Vice Presidents Report – Week 1, Semester 2

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

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

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

Daniel Ergas

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