Eve Radunz speaks about the culture of sexual harrassment at university

The latest audit of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) found that 27% of female students had experienced sexual harassment or assault, compare this to the 67% of female students who’ve had unwanted sexual experiences at civilian universities (from the National Union of Students ‘Talk About It Survey’). This disparity is incredibly alarming given the appalling treatment of women in the armed forces which is seemingly ingrained in the culture of national defence. The audit details the way in which the ADFA has made steps to change the culture of assault in the army; including a residential support program to increase supervision and information to residential cadets, an unacceptable behaviour survey which streamlines the reporting system for leaders and allows for swift action to be taken, and the development of an evidence-based sexual ethics induction program. Of course this is not a complete reflection of the armed forces, it applies only to the training of cadets, however if these important values and knowledge of what constitutes sexual misbehaviour are carried into the defence force by young cadets being trained up by the ADFA then the way forward looks a lot clearer.

Now let’s take a look at the culture of sexual harassment and assault in Australian civilian universities: women are being pressured, bullied and raped during college hazing; slut shaming and victim blaming is profuse; and on-campus safety methods and procedures are inadequate. The truth is that we are being educated in a dangerous environment and the fact that this is not being proactively addressed by our university administrations or our government is a testament to how sexual harassment is seen as an incurable disease of the human population. If this is what we are learning in university then how are we meant to shake that when we leave? We need to develop comprehensive reporting systems, we need to create convincing induction programs, we need to put the onus back onto the perpetrator and support the victim, and we need to do it now.



Tenaya Alattas wants to see you at the Open Day strike

Last week on the 18th of August the  NTEU and CPSU engaged in their sixth day of industrial action; and true to form the police stood behind the picket lines ensuring vechiles have a save and uninterrupted passage into the university. Yep, the NTEU and CPSU haven’t got there pay rise, Micheal Spence is still being uncompromising and staff and students still hold pickets to protect staff working conditions and our learning conditions. With one arrest on the student picket on and outrage palpably manifest banding together against the arbitrary nature of arrests: the take home message of the 18th is an injury to one is an injury to all.

“On August 31 thousands of potential students will be flocking to Sydney Uni for the annual Open Day. A strike is already planned. It’s time to bring the industrial dispute to a bigger audience!

Since Michael Spence became Vice-Chancellor Sydney Uni management has tried to sack hundreds of staff and slash wages and conditions. At the same time, they have invested hundreds of millions into campus infrastructure – cos at Sydney Uni management values buildings over people.

This is our opportunity to show prospective students what the USYD ‘experience’ is really like.

A series of actions will take place throughout the day. Everyone should help out.

Most importantly, a tent city will be set up in the Quadrangle from 7.00am on Open Day, to disrupt the functioning of the event.

Other actions that we’re planning include:
1. A ‘Banned Bloc’. Several of the students and workers who have been banned from campus in the course of the industrial dispute will congregate in the quad and invite the police to arrest them in front of hundreds of potential students.
2. Wheat-pasting the uncensored front cover of the banned issue of ‘VaginaSoit’ all around campus
3. Sydney Uni Theatre!
– the ‘Johns College experience’: imitating the fun times that students have at Sydney Uni colleges; hazing, drink spiking, sexist graffiti, wooo! Let’s mock these sexist bastards.
– Dramatic re-enactments of riot police brutalising students in true USyd style. Bring pig masks.
4. We will burn an effigy of Michael Spence and give a Spence piñata a well-deserved beat down.
5. If Spence dares show his face we will chase him across campus like at La Trobe
6. Invading seminars and talks and disrupting them.
7. Chalking and postering up a storm. Let’s write slogans and put up posters that express our disgust at USyd management.
8. We’ll hold a political cricket match on Eastern Avenue during the day, where we’ll hit Spence for six.
Invite all your friends. We’d love folks to come up with their own action ideas! Let’s fuck up Open Day!!”


Hannah Smith reports on last week’s cover of Honi Soit

Last week’s issue of Honi Soit, Sydney University’s student newspaper, was ripped of shelves as a result of its ‘controversial’ front cover. The cover shows close-up photographs of 18 vaginas belonging to Sydney University women. Prior to going to print the editors censored the most ‘offensive’ part of the photographs on counsel of the Student Representative Council’s legal department. But as a result of a printing error the black bars of censorship were transparent and therefore it was decided that the copies would be pre-emptively removed from public spaces as to not attract legal consequences.

The SRC’s Women’s Collective condemns this society which blatantly shames a body part that ~50% of the population have. It is an extremely disappointing reflection of a culture whereby vaginas present a legal dispute that should be avoided at all costs. Our SRC, as an activist organisation, should be able to reflect the values and attitudes of our student body. This is made impossible by out-dated and contrived legislation which urgently needs to be reformed. But furthermore it stems from the social stigma that vaginas are bad, unsightly and inappropriate. We as university students should be progressive on issues like this; we should support the outlandish notion that vaginas are actually… normal.

The Women’s Collective wholeheartedly endorses the Honi editors’ choice of cover art and admires the women who refused to be shamed about their anatomy! And if you are a University of Sydney student who is offended by the sight of a vagina then here’s a little message for you: Fuck You!

Please get in touch via usydwomenscollective@gmail.com, pop along to one of our meetings at 1pm Wednesdays in the Women’s Room (Manning House) or join our Facebook group: ‘Usyd Women’s Collective’ – we’d love to see you at our meetings!



Anjali Vishwanathan gives you the lowdown on Interfaith week

At university, we are regularly confronted by myriad ideas which make us question the world and our place in it. It’s a hotbed of freedom, curiosity and enquiry. However, markedly absent from the discourse has always been a meaningful engagement with the institution of faith. Its rejection in public discourse has resulted in a crude, black-and-white and superficial arguments. Outside the various clubs and societies dedicated to specific faiths, it is no secret that religion is a topic which most students are indifferent to.

Religion is not a monolithic institution. It is a force that has moulded different societies in countless ways, over millennia. As a result, it means many different things to the 68% of Australians who identify as religious. Besides the reductionism replete in discussions of religion as a broad institution, it also manifest when we address specific religions. There’s more to Buddhism than meditation. Not all Christians are evangelists. By the same token, people who identify as atheists do not necessarily do so out of apathy, as opposed to a calculated decision.

The USU initiated Interfaith Week in 2011 to provide a platform which encourages meaningful discussion of religion. They have various forums to encourage a frank and respectful discussion of how ethical decisions are made, the role and relevance of religion in the 21st century and the broader issue of a greater purpose in life. It’s an exciting place to consider the super-natural without the antagonism that people perceive to be inherent to it. You should go.
Interfaith week is on September 2nd to 6th

Dylan Parker tells you why independence matters

Oddly of all the things to think about, this week’s controversy around ‘VaginaSoit’ made me think about the value and colour of independent student associations.
Now wherever you stand on the content of the cover, the fact is I am proud that it was democratically elected student representatives that got to make the call as to whether we did or didn’t publish rather than Uni Bureaucrats or paid professional editor-in-chiefs like at other student associations.

Our SRC has a proud history of independence from the University since day one. I love our editorial independence so Honi Soit can say what students want to say rather than what the Administration thinks we want to hear.

I love the independence of our casework service because it is a no-brainer.  A student isn’t going to go for help to a service they think is part and parcel with the people they are having problems with. As a 21 year old whose been screwed over in one of his classes, I get that lecturers are more likely to side with an unscrupulous tutor they have to work with than a student they’re never going to see again.

I love the fact we have a free and independent legal service so that students have the option to get help if they get in trouble with the law. The beauty is, its confidential and intended for you so your parents don’t need to know, your boss doesn’t need to know, and neither does the uni if you get into trouble.
However, obviously there is another side to it as independence comes with responsibility. I can tell you being involved in running a one and a half million dollar organization is a big ask. Independence means we ask undergraduates to make the big calls on whether we stay in the black or go into the red, whether we put freedom of speech above potential legal action, or whether we stretch our legal service defending our activists out fighting for your education. Students aren’t always going to make the right decisions. However, the truth is, it is your money and at least you’ll know the decisions are being made by people who actually live in your world.


Disabilities Officers updates you on the Uni’s new Disability Action Plan

The University’s new Disability Action Plan for 2013-2018 (DAP) was released last Friday. The launch began with Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum, who said “After a year in my class, students never think of a person with a disability in the same way again”.  Professor McCallum was the first totally blind person to be appointed the dean of a law school in Australia. While he imparted his experiences and knowledge with his students, unfortunately the same cannot be said for all staff members relating to disability issues.

Consultative process?

The University appears proud of its’ strong consultative process throughout the development of the DAP. Despite advertisements from late last year, unfortunately student participation was low and there were confidentiality issues for mixed staff and student input meetings. The primary issue raised by students was the impression that staff had a negative perception of students enrolled in disability services, for example experiences suggesting that it was an inconvenience for them and required additional paperwork (of which it does not). Ironically, Pearl Rozenberg, Business faculty Sub Dean (Academic Policy & Administration) felt it was appropriate to argue with me when I shared a negative experience with a Business staff as a result of my enrolment with Disability Services. At that stage, the DAP Action Group was unaware that the Disability Collective existed and did not contact us for input.

DAP’s Objectives:

The DAP lists 6 objectives including:

1.    The University incorporates the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities in all policies and planning
2.    The University is a tertiary education provider of choice for all students
3.    The University is an employer of choice for people with disabilities
4.    The University’s communication and digital environment is accessible to people with disabilities
5.    The University provides an accessible built environment to everyone
6.    The University provides leadership to the community in developing an inclusive Australian society.

Overall, the DAP will cost $6 million until 2018.

Looking more closely at the measurable outcomes listed for each objective, it is clear that most of the money will be spent on making the built environment accessible, including pathways, facilities and Braille signage.

A ‘one stop shop’ will be established on each campus by 2014 to provide information, advice and referral for students, including those with a disability. This would be beneficial for students at satellite campuses as current the Disability Collective has meetings on Main Campus only.

Also positive is the disability awareness training that all staff will be required to complete which should hopefully reduce the number and severity of negative interactions with students.

Unfortunately, the measurement of the DAP’s outcomes is heavily reliant on data collection from students. The primary issue surrounding data collection is the confidentiality of students registered with Disability Services, which on a number of occasions has been breached by the University. In some cases, students have deemed the risk of exposure too high and have decided not to register with Disability Services. Despite confidentiality processes were not mentioned in the DAP, I truly hope the University has given some thought to the critical nature of students’ confidentiality so all eligible students feel comfortable accessing Disability Services.

While the new DAP has the capacity to significantly benefit students with a disability, we will be watching closely to see how this will actually impact students on campus.

Come along to our next meeting on the 4th of September 12pm New Law School Seminar 105 to discuss what the new DAP means for you and how your semester is progressing.


Kyol Blakeney writes about the Indigenous Games and the new Indigenous USU society

The Indigenous Games are fast approaching and we have a team ready to travel all the way to no-man’s-land at the UWS on the 22nd September (week 9). We have one of our last fundraising events for the upcoming Games on Thursday 22nd August on Eastern Ave so get in early for the best BBQ in Cadigal Country.

On a side note our Society, Gamarada, will soon have its name changed to Wirriga. Wirriga is than name of the goanna that travelled across the Blue Mountains during the Dreamtime and dug out its burrow in what is now known today as Sydney Harbour.

Our Society’s main goals are to:

  • Increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people actively wanting to continue their studies.
  • Encourage and support people who are passionate about making a change in this University’s attitude towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Make a change in attitude towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people both in the University and in the wider community.
  • Involve ourselves in events in the community outside the University.
  • Create a much stronger presence in the University of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture.
  • Host any event by the students concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Eventually raise funds to support at least 2 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students throughout their University career.

The Society will be hosting a Gala Dinner during Reconciliation Week in 2014 in the company of Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of New South Wales. Tickets will be on sale further towards the end of this semester.


Emily Rayers tells you about KNIGHTESS, and it sounds awesome

Last year Women’s Collective held our first women’s performance night ‘KNIGHTESS’, showcasing the musical, poetic and zine-making talents of women on and off campus in Sydney, and we are currently in planning mode to make this year even bigger and better!
At first glance, women’s representation in the arts seems reasonable; most people can name a few famous women in music, in art and in literature (Beyonce, Frida Kahlo, JK Rowling) – but as Gemma Rolls-Bentley (an independent art curator) explains: ‘figures like Tracey Emin have defied the statistics, [and] their rare success misleads people into thinking women get an equal shot’.

In 1989 feminist group ‘Guerilla Girls’ distributed a poster featuring a female nude and the words ‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum? Less than 5% of the artists in the modern art section are women, but 85% of the nudes are female’. And what has changed in the 2 decades since? In 2010, 83% of artists in the Tate Modern were men. In more promising (though still inadequate) news, 31% of artists featured in 134 commercial galleries in London were women. However, feminist artist Judy Chicago warns against being ‘deceived by the many women showing at entry level’ and reminds us that only 2.7% of art books concern female artists. Women may be getting some coverage, but they are rarely considered with the ‘greats’ – in 2012, the top 100 auction sales ranked by price featured not one woman artist.

The organization VIDA (women in literary arts) measures the proportional representation of women in many esteemed literary publications each year. Only 20% of the authors reviewed in the New York Times Literary Supplement are women, with negligible increase over the last 3 years; and only 15% of reviewers in the New York Review of Books are women. In poetry, women fare slightly better with 40% representation and a small increase over previous years.

Gender discrepancies are mirrored in different ways in music, acting and other performing arts. We have made significant progress over time, but there is still a noticeable difference in representation. It is visible not only on a worldwide and historical level but in our own backyards; when was the last time you saw live music performed by women at your local pub? If you’re lucky enough to live in a progressive area and have a relatively recent answer – what is the proportion of female to male artists performing?

KNIGHTESS aims to remind us all that women can be incredible performers, creative writers, artists and more. This year we hope to diversify and include poetry, visual arts and dramatic arts. If you are woman-identifying and interested in performing or being involved in the organization of KNIGHTESS, please get in touch via usydwomenscollective@gmail.com, pop along to one of our meetings at 1pm Wednesdays in the Women’s Room (Manning House) or join our Facebook group: ‘Usyd Women’s Collective’ – we’d love to have you on board!

Emily Rayers tells you about KNIGHTESS, and it sounds awesome


Eleanor Barz and Fahad Ali are expecting an exciting semester

Hi! Below is the Queer Officer Honi report.

This will be an exciting semester for QuAC. We are looking to expand our visibility and establish a gateway for people who might just have come to terms with their identity, or are looking for a queer campus group to join.

It’s a sad fact that the collective isn’t very visible. For many prospective USYD students, the most prominent face of community involvement is the University of Sydney Union’s Clubs and Societies program. If you skim through the USU C&S listing for LGBTIQ clubs, you’ll find the Queer Revue Society but you might miss SHADES. And if neither performing nor the party scene are for you, the collective might seem like the only alternative.

But not everyone can just throw themselves into a collective head-first, especially if they’re not out or are still confused about their identity. And that’s why we’re setting up a new gateway: the Queer Student Alliance society. It’s going to be registered with the Clubs and Societies program, and will bring together both queers and allies to promote community awareness, visibility, and present itself as the low-key, social alternative to SHADES.

QSA isn’t about replacing the collective or SHADES—it’s about providing an environment in which students can learn more about themselves to gain the confidence to branch out into activism or the high-energy SHADES parties. It’s about boosting involvement in existing community groups, rather than leaching members from them. The IGM will be held on Friday, 30th of August at 5:00 pm in the Badham Room in the Holme Building, and we urge everyone, including allies, to attend.

We are also determined to reach out to female-identified queer students at USYD. It is a common experience among same-sex attracted women to attend an LGBTIQ event only to find themselves sadly outnumbered and potentially disappointed. But as last semester’s hugely successful ‘It’s a Girl Thing’ tea party confirmed, there is no shortage of enthusiasm for queer women’s events. Over the next few months a women’s planning group will meet regularly to ensure that the fun continues this semester. On Wednesday in week 6, we’ll be screening The Itty Bitty Titty Committee in the International Student Lounge – be sure to contact us if you’re interested in getting involved in organizing future events!


Dylan Parker doesn’t want you to vote Liberal

So I know I have spoken on this before but some things are worth saying twice.

As your General Secretary, I have a responsibility to look after the finances and security of the SRC. It’s not an overly political role during the day to day however sometimes the occasion calls for it.

The reality is if Abbott wins on September 7, you and your SRC lose. This is because if elected the Liberals will bring back Voluntary Student Unionism depriving the SRC and other student associations of a vital lifeline in financial support.

While, I am the first to admit that the Student Services Amenities Fee (SSAF) isn’t perfect, it still provides badly needed funds to provide student services and amenities. I wish the legislation guaranteed that student money went to student associations rather than for Universities to dole out according to their whim and the generosity of VC’s but still some money is better than no money.

This year alone, because of the SSAF the SRC has been able to plan the renovation of our offices in the dungeon of Wentworth and expand our casework services.

Under a new round of VSU, the SRC will have to reassess its financial security and our priorities. I think the fact we provide caseworkers, a free legal service, a second hand bookstore, fund activism, and have a weekly student run paper is amazing. If Abbott wins, the reality is the SRC loses.

Dylan Parker