishing the National Sexual Assault University Hotline which was run by Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia. Last year the AHRC ‘Change the Course’ report found that 6.9% of university students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016.

If you have any concerns about University of Sydney support services please email me at president@src.usyd.edu.au. To get involved in the campaign against sexual assault, contact the Women’s Officers at usydwomenscollective@gmail.com.

If you are experiencing any academic, personal or legal issues and wish to seek the advice of an SRC caseworker or solicitor, contact us at 9660 5222 or help@src.usyd.edu.au.

SRC President’s Report – Week 11, Sem 1, 2018

Imogen Grant

On Wednesday this week, students will be re-launching the #WentworthMustFall campaign which demands that the Wentworth Building at USyd be renamed and that statues of Wentworth be removed from campus.

William Wentworth is a colonial figure who is best known at USyd for his role in founding the University. The building bearing his name – the Wentworth Building – currently houses the Students’ Representative Council, AIME Mentoring, and several University of Sydney Union-run facilities.

Wentworth’s broader notability comes from his “discovery” of a crossing through the Blue Mountains, most likely by exploiting an Aboriginal guide which was commonplace practice for explorers. Wiradjuri, Gundungara, and Dharug people had been using the same crossing for tens of thousands of years, and they had even previously been used by other white people.

The route over the Blue Mountains precipitated an explosion of pastoral settlement into Aboriginal land, which in turn led to a series of brutal frontier wars that would last more than half a century.

On 10 June 1838, the Myall Creek Massacre occurred where around 10 stockmen murdered 28 Gamilaraay people at Myall Creek in north-western NSW. The approximately 28 people they murdered were largely women, children and old men. Children had been beheaded while the men and women were forced to run as far as they could between the stockyard fence and a line of sword-wielding stockmen who hacked at them as they passed. Their headless bodies were later cast into a large fire. Testimony was later given at trial that a women was allowed to run with blood spurting out of her cut throat. She was then thrown alive onto the fire. Her infant child was thrown alive onto the fire. Two young girls were raped and kept as sex slaves by the gang.

At trial, four participants were identified by an Aboriginal witness, but the law of the time did not allow Aboriginal people to give testimony in court. To rectify this and allow the white men to be tried, a bill was introduced to the Legislative Council. However, it was defeated after Wentworth gave a speech describing Aboriginal people as “wild men” and comparing their testimony to “the chatterings of the orang-utangs.” At many other points in his legal and political career, Wentworth vociferously argued against Aboriginal people’s right to justice and expressed a hateful bigotry against them, providing a legal cover for the brutal dispossession and genocide occurring in the state at the time.

This campaign is about more than Wentworth, it is about decolonising our university and our education. We must challenge our own complicity in the ongoing colonial oppression of Indigenous people. Decolonisation demands an Indigenous framework and the centering of Indigenous land, Indigenous sovereignty, and Indigenous ways of thinking.

For students that like Turnbull compare the renaming of buildings and the removal of statues with Stalinism… how much more intellectually bankrupt can you get? Not only is it particularly bizzare given the actual removal of statues of Stalin in the former Soviet Union, but statues are not textbooks. They are not attempts to tell a neutral perspective on events that occured. We build them to support a particular narrative that suits a specific ideological agenda.

When colonial statues were built to honour Captain Cook it is a celebration of white invasion and reinforces the idea that Australia was an empty landscape settled by white visionaries who deserve to be lauded. It also reinforces a specific vision of what Australia is and who Australia is for. It is much easier to persist with policies that enact racist policing against Aboriginal people and rob them of their land if your idea of Australia is a country built by white people for white people.

We call upon the University of Sydney to decolonise their buildings, practices and teaching. We call upon this institution to remove the statues of William Wentworth, remove his name from the building on City Road, and consult with local Indigenous communities on finding a replacement name.

Come visit us this Wednesday on Eastern Avenue and learn how you can get involved with the #WentworthMustFall campaign.

Feel free to email me at president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any concerns or wish to get involved with the SRC. If you are experiencing any academic, personal or legal issues and wish to seek the advice of an SRC caseworker or solicitor, contact us at 9660 5222 or help@src.usyd.edu.au.

SRC President’s Report – Week 10, Sem 1, 2018

Imogen Grant

Last Tuesday the Government released the Federal Budget. The Turnbull Government’s budget does the bidding of big business and wealthy while leaving young people behind to face worsening employment, poverty and homelessness.

The budget is nothing more than a short-term political strategy to suit the election cycle, and young people are left out as they are not a prime Liberal voter base. This has been a baby boomer budget which has locked young people out of Australia’s future.
As Sally McManus from the ACTU points out, “buried in the budget papers is a plan to have people on $41,000 a year in the same tax bracket as people earning $200,000 from 2024.” ScoMo’s tax cuts will drastically reduce the progressive nature of our income tax system, which will increase inequality. The tax cuts will flow overwhelmingly to high-income earners with more than 60 percent going to the top 20 percent and 40 percent going to the top 10 percent of taxpayers.

Let’s not be fooled. The reality of “small government” is fewer vital services. The budget fails to properly finance a needs-based program for our schools, universities, NDIS and other forms of social security.

We are facing a student poverty crisis. This generation will be the first priced out of the housing market, underemployment is rife and we’ve seen low wage growth for decades. 11,000 students are homeless and two thirds of students live below the poverty line.
Meanwhile, retail workers earning $600 per week have lost up to $80 per week due to the cuts to Sunday penalty rates. Scott Morrison’s $3.76 per week tax cut to those same workers does nothing to address the structural issues around inequality and stagnating wages.

The Government has been decimating our education for years by cutting billions in funding and increasing our fees. Right now the Liberals are planning to pass legislation that will condemn low-income graduates to pay back their student loans barely earning above minimum wage. They are seeking further budget repairs from those who can least afford it.

Next Tuesday the Education Action Group (EAG) will be having a speak out and stall on Eastern Avenue to talk to students about how the budget affects you! See you there!

Feel free to email me at president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any concerns or wish to get involved with the SRC. If you are experiencing any academic, personal or legal issues and wish to seek the advice of an SRC caseworker or solicitor, contact us at 9660 5222 or help@src.usyd.edu.au.

SRC President’s Report – Week 9, Sem 1, 2018

Imogen Grant

Last week workers from across NSW came together for the annual May Day Rally. The history of May Day is born in struggle and for the achievement of justice and peace for the working class.  And this is more relevant than ever when the attacks from the capitalist ruling class have been coming thick and fast. The SRC had a strong contingent at May Day which centred the right to strike as the key to how we will #changetherules.

In Australia, decades of legislative and structural changes have put workers and our trade unions on the defensive. Employers are tearing up legally binding Enterprise Agreements. Unions that exercise their right to strike face massive fines. Workers face cuts to penalty rates. Wage growth is at historic lows and 40% of Australians are in insecure work.

It is time to turn this trend around and make changes that will allow us to secure better wages and conditions and safer workplaces. This will be achieved by bold action by workers themselves along with support from affected communities – including students.

The ACTU’s Change the Rules campaign deserves support, but it is not enough. There is no prospect that the rules will change in any significant way without a serious industrial campaign by the union movement. That is the lesson of the entire history of the union movement. We cannot just rely on an incoming Labor government to improve the rights and conditions for workers. Both sides of parliament have consistently restricted the fundamental right for workers to withdraw their labour.

The right to strike has never been a “legal” right in Australia but workers have exercised their ability to take industrial action to advance their industrial interests. However, this ability has been seriously undermined by repressive laws that protect employers’ interests and criminalise workers collective action. Workers and their unions are now threatened, criminalised and fined if they fight for their rights in the workplace.

So stay in touch with the SRC Facebook page and follow the left intervention into the ACTU #ChangeTheRules campaign through The Right To Strike NSW who are petitioning for mass delegates meeting and week-day stop work rally in NSW (following the lead of Victoria Trades Hall).

Finally, next Saturday on May 12 there will be a protest at Sydney Town Hall to ‘Stop Black Deaths in Custody’. We know the disproportionate way in which Aboriginal people are targeted by the criminal justice system. Today, Aboriginal people are the most incarcerated group in the world, making up 27 percent of prison inmates while only 3 percent of the population. The SRC will be hosting stalls this week to promote the rally and we urge all students to attend this upcoming protest and call for real justice that will end these killings in custody. See event here – https://www.facebook.com/events/502574550136176/.

Feel free to email me at president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any concerns or wish to get involved with the SRC. If you are experiencing any academic, personal or legal issues and wish to seek the advice of an SRC caseworker or solicitor, contact us at 9660 5222 or help@src.usyd.edu.au.

Presidents Report – Week 8, Sem1, 2018

Imogen Grant

Last Week Al Jazeera released a documentary titled ‘Australia: Rape on Campus’ which focuses on the experiences of international student survivors of sexual assault. The Human Rights Commission’s ‘Change the Course’ report found that five percent (or 7665) of international students are sexually assaulted each year, with more than a quarter of incidents happening in a university setting.

Some international students are afraid to report sexual violence due to social isolation, fear they will be blamed for their assault, and due to the belief that their student visa may be affected. The threat of visa cancellation is often used by abusers.
Al Jazeera also highlighted the results of a Freedom of Information investigation that found 575 sexual misconduct complaints to universities had resulted in only six expulsions. Many perpetrators were given apology letters and even a $40 fine as punishment. It is heartbreaking that cases of plagarism have been treated much more seriously than sexual assault.

The National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 requires universities to give overseas students information about living and studying in Australia, including information about safety on campus and while living in Australia. Education providers must comply with the National Code to maintain their registration to provide education services to overseas students.

It is a atrocious that universities are not giving this vital information to international students and are failing to meet basic legal requirements. It is time for the government to step in and take actions against universities who are failing to act on student safety. If you wish to be involved in the campaign against sexual assault, please get in contact with the SRC Women’s Officers and join the Women’s Collective.

Feel free to email me at president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any concerns or wish to get involved with the SRC. If you are experiencing any academic, personal or legal issues and wish to seek the advice of an SRC caseworker or solicitor, contact us at 9660 5222 or help@src.usyd.edu.au.
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SRC President’s Report – Week 7, Sem1, 2018

Imogen Grant

The Palestinian Great March of Return have entered their fourth week and continued unabated despite violent attack from Israeli military forces. The media and Australian government (including the opposition) is determined to see these events as “deadly unrest”. It’s clear however that the violence comes from Israeli forces upholding their colonial power and defending apartheid state from a largely peaceful mass movement.

The protest was explicitly planned to be a large, non-violent demonstration. Organisers planned their march to stay away from the Israeli forces, and the border. Organisers told Ha’aretz their goal was “to present the Palestinians’ case to the world and not to engage in confrontations with the Israeli army.”

Israel responded with brute force. The army shot on camera isolated and unarmed Palestinians hundreds of metres from their soldiers, posing no threat. All who get within 300 yards are labelled “instigators” by the Israeli army, whose soldiers have orders to shoot them. The sheer scale of the casualties on the first day of the protest is striking, with as many as 16 killed and 1,415 injured, of whom 758 were hit by live fire according to Gaza health officials.

Israeli human rights group condemned the murders: “Shooting unarmed demonstrators is illegal and the command that allows it is manifestly illegal”. So far, Israel has faced little criticism from an international and Australian media uninterested in the Gaza story, or else is happy to go along with Israel’s interpretation of events. But The political price of besieging or blockading urban areas like Gaza is rising because it is impossible to prevent information about the suffering of Palestinians becoming public. The courage of Palestinians fighting against their oppression demands our solidarity. Join this speakout on campus to condemn the Gaza massacre, to demand the Australian government cut ties with Israel, and to support freedom and justice for Palestine. See event here – https://www.facebook.com/events/204196530178448/.

Feel free to email me at president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any concerns or wish to get involved with the SRC. If you are experiencing any academic, personal or legal issues and wish to seek the advice of an SRC caseworker or solicitor, contact us at 9660 5222 or help@src.usyd.edu.au.

Women’s Report – Week 7, Sem 1, 2018

Madeline Ward and Jessica Syed

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