Welcome to week two – where tutorials start and you begin to figure out how to get from your class in Bosch to your class in Merewether. While most new students are starting to feel comfortable on campus, I want to talk about those students who might be feeling the exact opposite. You may have heard about the Islamophobic attacks occurring on campus since the start of the year. These include the trashing of the Muslim students prayer room five times, the scrawling of anti-Muslim graffiti, and, most recently, the vandalism of SRC posters advertising a #letthemstay rally with disgusting slurs.
I want to say this firmly – this university is for everyone. Regardless of your cultural background, you should feel welcome to study and pray in peace. That some feel they have the right to make students feel unsafe on the basis of their faith is totally at odds with what universities are – places of respectful debate and engagement with new ideas. These are cowardly, anti-intellectual acts of bigotry and the SRC condemns those responsible. I have called on the university to do more to tackle Islamophobia and to make students feel safe. The university has assured me that they are working on ways to do this and I will certainly be holding them to account. In the meantime, I want to reiterate that anyone who witnesses Islamophobia on campus should immediately report it to campus security and student organisations like the SRC. We also have a free casework service for students who may feel distressed as a result of these attacks. Muslim students are welcome at USyd and we stand with you.
I also want to mention the student rally against the restructure on March 16th. This restructure, announced by university management on the eve of the university shutdown in December, will see degrees cut, faculties merged, and huge numbers of staff jobless. This directly affects all students and yet very limited information has been provided so far about what will happen to degrees and courses. The SRC is running a campaign to educate students about what we know so far – if you’d like to find out more, head to the rally at 1pm outside the Carslaw building. I’ll see you there!