SRC Help: Week 7 – Keep your receipts and records

Wouldn’t it be great if we could trust that everyone did the right thing by us. Sadly we can’t. That’s where receipts and contracts come in.

When you pay a deposit, or rent, or any other bill, get a receipt. A printed receipt. On paper. Perferably in English. Take a photo of it, and email it to yourself, just in case you need it in the future. Having a record of the electronic bank transfer will not necessarily substitute for a receipt. Where possible it is best to have both.

A receipt is the only way that you can prove that you have actually paid. This may become useful in the future if someone, like your landlord, or housemates were to insist that you did not pay that money, or that you paid less.

If you live in a home where the landlord or (their agent) does not live, you are considered a tenant and should have a lease. If you live with your landlord (or their agent) you are a boarder or lodger, and should have a contract. This should show what the address is, how much you are meant to pay, when you are meant to move in, when you are meant to move out, and sometimes what happens if you move out earlier. It is important to keep a copy of your lease or contract, so that you can prove if there is a breach of the lease or contract. Again, you could scan it and email yourself a copy. This in turn may help you to claim back any money you are owed.

The SRC has had many cases where students have paid bond for their home, then moved out, and had their landlord refuse to refund the bond, saying that they didn’t pay any. Similarly we have seen landlords claim that students were behind in rent. We have even seen landlords agree that a student could move out of the home early and charged them extra money for this. In all of these cases written records would have helped the student at the tribunal.

The SRC has caseworkers able to help with tenancy and accommodation issues like this. Make an appointment by calling 9660 5222.

SRC Help: Fake Medical Certificates – Don’t Risk it!

It’s not difficult to find fake medical certificates on the internet or Wechat. It is not difficult to make yourself a fake medical certificate. However the SRC recommends that you do not use them EVER. In creating, buying and/or submitting a false medical certificate you are committing FRAUD. This isn’t just against University rules, it’s also against the law, and carries the risk of a maximum prison sentence of ten years, if prosecuted by the police. It is unlikely that the police would prosecute you, but bear in mind that it is possible. The University also treats this as Academic Misconduct and carries a very likely outcome of a suspension from your studies for at least one semester.

The University is very aware that there are false medical certificates out there and routinely checks Special Consideration applications and the attached medical certificates. The chances of them finding any fake certificates are actually very high.
Some students have tried to get genuine medical certificates and have been tricked into paying for false ones. This is unlikely to be a good defense for you with the University. Instead of using online services, see your regular doctor, or if they are not available try the University’s Health Service (Level 3, Wentworth Building), or go to your local medical centre. If you are too sick to leave your home get an after hours doctor to come to your house. Google will give you a list of these services available in your area.

If you are stressed or struggling to the point that you even consider obtaining a false medical certificate, your best option is to talk to someone about what’s going on. SRC Caseworkers can give you advice without any judgment. The University has a free Counselling Service, or you could talk to your doctor. There might be a way to manage your study load without risking far more serious consequences in the long term.

Ask Abe: Discontinue Not Fail (DC)

Dear Abe,

I recently had some family stuff happen and now I think I might fail a couple of subjects if I don’t do something about it. Is there a way that I can have them wiped off my record, and just pick them up next semester?

Thanks
Avoiding a Fail
——
Dear Avoiding a Fail,

The deadline for applying for a Discontinuing without Fail (DC) grade is the Friday of week 7, and in this semester that is 27th April. You can go do this through Sydney Student. There is no academic penalty for DC subjects; however, you are still liable for the HECS/fees. If there is a compelling reason that you need to drop the subject now, like unexpected illness or misadventure, you could apply for a remission of HECS/fees. You will need documentation to support your claim, and you will need very strong supporting documents. If you need help with this ask an SRC caseworker by emailing help@src.usyd.edu.au.

Abe

Moving Out: How to End a Rental Agreement

Make sure you are informed about how to end a rental agreement.

Are you going to stay for the length of your agreement?

Refer to your original contract or lease. It should state an end date. If it is a contract you should be able to give notice to your landlord equivalent to the frequency that you pay rent that you are moving out on the end date. Sometimes contracts will have a clause about the fee for ending the agreement early. If it is a lease this amount of notice is either 14 days (fixed term agreement) or 21 days (continuing agreement). Notice should be in writing. This does not include text messages and may not include email. It is best to send this by letter. Allow 4 days extra for mail to arrive.

What if you want to leave early?

This will usually cost you lots of money. If you have a lease agreement you will usually have to pay four or six weeks worth of rent, depending on what percentage of the agreement you have already completed. Sometimes you can find someone to take your place in the agreement to avoid paying all of this money. The replacement person has to be a “reasonable” replacement. For example, they need to have a similar capacity to meet rental payments and a good rental history.

If you’re under a contract you may need to pay the equivalent of the rent up to the end of the contract. Sometimes you can find someone to take your place in the contract or start a new contract, but that is completely up to the landlord.

When am I considered to have left?

You have only completely left your accommodation when the landlord (not another tenant) has received all copies of all of your keys and other door locking devices (like swipe cards). You also have to provide “vacant possession” which means all of your belongings have been moved out.

What if I want to move out and my housemates want to stay?

You will need to find a replacement for yourself. If you are on the lease or contract have that changed before you go. If you are on the lease, regardless of whether you live there, you are legally and financially liable for the condition of the premises. Make sure you keep a copy of the new lease or contract to show that you are no longer on there.

How do I get my bond or deposit back?

After you have moved out take photos to show the condition of the accommodation. This is to avoid disputes with the landlord’s assessment of the condition of your accommodation after you moved out. The cost of any repairs or cleaning will come out of the bond or deposit. The rest of your bond (leased property) should be returned in the form of a cheque or electronic transfer from the Department of Fair Trading. Deposits placed on contracted properties are less regulated. Make sure you have your receipt to prove that you did pay it in the first place. If there is any dispute about getting back this money talk to an SRC Caseworker.

They’re Picking on Me! Harrassment and Discrimination on Campus

The University is bound by state and federal laws, to protect you against harassment and discrimination. But what should you do
if you feel you are being harassed or discriminated against?

What is Unlawful Harassment?

The University’s Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Policy and Resolution Procedure defines “Unlawful harassment” as “any type of behaviour that:
the other person does not want; and
offends, insults, humiliates or intimidates them; and is either sexual, or targets them because of their race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, transgender, sexual preference or orientation (including homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and heterosexuality), disability, age, carers’ responsibility, political belief, lack of a political belief, lack of a particular political belief (including trade union activity or lack of it, and student association activity or lack of it), religious belief, lack of a religious belief, and/or lack of a particular religious belief; and
that, in the circumstances, a reasonable person should have expected would offend, insult, humiliate, or intimidate.”

It then goes on to define Unlawful Discrimination. “Unlawful discrimination is any practice that makes an unlawful distinction between individuals or groups, so as to disadvantage some people and advantage others.”

What can you do if you feel you are being harassed or discriminated against?

Contact an SRCHelp caseworker. They can gather your information and act as an advocate for you to place a complaint with the Student Affairs Unit.

What if the bad treatment you receive is not technically harassment or discrimination?

The definition of harassment and discrimination is very specific. If you are being treated badly in another sense perhaps it is more like bullying or just unprofessional behaviour. This does not mean that it doesn’t count. It just means that your complaint would be framed in different terms to suit a different policy. SRC Caseworkers are still a good point of contact.

Who does this protect from?

Students are protected from other students, teachers (permanent, casual and contract), placement supervisors, and other contractors on campus.

So you can’t be scammed? Think again.

A scam is a trick to take your money directly or indirectly by getting your personal details. There are new, imaginative scams being hatched everyday. They even target low income earners like students and come in many forms including mail, e-mail, telephone and door-to-door.

Fake websites can easily be set up to look like the real thing. Giving your personal details to anyone should be handled with a large degree of caution. Even leaving your phone number to be called back by a sales rep can end in harassment or worse.  Ask yourself why they can’t give you their direct number for you to call them. How many websites have you supplied with your name, address and date of birth in order to win a competition?

Some of the more recent scams have included lotteries, sweepstakes and competitions. Some are obviously fake, like the Nigerian millionaire dying scam, but some are very subtle, like the competition to win a new mobile phone or an iPad. Some scams involve government departments like the tax department asking you to confirm your tax file number so that you can claim your lost superannuation. Some involve people pretending to be from a large computer company offering to help you rid your computer of viruses.

Banks have very strict rules about how they identify you to speak to you. However, they do not seem to be so strict about contacting you and asking for your details. Ask who they are and call them back on the number you find yourself. Do not give any details, no matter how incidental, until you are sure of who they are.

Mobile phone ring tone offers are another potential scam. Once you sign in or subscribe, you may not be able to sign out. This will lead to huge phone bills.

Health and medical scams may offer products or services that will cure your health problems or offer a simple treatment. Often these cures and treatments do not work. The diet industry is littered with scammers.

Follow these golden rules to avoid being scammed:

  • Don’t respond to offers, deals or requests for your personal details. Stop. Take time to independently check the request or offer.
  • Never send money or give credit card, account or other personal details to anyone who makes unsolicited offers or requests for your information. Get a receipt for any money you do spend.
  • Don’t rely on the glowing testimonials they provide: find solid evidence from independent sources (not those provided with the offer).
  • Never respond to out of the blue requests for your personal details.
  • Always type in the address of the website of a bank, business or authority you are interested in to ensure you are logging into the genuine website.
  • Don’t open unsolicited emails.
  • Never click on a link provided in an unsolicited email as it will probably lead to a fake website designed to trick you into providing personal details.
  • Never use phone numbers provided with unsolicited requests or offers as it probably connects you to fakes who will try to trap you with lies.
  • Don’t reply to unsolicited text messages from numbers you don’t recognise.
  • Always look up phone numbers in an independent directory when you wish to check if a request or offer is genuine.
  • Don’t dial a 0055 or 1900 number unless you are sure you know how much you will be charged.
  • If you are scammed contact the SRC Legal Service or the NSW Fair Trading. You can also lodge a complaint online.

For more information, visit www.scamwatch.com.au

The Mythical Rainbow Family

by Moo Baulch

Rarely does a week go by without some level of debate raging in the Australian media on queer themes as diverse as whether girls should be allowed to marry girls, homophobes should be given airtime and if Penny Wong’s Kitchen Cabinet appearance helped or hindered the cause.

Regardless of where you sit on the gay marriage/civil partnership spectrum and whether you think “It Gets Better” speaks to lesbians in Lakemba or not, it looks as if we’re closer than ever to achieving complete equal same-sex rights in Australia. So, as the queer ‘lifestyle’ becomes more mainstream, and Mardi Gras drops the “gay and lesbian”, it’s time to start having some honest conversations about the way that we treat each other within the mythical rainbow family.

It’s not easy to begin talking about the not-so-fabulous things that occur in our communities and relationships—domestic violence (DV) for example. How do we contextualise it in a queer framework? Let’s begin with an important statement. Most queer relationships are loving and respectful. Some are about power and control. Just as some men abuse women, so some of us also abuse one another. Research suggests that DV in same-sex relationships occurs at rates comparable to the wider population. The effects on the victim are similar—isolation, fear, intimidation and the cycles of explosion, remorse, pursuit and honeymoon before the violence recommences.

There are precious few prominent models of healthy LGBTIQ relationships. Those new to the queer world may therefore find it difficult to picture what a healthy relationship looks or feels like. Sometimes it can be hard to decide whether what’s being experienced is abuse or just the usual conflict that occurs periodically in most relationships.
DV can be packaged in a number of different ways—it can be financial, emotional, psychological, physical, social, sexual or cultural. It may involve overt threats of violence or feature a subtle controlling of how someone might make decisions about their daily life. An absence of physical violence doesn’t mean that a relationship is not abusive. Ultimately DV is the exercise of power by one partner over another with the intent to control.

But there are some fundamental differences in the dynamics of queer DV. Abusers may manipulate their victim into believing that this is the way all queer relationships are, that the rules are different, that no-one else will want them or support services will not believe them if they ask for help. Abusers may threaten to ‘out’ their partner or disclose their HIV status. They may also threaten to withhold medications or control finances to limit a partner’s movements. They may use regular put downs in public or private which target a person’s expression of gender, appearance or sexuality. They may isolate their partner from their friends or family or they could threaten to harm pets. They may also threaten self harm or suicide or blame their partner for their own anger, health, condition or behaviour.

Discussing the existence of bullying, sexual racism, misogyny, DV and the prejudice in our own communities is challenging, especially when we live in a society or culture that sometimes may seem to only just accept us. But it’s the measure of a maturing LGBTIQ community if we are able to create space and nurture a culture of diversity that fosters open, honest dialogues on these sticky subjects. We have a responsibility as friends, ethical bystanders and as part of the alphabet-soup family to speak up and ask if someone is ok or let them know we are there. It’s not an easy thing to do but it could help someone who really needs it.

There are a number of LGBTIQ-friendly places to get help if you’re in an abusive relationship. If have experienced DV or want to support a friend, visit http://www.anothercloset.com.au/
In an emergency call the Police 000

The Safe Relationships Project provides statewide LGBTIQ domestic violence legal support. Ph: 02 9332 1966/1800 244 481 http://www.iclc.org.au/srp/
ACON’s Anti-Violence Project supports LGBTI people who have experienced DV. Ph: 9206 2116 or 1800 063 060 http://www.acon.org.au/anti-violence/
The Transgender Anti-Violence Project supports gender diverse people in NSW who have experienced violence. Ph: 9569 2366 or 1800 069 115 http://tavp.org.au/
DV Line is free, confidential and staffed 24/7. Ph: 1800 65 64 63

Moo Baulch was the LGBTI Domestic and Family Violence Project Officer at ACON’s Anti-Violence Project.

As a University of Sydney student you have many assessment rights. Policies entitle all students to full information about course goals and requirements and this information must be given to you before the end of the first week of a course. Information you are entitled to includes:

  • assessment criteria
  • attendance and class requirements
  • weighting – breakdown and calculation of assessment marks
  • explanation of policies regarding ‘legitimate co-operation, plagiarism and cheating’, special consideration and academic appeals procedures
  • early and clear statement of sanctions and penalties that may bring your mark down, and fair application of these penalties
  • balanced and relevant assessment tasks
  • fair and consistent assessment with appropriate workloads and deadlines
  • written consultation before the halfway point of the unit if assessment requirements need to change
  • changes must not disadvantage students
  • adequate arrangements to cater for disabilities and other requirements
  • access to staff out of class time at reasonable hours
  • fair and relevant marking procedures
  • anonymous posting of results (or arguably de-identified at least)
  • timely return of assessments
  • helpful feedback
  • access to exam scripts up to six months after the result
  • enough time for remedial learning when there is reassessment

Appeals – University Procedures

If you believe a mark or University decision is wrong and you want to appeal you must lodge an appeal within 15 working days.

The first step is to talk to the person who made the decision – often your lecturer or subject co-ordinator. See if you can go through the assessment and discuss your performance with them. Make sure you know how the mark was worked out – including any scaling or marks deducted or changed for reasons not directly related to that particular assessment. This may mean attending an exam review session or making an appointment with your lecturer. Your questions and concerns may be resolved at this stage, helping you understand how you can improve in the future. Alternatively, you may feel the matter is still unresolved and wish to continue with your appeal.

  1. Make your appeal in writing and make sure it is easy for other people to understand
  2. Listen to or read staff comments and reasons for a decision closely. Keep these in mind when you write your appeal letter.
  3. Base an appeal on a process matter rather than an academic judgement.
  4. Know your desired outcome
  5. Familiarise yourself with the relevant policies
  6. Know who you are appealing to: Lecturer/Unit of study Coordinator; someone higher in the appeal chain within the Faculty; and then the University Student Appeals Body (Academic decisions only, and only where there has been a breach of process); You must be given reasons for each person’s decision.
  7. If you cannot resolve appeals internally, you may be able to approach external bodies eg. NSW Ombudsman, the Anti-Discrimination Board etc.
  8. Administrative decisions made outside of the Faculty have appeals to different people. Speak to the SRC for advice.

Your Appeal Rights

According to University policy, appeals should be dealt with:

  • in a timely manner
  • with confidence
  • impartially and not disadvantage you in the future
  • procedural fairness
  • free access to all documents concerning your appeal

For help drafting your appeal talk to an SRC caseworker.