Vice President’s Report – Welcome Week 2019

Dane Luo and Wanlin Chu

Hello and welcome to USyd! We’re your Vice Presidents for this year. We just celebrated the Lunar New Year of the Pig. And we will be running exciting events throughout the year, starting with the SRC’s Welcome Week stall (please come say hi!).

The SRC is here to help YOU! Our CASEWORKERS are professional and experienced staff who can assist you with academic issues, Centrelink, tenancy, show cause and tax help. Our LEGAL SERVICE has dedicated solicitors that can help with court appearances, fines, consumer rights, employment law, witnessing documents, visa related and migration matters. These services are FREE, independent and confidential.

We know that going to University doesn’t come cheap! The Government funds a proportion of course fees for all domestic undergraduate and some domestic postgraduate students. But students are still expected to pay a fee. You can either pay it upfront or (like most students) defer payment through HECS-HELP. HECS-HELP is an interest-free loan scheme where you don’t need to pay until your income exceeds a threshold that is adjusted to inflation.

To apply for HECS-HELP, you need to apply before the ‘census date’ (Sunday 31 March 2019 for semester 1):
FIRST, check your eligibility. HECS is available to all students with a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP). All domestic undergraduate students are eligible for a CSP, and if you’re unsure that you meet these requirements, you can check your eligibility at http://bit.ly/2DiMCUc.
SECOND, apply for a Tax File Number (TFN) at https://bit.ly/1VltRCj if you don’t already have one – your enrolment will be invalid without it and your application for HECS will ask for it.
THIRD, log on to Sydney Student then go to My Finance > Your Finances > Government forms and fill out a Request for Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP form.
In addition to course fees, there is the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) – a portion of which goes to the SRC. The SA-HELP program allows you to defer this amount just like the HECS-HELP program. To do this, follow the same steps and fill out a Request for SA-HELP assistance form on the same page in Sydney Student.

If you need any help with any of these payments you can email help@src.usyd.edu.au and a caseworker will be happy to give you advice. Or if you would like get involved in SRC events or campaigns, feel free to email us at vice.president@src.usyd.edu.au.
Good luck for the year ahead!

Dane and Caitlyn

Vice President – Week 4, Sem 1, 2018

<em>Adriana Malavisi</em>

With all SRC departments working hard to ensure a great welcome to Uni for first years and any new collective members, it’s been a busy time for all of us. Some of the keen readers may be aware of an initiative I’m working on tentatively titled Services Week. Breaking ground on the “Services Week” has been a rewarding struggle. Over the past few weeks I’ve been engaging the departments and getting them involved. There’s a lot to be done, but there are also many more OB’s and councillors behind the initiative. I’ve been working on this because the services at the university are subpar, and accessing them should not be as difficult as it currently is. I’m dedicated to this project, and more broadly, I’m dedicated to ensuring students are receiving the help they require, whatever it may be.

Vice Presidents’ Report – Week 4, Sem 2, 2017

James Gibson and Iman Farrar

The University of Sydney SRC Vice Presidents condemn the proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) proposed by the Australian Government, and believe that removing the terms, “insult”, “offend” and “humiliate” with the ambiguous term, “harass”, is highly problematic to Australian multiculturalism and a fundamental step backwards. Many of us are opinionated – and opinions, whilst sometimes controversial are respected. However, for one to act in a way which directly offends, insults or humiliates another based on “race, colour or national or ethnic origin” is a breach of the responsibility that comes with the (implied) right of freedom of speech in Australia, it is a breach when “freedom of speech” becomes “hate speech”. Section 18C as it stands provides a framework that helps draw the line between the two, and whilst it does fall short in some areas, it is inherently aimed at protecting the most vulnerable in our society. The Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs, expressed she was “especially concerned” with the removal of the term “humiliate”, and that the draft proposal in itself was a “highly unsatisfactory… circular process”, particularly in its proposal alongside a rhetoric of fear and the perpetuation of the ‘topical other’. As far as the university culture and environment goes, we will not stand for the justification of empty hatred amongst students, and the SRC would thus like to remind students of the free legal and casework support services available to them. Furthermore, as Vice Presidents of the University of Sydney SRC, we will be attending Walk for Respect on the 31 March @5:30pm at the Corner of Gillies St and Haldon St, Lakemba, speaking in favour of ensuring that these changes to Section 18C will not proceed through Parliament and so encourage anyone interested to come and show your support.

Vice President’s Report – Week 5, Sem 2, 2016

Anna Hush

If you’re one of the three people who actually read this reports section in Honi, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been harping on about Radical Education Week for a little while now. Well, time has flown by, and Week 5 – Rad Ed Week – is already here! I’m very proud of the hard work of activists in the SRC who have built this event from the ground up. We set out to share the knowledge and skills developed in collectives and activist groups with the broader student population, and promote engagement and collaboration between different groups. Although we come from different groups and backgrounds, we share a dissatisfaction with the kind of education that neoliberal universities provide us with – heavily based on theory, centred around the perspectives of old, rich white men, and bearing little relevance to our work in communities towards social justice and liberation.

We’ve created a program of events that we hope will engage the student community, and be accessible to people who haven’t necessarily been involved in activism before. Our events span the spectrum from how to run a successful campaign, the legal knowledge you need to participate in direct actions, and how to work in solidarity with Indigenous communities, to how to file a Freedom of Information request and facilitate a meeting.
Throughout the process of developing Radical Education Week, I have been continually overwhelmed by the strength of SRC collectives like the Environment Collective, the Indigenous Collective, the Autonomous Collective Against Racism, the Education Action Group, the Queer Collective and the Wom*n’s Collective (although perhaps I’m a bit biased about that one). These are all great examples of the power non-hierarchical, collective organising amongst passionate students. In the face of a corporatised university, a conservative government and a regressive social climate, collaboration between activists are more necessary than ever – and our collectives are thriving.
Join us on Eastern Avenue from Tuesday to Thursday to learn about how you can get involved, and come along to our workshops to participate in an exciting, innovatory week of learning.

Vice President’s Report – Week 2, Sem 2, 2016

Anna Hush

As I write this, news has just broken that the so-called ‘merger’ of SCA with the UNSW Arts and Design school. This is a milestone victory for the Let SCA Stay campaign, and shows that coordinated action from staff, students and community can successfully challenge top-down management decisions. However, the fight is nowhere near over: the University still wants to squeeze SCA into smaller facilities on main campus. Sustained action is necessary to keep SCA where it belongs at Callan Park, and to reinstate the Bachelor of Visual Arts as its own degree, rather than collapsing visual arts into the BA. I urge everyone to get involved in the campaign: follow ‘Let SCA Stay’ on Facebook and Twitter, or email letscastay@gmail.com to get in touch with the organisers.

At a university that seems bent on sacrificing the quality of our education for corporate profits, there is a more pressing need than ever to build a strong student movement and create our own platforms for education and resistance that don’t depend on academic structures. As much as we need to fight against further neoliberalisation of the academy, this needs to be complemented by autonomous student spaces and genuine engagement with non-academic community struggles. The SRC will be hosting the inaugural Radical Education Week in Week 5 to promote the sharing of knowledge and skills between collectives and the broader student population. Activists, officebearers and collective members from the SRC are are hard at work organising an amazing program of workshops, talks, skillshares and film screenings that will all be free for everyone to attend. Keep an eye out for the full program – follow us at facebook.com/radedweek, or drop us an email at radeducationweek2016@gmail.com.

Vice Presidents’ Report – Week 8, Sem 1, 2016

The University of Sydney stands on the stolen lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. Although we hear this phrase often in obligatory acknowledgements of country, it is worth pausing and reflecting on what this really means in the context of our learning and our relationship to the University as students.

The academy in general, and USyd in particular, are implicated in long histories of colonialism. Disciplines like anthropology and human biology were integral to the colonial project, legitimising discourses of Aboriginal people as ‘noble savages’ with inherent biological differences to white Europeans. Botany and agricultural research played a pivotal role in establishing settlement in Australia, providing the knowledge and techniques necessary for foreign crops and livestock to be grown here. The knowledge produced in academic disciplines is not politically or socially neutral – it is created to fulfil specific purposes dictated by larger realities of structural racism. As students, we should learn and remember this history.

Despite the lip service paid to ‘diversity’ and ‘cultural change’ in the University’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, university management is not sincerely committed to supporting Indigenous students. Gutting almost half of the units comprising the Indigenous Studies major last year indicates the University’s lack of support for Indigenous education. DVC (Indigenous Strategies and Services) Shane Houston’s decision to fragment support services for Indigenous students, moving them from the autonomous Koori Centre to the general Student Services Centre, undermines the history and value of the Koori Centre as a safe space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Creating safe spaces and providing support for Indigenous students within an institution that has historically marginalised and excluded them takes a lot of hard work, and does not happen overnight. It is the task of students, as well as university administration, to foster a safer environment. You can join the group Students Support Aboriginal Communities, who work on various issues in Sydney and around the state to provide funds and support for grassroots Indigenous projects. Keep up with the great work the Indigenous Collective is doing through the SRC. Think about how your studies can challenge, rather than support, the racist legacies of academia; and always remember that you are walking on Aboriginal land.

Vice Presidents’ Report – Week 4, Sem 1, 2016

It was incredibly inspiring this week to see hundreds of staff and students attend the ‘No Faculty Mergers, No Cuts’ rally, and march from Eastern Avenue to the Vice Chancellor’s office in the Quadrangle. The program of reforms proposed by university management behind closed doors includes vicious cuts to the range of degrees, loss of administrative jobs through the merging of faculties, and hikes to student fees, making education even less accessible to low SES students and other minorities. I would like to commend the Education Action Group for their hard work in organising this rally, and I hope that the student body will put similar support behind the upcoming National Day of Action on April 16 to fight the neo-conservative federal agenda to deregulate the university sector.

In the spirit of free and equitable education, representatives at the SRC are continuing to organise the inaugural Radical Education Week, which will be held in mid Semester 2. We’re very excited to create a program of skillshares, workshops, talks and film screenings to promote peer education around progressive issues, and to foster greater solidarity between different SRC collectives and the broader student population. If you have a keen interest in decolonisation, Marxism, ecofeminism, environmental justice, or any other radical theme under the sun, get in touch at radeducationweek2016@gmail.com! We’d love to hear your ideas for workshops and incorporate them into our program. Keep an eye out for our Facebook page, which will be up soon.

Vice Presidents’ Report – O-week 2016

It’s been an exciting summer beginning my term as Vice President! After the chaos of NatCon in December, it was great to meet all the other members of the Executive and embark on what I hope will be a very productive year in the SRC.

Last November in Honi, Subeta Vimalarajah and I published an article about anonymous marking, and the various biases that can arise from students’ names being attached to their work. Our campaign continues this year: after we met with various academic staff to discuss the value of an anonymous marking policy, the university has now commissioned a working group to investigate the viability of such a policy. I am passionate about ensuring that students’ work is marked fairly, and that staff are held to the same standards of academic integrity that are demanded of students.

Another project that I’m very excited about for 2016 is the organisation of the SRC’s. Inaugural Radical Education Week for Semester 2. Like Rad Sex & Consent Week, the week will have a student-organised program of talks, workshops, film screenings and skillshares.  We want to strengthen engagement between SRC collectives and the broader student population, and promote free knowledge-sharing between peers. If you have ideas for workshops or events that you’d love to see at Rad Education Week, or would like to get involved in organising the week, get in touch — radeducationweek2016@gmail.com.

Getting everything ready for O Week has been busy, but it’s a very exciting time for the SRC — a great opportunity to meet new students and spread the word about all the great things the SRC does. Make sure you drop by our O Week stall to pick up a bag full of goodies and say hi!

Vice Presidents Report – Week 1, Semester 2

You must have set a new record. You’ve found the netherpages of Honi Soit in the first few days of semester. Congratulations. How are you?

If you’re reading this – unless you’re on a misguided search for the puzzle pages (~in some ways, you’re already here~) – you are, if not already a seasoned old-timer circling the drain of academic eternity (welcome!), now a proverbial ‘big name’ on campus. You’ve been at USyd at least one semester, you’ve survived (or, even, flourished) – and a motley crew of new students start in your place. These students will be wandering around our sandstone labyrinth with a bewildered look and a chaotic schedule; and, with your freshly minted ‘experience’, it’s easy to forget that you were, once, a lost soul walking out of an Access tent; or at a lonely desk in a tutorial.

Predominately, students starting at this time of the year are with non-typical pathways – such as mature age or international students. I know I’m often caught carelessly in a little cocoon of luck – ignoring how lucky I am to be at University at the age I am, with the few difficulties I’ve had in my life, with the education I had already gained prior to USyd – and in the safety of that cocoon, complain relentlessly about my tutorial partners’ perceived incompetence; or mock other students who dare to ask questions in lectures. These assessments we make are by no means ‘equal opportunity’. We target these at those with we identify with difference: and we justify it as lighthearted, as purely harmless. But now that you’re back – with all the stature your semesters’ past accord you – you can take those throwaway lines, and their underlying attitudes, seriously. You don’t need to burn an effigy to be that Marxist radical your parents worry you’ll become: realise carefully your own privileges, and talk with students from different backgrounds. Not as a sideshow or as your ‘pet-project’, but as a way of understanding – and, maybe, you can play a small part in ensuring their first semester is just as successful as yours.

Daniel Ergas

Vice President’s Report – Indigenous edition

There’s a page on Facebook called ‘USyd Rants’. True to its name, it is an anonymous clearinghouse for the disenchanted and disillusioned. It is a strange psyche: its currency of approval, likes, ensures that the opinions widely liked are widely shared. Its anonymity ensures unpopular posts disappear without any criticism directed to their author, and successful posts flourish – with their creator, inevitably, accepting accolades from an adoring Facebook public.

Hundreds of rants are posted each day: from tediously specific condemnations (“[t]o the people sitting in the back third of the room in BUSS1030 on Tuesday afternoon”) to strangely generic commentaries on life (“Is God Dead?”, a question I can only imagine was posed either by an extraordinarily angsty teen or a second-year Philosophy student seeking ad-hoc essay help).

Unfortunately, its coverage doesn’t end there. Safe in its namelessness, USyd Rants is a petrie-dish for the self-declared ‘disenfranchised’ to sound off on feminism (“fuck feminism!” is a regular contribution), international students (“Stuck with ANOTHER international student in my group, FML”), and even Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (“Lazy fucking Abos near Redfern, stop barking at me”).

For this Indigenous Honi, I thought it was important to reflect on this unique form of discrimination. Comments that are – in any other context – vile and unacceptable – comments we would never attach our name to – can be shared quickly, freely, easily, with no harm to personal reputation whatsoever. Discrimination – whether it is subtle or even unconscious, or anonymous and caustic – is real and entrenched.

Gendered violence is at crisis-point; international students are routinely exploited, and promptly abandoned, by our own University; and the Redfern Tent Embassy faces imminent eviction. You don’t need to look at ‘USyd Rants’ to see it. I wish you did. I want to believe that these ‘rants’ are rare and repressed; reading this Honi, I fear that they are not.

Thank you to Madi McIvor – the editor of this Honi, and my brilliant co-Vice President – who has slaved for weeks over this edition: it is uncomfortable, illuminating, and shocking at all once. Sometimes we need to be. I hope that you, too, realise that this – the way we consider, think about, and treat others – must change.