Tenaya Alattas urges students to get involved in deciding the future of their education

In the last semester the education department has undertaken two actions in support of staff in their ongoing industrial dispute, namely the strike on August 20 and the strike on Open Day, August 31.
But the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has conceded a deal with University management, and the three-day strike, which was to be held from October 8-10, has been called off.

In regards to the USYD-specific actions, the NTEU and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) called a strike on August 20. The Education Action Group (EAG) worked to: a) hold weekly EAG meetings at 2pm on the New Law Lawns, b) design, write copy for, print and distribute material to promote the strike and student support thereof, c) organise legal support and observers (one filmer, one note-taker) for each picket line; liase with the SRC solicitors to ensure they are on hand if there are any arrests; and have a legal skillshare with independent solicitors in the lead-up to the strike, d) liaise with the street medics’ collective to support efforts to ensure that first aid, distribution of water, snacks and sunscreen was available throughout the day,  e) lecture bash in the lead-up to the strike, f) hold working bees to create and design more placards, posters and banners for the day of the strike, g) engage with different collectives, clubs and societies and other campuses’ student organisations who were able to attend and support USYD strike actions and lastly, h) organise a convergence point for students to discuss how to work together on the days of action and publicise this point as an open point for students wishing to be involved on the day.

The strike on August 20 coincided with the National Day of Action (NDA), which organised across campuses with the focus on protesting the $2.6 billion tertiary education cuts announced by the previous Labor government.
The education department was involved in organising weekly EAG meetings; attending Cross-Campus Education Action Network (CCEAN) meetings and designing and making (VERY LARGE) banners for the NDA. Campus-specific actions included holding a stall which engaged in outreach through banner painting and photo petitions for the two weeks prior to the action.

There was also communication with different collectives and clubs and societies to bring along contingents to the strike/NDA with emphasis on using relevant email channels to bring attention to as well as making ‘organisational’ specific banners (for example Queer bloc, Women’s Collective, Greens on Campus, Enviro Collective, and the ECOP and Fabian societies). The University of Sydney Union (USU) also helped out on the day with  Board Director Bebe D’Souza and

Vice-President Tom Raue handing out USU-subsidised water and sandwiches to picketers at each entrance.
There was also a legal collective organised fwhich used the cameras provided by the SRC to film and take notes from each picket with the intention of compiling evidence of police misconduct in the event of police endangering student safety. There was one student arrest made on the day, and as usual the police acted disproportionately and arbitrarily. The legal collective collected details of people with cameras and a solidarity contingent went to Newtown police station to welcome back the political prisoner.

On August 31 the education department was also involved in organsing in solidarity with the NTEU who were on strike on Open Day to ‘Reclaim USYD’. This involved disrupting the University’s official public image as one which has the lowest staff satisfaction rate and an administration prone to calling in the Public Order and Riot Squad (PORS) on students who express political dissent on campus.
The actions on the day were centred on causing a ruckus by having a roaming picket and handing out copies of Vagina Soit, disrupting lectures and chalking to raise awareness of some unhappy USYD students. The NTEU and CPSU have engaged in a long-drawn-out and tough fight with University management. I commend their tenacity and appreciate their support to students involved in supporting the staff actions. If people are interested in becoming engaged with education issues on campus, please come to the EAG meetings which are held at 2 pm on New Law Lawns on Tuesdays.

Hannah Smith takes a critical look at how women are represented in student politics

There was student elections over the past month, in case you didn’t notice. I wanted to reflect on the experiences of women in the election and propose some things for all of us to consider moving forward.
What I think is an undeniable testament to the progressive nature of Sydney University political and feminist scenes, is the fact that the three candidates for SRC President this year, all identified as women.

We also have a decent majority (19/33) of councillors who identify as women, which is an excellent improvement on immediate years prior. These are excellent achievements that we should all be proud of. Unfortunately, there are some things those of us adorned in colourful T-shirts should be unbelievably ashamed of.

Foremost, for women to be properly represented in the student movement, they must be brought to the table for the machinations. It is imperative that women know how to run campaigns so that we deliver holistic equality of participation and therefore an inclusive, vibrant student movement.

What I think is most immediately pressing for serious consideration, however is the way we treat women-identifying candidates. I know women, especially those who put themselves forward as candidates for President and editors of Honi Soit, who were particularly affected by the levels of vitriol and misogyny levelled at them.

Brief examples of this include being followed by men twice their size as a form of intimidation, being rammed and pushed by men as they moved towards voting booths, rumours about their families, sexualities and sexual activities and vicious critiques of their appearances.

This is not okay. When we look at shitty statistics about women’s disengagement from politics, we need not look further than this for explanation.
I know this issue is nuanced, and my recount is many kinds of problematic, but the short space is limiting, which is why I will be taking submissions on personal experiences and recommendations for next year and compiling a report for next years Women’s Officers and Returning Officer. Please, email me at usydwomenscollective@gmail.com. All submissions will be anonymous. In sisterhood.

Dylan Parker also emphasises the importance of student unionism

The election result was depressing enough before the swearing in of the new Abbott ministry.

For higher education students, we thought maybe we had dodged a bullet in the supposed appointment of Senator Brett Mason as higher education minister.

As an individual with, at the very least, a background in academia,  some believed that perhaps he would be a moderate force in an extremist caucus.
Sadly students have been duped with the appointment of the Education Minister Christoper Pyne.

The Liberals consolidation of the previous three portfolios of education into a single ministry is an alarming signal for university students as the Liberal Party attempts to provide a streamlined approach to managing the education sector in government.

As you would hear at every rally, “They say cut back, we say fight back”. Student unions and unionism at large has always been at the core of the fight for progressive values and a better Australia.
So, be part of the fight back by getting involved in the SRC and the long-slog to getting tertiary education the treatment it deserves.

David Pink explains the importance of national student unionism

Last Wednesday night, your Student Representative Council (SRC) decided to pay $62,000 in affiliation fees to the National Union of Students (NUS).

The majority of students on the Council have absolutely nothing to gain personally from this move, so why did we all agree to pay such a tremendous amount of money on an external organisation?
Because we believe in the importance of national student unionism.

This might sound esoteric, but what can we expect from the NUS in a year like 2014? There will be an Abbott government with a working majority in the Senate, for one thing, so we need a fighting organisation to stop it.
In order to promote mass involvement in the NUS, the SRC will be hosting an NUS policy evening so that the ordinary student can come along and write policy on the issues that matter to students.
We held one last year and it was incredibly successful.

The University of Sydney has seven democratically elected student delegates to the NUS National Conference in December, and they’re there to work for you. You’ll need to have two democratically elected delegates move and second the motion, but I can guarantee that your policy suggestions will be meaningful.

Some things you can write your policies on? Fee deregulation? Equal marriage? The need for universities to provide accessible childcare?
The policy evening will be on at 5.30pm, Thursday, October 17. Location to be announced.

Please check the SRC Facebook page for more details.