Posts for education dept

Education Activists tell us about industrial action in USYD and beyond.

No apologies. No regrets.

The actions of the last few weeks shocked some people. They went beyond the polite pattern of protest in the university. Many people wanted an argument coherent to their liberal sensibilities of freedom of choice promoted in the neo-liberal orthodoxy. We are expected to maintain a polite relativism but there is nothing polite about the impositions of management and the effects they have on the lives of people that work with us everyday.

If we are as critical and intelligent as we suppose ourselves to be, why do students and staff gain their ideas about what is happening in the university out of the bullshit, misrepresentations and glib summaries from the privileged, self-interested and those completely removed from what they’re talking about? Yes, this includes Honi, the emails from USYD management, student commentators and any other organization or individual that claims to understand or represent the whole or ‘true’ situation. We are not some homogenous mass – we aren’t only students, staff, socialists, anarchists or ‘fly-ins’. And even if we do identify with these labels, we are more than them. We are diverse and complex and we disagree amongst ourselves.

If we don’t have the time to think or talk about this shit, without all these mediators, classifications and generalisations, how are we going to change things?

I am not at university to make an ‘investment’ in my ‘me first’ future prospect, to make an economic transaction. I am here to learn some theory, yes, but also to create social relations upon which I can realize my existence to the fullest of my ability and to conceive with others a future beyond the pressing limitations of contemporary society.

I don’t care if you’re completing your PhD, if you study medicine, or if you get upset and write an angry article for the next edition, you are not above other students and staff that care and take part in the conflicts of the university. Nor can you choose to be neutral in the debate and ‘just want to learn’. Your actions have power and you either undermine workers by crossing pickets or you don’t and if you do, you are a scab. People sacrificed their wages and time; they put their career and their freedom in jeopardy to guard the hard-won conditions fought for by others in the past; rights you enjoy today and will probably not complain about in the future. And if you did not know, you know now.

Wide participation in this debate is needed but it can’t be wrapped in some sexy-hipster-‘feel-good’ packaging for people to consume; it cannot be commodified with wristbands. It cannot be another product in the aisle of convictions, campaigns and causes if it is to be an honest process that sets the basis for a community that creates and liberates knowledge instead of being a space for the spectators and consumers of its marketisation.
Education is a process not a commodity.

Casey Thompson asks you to rally for your rights

What the HECS?! Why is my education a debt sentence!?

This Wednesday, the 27th of March, is the National Union of Students’ (NUS) National Day of Action (NDA). Students across the country are rallying in their capital cities to ask the government “Hey Baby Boomers – Where’s our Education Revolution?” The day is to remind politicians that “[We won’t] pay more for less: our education is not for profit.” Your local NDA event will be starting at 1pm at The University of Technology’s Broadway campus, where students from across the state will march up City Road to The University of Sydney. There will be speakers at the beginning and end of the march, sharing their experiences on our current education crisis and what we can do to fight for quality, free, education.

A central demand of the rally is that our government abolishes the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) and provides free-universal education for all. Both Tony Abbott (Bachelor of Economics and a Bachelor of Laws) and Julia Gillard (Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws) received their degrees under the free education policy introduced by Gough Whitlam in 1974. Therefore, the exact people who have never had education debt to repay are trying to increase ours. I’d say that’s a little more than slightly hypocritical.

In 1989 the Hawke Government introduced the HECS system and in 1990 the average university graduate took approximately 8.5 months to repay their debt. This has been increasing ever since. In 2000 it took an average of 5.9 years to repay and by 2010 it was a huge 7.9 years worth of repayments. Now, in 2013, the average student must spend a decade repaying their HECS. (This is of course only domestic students, as most international students who study in Australia are required to pay their fees upfront.) This is unacceptable. Education should be provided free of charge by the state. It should be accessible to all. If we redirected the $24.2 billion/ annum national defense budget towards education, we could make huge advancements in the quality of education and serious reductions in the cost to students.

If you don’t want to leave university with over a decade’s worth of debt to repay, join the NDA march and help us send a strong message that students are serious about demanding the education revolution that we were promised

Casey Thompson

Tenaya Alattas pick(et)s scabs

A scab is a dry, rough incrustation of matted blood, debris, clot, and pus that forms over a wound or sore.  A scab is also a derogatory term for a dislikeable or contemptible person, especially one who is unreliable: a scoundrel. Within the trade union movement the pejorative label for a strike-breaker is a scab; to describe those who refuse to join, break or work in place of others on strike. A scab is, in summary, a person that some students/staff will find deeply offensive during the 48-hour strike next week.

The offence the scab causes is not for the individual act or crime against the rule of law. In fact, every major victory relating to your rights surrounding work were achieved with direct actions that were, in their time, illegal and subject to police repression. In the US for example, up until the 1930s.

The laws surrounding labor unions and strikes were simple—there were none. Thereby the scorn afforded to scabs  goes far deeper than breaking the law.
Rather, the offense of scabbing is to undermine the idea, purpose and effect of the workers on strike. The idea behind strike action is simple and powerful: if the terms and conditions of work are not acceptable to workers then no work shall be done. More than a protest, a stunt or a means to draw attention to a cause, the purpose of a strike is to cause a disruption. And while it may often disrupt people who didn’t really cause the problem, it’s the very disruption that produces an effect. That is by disrupting management and employers; a strike costs them money and time.

To scab is to bolster the economic and moral position of the employer. Management will say they do not have enough money to afford staff batter pay and conditions, arguing that the NTEU and CPSU are “greedy” with “gold plated” conditions. However one must only look at the million dollar salaries of management who are crying poor to see this is not a question of there not being enough money – but rather question of power. Striking shifts the balance of power towards the general/academic staff to enable maximum leverage in negotiations for better terms, conditions and wages. So if you don’t want to be called a scab next week, don’t go to class or cross the picket line.

Tenaya Alattas
Joint SRC Education Officer

Education Officers Report

On Thursday the 7th of March over two hundred staff members, and several hundred students, came together to form picket lines around the university. The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) led the industrial action against university management’s proposed Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). The EBA plans to strip staff of their conditions and destroy the high quality of education that students expect, and deserve, from the prestigious University of Sydney (a university with a budgetary surplus of $93 million).

The student solidarity contingent was organised by the Education Action Group (EAG). The EAG is a collective of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) that runs all of the education campaigns that keep our university strong. Last year the EAG organised the fight back against the proposed cut of 340 academic and general staff. The campaign was a huge success with thousands rallying on Eastern Avenue and the majority of the staff jobs being saved. The EAG is calling on all students who value their staff, and their education, to once again join us in 2013. Last Thursday was just the beginning of the current campaign. The NTEU will most likely be taking rolling industrial action (i.e.: more strikes will take place over the coming weeks, and they are likely to be longer in duration than Thursday’s 24 hour stoppage.)

If you don’t want to join your fellow students and staff during these strikes, please at least skip class (and take a few days off to chill out from study!). You may wonder how missing a lecture or tutorial could ever be good for your education. These protests are needed if we are to preserve the high quality education that we receive here, if we are to stop overcrowding of classes and a decreased quality of teaching and academic support, throughout our entire degrees. We’re here for several years. A few days off to send a strong message that we won’t pay for low quality education, is worth it to get a high quality degree. If you really are concerned with missing out on your education then this is the movement to join, because if you don’t, our degrees will be devalued and we’ll miss out every day of the year. Fight for the quality working conditions our staff deserve and the quality education that we deserve.