SRC Presidents Report – Week 7, Sem 2, 2018

Imogen Grant

As I am writing this, a final memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Ramsay Centre CEO Simon Haynes and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence. Annamarie Jagose, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, is currently reviewing the MOU and will take it to the FASS Board Meeting on Monday for discussion.

At the next FASS Board Meeting on 10 September, FASS staff & students will be leafleting members to vote against the proposed degree in Western Civilisation. It is normal for Academic Board to look to the decision at a faculty board humanities experts in FASS and consequently decide approve or reject the Ramsay curriculum. If it gets through the FASS Board then Academic Board is more likely to just rubber stamp it – or at least very unlikely to vote against it. As a result, the decision at Faculty Board is crucial in the fight against the Ramsay Centre on campus. We have cohered a strong student opposition to the Centre and are currently in contact with the student members of the Board.

On another note, the Academic Board and University Executive are currently conducting a review into safety and wellbeing. This is an issue that has become the subject of regulatory attention from the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Association (TEQSA).

The Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 (HES Framework) includes Section 2.3, on wellbeing and safety, that requires providers to provide timely and accurate advice on access to student support services and to promote and foster a safe environment on campus and online.

We will be ascertaining as to whether the University is or is not compliant with these standards and making recommendations for improvements on the availability, provision and communication of services and processes to ensure the wellbeing and safety of specific cohorts of students.

Interviews will be conducted over the next few weeks with students. If you receive an invitation, I encourage you to take up the offer and have your voice heard on the topic. If you have any feedback on the state of student safety and wellbeing you wish for me to know or relay to the committee, always feel free to email me at president@src.usyd.edu.au.
Finally, last week the SRC sent a contingent of students to the early childhood educators walk off & protest, as part of the Big Steps campaign, outside the NSW Parliament. We heard speeches from childhood educator Gwen Alcock, ACTU President Michele O’Neil, Labor MP Tanya Plibersek and a parent Emily Mayo.

Childhood education is a booming industry and many of these educators attend university for years to be qualified. With diploma-level or university-level training the wage is only $23 per hour, about half the the national average wage – childhood educators are the working poor.

Childhood educators also earn 30% less than people with equivalent qualifications in male-dominated fields. 97 percent of childhood educators are women and society undervalues these skills because they are seen as “soft,” just an extension of the unpaid work performed by mothers at home.

The SRC has made a solid commitment this year to become activated around workplace issues – both as student-workers and in solidarity with workers from a range of different industries. As a part of that we are organising a ‘Union Day’ on September 17 on Eastern Avenue.

Majority of students work full-time alongside full-time study and as a result the distinction between student and worker is becoming increasingly blurred. 60 percent of international students living in Sydney are paid below the the minimum wage of $17.29 per hour. It gets worse in retail, where 90 percent of international student workers being paid below minimum wage. This day will provide a fantastic opportunity for students to learn about their rights in the workplace & potentially join a union.

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.