Liam Donohoe, President 92nd SRC

Week 8, Semester 2, 2020

It seems like every week the NSW Police reach a new low in their repression of protest and our campaign to defend our education. This week that campaign was once more in the headlines, with the cops particularly brutal in their repression of attendees at our protest against University management’s cuts and Morrison’s attacks. And although dealing with that repression was particularly tiresome and demanding for myself and the SRC, there were still a number of other operational and administrative duties of note as well.

As in the past, the staff were crucial to the National Day of Action protest on Wednesday the 14th. Allied staff members once again organised a teaching event to coincide with our demonstration, and in so doing provided an entree and starting point for those looking to protest, as well as refuge for the risk-averse or endangered. The event was, by all accounts, a resounding success, and the large crowd reflects its relevance to the University community.

But while many subsequent protesters began at the teach in, many more were scattered across Eastern Avenue and the Law Lawns in unassuming, informal groups, blending amongst the broader student body to complicate things for the Police. When the clock struck 1, though, the hidden forces quickly sprung into action and set a determined pace down Eastern Avenue towards City Road, hoping to take the Butlin Avenue intersection. A walk turned into a jog, and a jog turned into a sprint, and soon a stampede of at least 200 torrented into the bus stops. After a brief tet-a-tet at the intersection, a small group who broke the line were body slammed and tackled to the ground, with one student dragged by their backpack into the gutter.

Not to be deterred, the furious mass dashed across Victoria Park towards University Avenue, outpacing and outsmarting Police cavalry in the process, before attempting an occupation at the lower Parramatta Road gates. Here we were once more met with police resistance, which drove people back into the University and up a sidepath of the Chau Chak Wing Museum back towards University Place. After reconvening at the teaching event on the Quad Lawns, and building a sizable march procession, we took Manning Road and made for the upper Parramatta Road gates near Ross Street. In the ensuing chaos, which featured numerous attempts to take the road and a lot of confusion, Police brutalised a number of students and legal observers, including USyd law Professor Simon Rice. The violent bullying and thuggery was caught on tape and became the subject of significant public scrutiny, with many decrying perceived political repression and contributing to the payment of 13 fines. The SRC extends its full solidarity to anyone brutalised or fined at the protest, and we promise to support you however we can.

While it was incredible to channel student anger so resoundingly and to go toe-to-toe with the police with some success, better tactics and training would have made it even more successful. Monday’s Education Action Group meeting will be a good opportunity to evaluate the goals of the campaign and our strategy for achieving them. With any luck the extra media coverage will increase the amount of people organising and attending subsequent actions.

Wednesday’s Day of Action was not the only Education demonstration this week, though, with the NTEU hosting a legally-sanctioned / court approved protest in Victoria Park. As a member I was entitled to be one of the 95 people in attendance at the event, though I also joined the student solidarity contingent later. The small event was a good opportunity to mobilise members—we are going to need more staff attendance and participation as the fight enters the more proactive and positive struggle for free education. We look forward to the next NTEU protest planned for the coming weeks.

But while protest is undoubtedly the most important and effective part of the work we do, it’s not the only way the SRC advocates for the interests of students. Just before Wednesday’s protest, for instance, I joined two of our caseworkers, James and Sharon, at an ‘educational case management’ meeting with the Registrar, Peter McCallum, and other members of the University Administration. The meeting gave the SRC an opportunity to contribute directly to a review into managing academic progression, late discontinuation, and educational integrity, as well as their interaction with special consideration, appeals, and student misconduct processes. The SRC caseworkers are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate advocates for students, and it’s a shame the University doesn’t ask for their advice more often. I am hopeful that the productive conversation was a harbinger of future improvements to these much-maligned processes, if only by establishing more regular lines of collaboration between casework and University policy setters.

Earlier in the week the 92nd Executive and I completed our first draft of our SSAF base submission, with the help of SRC Administration Manager Chitra Narayanan. The SRC has a number of significant projects and programs in mind for 2021, including many of those we had begun implementing in 2020 until the University revoked our SSAF contestable allocations. Funding for our Mutual Aid program—which had a meeting I attended on Thursday—will be a priority, subsuming the functions of the food bank for which we received SSAF contestable funding earlier in the year. Funding for our Legal Service—which also had a meeting I attended on Thursday—is also of paramount importance as we look to modernise and rigidify the service under the guidance of our Acting Principal Solicitor, Jehan Kalantar. Thursday’s SLS Board meeting gave Jehan a formal opportunity to expound his plans for the service, which we all agreed would improve its effectiveness and expand its reach while realising our principles even more fully.

The busy week was capped off with another meeting about Regulatory change on Thursday with Standing Legal Committee Chair Janek Drevikovsky, where we discussed a substantial redrafting of section six, Publications, aimed at clarifying ownership rights, as well as clarifying sections pertaining to Affirmative Action to avoid annual interpretational antics.

Another busy week lies ahead, with yet more organising, meetings, and, in all likelihood, headlines yonder. I wish everyone the best as we approach this crucial part of both the semester, and the battle for a quality education.


Week 7, Semester 2, 2020

While the mid-semester break was (hopefully) relaxing for most, it was certainly not a calm or positive one for me or the countless student activists involved in the defence of our education. On Thursday the 8th of October, the Senate disgracefully passed the Higher Education Support Amendment Bill Act 2020, locking-in unprecedented attacks on the funding and accessibility of University education. I would like to start this report by apologising to students for this short-term defeat. I assure you that I did everything in my power to prevent this from happening, and am proud that the USyd SRC was the most effective and dedicated student union in the country, leading and inspiring the national response. Nonetheless, though a promising movement is emerging to reverse these attacks, the Right’s (temporary) success in dismantling lingering traces of quality and equality mean that, for now, October the 8th will be known as one of the darkest in Australian higher education.

The passage of this outrageous Bill did not go unnoticed by that promising movement, however. Beyond attending at least 3 meetings and contributing to the broader building, I also had the honour of addressing over a hundred staff and students on the lawns in front of the Parliament House of Australia on Tuesday the 6th as part of a protest organised by the National Union of Students and co-hosted by the SRC, ANU Students Association, and other groups. With the Federal budget, announced later that night, reducing relief and programs for precarious Australians, my speech situated Morrison’s attacks in a context of broader class warfare, noting how the additional joblessness and reduced economic opportunity adds insult to injury for students and low income earners.

Though the Bill passed, largely due to a gutless capitulation by the Centre Alliance which was as gullible as it was evil, the protest nonetheless affirmed the dedication of the USyd Left, if nothing else. It was inspiring to see so many car convoys from Sydney—despite the 3 hour drive, we must have made up at least 50% of the crowd—and I am particularly grateful for the drivers and Canberra comrades who made it happen. But while this is undoubtedly a devastating blow to the sector, and a short-term victory for the Right, I have seen enough in the dedication of education activists and the broader student movement throughout this period that I know we can win what we always really wanted: free, fully-publicly-funded higher education.

To that end, I implore all students to attend this Wednesday’s teach-in at 1pm on the Quadrangle Lawns. The teach-in will bring together a diverse range of contingents and provide an opportunity for a thorough response to the success of Morrison’s attacks and the ongoing austerity of USyd management. After the last rally on campus, which resulted in hundreds of students occupying City Road, we are hoping to significantly boost numbers so we are not suppressed by the (likely) substantial police presence. In order to aid that, I attended a planning meeting on the 30th, a logistics meeting on the 11th, and will be participating in a building day on the 12th.

Closer to home (both physically and temporally), last Wednesday I attended a rally against cuts at Macquarie University in solidarity with my comrades there. Our eventual occupation of the Chancellery, which lasted at least an hour, was only thwarted once we were given official move on orders by the Police and chased off campus. Not to be outdone, just the week before I attended a small but poignant demonstration against cuts outside the Anderson Stuart Building. My congratulations and regards to all those involved in both actions, particularly the Macquarie University Women’s Collective, who succeeded in defending and restoring the Gender Studies major after savage cuts.

Activism was just one of the duties to which I tended over the break, however. Alongside Swapnik Sanagavarapu, the 93rd President of the SRC, the current Executive and I are in the process of preparing our Student Support and Amenity Fee submission. The SSAF is collected by the University and distributed to the various student organisations following an application process. We expect to get the entirety of our ‘base’ funding back this year, which should ensure we can continue to pay wages of all professional staff, fund our services, and sustain our collectives and activism. Beyond that, we will also look to secure extra funding to consolidate the Mutual Aid program and other services, via the SSAF contestable funds. We would love to hear any feedback or thoughts on the projects we ought to pursue next year.

One project that we will certainly continue funding no matter what, though, is the SRC Informs program, which we launched earlier this semester. This Tuesday’s session will feature last year’s SRC Research Officer, Altin Gavranovic, in conversation about the report he completed last year on the realities of student experience at USyd. The conversation and presentation should be live-streamed via Facebook from 1pm.

The break also saw the usual anthology of committee meetings. Tuesday the 29th and the 6th saw relatively uneventful Undergraduate Studies and Standards and Policies committee meeting(s), respectively. Thursday the 8th saw an interesting Academic Board Indigenous Strategy working group meeting, where plans for more holistic support for Indigenous students were finalised before recommendation to the Academic Board. And Monday the 28th saw my penultimate University Executive Education committee meeting.
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the SRC elections, which commenced, finished, and announced successful candidates over the break. While our first ever online election was not a very smooth one—countless technical errors, communication issues, and delayed announcements come to mind—it is nonetheless finally over. Commiserations to unsuccessful candidates, and congratulations to those who got up—I can’t wait to see how you improve the SRC and world next year!. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) I was also elected to Council, so I’ll be around next year to keep an eye on you all!

In the end, the break was as productive as it was disappointing, and, as any mid-semester break ought to be, replete with important learnings: that the USyd Left is the most dedicated and effective in the country, that the Centre Alliance are complete scum, and that the battle for free, fully publicly-funded higher education starts now. I look forward to landing the first blow alongside you on October the 14th.


Week 6, Semester 2, 2020

With the Senate Inquiry into the Higher Education Amendment Bill 2020 formally recommending the Bill, and pork barrelling making its passage likely, higher education in Australia is poised to receive one final fatal blow. But rather than copping the destruction of our education, the SRC has led the fight against cuts on-campus and Morrison’s fee hikes Bill. This week was no exception, with the usual operational demands of the Presidency trumped by a memorable education protest on Wednesday.

To that end, the battle for the future of our education yet again dominated my time, expressing itself once more in protests which unapologetically defied the Police’s repressive enforcement of public health orders. Motivated by the success of last week’s Day of Action, a number of activists in the Education Action Group pushed for a repeat one week later, on Wednesday the 23rd at 1pm. With the support of the Women’s Officers, who had already called a National Day of Action highlighting the gendered impacts of the Higher Education Support Amendment Bill, organisers quickly moved motions, stalled, and organised decentralised actions. In addition to broader building, I also personally organised an action for Philosophy students.

Despite the small size of the actions and their general legal compliance, protesters were once again met with a large police presence. Concerned by the threat of further repression, a number of staunch staff allies organised an education event, ‘Higher education and democratic society: perspectives on dissent’, on the law lawns around the same time. This incredibly informative event not only attracted students otherwise uninvolved in the Day’s actions, but was also given official sanction by the Arts faculty and so became a complex matter for the police. As such, the event later became a safe haven for protesters as their respective actions were shut down by Police, with the various contingents converging, angrily, on the law lawns. The chanting mass, at least 200 strong, marched into Victoria Park before breaking into a spontaneous sprint as it became clear they could beat the police to the corner of Cleveland Street and City Road. The sight of a couple hundred students militantly careering to claim one of Sydney’s busiest intersections is the most compelling image of student rebellion I’ve personally witnessed in my 5 years on campus.

Our march down City Road was soon intercepted by riot squad and mounted police, with protesters reversing their trail and frantically racing the cops back to the law lawns. While many students managed to outrun them, galloping horses cut a number of students off at the Victoria Park gates, kettling the unfortunate students stuck in the park. In the end least 21 $1,000 fines were issued, with students holding placards or megaphones arbitrarily arrested. Once again, the police stopped at nothing to prevent public dissent, aggressively targeting vulnerable attendees to prove a point and save face after initial embarrassment. Not to be deterred, the attendees regathered in the Seymour Centre plaza for an incredibly positive post-rally meeting, which even featured legendary members of the Chasers’, Charles Firth. Many thanks to Dr. Nick Riemer and all the staff for their support, and contribute to the GoFundMes assisting protesters with repayment of fines if you have the means.

With the Morrison government’s fee hikes legislation likely to coincide with their imminent budget, and Uni management revealing a 2020 surplus, the fight for our education is only going to escalate. This Wednesday we are hosting a staff student assembly to organise the October 14 action, which will be taking place in conjunction with staff and the NTEU. In preparation for that, I attended an Education Action Group meeting on Thursday afternoon, where the assembly was finalised. Disgracefully, another organising meeting for the October 14 action, which was scheduled for Friday through the Staff and Students Say No Cuts (SSNC) groups, received a visit from the Police, who harassed protesters and suggested that they might be breaking the law by carrying megaphones. The SRC condemns this outrageous intimidation of meeting attendees, and believes this harassment is a new low in the NSW Police’s race to the bottom of the draconian wellspring.

The Climate Strike I attended on Friday, just before the SSNC meeting, faced similar difficulties with the police. The Environment Collective’s action at Hyde Park fountain enjoyed an impressive turnout and a diversity of interesting speakers, but quickly attracted the Police’s scorn, with riot squad members issuing aggressive move on orders when the action separated into two small marches on either side of Elizabeth street. Many thanks to the Environment Officers for reintroducing environmental issues to a crowded political agenda, and congratulations on the successful action.

After all the week’s tomfoolery with the Police, Friday evening was a fortuitous time for the inaugural Democracy is Essential organising meeting, in which I proudly participated. The meeting was incredibly well attended, with over 100 at its peak, and engaged a broad segment of people. I look forward to building this campaign in the coming months so that we can restore and expand on basic civil liberties after decades of subtle erosions.
Aside from activism, the usual Presidential duties beckoned. The Days surrounding Wednesday’s actions saw extensive media work. Tuesday saw a relatively uneventful admissions subcommittee meeting. Thursday saw a staff committee meeting where, among other things, we began considering what a return to in-person operations might look like. Through it all, case work and legal continued their dependable hum, helping students through their most challenging circumstances.

The week ahead is forebodingly future-oriented. 2021 SSAF plans are going to be submitted. Mass protests are going to be organised. The 2020 SRC elections are going to conclude. But as we plan and elect the future, it is essential that we assume and build on the courage and selflessness seen this week, and perhaps throughout this entire year. And that means, if nothing else, ensuring the SRC remains committed to activism and the radical action needed to defend our education.


Week 5, Semester 2, 2020

The spectre of police repression continues to haunt the USyd campus. On Wednesday, as with a fortnight before, NSW Police descended on the Camperdown campus en masse to move on, fine, and even detain, despite the decentralised actions being COVID-safe and compliant with public health orders. But while the repression may have been cruel, it certainly wasn’t successful—students are now angrier than ever, and plan to show up for an even bigger Day of Action this Wednesday, the 23rd. But while education activism continues to be my priority, I am still diligently contributing to internal University and SRC matters, and having success in the process, as I detail below.

Whatever the case, Wednesday’s Day of Action was the most significant event of the week. The Day saw over a dozen simultaneous protests organised on campus for 1pm, with each focused on a different issue. Many ‘contingents’ were faculty-based, highlighting issues specific to their discipline, although a few Collectives organised protests as well. As positive media coverage later reported (particularly a great article by the SMH), it was hoped that these gatherings of less than 20, with distinct intents, would not run afoul of health orders. But despite initial optimism that the police would not feature and that the protest was legal, an enormous police operation greeted us.

Before the police could shut down the Education Action Group protest outside Fisher, a large crowd spontaneously gathered to listen to my speech, with many stopping on their way from the library. These students, and other protesters assembled around Eastern Avenue, were eventually chased to the Law lawns with students in larger and denser gathering watching on aghast while small groups of socially distanced protestors were harassed. At the same time, down near F23, police were particularly repressive, issuing fines to 7 different students while detaining activist Adam Adelpour overnight. The SRC condemns Adam’s arrest and intends to help any victims of repression however we can, particularly as the campaign escalates in the coming months.

In spite of the repression, though, a bunch of us managed to regroup later at a separate location to protest uninterrupted. Many of those same people then joined a post-meeting forum featuring legendary political economist Frank Stilwell and veteran activist Paddy Gibson, who both spoke inspiringly about past struggles and infected the audience with some much needed courage and hunger, before heading to the timely launch of the new “Democracy is Essential” campaign, which demands the restoration of the right to protest in NSW.
But any hopes that we could rest after Wednesday’s actions were quickly dashed when news broke that Senators Lambie and Sharkey intend to betray students by supporting Morrison’s fee hike legislation, and that, therefore, the legislation may pass within the week. Buoyed by positive coverage and increased attention on our cause, activists have called another Day of Decentralised Action for this Wednesday the 23rd of September in response. As one of the key people behind the push for this Day of Action, I have made sure to apply myself to the task of building these actions—not only have I attended a number of meetings over the weekend, but I’ve also been furiously messaging staff, students, and celebrities to increase numbers. Beyond mobilising the same contingents and students as last time, we hope the breakthrough media coverage helps us attract previously uninvolved students and form entirely new contingents. This may be our last opportunity to protest before the sector is shamefully destroyed and students face disgraceful fee increases. As such, it is more important than ever that students stand up for themselves and their future—I implore you all to join what will be a landmark Day of Action.

But as important as the streets are, I have also been fighting for students in the meeting room too. On Tuesday I attended an Academic Board meeting, where we voted on the University’s controversial proposal to (temporarily) reduce semester length to 12-weeks. I had previously spoken against the proposal in numerous public fora and University committees, and had been organising to defeat it with other student representatives and numerous staff members. I’m really pleased to announce that, thanks in part to our organisation and diligence, we defeated the proposal! As such, semester 1 2021 will be 13 weeks, though it will start a week later to reduce workload on staff.

Aside from activism and advocacy, there was plenty to do on the operations front as well. On Monday our interim Principal Solicitor, Nas Hanafi, informed me that he was unable to juggle supervision responsibilities with his own practice, and so stepped down from the position. Faced with the stressful possibility that the practice might be wound down, and concerned by matters still before the courts, myself and Maggie Hayes, the SRC’s original Solicitor and long-time volunteer, urgently hired Mr. Jahan Kalantar as Acting Principal Solicitor for the next 3 months. While Mr. Kalantar has incredible experience and skill, his familiarity with the SRC legal service and commitment to our mission made him an easy choice. I offer my sincere thanks to Mr. Hanafi and Mr. Kalantar for their help during this stressful time.

Other SRC service provision continues to go well. Our Casework and Policy Manager, James Campbell, presented on accessing Centrelink as part of the second SRC Informs session, with the video enjoying hundreds of views already. Students have also taken advantage of the Mutual Aid program’s new pick up option, while a few delivery runs were initiated. Further meetings of the Mutual Aid program are likely during the next few weeks, where we will determine our long-term strategy. Similarly, another SRC Informs session will be announced in the coming week. We encourage all students to participate in both, and to request help from the Mutual Aid program if you need!

It was yet another busy and auspicious week, but also one which will likely blur in with the craziness of this unprecedented period. I look forward to the week ahead, and remind students to attend Wednesday’s massive Day of Action for what may be our last opportunity to publicly dissent to the destruction of our livelihoods.


Week 4, Semester 2, 2020

Though we are only four weeks into the semester, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s been longer. For one, thanks to the extended holidays we’re now basically already half way through September. For another, the return to class, and, for some, classrooms has been dramatic. But of late the epicness of the early semester, with its arrests and protests, has given way to a calmer freneticism, with the SRC offering its usual beneficent services while activists quietly laid seeds for grassroots action. And with this Wednesday’s Day of Action against the cuts likely to mobilise hundreds of students, I suspect this calm will come before the blooming of a rather large storm.

Unsurprisingly, preparations for the Day of Action dominated my week. For those unaware, the Day has been organised by the SRC in conjunction with the Education Action Group and the Staff and Students Say No Cuts (SSNC) campaign. In contrast with previous protests, which have attempted to bring together as many students as possible in a single location, the Day will involve a number of simultaneous but physically separate demonstrations, with each contingent featuring a theme and no more than 20 people. This approach not only ensures compliance with health restrictions, thereby (hopefully) avoiding police repression, but also allows staff and students to air more specific grievances which might otherwise go unsaid at a larger rally. With contingents organised for law, medical science, the Environment Collective, and everything in between, prospective attendees are spoilt for choice.

Myself and others in the SRC have been heavily involved in building the Day. On Tuesday I attended a student strike assembly organised on Zoom which, at its peak, featured 109 people, one of the largest turnouts to a USyd-specific organising meeting I’ve seen. Not to be outdone, Thursday and Friday saw further meetings to finalise logistics, the former through the Education Action Group and the latter through SSNC meeting itself. As it happens, Friday’s meeting followed a serious discussion with University management about our plans and how we intend to deal with the likely police presence. I’m pleased to report that, after a bit of negotiating and explanation, the University seemed, at least ostensibly, happy for us to protest—with any luck we won’t have to deal with police repression again. And while I was unable to help with Wednesday’s massive day of leafleting and lecture bashing, I did prepare resources for activists engaged in those activities, including a QR code which helps advertise and coordinate contingent registrations. There are many student and staff activists working tirelessly to make the Day of Action a success—I commend them all for their diligence and, on behalf of the student body, thank them for their service to our education.

Beyond this, I have also been promoting the rally as widely as possible to maximise numbers. Aside from the obvious social media solicitations, I was also lucky enough to be quoted in an SMH weekend feature and to appear on Saturday night’s SBS news, sneaking a promo into the former while in both cases speaking to the rage and growing political consciousness of the student body. I implore all students to get involved by joining a contingent or forming their own, and to bring friends along too!

But despite all this, protest was not the only type of education activism on the agenda for the week. Indeed, for a lot of the week I was in assignment mode as I chipped away at the SRC’s 16 page submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Higher Education Support Amendment Bill 2020. This inquiry, which was the indirect result of grassroots campaigning, has not only given our allies in parliament an opportunity to delay the Bill, but has also given the SRC and other concerned parties an opportunity to articulate their criticisms and offer recommendations to the Inquiry / Parliament. Our comprehensive and well-researched submission disputed the government’s rationale for the amendments and also drew attention to the hardship and inequality they would engender. Many thanks are owed to SRC Caseworker James Campbell, Honi Editor Nina Dillon-Britton, former Honi Editor Pranay Jha, and 93rd President Swapnik Sanagavarapu for their help on the submission, which should be publicly available by the time of print.

Between submission writing and protest building I also found the time to tend to the operational side of the SRC. On Thursday I met up with representatives from the Foods not Bombs program to discuss how we might be able to link it in with our Mutual Aid program. Relatedly, on Monday I participated in a big working bee for the Mutual Aid program, which involved, among other things, removing perished goods from existing packs, moving them from Gosper to Women’s, and preparing them for drop-off / pickup. We have since reached out to all the students who requested help to let them know about our new pickup options, and we hope to clear all remaining packs by the end of this week. Many thanks are owed to the countless volunteers who assisted with the working bee—if you would like to help, or are in need of help, please do not hesitate to reach out to the SRC, particularly as we look to initiate a new round of provisions and enshrine MAP as a permanent program.

This week also saw the appointment of our new acting Solicitor, Nas Hanafi, who will oversee the legal service for the next 3 months. I am looking forward to working with Nas over this quarter, and thank him for stepping in at relatively short notice. Nas’ arrival will allow the service to satisfy our obligations to existing clients and increase the quality and quantity of support we provide the student body.

The week ahead promises to be among the most exciting yet. In addition to Wednesday’s Day of Action—which may prove even more dramatic than its predecessors—it will also feature an Academic Board meeting, the second SRC Informs session at 1pm on Tuesday, and the launch of the Democracy is Essential campaign at 6pm on Wednesday night, to name just a few. I look forward to seeing the rich traditions of education and rebellion, so steeped in the fabric of the student experience, channelled and reinvigorated in the days ahead.


Week 3, Semester 2, 2020

The comprehensive repression of the August 28 National Day of Action Friday’s protest cast a long shadow over what was a comparatively quiet week. Angered by the brutality of the NSW Police, the defence against the Liberals’ attacks on higher education was, unsurprisingly, the week’s theme. Solidarity rallies raged across campus, organising meetings were well-attended, and plans were put into motion for further new campaigns which address police repression specifically. But while education activism was the focus, the week was not without its usual mix of committees, operational challenges, and new initiatives.

Fresh off the heels of the August 28th fracas, on Monday I attended a speak out in front of F23 on Monday organised by USyd staff and NTEU members to condemn the police’s heavy handedness, demand greater protection from USyd management, and, of course, condemn the savage attacks on our sector. It was incredibly encouraging to see the large display of solidarity at such short notice—many thanks to the staff who organised and attended the speak out for your solidarity.

Not to be outdone, student activists continued to build our campaign against the attacks, with the Education Action Group’s organising an Open Forum on Fighting Campus Cuts, which I attended on Tuesday night. Political Economy tutor Joel Griggs and SRC Education Officer Jack Mansell spoke in what was a really informative session. It was particularly encouraging to see a bunch of new faces, and the compelling discussion served as useful reminders and motivation for the coming months. I encourage all students to attend the Student Strike assembly THIS TUESDAY (the 8th) at 6pm to contribute to planning around a mass student strike, and encourage everyone to stay tuned for further actions in the coming weeks.

Unsurprisingly, police repression was a recurring theme of both events. But instead of merely complaining about the repression, student activists have gotten work to ensure it’s not repeated. At a general level, this week saw the new “Democracy is Essential” campaign launched. This campaign, which has been spearheaded by USyd’s own Vinil Kumar, draws attention to the anti-democratic double standards of the NSW government’s health orders, and demands the restoration of the right to publicly protest. I am really chuffed to have been asked to play an organising role in the campaign, and excited to build for a campaign with such high stakes. Stay tuned for more information about this campaign, which will be of central importance to other interrelated fights, like the fight for our education, the fight to guarantee that Black Lives Matter, and the fight for climate justice.

On a more local level, I raised the SRC’s concerns about the Police’s presence and conduct at the NDA at Tuesday’s Safer Communities Advisory Group meeting, seeking assurances that the University did not call the Police on protestors. While the members of the committee were critical of the Police’s conduct, and sympathetic to students who had been fined / brutalised, the reality is that high-level decisions about interactions with the Police are beyond their remit. I will raise these concerns with the Vice-Chancellor and senior management to clarify USyd’s involvement and ensure steps are taken to prevent further repression and brutality.

But while the cops may have cast a long shadow, we still managed to shine some light on some important non-activist initiatives. The inaugural SRC Informs session took place on Tuesday, with SRC caseworker Mel de Silva pre-recording a session on tenancy. The useful session covered topics like recovering one’s bond and dealing with landlords, and is available on our Facebook page (and, soon, our website) as a permanent resource. There will be further SRC Informs sessions in the coming weeks about a range of topics—I encourage all students to attend the sessions, which will take place live over Zoom.

Beyond that, I also chaired a Mutual Aid program meeting, which hoped to be the first step towards reinvigorating the program throughout the second semester. Among other things, a working bee has been organised for Monday the 7th in order to throw away perished goods, sort new bags, and move all supplies / equipment from Gosper to the Women’s room. Over the next week we intend to deliver all remaining packs and clear out our backlog of requests, before developing the program into a more sustainable and permanent long-term service. I look forward to seeing some of you at the working bee, and hope you stay tuned for the next round of Mutual Aid offerings.

The week would not be complete without the usual operational concerns. I have been working with the University and our Workplace Health and Safety Officer, Mel de Silva, to ensure our in-person activities—including our elections—are authorised / permitted. We have made a number of changes to the office, including new limits on people per room, sanitation stations, and hygiene reminder signs. Aside from that, I have also been working on some HR matters and continuing to offer minor logistical assistance with elections.
While not nearly as historic or eventful as the week which preceded it, the second week of semester two has set the groundwork for a serious escalation in the defence of our education. And given growing talk of strikes and sit-ins, there will certainly be a lot to report back to you about in coming weeks.


Week 2, Semester 2, 2020

Amid the backdrop of the government’s attacks on students and the slow strangulation of the higher education sector, the return to semester has proven both historic and eventful. Beyond the remarkable, and potentially risky, return to in-person classes, the first week of semester two also featured elections, protests, and even arrests.

The week reached its dramatic apotheosis on Friday when the police comprehensively repressed our attempted protest outside Fisher Library. Despite receiving no prior communication or warning from them beforehand, organisers and attendees at Friday’s National Day of Action were greeted by at least a half dozen riot squad 4WDs, more than a dozen patrol cars, and even a substantial mounted patrol, a display of size and strength campus hasn’t seen in many years. Though they held off from repressing a smaller prior action outside the F23 building, at 1pm a cavalry of police descended on Fisher library to issue a public move-on order to the hundred plus students and staff gathered near the Coffee cart. From there, all hell broke loose, with the police arresting students at random while the crowd confronted them with “cops off campus” chants. At one stage I was briefly arrested, only to be let off—arbitrarily—with a warning and a move-on request.

During the fracas the police brutalised a student and attempted to embarrass her by weaponising her experience with sexual assault. While a separate article in this edition covers this in more depth, this disgraceful incident bears specific mention in this report. The SRC demands immediate repercussions for the cretins responsible, and will be relaying this story, and others, to USyd management as we demand that they keep the police off our campus to protect student safety and free expression.

In the end, 10 students were each issued $1,000 fines for breaking a public health order by gathering in a group of over 20 people with an unapproved common intent. While the SRC and Education Action Group have almost raised the funds needed to pay off these fines, their fact they were issued in the first place is seriously disturbing. There were no unique or extraordinary harms posed by the protests—masks and hand sanitiser were mandatory and distributed widely, and the small crowd could easily sprawl throughout the Quad Lawns, Eastern Avenue, and Fisher entrance. Many of the students who were fined had attended in-person classes at the Uni in the preceding week, an activity which involves sitting indoors in groups of more than 20 without mandatory mask wearing and which we—and they—consider less safe, and certainly less essential, than protest. To specifically target this activity, rather than others which are riskier, suggests health is not the primary concern. And even if there was a small risk posed by our gathering, the police seriously exacerbated that risk by provoking anger and causing crowding during their arrests and brutality. Ultimately, safety and hygiene were compromised by the police’s aggression, and our legitimate political grievances repressed by their success.
But while they may have succeeded in repressing our protest this time around, the police’s aggression will not deter future actions. If anything, Friday’s activities have emboldened us: Channel 9’s coverage of the fracas is the first mainstream coverage our fightback has received yet. We won’t stop fighting until education is free, no matter how much they repress us.

Aside from Friday’s protests, the week also saw the first General Assembly of the National Higher Education Action Network, an online event at which I briefly spoke. I am incredibly excited by this new non-sectarian, grassroots campaign of staff and academic education activists, and encouraged by their commitment to organising strike action. Any serious attempt at defending or improving our Universities requires industrial action, and NHEAN’s activities are the most promising step towards that so far. I look forward to participating in more of their organising efforts, and to build student solidarity actions around NHEAN’s events.

Aside from activism, I also tended to most of the other classic Presidential duties. I participated in the SRC staff committee meeting and continued to deal with internal HR matters. I helped finalise details before Tuesday’s inaugural SRC Informs seminar. And I also sat on a few committees, at which the 12-week semester was discussed and time limits on student suspensions removed.

I also spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the upcoming election, including writing a lengthy 8-page appeal to the Electoral Legal Arbiter regarding the Nominations fee, and assisting staff with logistical questions or requests. The COVID period has certainly presented its fair share of challenges for staff and students involved in the elections, but I am confident we will be able to successfully facilitate this essential aspect of our organisational structure. To that end, at Wednesday’s meeting the Executive voted to recommend that the Council move to an online election, in accordance with the new regulations passed by the 92nd Council on July 31.

Finally, it would be remiss not to mention arguably the most historic events of the week—the provisional election of Swapnik Sanagavarapu as 92nd President of the SRC and Bloom for Honi to the 2020 editorship of Honi Soit. My sincere congratulations are extended to both provisional elects, who were automatically elected after no other nominations were received for their positions. While I will be around for a while yet, it is reassuring to know that my successor cares as much about students and the SRC as I do.

All in all, it was a historic and eventful week, but one which is now pretty standard for these strange, historic times. While I’m sure that future weeks will bring many more novelties, one thing will remain unwavering: the SRC’s willingness to fight for students no matter what, even in the face of malevolence and violence.


Week 1, Semester 2, 2020

The holiday period was an incredibly busy one for myself and the SRC, with staff and student Office Bearers working diligently without a proper holiday or break. In fact, the period was so hectic and eventful that it’ll be impossible to summarise it all in this report. At risk of superficiality, I thought I’d briefly highlight some of the key events.

Undoubtedly the biggest news of the holiday period was the Morrison government’s confirmation of their war on the University sector. For those who somehow forgot, the picture was already pretty dystopian before semester concluded. The Liberals refused to provide additional government funding or employment support to the sector, leaving Universities with limited ways to address the revenue crisis caused by International Student drop-outs. Unsurprisingly, and in concert with most Universities across Australia, USyd management responded austerely, cutting subjects and leaving no work for casuals.

Instead of offering a lifeline to the sector, Morrison has instead used this opportunity to fatally damage any remnant of or hope for the Good University. On July 19, the Liberals announced a complicated new funding arrangement which, to summarise, reduces overall funding for “job-ready” programs while significantly increasing fees for the rest. They later disclosed their intent to deny higher education to students who have studied 8 subjects and failed at least half of them.

Both these changes amount to a declaration of war on both the University sector and the poor. The new funding arrangements will leave the University of Sydney with even less government support, exacerbating the existing revenue crisis. This will mean less subjects, less staff, and more cost-saving cuts which will permanently and irreversibly degrade the quality of our already woeful education. The move to deny HECS HELP support to students who fail a few subjects, and to increase fees simultaneously, will guarantee that precarious students neither enter higher education, nor graduate from it. Students with disabilities, students who work, students with mental health issues, Indigenous students, and students with carer responsibilities are among the groups most likely to be affected, while working class students will bear the brunt of significantly increased HECS debt.
The SRC opposes every single aspect of these changes, and is willing to go to war to defeat them and achieve our vision of free, publicly-funded higher education. I have spoken at multiple rallies, attending countless organising meetings, spoken to the media, and done virtually everything in my power to fight the changes and build the mass campaign we need to defeat them (for a full account of all my activity check out my 11-page 08.07 and 19.08 reports to Council, which you can find here). I implore all students to attend the National Day of Action against these changes at 1pm THIS FRIDAY, August the 28th, outside Fisher Library (I’ll even be speaking!)

Though these attacks, and our response to them, have dominated my time lately, I have still been working on plenty of other things. On Friday the 31st of July the 92nd Council successfully passed the most comprehensive changes to the Election Regulations this millennium, if not ever. Special thanks are owed to Janek Drevikovsky for his tireless work and these impressive new regulations. I have also been working with the Returning Officer and SRC Staff to ensure our elections run smoothly—they start in about a month, and I’m sure they’ll be hard to miss. I’ve also spearheaded the new “SRC Informs” program, which will—from NEXT TUESDAY (the 1st of September)—bring experts in to present seminars on topics of interest every Tuesday at 1pm. First up we have An Li, the SRC’s Principal Solicitor, offering expert advice on visas and migration!

Beyond all that, I also attended well over a dozen committee meetings over the break. Those meetings have covered countless topics, but I have particularly fought for the extension of semester one’s No-Disadvantage Assessment policies into semester two and for the University to stop using ProctorU (especially after we found out it had been hacked). I have also opposed the University’s proposal to move to 12 week semesters at numerous committees.

This is a very very brief summary of what was an incredibly productive and busy period. Though the end of my term is now in sight, there is still much to do before the end of November. I look forward to seeing you all at the National Day of Action this Friday.


Week 13, Semester 1, 2020

The last two weeks of this semester will have major implications for all facets of the higher education landscape in 2020 and beyond. Between the Uni’s decision to cut countless courses across countless faculties, the government’s refusal to support the sector at all, and the impending vote on the NTEU’s job protection framework, the battles in higher education have never been as difficult or existential. The SRC is hoping to play as useful and active a role in these battles as possible, and I’m doing my utmost to help achieve a No Vote among NTEU members, build attendance at protests, and create mass student resistance to the countless attacks on our education.

The NTEU’s car convoys on Thursday set the standard for the week and the weeks ahead. A long procession of cars, including a significant number of students and SRC Office Bearers (and yours truly), eked out of Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair to surround the Liberal Party’s Headquarters along William Street, where they were joined by a vocal ensemble of activists, students, and workers. Beyond being fun and cathartic, the convoy also disrupted and raised awareness of the Liberal’s refusal to support higher education, demanding funding to protect jobs.

But that was only the start of the day’s resistance. In the afternoon many of those same activists, students, and workers amassed outside the F23 building for the country’s first in-person higher education rally since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, protesting the University of Sydney’s decision to axe FASS courses and reduce staff numbers. Some 70 strong, carefully distanced from one another to comply with medical and legal constraints, heard staunch speeches and later marched up to the Quadrangle to tac a petition to the door of FASS Dean Annamarie Jagose.

These demonstrations were just the start of what will be an exciting and decisive series of actions in the coming weeks. On Thursday the SRC will be hosting a forum to increase student awareness before a significant in-person protest on Friday. We also expect that the USyd branch will vote on the NTEU’s national job protection framework at some point soon, and so will be contacting as many potential members as possible to encourage a No vote. We demand FASS and other faculties reverse any planned or announced course cuts, we implore all NTEU members to vote No to the national jobs protection framework, and we demand the Uni liquidate assets and borrow to ensure no staff member is worse off in this period. We are willing to use whatever approach is necessary to achieve those ends, and will escalate further if this Friday’s rally does not totally succeed.
These won’t be the only in-person activities this week, however. This Monday, the last of the teaching semester, the Women’s Collective will be protesting the racist and sexist culture at St. Andrew’s College and beyond, after Honi Soit revealed a number of shameful incidents at the College in the post-Broderick period. I encourage anyone to attend what will be a safe and socially distant registration of opposition and outrage to the type of behaviour disclosed by Honi. The SRC endorses the rally, and believes the Colleges should be converted into affordable University accommodation provided to low socioeconomic status, regional, and long commute students on the basis of need.

As great as it is, though, protest has not been, and will not be, the only thing on the agenda in these final weeks. Beyond attending a variety of committees, of which Monday’s University Executive Education Committee is the most auspicious, the SRC has been / will be finalising our Electoral Regulation changes for 2020, hiring a Paralegal, and undertaking further deliveries for our Mutual Aid program. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Faculty of Health and Medicine for a sizable donation of gloves, Bic for donating razors, and OzHarvest for donating yet more hampers for our essentials packs.

All in all, it promises to be a dramatic conclusion to the one of the most dramatic semesters in the history of higher education. I wish all students luck with their final assessments, and urge you all to take the time to thank your tutors / teachers for going above and beyond in supporting our learning this semester. And the best way to thank them, of course, would be by building for and attending this Friday’s protest, at 11am along Eastern Avenue. Together we can reverse these cuts and Defend Our Education!


Week 12, Semester 1, 2020

The Students’ Representative Council Offices, in concert with society more broadly, continues to swell with more people and activity. Between Mutual Aid drop offs, protest organisation / resourcing, and a desire to get out of the house, Office Bearers and undergraduates alike have found themselves in the annals of Wentworth once again. And just as students are starting to return to the Offices, so too are activists returning to the streets—I attended a protest, and plans are afoot for more. It was, in all, a relatively calm week, which was spent planning for the storms about to hit our shores.

To that end, protest organising was the main focus of the week. With University’s experiencing a once-in-a-generation crisis generations in the making, students and staff are mobilising so we can defend our conditions and avoid the attacks the powerful seem to be planning. With the National Tertiary Education Union’s Executive selling out to University management and agreeing to a “National Framework” for EBA re-negotiations which will involve at least 15% cuts, it is little wonder we’re urgently strategising. Tuesday saw an open meeting of our Defend Our Education campaign, which aimed to make clear the connection between staff conditions and student learning conditions. By emphasising student conditions and connecting our myriad academic issues to broader structural determinants, we hope academic struggles will serve as a good entry point for engaging more students in the campaign to support staff and fight government negligence.

Not to be outdone, Thursday saw the Education Action Group host an online meeting and panel featuring Education Officer Jazz Breen and USyd Academic (and head of the USyd Casuals Network) Rob Boncardo. With an impressive audience from a few different political perspectives, the meeting made crystal clear how important student contributions will be to upcoming higher education struggles. Discussion specifically centred around the NTEU’s National Day of Action on the 21st of May (Thursday this week), which will involve a car convoy and possibly other forms of in-person protest. The SRC totally endorses the campaign, and will be sending a sizable contingent to the convoy and will encourage students to contribute digitally too! We will also be promoting and participating in the follow-up National Day of Action on the 22nd, which will specifically emphasise the “No Uni Cuts” and “No Deal” demands / outcomes which will be essential to winning this broader fight.

Between these actions, and a few others, it seems not only that in-person protest is back on the agenda, but also that the spirit of rebellion is in the air. On Tuesday I attended a small protest outside the NSW Parliament demanding relief for renters / tenants, which was, unfortunately, quickly shut down by the NSW Police. Despite their hasty and intolerant intervention, however, I did manage to sneak a speech in at Hyde Park amid a small crowd of staunch activists from the Housing Defence Coalition. And further actions are planned in the coming week, including a potential refugee solidarity action.

Protest and long-term structural change weren’t the only thing on the agenda, however. After the small but successful launch of the Mutual Aid delivery program in week 10, the SRC initiated its second-round of drop-offs. It is hard to convey the scale of the operation. Countless bags of hampers, kindly donated by the Exodus Foundation, are piled up in the Gosper and Office Bearer rooms, and filled with extra goodies we’ve received by careful volunteers. Once filled and tied back together, we sort them into different piles to reflect the different drop-off routes we’ve created. Then, after a few days of disinfecting, our drivers come by and load them into their car—we’ve had trips to Darlington / Chippendale, Burwood, Strathfield / Rhodes, Hornsby, and many more are planned for places far and near. And while this process has taken a bit of time to perfect and get off the ground, it is now running smoothly and efficiently. We have so far distributed 60 packs, and we intend to do at least another 40-80 in the coming week. For any students who have not yet received a pack, we apologise for the delay—we are running on volunteer labour and can only process so many bags in a given time frame. Please be assured that we are trying our best to help you.

As always there were plenty of committee meetings to attend. Tuesday saw an Undergraduate Studies Committee meeting, while Wednesday saw both a Student Life Committee and Board of Interdisciplinary Studies meeting. On top of my usual Friday afternoon meeting with key University managers, and additional ad hoc meetings with various staff throughout the week, I have been quite immersed in the University bureaucracy of late.

The next week will see yet more committees, with the Student Consultative, Academic Standards & Policy, Learning Environment, and Orientation Project group all meeting. More importantly, however, we’ll be building towards and then actualising two massive National Days of Action on Thursday and Friday. And with all this taking place amid the USU Elections, and the USU’s own staffing issues, I’m certain week 12 will be an incredibly busy and important week.


Week 11, Semester 1, 2020

The SRC’s Offices were a little busier this week. With broader lockdown restrictions and cultural attitudes starting to relax, this isn’t exactly surprising; between necessity and novelty, there’re plenty of reasons for staff and activists to (safely) duck in. Some were printing flyers and sourcing Calico for political actions. Some were getting files to complete important legal and case work. And many were packing bags and later cars to realise the first round of Mutual Aid essentials pack deliveries. It was, after many weeks of silence and monotony, a welcome and productive week.

Among many important activities, delivering our first round of Mutual Aid essentials packs was the most utile and challenging. A significant logistical challenge, it took a large team effort—involving 5 different sub-teams with specialised focusses—to make it reality. With Secretary to Council Julia Robins coordinating, myself and some others volunteers on Thursday went through each hamper provided by the Exodus Foundation and cleaned / properly prepared them for delivery. In addition to its initial contents—which included oats / cereals, pasta, long-life milk, packet noodles, canned goods, sugar, tea, biscuits, chocolates, and even potatoes—we added extra boxes of pasta and cereal, hand sanitiser, and information about the SRC and our Mutual Aid program. Beyond sanitising and cleaning the bags.

Having been anonymously labelled and sorted into distinct piles for different routes, the packs were picked up by 5 different drivers on Friday and dropped to students who filled out our form. While the process took a while, it is incredibly awesome to see it fully realised. Over the next few days we’ll be accumulating more packs from the Exodus Foundation, and now that we have a bunch of systems in place we’ll be able to distribute them very quickly thereafter. For any students that have filled out the form and are still waiting, we apologise for the delay. Though we have significant resource and labour limitations, we hope to get packs out to all who have (at this stage) filled out the form within the next fortnight.

The deliveries weren’t all that happened on Friday, though. In yet another admirable and successful action, the Housing Defence Coalition Sydney waged a staunch protest against Iglu Chatswood to protest their treatment of tenants and demand rent suspension. With the promised eviction of a tenant avoided, and safe, socially distant in-person protest once again demonstrated, the action was a tremendous success. The SRC is proud to be supporting the Housing Defence Coalition, and will continue to do so as the fight for housing justice becomes even more important over the coming months. I will be participating in and speaking at a protest for Housing Justice outside Parliament House on Tuesday the 10th of May.

There continues to be lots to do on campus and in the University sector, with meetings and protests galore. On Tuesday I attended the second Academic Board meeting of the year, presenting a report which highlighted the SRC’s activities over the last while, canvassed numerous concerns with the transition to online learning, and criticised the government for refusing to fund the University sector. On Friday student leaders had our regular catch up with University administrators. And On Wednesday night Zoom played host to the 4th Council meeting of the year, which was both seamless and politically important, with motions passed on prison abolition, supporting International Students, and a variety of other topics.

Among those topics were motions in support of both the NTEU and No Uni Cuts campaigns, with National Day(s) of Action called for the 21st and 22nd of May, respectively. These days, which many hope will feature protest and industrial activity, will be crucial in the emerging higher education struggle, a battle with existential implications for the sector this century. The SRC and Education Action Group will be building for them over the coming weeks through lecture bashes, open meetings, and other communications avenues. We will also be building the Defend Our Education campaign simultaneously, with another large open meeting of the student body planned for Tuesday.

The SRC also passed a number of motions about the University of Sydney Union, a fellow Student Representative Organisation which has undergone significant financial distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having lost basically all cashflow through their vast retail apparatuses, the USU has been trying to work out a way forward. The SRC condemned their approach to staff employment and incomes in this period, with wages reduced by 40% after most casual staff were already laid off. While I understand the difficult situation the USU is in, and understand that continuing to pay the same amount of staff at the same rate would have brought insolvency closer, there are countless other strategies that could have been pursued and realised before that insolvency deadline. For instance, the USU could liquidate some assets and take out some loans, to push that deadline further down the track. The USU could negotiate with the University for the funding behind closed doors, and get some sort of conditional funding. Or, best yet, the USU could work with the SRC and student activists to incorporate the USU’s funding needs into the Defend Our Education campaign, and demand it from the government and University. The USU is responsible for some of the most important parts of the University experience, and we need it to be well-funded and deeply democratised to do those things well. And while I totally agree that we should focus on demanding that the University and government fund the USU, I can’t accept the USU’s cost-cutting until they’ve at least tried a more open, combative, and unwaveringly pro-worker approach to this fight.

The upcoming week will see more on all these developments, I’m sure. With the USU elections intricately interspersed throughout them, there’s no doubt these debates will be at the centre of many students’ minds. I’ll also be heading along to a few committees, meetings, protests, and live streams, helping the second round of Mutual Aid deliveries get off the ground, and continue to work on Regulatory and Constitutional reform in the background. I hope everyone stays safe, particularly as some of us cautiously wade back into in-person interactions. We’re closer to the end than the beginning.


Week 10, Semester 1, 2020

Another week, another 7 days of at-times monotonous, at-times exciting, but at-all-times abnormal student unionism, as the University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council continues to work from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But like most weeks under these conditions, week 9 proved to be a busy one.

The highlight of the week was undoubtedly Friday’s car convoy protest, which aimed to celebrate and actualise the principles behind the International Workers’ Day, or May 1 / May Day as it’s also known. Without a vehicle or ride of my own I was only able to watch on as representatives from different trade unions, members of various socialist groups, and a bunch of SRC Office Bearers brought the city to a standstill. Rallying around the #NoWorkerLeftBehind mantra, the convoy aimed to draw attention to the economic injustices ushered in by the pandemic. Among other things, protestors demanded government assistance for International Students, an expansion of the JobKeeper and Seeker payments to include more workers, and support for the University sector. The SRC stood fully behind the protests, which at one stage surrounded all 4 sides of the block on which the Liberal Party’s headquarters are situated! Actions like this will be increasingly necessary as we fight for the survival of the most vulnerable and confront the government’s post-pandemic austerity plans.

Spurred on by a similar spirit of resistance, the Education Action Group and SRC held an open meeting of the student body on Wednesday, where students raised issues with the transition to online learning and we finalised our new education-focussed campaign, #DefendOurStudies. While the campaign will sit alongside and have the same end-vision as the broader #NoUniCuts, #NoWorkerLeftBehind, and #NoStudentLeftBehind campaigns, it diverges by focussing specifically on academic and educational issues specific to the University of Sydney. Various issues of this kind will be incorporated under the general #DefendOurStudies heading: among many other things, we will fight for better WAM adjustment procedures, the total elimination of ProctorU, greater support for staff during the transition to online learning, and intimate staff-to-student ratios. Through the campaign we hope not only to address these immediate issues, but also to provide students with an entry point into the battles on which our education quality ultimately depends. To that end, the entire campaign assumes and relies on separate demands around government support for the University sector and maintenance of employment for staff (as articulated in the #NoUniCuts and #NoWorkerLeftBehind campaigns), and so the SRC will continue to look outward and support workers however we can. But in any case, we hope that this campaign will be a more accessible, visible, and effective way for us to address the myriad concerns which are, rightly, frustrating USyd students at the moment.

The SRC hasn’t just been busy with campaigns, however. For one, the Legal Service is about to hire its first Paralegal, offering significant relief to our Solicitors, An and Cade. With the extra time An is hoping to offer more meaningful Visa assistance—stay tuned for more information about that new service, which should save students thousands. For another, our mutual aid program continues to go from strength-to-strength, with donated medical gloves and masks augmenting (and hopefully sterilising!) our already substantial essentials packs. We should be sending the bulk of these packs out this week—keep your eyes peeled! And our Constitutional and Regulatory Reform initiative, bedeviled by the pandemic of late, has recently started reconvening, with a view towards a first wave of reform in time for this year’s election.

But the week was not without its monotony, with the regular smorgasboard of committee meetings plastered across my schedule. Monday saw the ever-significant University Executive Education Committee, while Tuesday saw not one but two Academic Board subcommittee meetings. Not to be outdone, Thursday saw both an Honours Admission Taskforce meeting and a meeting between University management and tenants of various University accommodations, while Friday saw our usual weekly meeting with management. While the details of these meetings are too numerous (and perhaps confidential) to list, the student body can be sure that myself and other SRC representatives have raised student concerns and proposals forcefully and effectively. Indeed, while this type of direct advocacy may at times feel somewhat pointless, and is often quite frustrating, I doubt the University would have implemented pro-student initiatives, like financial assistance packages, WAM adjustment procedures, and reformed special considerations, without it.

More of these committees await next week, alongside further work on the mutual aid and #DefendOurStudies and #NoUniCuts campaigns. I hope all staff and students are taking care of themselves at this time—I can’t wait to see you all back here by mid-semester two (fingers crossed!)


Week 9, Semester 1, 2020

The Students’ Representative Council has had yet another successful (if unconventional) week under Work From Home conditions, and the eery silence of the Wentworth Offices has even been occasionally disturbed by the chugging of printers, dropping of foodstuff, and delivery of Honi.
The highlight of the week was undoubtedly the launch of our “essentials pack” program, an initiative that forms a key component of the SRC’s mutual aid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the program took time to get up and running—it’s not easy working out how to source and deliver food and essential goods to people—the SRC has been working towards this launch for months. I’m pleased to report that our Offices’ Gosper room is crammed with countless pre-made hampers from the Exodus Foundation and mountains of Pasta and cereal box, more than enough to accommodate the 30+ requests we’ve received. Sincere thanks are owed to countless people, but I want to particularly single out Julia Robins (Secretary to Council), Felix Faber (Vice-President), Priya Gupta (Queer Officer), Klementine Burrell-Sander (Student Housing Officer), Robin Eames, Abbey Shi (General Secretary), Isla Mowbray (General Executive), Paola Ayre (Queer Officer), Liam Thorne, Nina Mountfourd, Simone Morris and Ellie Wilson (Women’s Officer) for their initiative and contributions at various points over the preceding months. Check out the backpage of Honi for more information on how you can help or get help through our mutual aid program!

The SRC has not only been concerned with providing immediate material relief, however — we have also been participating in a number of important struggles for the future of our education and indeed our entire society. The most significant of these campaigns is the emerging No Uni Cuts campaign, which demands full government funding and the abolition of University fees in order to both protect the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic and also initiate the transition away from the failed Neo-Liberal University model. As part of Friday the 24th’s broader National Day of Online Action, the SRC participated in two live streams, the first (which featured Lee Rhiannon) concerned upcoming May 1 activities, while the second (which featured Mehreen Faruqi) concerned the role of student resistance in the COVID-19 crisis, particularly with respect to the tertiary education sector.

Both of these activities are intertwined: the No Uni Cuts campaign aims to, among other things, support and amplify the demands of militant rank and file within the NTEU, a demographic which will feature prominently in the May 1 car convoys. Indeed, in my capacity as a member of the USyd NTEU branch I attended their most recent meeting, and voted for militant positions alongside a resounding majority of rank and file members. These academic and University workers—forgotten by the new economy and the government smoothing its creases—as reluctant personifications of the “No Worker Left Behind” demand, will no doubt be prominent figures throughout Friday’s car convoy. The University sector, like the economy in which it is situated, will be neither worthwhile nor fair until the people it affects most significantly also have the most significant say over it. And the only way those most affected—like students and workers—have any chance of a genuine say is through acts of resistance; acts like car convoys, like symbolic celebrations of working class power, like preparations for militant strike action. The SRC is thrilled to be playing a positive role in the campaigns and initiatives that have the best chance at saving our sector and achieving a better University system, and we commit to total solidarity with academics, professional staff, and workers in all sectors.

These big, outward-looking structural fights intersect significantly with the work we have been doing on behalf of USyd students’ academic interests. We intend to make these connections clear at Wednesday’s open meeting of the student body, which seeks to discuss issues students have found with the transition to online learning and assessment. Topics will include, but won’t be limited to, ProctorU, mark adjustment schemes, reductions in courses, and increases in class sizes. These last two are not only of particular and novel concern, with recent reports suggesting the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will cut one-third of its courses in semester two, but are also intimately linked with various failures of the Neo-Liberal University, including the under resourcing by government, the myopia of the University managerial class, and the profit rationales which have devalued whole disciplines and academic merit more broadly. We hope to package all of these concerns into a broader campaign around academic support and No Disadvantage, which we seek to run alongside the broader No Uni Cuts and No Student / Worker Left Behind campaigns.

Away from activism and mutual aid projects, I’ve also attended a number of the usual University committee meetings, with two Academic Board subcommittee meetings last Tuesday and a Vice-Chancellor Recruitment focus group session on Wednesday. Yet more await me this week, as two further Academic Board subcommittee meetings on Tuesday join an Honours Admission Taskforce meeting on Thursday and an Education Committee meeting on Monday. All in all, it promises to be another busy and exciting week, with Friday’s May 1 convoy and daily deliveries of our “essentials packs” likely to be the highlights.


Week 8, Semester 1, 2020

The past two weeks have been incredibly busy for myself and the SRC more broadly, though the mid-semester and Easter breaks offered some brief moments for recovery and reinvigoration. With COVID-19 and associated lockdowns / economic malaise continuing to cause tenancy, income, migration, it’s little wonder that the Casework and Legal services have been working tirelessly. Indeed, demand has been so high that we’re close to hiring a paralegal to both reduce the administrative burden on our solicitors and free our Principal, An Li, so she can assist students with Visa applications / extensions (saving them thousands!)

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the SRC staff for their tireless work in this period. The Administration team, always the glue that holds the entire organisation together, have adapted to new and challenging conditions impressively, with our administration processes as smooth as ever. Similarly, the Publications team are as efficient and comprehensive as ever, adapting to the increased need for a substantial social media presence while continuing to manage and deliver Honi Soit as normal. And Mynsan, our cleaner, deserves special recognition, bravely coming to the SRC every now and then to keep the space tidy and safe for the various Office Bearers, staff members, and executives who occasionally work within.

Some staff have also been going above and beyond their ordinary duties. Secretary to Council, Julia Robins, has been spearheading the SRC’s mutual aid initiatives alongside OBs and other students. I am really pleased to announce that their diligence has paid off — we now have over 500 packs of Barilla pasta, hundreds of cereal boxes, over 1,000 medical masks, and—most importantly—an emerging partnership with the Exodus Foundation, who we are hoping will supply any remaining goods. We are hoping to (hygienically!) arrange these goods into “essentials packs”, which we’ll then distribute to students over the coming weeks. We have already begun circulating a form for students interested in volunteering — if you would like to complete this form yourself, feel free to ask me for one at president@src.usyd.edu.au. We will soon be circulated a similar form for students in need — keep your eyes peeled!

Staff diligence also explains why last Wednesday’s Council meeting was a surprising success. No doubt the first ever SRC meeting to take place entirely online, at one stage over 60 different undergraduates were on the Zoom call, with quorum comfortably achieved. While there were some minor technical issues and awkward moments throughout, many aspects of the meeting were indistinguishable from an ordinary one, and debates were not only well-managed, but also as interesting and compelling as ever. All in all, I’m quite chuffed to have chaired the first ever online Council meeting, and think its success raises questions about the use of Zoom for meetings in the post-COVID-19 world.

The SRC has not only been managing its internal affairs well, but also been thoroughly engaged in the abundant struggles on- and off-campus. I am proud to report that at the start of Week 7 the University announced that it would be embracing many of the academic support measures we’d been publicly and privately demanding over the past few weeks. These measures include multiple mark-adjustment procedures (Within-assessment mark adjustment, Post-assessment mark adjustment, and computation of a COVID-adjusted end of degree WAM), the application of DC, UC, and RI grades to minimise instances of student failure), and, most promisingly, a comprehensive reform of special considerations that reduces the evidentiary and administrative burden on students and commits to greater compassion throughout this period. We’ve also been fighting tirelessly against the ProctorU online invigilation system, and while the Uni seems intent on persisting with it, we have achieved some relief for students. For one, after much insistence the Uni has said it has granted special considerations to students with legitimate discomfort / objections to the system. For another, we have helped students draft emails demanding their Unit of Study coordinators abandon the system, a strategy which has seen countless Units and even entire faculties move away from the system. We have also supported honours and Higher-Degree-by-research students, with the University committing to grant extensions for theses and devising arrangements so students can access non-digitised research.

But our advocacy has not been limited to classroom concerns, with our platform, resources, and organising efforts directed towards countless community and student struggles. Last Friday we participated in a day of online action in support of refugees and their allied activists, as I filmed and uploaded a message of support to our main Facebook page. We will continue to look for opportunities to centre groups at disproportionate risk in this period, including refugees and Original peoples.

As part of our broader housing justice efforts we have been supporting the Sydney Housing Defence Coalition in a number of ways, including by printing their posters and helping display them around the Inner West. We are also extensively supporting tenants in USyd accommodation as they fight for housing justice, with our efforts helping realise the University’s moratorium on evictions, circumstantial rent reductions, and broader sympathy / support for tenants. We have also been assisting the National Union of Studenwts’ various welfare campaigns, joining them in demanding that non-citizens / non-residents be included in the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs, that the age of independence be reduced from 22 to 18, and that all part-time or deferred students be eligible for Youth Allowance.

But perhaps the biggest campaign we are supporting is the one being spearheaded by radical rank and file within the National Tertiary Education Union. Dismayed with the soft bargaining position taken by the National Executive, branches across the country have followed the lead of the USyd branch in censuring the Executive and developing their own grassroots campaign. The SRC supports this rank and file campaign, and will be participating in the National Day of Action on April the 24th as well as the May 1 car convoy. This participation is not only motivated by a general sense of solidarity with USyd workers, but also by the belief that this campaign will be a relevant entry point into the broader fight for tertiary education, one which also offers the underlying infrastructure for a successful fight. And with this struggle and NTEU members likely to feature prominently in the broader May 1 activities, it’s entirely possible this campaign will play a large role in determining the fate and living standards of all workers throughout this period and beyond.

Clearly the past few weeks have been busy, and while they’ve brought about many achievements, they’ve also made clear that even more things need to be achieved. If you would like further information on our recent efforts (or my contributions to them) check out the latest (third) report I delivered to Council, or alternately hit me up at president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any questions!


Week 7, Semester 1, 2020

The SRC has had yet another busy week, with staff and student Office Bearers swiftly responding to a range of COVID-19-related issues. Though many things are being brought to our attention, the University’s use of the ProctorU invigilation system has generated significant grassroots outrage and energy. The system uses students’ webcams to livestream and record their exam process so invigilators overseas can ensure they’re not cheating, and students have expressed considerable concern about its privacy implications through USyd rants and other online fora.

The SRC is just as alarmed by ProctorU as the student body, and has taken a number of steps to push back against its use and impacts, including:

Assisting students as they network with others in their Units of Study and pressure their UoS Coordinator to abandon ProctorU (a strategy which has been incredibly successful). This has been through both the new Say No to ProctorU and SRC COVID-19 response groups, respectively.

Using our communications channels to create public pressure on the University, including through our social media channels and stories in the mainstream media.

Organising and sharing a petition through our Education Action Group and Education Officers.

Raising concerns at the University Executive’s Education Committee meeting, on Monday the 30th of March, and again on a Zoom call with senior figures at the University on Friday the 27tth of March and 3rd of April. This is in addition to countless emails, statements, and intermittent calls.

Undertaking an extensive survey which indicated significant concern about the use of ProctorU.

Unfortunately the University is certain that exams are necessary in certain cases, and there has always been significant bureaucratic momentum behind the use of ProctorU in those circumstances. The SRC has been trying to achieve a few things in light of this, and has had some success in:

Getting the University to encourage / assist UoS coordinators with devising alternate assessment, so that exams (and therefore ProctorU) are only used where absolutely necessary for professional accreditation purposes. This has succeeded, with many courses switching away from exams, though we do not know whether subjects that remained with exams did so for professional reasons. We will continue to fight to minimise the number of exams being set.

Encouraging students to pressure their UoS coordinators to abandon preexisting or recent plans for exams and / or the use of ProctorU. This has also been successful, with many UoS coordinators recently announcing new, non-exam assessments.
Getting the University to recognise well-founded conscientious objection to the system as legitimate grounds for special considerations. We want students who cannot get an alternate examination arranged through special considerations to have the option of Discontinuing without failure (DC) and a full fee refund. This will take longer to achieve, but we are making progress.

Aside from ProctorU, the student body has been caught up in questions around grading systems, particularly the pass / fail debate. Here, again, the SRC has been actively prosecuting the student case for the past few weeks, and we are now throwing our support behind a system where students have their WAM calculated with and without their semester 1 2020 marks and get the superior result. This would directly and proportionally correct for the worst-case instances of unique disadvantage that concern people now, while also preserving merit and success in this period. We understand that this approach is achieving a lot of support within the University, and we will continue to push for it until it alongside the introduction of “Result Incomplete” grades and an overhauled, more compassionate special considerations regime.

Finally, we have also been supporting campaigns to suspend rent and rental evictions in University accommodation over the past week. We are pleased to report that the campaign has achieved some of its demands, with Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence agreeing not to evict any students in an email. We will continue to support this campaign as it calls for rent reductions and suspensions, and play an active role in housing defence initiatives.

This week our new mutual aid working group should make further progress on our essentials packs, and we will also focus on demands concerning International Students, deadline extensions, and fee refunds. I wish all students the best over the coming weeks, and encourage any of them to reach out to me at president@src.usyd.edu.au if they have any concerns or ideas.


Week 6, Semester 1, 2020

This week was a strange and difficult week for the SRC and, it seems, the student body more widely. The sudden transition to online learning for students, and to work from home for the SRC, has been mangeable, for the most part, but alienating as well. The caseworkers and legal service are working hard as ever from home, and our Legal Service’s new solicitor, Cade Badway, is set to join us from Monday before print (the 30th). The publications team and Honi are also producing quality content despite the challenges of the work from home environment. Administration, as usual, is holding everyone together and assisting students with mutual aid initiatives. And Office Bearers are finding new ways to conduct activism, holding large meetings via zoom, executing broader social media campaigns, and, in some cases, assisting with brash political stunts alongside workers.

It is interesting to see how activism is changing under these strange conditions. There has been a deluge of good will and earnest initiative among many groups, not least the SRC, but without obvious leadership or coordination it hasn’t yet turned into anything very effective or urgent. Nonetheless, a few big achievements were achieved this week as a result of social media action and good old-fashioned lobbying.

After much lobbying and social media campaigning, the National Union of Students managed to force the government into including Youth Allowance in its welfare expansions. This will more or less double the fortnightly payments of over 200,000 students, and comes off the back of relentless pressure from the USyd SRC and other student unions for the past few weeks. However, as satisfying as that win was, we’re going to need even more support if students and the ordinary people of this country are going to avoid significant hardship during the crisis. We need relaxed eligibility criteria for all welfare payments, and elimination of mutual obligations — perhaps a Universal Basic Income would do it. We need an amnesty on bills, so expenses don’t grow uncontrollably. And we need a moratorium on eviction, so people have a roof over their heads (and walls within which to quarantine.) Hopefully the NUS and other groups around the country can cohere around these sorts of demands, helping to support rent and labour strikes achieve the significant structural change we need to secure people’s lives.

These broader political battles sit alongside tussles at the University of Sydney, of which there have been many this week. From behind computer screens, via email and Zoom, myself and other senior Executives engaged in a consistent conversation with University administrators about a range of topics, including the Census date, use of ProctorU software to invigilate online exams, use of alternative grading systems, reforms to special considerations, and other topics. I also had conversations about these initiatives in formal context at the Academic Board’s Academic Quality and Standards and Policy committee(s) on Tuesday. But while we made contact consistently and seemed to be making inroads each time, the University seems intent on pushing ahead with an opaque agenda which largely keeps business as usual. That said, our prosecution of the student case, and upswell of grassroots outrage and organising among the broader student body, has made them amenable to alternative, post-hoc remedies for the things making students concerned. We will fight for significant improvements to the ease and accessibility of special considerations, generous and compassionate awarding of Discontinue without Fail grades, automatic awarding of refunds for fail and DF courses, and other academic and financial remedies which achieve functionally identical outcomes to those demanded this week. We will also start encouraging students to push their Unit of Student coordinator to devise alternative assessments which don’t involve ProctorU, and to employ alternate grading schemes where possible.

The SRC and life itself will continue in its strange form throughout week 6, as yet more University committee meetings take place from behind screens and activists refine their strategies for these conditions. With any luck we will advance our mutual aid efforts further, and also develop a more structured approach to our strategy and assistance.

University quality, and an enormous injustice to the young people who depend on them for their future. And finally, accomodations around census date, HECS repayments, and visas would be the least the government could do to allay the significant stress this period is causing for students.
We welcome the NUS’ latest statement and set of demands on the matter, and look forward to working with them and student unions across the country to build a campaign which brings the issues students are facing to the forefront of the national conversation. Moreover, we will continue to pressure the University to provide appropriate course fee discounts, grants to affected students, and total, unconditional support for all staff, even if that requires increased borrowing and liquidation of assets.

Beyond this political advocacy, the SRC hopes to play a leading role in mutual aid and community solidarity efforts. We are looking into how our resources, space, and labour power can be used to respond to the specific needs and requests of the most vulnerable in our community. If you would like to join these efforts, please let me know at president@src.usyd.edu.au. With any luck these short-term measures will help contain the immediate harms of the crisis, while our broader political advocacy will help create the thorough, long-term response needed to ensure the basic survival of our economy, our instutitions, and the vulnerable.


Week 5, Semester 1, 2020

Like many other elements of society, the Students’ Representative Council has spent the week retreating into the refuge of private accommodation, with increasing concern around transmission of COVID-19 necessitating the implementation of a “work from home” policy. With the Offices locked to everyone bar those with swipe card access, appointments and consultations taking place over the phone / VoIP, and all other physical activities / processes suspended, the SRC has taken a more virtual form, but is still as active in its work for Undergraduate students as ever.
The University of Sydney, in contrast, has only just announced a belated and partial suspension of in-person activity, with tutorials and lectures finally cancelled but some medical placements and small-scale interactions still permitted. Amidst the stillness of an almost-entirely but nonetheless unofficially abandoned campus, I attended the University’s Student Life and Student Consultative Committee meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. While these are ordinarily more exciting meetings, which invite the possibility to discuss forward-thinking initiatives and improvements to the student experience, the COVID-19 outbreak dominated all discussion. All future initiatives and funding opportunities have either been halted or are difficult to action amidst the unpredictability and increased workload created by the outbreak. Nonetheless, it was a good opportunity to ask questions of Dr. Phillipa Pattison, Deputy-Vice Chancellor (Education), and Susanna Scarparo, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Life), who both chair these committees and have played a significant role in the University’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

To that end, the SRC has been working hard to put pressure on the University, government, and other institutions to respond thoroughly, swiftly, and fairly to the adversity and injustice that is rapidly emerging in the chaos of the outbreak. We have created a petition making a number of demands of the government, designed a number of posters (featuring QR codes linking to those petitions), and undertaken late-night postering of key destinations in the inner west. In addition, we have played an active (and perhaps even leading) role in the response of the National Union of Students and student unions across the country, helping to motivate a coordinated student response which has cohered the movement around radical economic demands.

These radical economic demands ensure that people will be able to access essential resources and housing. Without rental amnesties, expansions of welfare policies, and paid special leave, there is no hope for millions, particularly students and those who work casual shifts in demand-based industries. Similarly, these demands will ensure the tertiary education weathers the immediate crisis, avoiding mass job losses, an irreversible deterioration in University quality, and an enormous injustice to the young people who depend on them for their future. And finally, accomodations around census date, HECS repayments, and visas would be the least the government could do to allay the significant stress this period is causing for students.

We welcome the NUS’ latest statement and set of demands on the matter, and look forward to working with them and student unions across the country to build a campaign which brings the issues students are facing to the forefront of the national conversation. Moreover, we will continue to pressure the University to provide appropriate course fee discounts, grants to affected students, and total, unconditional support for all staff, even if that requires increased borrowing and liquidation of assets.

Beyond this political advocacy, the SRC hopes to play a leading role in mutual aid and community solidarity efforts. We are looking into how our resources, space, and labour power can be used to respond to the specific needs and requests of the most vulnerable in our community. If you would like to join these efforts, please let me know at president@src.usyd.edu.au. With any luck these short-term measures will help contain the immediate harms of the crisis, while our broader political advocacy will help create the thorough, long-term response needed to ensure the basic survival of our economy, our instutitions, and the vulnerable.


Week 4, Semester 1, 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak remains the most pressing concern of the SRC, just as it is for the rest of society. With the number of local infections growing, and a University shutdown likely, the SRC has been quieter than usual. While there were banner paints, rallies, and even a few meetings, by the end of the week it was clear that the next few weeks, or maybe even months, would bring profound disruption to all our lives.

I am seriously concerned about what the next few weeks / months will entail for people, particularly students. Universities are going to have to deal with enormous revenue and funding loss, as shutdowns, pre-Census Date deferrals, and travel bans conspire to choke the sector. This will lead to worse learning outcomes, greater financial uncertainty for staff, and significant cuts to operations and provisions. The upcoming recession will significantly reduce demand for goods and services, meaning less shifts for casual workers and limited disposable income. Countless students will be left without any source of income or safety net, with many of us employed in demand-sensitive industries like hospitality, retail, tutoring, sex work, childcare, sports / activity coaching, call-centre work, and the like. Many of us will be infected, or have family and friends who will be infected, and social institutions will effectively be paused as we each siloise inside our quarantine zones.

The SRC implores all students to exercise caution and to be as safe as possible in the coming weeks. Please follow all self-quarantine directives and keep up-to-date with the latest health advice. We anticipate that the University of Sydney will shut soon, and we are likely to do the same once they do. While online classes may continue, it seems almost everything else planned is currently up in the air: the SRC General Meeting on April the 1st, National Tertiary Education Union’s Anti-Austerity rally on March the 25th, and even May’s climate strikes will depend on whether public gatherings are permitted, institutions remain open, and how intense the community outbreak is. It is imperative that we remain vigilant and politically active amid these challenging circumstances, holding the government to account and registering our dissent as best we can.
The SRC will continue to work on our major projects even if there’s a shutdown. Among other things, we will plan and finalise the food bank, prepare every aspect of our information sessions, and continue with our reforms to the constitution and regulations, so that each are ready for implementation once life returns to some semblance of normality. In addition, we will continue to facilitate and encourage activism inasmuch as it is logistically possible, so that we can deal with the extensive economic, social, and biological fallout of this unprecedented emergency situation. Our usual services will be provided in some form, with as little quality loss as we can feasibly achieve.

Despite the uncertainty and fear brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, the SRC nonetheless had a busy and successful week. On Tuesday night we had a well-attended, efficient, and politically robust Council meeting. On Wednesday night the SRC held a banner paint for Sunday’s (now-cancelled) rally in solidarity with victims of Modhi’s fascist regime. The Environment Collective and Education Action Group both had well-attended meetings, and on Friday a small but forceful crowd gathered at Fisher library and marched to Henry Dean Plaza as part of what may well be the last climate protest for a few months.

Beyond those initiatives, I attended a number of meetings with the University, including a discussion about a campaign around educational integrity and a Board of Interdisciplinary Studies meeting. I have also maintained frequent communications with the University to keep on top of their response to the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure they’re aware of student concerns.

Though the next few weeks will likely see a pause in in-person activity, the need to organise politically and support students will be larger than ever. It is essential that the University prioritises safety and fairness over profits. Among other things, they must not unnecessarily delay shutting the University down past the Census date, they must make appropriate accommodations for and give compensation to students who are faultlessly disrupted, they must support staff financially, they must ensure conditions are sufficient for learning, and they must ensure that the overall experience is priced fairly. And, even more crucially, the government must respond with an urgency and thoroughness normally uncommon and difficult in a Western liberal democracy, particularly one run by self-interested anti-intellectuals with a facile festishisation of small government and limited spending. More specifically, they need to take steps which defy the logic of late stage neo-liberal capitalism: rents must be frozen; the government must immediately start expanding hospital capacity, establishing quarantine zones, and distributing medical products; and welfare payments (particularly Youth Allowance, Newstart, and Rent Assist) must be expanded and increased to cope with the significant decrease in shifts for casual workers and ensure citizens have basic subsistence. I have very little confidence that any, or at least enough, of these things will be done, and it is precisely this negligence which will do the most damage in this scary epoch. The SRC, at least, will do our bit to push the University and government to respond the right way, and fill the lacuna of care that their negligence will create.


Week 3, Semester 1, 2020

With the rigours and routines of semester firmly in motion, the SRC remained busy as ever, with all of our professional staff and Office Bearers working frantically to remedy an abundance of local and global challenges. The Environment Collective has continued to pull enormous crowds to their meetings, and recently had a meeting at the Conservatorium, a rare and promising move for a Collective. The Autonomous Collective Against Racism has been staunch and diligent in their organisation of a significant protest against Modhi and India’s descent into fascism, which will be on Sunday the 15th of March at the Indian Consulate General. The Women’s Collective had a large contingent at International Women’s Day, while the Queer Action Collective brought a large and colourful group of students along to the Pride in Protest float at Saturday’s Mardi Gras. And, as if all that weren’t enough, all the Collectives came together for a large bake sale on Thursday, which raised money for Indigenous communities that have been affected by black deaths in custody.

With the Office Bearers and Collectives setting such a fast pace, the SRC has had no time for lassitude. This week, the Sydney Legal Service board concluded our search for a second solicitor, which should relieve our Principal, An Li, and deliver greater capacity to the student body. In addition, staff have been particularly hard working as they assist students grappling grappling with Covid-19’s impact on study and this University, and we hope to soon start producing translated versions of SRC pamphlets and information to increase engagement and reliability of assistance.

Beyond these small-scale improvements to the SRC, week 2 also saw us begin the long process of Constitutional and Regulatory reform, which will hopefully culminate in a 200+ student General Meeting in Semester 2. The SRC has an open working group, and invites participation and feedback from anyone with thoughts on either documents. Our meeting on Monday was the first of many as we seek to give the regulations their most comprehensive shakeup since the introduction of VSU in 2006.

Though Constitutional and Regulatory reform is a large undertaking, it is not the 92nd SRC’s only big project that commenced this week. On Wednesday evening international and domestic students from a variety of different political groups and factions met to start work on the Fair Fares campaign, which is demanding concession Opal cards for international students. Though campaign strategy is still being formulated, at our meeting on Thursday we thought it’d be good for it to involve a protest in early May. Week 3 will see meetings for the SRC’s other major projects for the year, the SRC Feeds and SRC Informs programs.

On top of these SRC-oriented meetings, I also had a fair few with the University over the week. I had a Safer Communities Advisory Group meeting and induction to the Academic Board and University Executive on Monday, Academic Board on Tuesday, and a Thematic Review meeting on Wednesday, though at this early point in semester nothing major has yet been discussed at any of those.

The Education Action Group is close to launching their new exciting campaign for the year, and are mobilising around the NTEU’s March 25th rally. This protest challenges some elements of the University’s austerity measures which have been introduced to mitigate the financial impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak. These measures include a freeze on new hiring, and generally seem to promise greater precariousness for casual staff and must therefore be resisted by students out of solidarity with and concern for our own learning conditions.

The EAG and SRC is also actively organising to support the Gweagal-Bidjigal Resistance events between the 26th of April and 6th of May, which will acknowledge the 250 years of colonial brutality and inspiring resistance which began with Captain Cook’s first landing at Kamay (Botany Bay) in 1770. This will be a once-in-a-generation act of dissidence, and will be followed by what will be one of the largest months in the history of environmental activism, with International Workers’ Day (May 1) and May 15’s climate strike likely to give a large platform to industrial Green Left politics. In anticipation of those events, the SRC has received enough student support to call a General Meeting, which will be on April the 1st. This will be the first General Meeting since the introduction of VSU in 2006, and will be one of two this year. Find out more on the official notice, which is on page 5.


Week 2, Semester 1, 2020

Though the conclusion of Welcome Week has reduced the SRC’s workload somewhat, the staff and Office Bearers haven’t been resting, using their extra time and energy to initiate new projects, set the foundations for their Collective / department, and commence campaigns. I have been as busy as ever, and am hoping to use March to finalise many projects and deliver on a number of my key campaign promises.

To that end, the SRC has formed working groups to design and implement a number of projects for which we’ve received SSAF funding. One of those is our “information sessions” project, which will be a program of workshops delivered by caseworkers and others on topics relevant to students, like tenancy law / rights, rights with police, workplace law, etc. Another is our “food bank” service, which will provide food to a portion of the student body for free. In both cases the details have not been finalised and are being worked out by the working groups, which both met for the first time this week. I’m pleased to report that in both cases the meetings were productive, and I’m hoping we can launch them by April at the latest. As if that’s not enough, in week 2 the Campaign for Fair Fares (International Students receiving Concession Opal Cards) will have its first meeting, and so will the working group discussing Constitutional and Regulatory reform.

The SRC Legal Service has also ramped things up in the aftermath of Welcome Week. A committee, which includes myself and Liam Thomas (General Secretary), is in the process of interviewing lawyers to fill our current vacancy. But what’s even more exciting than the imminent second lawyer is the probable third lawyer we’re hoping to hire shortly after. Each of these new lawyers will enable us to significantly increase the breadth and depth of cases we can handle. In addition to these interviews, I also attended a helpful session on Not-For-Profit law run by Justice Connect with the rest of the SLS Board on Friday.

I’m really pleased by the diligence of OBs over the past week, with collectives working hard to start designing various campaigns and initiatives. I attended the Education Action Group’s meeting earlier in the week, where we discussed how we’d respond to Michael Spence’s recent resignation, how we’d support the Gweagal-Bidjigal Resistance activities in April, and how we’d engage with Environmental Activism in the short-run. We also discussed the possibility of changes to funding arrangements in the May budget. The EAG is not the only active Collective: QUAC marched at Mardi Gras as part of the Pride in Protest float and have had some well-attended meetings, ACAR is organising a massive rally in solidarity with those in India protesting Modhi’s fascism and the International Student Collective had a well-attended drinks at Hermanns in anticipation of their first meeting. And after a massive Welcome Week which saw many new members, the Environment Collective threw themselves behind the amazing February 22nd demonstrations last Saturday and have set the organisational foundations for a massive year of activism.

On that note, I’m excited to announce that I’ve received over 400 signatures in support of a motion calling on the SRC to host a General Meeting on April the 1st to discuss (and hopefully express support for) the May 15 Climate Strikes and any May 1st International Workers’ Day strikes. There will be formal notice of this meeting and further information in next week’s Honi Soit.

And as usual I attended a few University committee meetings, including the University Executive Education Committee on Monday and Honours Admission Taskforce on Thursday. Next week sees the first Academic Board and Safer Communities Advisory Group meetings, as well as a few more meetings to advance and finalise the campaigns and projects we’re been planning.


Week 1, Semester 1, 2020

The Students’ Representative Council will be a useful resource throughout your time at the University of Sydney, offering, in equal measures, a safety net in case life or Uni causes you trouble, opportunities to form strong communities, and the resources to organise for a better world. Beyond publishing this newspaper, Honi Soit, every week, we also offer free Casework and Legal Services to all undergraduate students and engage in activism (we organise most of the protests you’ll see). We also facilitate a number of collectives, which function as both communities and political organising spaces, and sit on University committees where we advocate on your behalf.

As President, I oversee the organisation’s operations and guide its direction for the year. I believe the SRC has to embrace activism and radical methods of change if it wants to remain a relevant and potent force for students. Given this, in recent weeks I have worked with a number of groups to help organise two separate rallies in light of the recent Coronavirus outbreak and the Morrison government’s racist decision to restrict entry from China to citizens and permanent residents. The first of these was at the Department of Home Affairs (Immigration) in Haymarket on Friday the 7th of February, and enjoyed a good attendance given the rain. I implore all readers to come along to the second, which will be on Wednesday the 19th of February outside Fisher Library at 1pm.

In addition to organising rallies, the USyd SRC has led the student response to the Coronavirus nationally. We have made public statements criticising the government’s racist actions in the SMH, Guardian Australia, Al-Jazeera, BBC, and countless other outlets at home and abroad. Moreover, we have pushed USyd to act swiftly and thoroughly to minimise the disruption to and suffering of International Students through public statements, committees, and direct lines. Many of the things we recommended have since been implemented by the University (search USYD SRC on Facebook for a more comprehensive overview of our response).

Aside from the anti-Sinophobia rallies, I’ve been supporting and keeping an eye on the emerging Sydney Climate Justice Alliance. I am incredibly supportive of their National Day of Action on February 22nd, and believe the Alliance is one of the most exciting and paradigm-shifting developments in the Sydney Left for some time. I urge all readers to attend the NDA on the 22nd of February (this Saturday), and to join members of the SRC at their regular open organising meetings.

In addition to my usual committee attendance (I’m notionally on 35 different ones), I also helped finalise our Student Support and Amenity Fee application (we did well and got enough money for most of our big projects this year!), and have begun planning our big projects for the year. I’ve also been to two National Union of Students’ conferences.

Finally, I have had direct and hands-on involvement in our Welcome Week preparations. As part of that I’ve helped confirm and finalise our stalls locations, assisted with the competition of our annual Countercourse / Orientation Handbook publication, and whipped our Office Bearers to make sure they meet deadlines and promote themselves well, among other things.


Welcome Week 2020

The Students’ Representative Council will be a useful resource throughout your time at the University of Sydney, offering, in equal measures, a safety net in case life or Uni causes you trouble, opportunities to form strong communities, and the resources to organise for a better world. Beyond publishing this newspaper, Honi Soit, every week, we also offer free Casework and Legal Services to all undergraduate students and engage in activism (we organise most of the protests you’ll see). We also facilitate a number of collectives, which function as both communities and political organising spaces, and sit on University committees where we advocate on your behalf.

As President, I oversee the organisation’s operations and guide its direction for the year. I believe the SRC has to embrace activism and radical methods of change if it wants to remain a relevant and potent force for students. Given this, in recent weeks I have worked with a number of groups to help organise two separate rallies in light of the recent Coronavirus outbreak and the Morrison government’s racist decision to restrict entry from China to citizens and permanent residents. The first of these was at the Department of Home Affairs (Immigration) in Haymarket on Friday the 7th of February, and enjoyed a good attendance given the rain. I implore all readers to come along to the second, which will be on Wednesday the 19th of February outside Fisher Library at 1pm.

In addition to organising rallies, the USyd SRC has led the student response to the Coronavirus nationally. We have made public statements criticising the government’s racist actions in the SMH, Guardian Australia, Al-Jazeera, BBC, and countless other outlets at home and abroad. Moreover, we have pushed USyd to act swiftly and thoroughly to minimise the disruption to and suffering of International Students through public statements, committees, and direct lines. Many of the things we recommended have since been implemented by the University (search USYD SRC on Facebook for a more comprehensive overview of our response).

Aside from the anti-Sinophobia rallies, I’ve been supporting and keeping an eye on the emerging Sydney Climate Justice Alliance. I am incredibly supportive of their National Day of Action on February 22nd, and believe the Alliance is one of the most exciting and paradigm-shifting developments in the Sydney Left for some time. I urge all readers to attend the NDA on the 22nd of February (this Saturday), and to join members of the SRC at their regular open organising meetings.

In addition to my usual committee attendance (I’m notionally on 35 different ones), I also helped finalise our Student Support and Amenity Fee application (we did well and got enough money for most of our big projects this year!), and have begun planning our big projects for the year. I’ve also been to two National Union of Students’ conferences.

Finally, I have had direct and hands-on involvement in our Welcome Week preparations. As part of that I’ve helped confirm and finalise our stalls locations, assisted with the competition of our annual Countercourse / Orientation Handbook publication, and whipped our Office Bearers to make sure they meet deadlines and promote themselves well, among other things.