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SRC President's Reports

Weekly reports from Harrison Brennan, President of the 96th SRC

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Week 13, Semester 1, 2024

Join the USyd Gaza Solidarity Encampment.

Week 12, Semester 1, 2024

Despite an intense week of rain the USyd Gaza Solidarity Encampment has held up spectacularly. Last week we continued to have rallies, teach-ins, film screenings working bee’s and a slew of other awesome activities for the people camping out. We’ve also heard of the success of other university campuses in the US and Europe where similar encampments have successfully forced university management to the table to discuss and cede to student demands, namely the disclosure of all ties to Israel and divestment from Israeli institutions. The more we fortify and build the encampment, the more of a chance we have to win our demands. We encourage all students to come down, pitch a tent, and support the encampment.

Week 11, Semester 1, 2024

I’ve spent my week at the USyd Gaza Solidarity Encampment. I encourage all students and the wider community to join us in demanding that the University of Sydney cut all ties with Israeli institutions and weapons manufactures.

Week 10, Semester 1, 2024

Last week, the USyd SRC, Students for Palestine and Students Against War set up an encampment on the front lawns of the Quadrangle. This comes after a wave of encampments, starting at Columbia University, spread across the U.S. demanding that universities disclose and divest from all Israeli institutions. The encampments that have sprouted at Columbia, NYU, Harvard, The New School and so many others have been met with brutal repression from university management and the police. We are holding this action to oppose our own universities ties with Israeli institutions and arms manufacturers, which have supported the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza which has seen over 34,000 people martyred. Our university has intimate ties with Israeli universities, namely Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion, and offers OLET2155 Experience Israel. Further, our university has an ongoing partnership (an MoU) with Thales, an arms manufacturing company that has supplied weapons used in the violent dispossession of Indigenous West-Papuans, and used in the slaughter of countless people in the imperialist wars waged against Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Students’ demand that our university not support, uphold or normalize our relations with an apartheid state nor allow our intellectual labour to be used for the slaughter of innocents in conflicts abroad. Hence, we demand that the University of Sydney cut ties with all Israeli institutions, and cut ties with any and all weapons manufacturers.

This past week at the encampment we’ve held a series of events for students and community members including organizing meetings, teach-ins, rallies, film screenings and so much more. We at the encampment are blown away by the generosity of  the community who have donated food, beverages, blankets and camping gear to support us through these cold nights. We welcome anyone to come and build the encampment, to stay a night during the week, and force university management to cede to our demands.

Message the SRC Instagram or email president@src.usyd.edu.au if you have any questions!

Week 9, Semester 1, 2024

Last week, I attended the National Union of Students End Student Poverty speakout outside NSW Parliament. This action precedes the May 14th Federal Budget protest held annually by the NUS, to take the fight to Canberra to agitate for action on the inadequacy of the education and welfare system in supporting students through university. Since the 2022 federal election, the Albanese Labor government has allowed student HECS debts to rise by 16%, has refused to implement a rent freeze or even consider pressuring the states to implement caps on rent increases. The Labor government has no interest in widening access to youth allowance and other welfare payments, and almost refuses to break up the supermarket duopoly (Coles and Woolworths) who has price-gouged to expand their bottom line, last year recording record profits to the tune of $1.42 billion. The SRC worked with the NUS to put on this snap action, and invited Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council Abigail Boyd, to speak on the NSW Labor party’s complete contempt for working students. Keep May 14th free in your calendars so you can join SRC representatives on a bus down to Canberra to protest Labor’s upcoming budget.

Last week Jo Haylen, the Minister of Transport, responded to the NSW Parliament e-petition led by the SRC and SUPRA demanding that opal concessions be made accessible to part-time domestic and international students. What her response misses is the significant impacts that the cost-of-living crisis is having on students, how real wage growth is on-par with 2009 GFC levels and how corporate engineered inflation has made living costs - groceries and bills - exorbitantly expensive. Our demand to expand who is eligible for opal concessions is not some herculean labor and nor is costly. We have pushed for this change to end what is discrimination toward international and part-time students, and to alleviate one of the many economic pressures facing students. The NSW Labor government, much like its federal counterpart, continues to rule out any and every possible opportunity to provide some cost-of-living relief to students who are financially struggling every single day. This refusal has only made even more salient the Labor party’s disdain for students and working people.

On Friday I was very pleased to attend the launch of the Disabilities space in the Manning building. An autonomous space for disabled students, its creation has been the effort of so many passionate advocates campaigning across many years to create a safe location for students on campus. A massive thank you to the current and preceding disabilities officers and the USU for their work on this project.

Week 8, Semester 1, 2024

Hi all,

This week I sat in on a few committees and raised how students are being affected by the cost of living crisis. I am working to expand the leniency of special considerations to accommodate the slew of financial pressures students are facing, whether that be groceries or rent. I raised concerns with in-class quizzes which are only open for the duration of non-mandatory lectures and how this penalizes working students. I also raised how unit outlines, when not provided with sufficient notice (2-weeks from start of class) have prevented students from organizing work around their studies. I’ve also been engaging in conversations regarding the temporary relocation of the SRC whilst the Wentworth building is redeveloped sometime in 2025/2026.

On Thursday, I attended the PJMS snap action outside of the department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This protest was a response to the Labor parties continued support for Israel’s genocide, but more emphatically, how little the Australian government is doing to assist family members trapped in Gaza trying to escape for their own safety. This was seen in March when the Australian government shamefully denied the visas of 70 Palestinians fleeing Gaza mid-flight. The lack of consular assistance, and the refusal to provide substantive support to families trapped in Gaza shows how little the Labor government is willing to do other than performative rhetorical dances.

I’ve spent most of my week organizing with the National Union of Students for the End Student Poverty rally this Friday the 19th of April at 1pm outside NSW Parliament. I think it’s disgraceful that the Albanese Government  is more determined to spend $368bn on nuclear powered submarines and millions exporting ammunition and firearms to an apartheid state than doing anything to help struggling students. Rents continue to soar across the country, HECS indexation is out of control, and even basic necessities like food and sanitary items have soared due to the greed of corporations like Woolworths - which procured over $1bn in profits last year. Come to the rally to demand change from the NSW and Federal Labor governments.

Week 7, Semester 1, 2024

I hope everyone had a refreshing mid-sem break!

On Sunday the 24th of March I attended the Port Botany Zim shipping protest, where trade unionists, student activists and community members stood side by side to block the activities of Zim. Zim Shipping is an Israeli corporation who has offered its vessels, ships and all of it’s infrastructure to serve the “national needs of Israel”. Non-violent direct action is one of the most effective tools in our arsenal as everyday people, using our bodies to block and attempt to stop the horrific goings on in Gaza. These Zim protests are a way to implement BDS in practice - they are an effective and tangible way to contribute, in whatever way we can, to interrupting the flow of trade that props up the apartheid state of Israel.

The other week, the ALP introduced the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill and within 36 hours attempted to anti-democratically ram the legislation through parliament. The bill would give the immigration minister the complete power to prevent entire countries of people from migrating to Australia. Worse yet, it forces refugees to assist with their own deportation or else be subject to mandatory minimum sentencing, suffering over $90,000 in a fine and/or 5 years in jail, in complete violation of the ALP’s party platform taken to the last election. From their actions the other week, it’s evident that there is no difference between the Labor and the Liberal parties in Australia.

Week 6, Semester 1, 2024

I hope everyone is excited for mid semester break, I know I sure am.
 
I spent most of last week compiling the SRC’s SSAF acquittal document, which justifies our spending for the year prior, and why we should continue to be funded. In 2006 John Howard implemented Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) and the implementation of SSAF followed. Prior to VSU, student unions (the SRC), used to have substantially more funding and complete control over the fees they received from students and what those funds were spent on. Since these reforms, the university now controls SSAF and reserves all the rights to revoke funding from any student organization on campus. Hence, the university also has expectations that we fill out extensive and bureaucratic documents that prove the necessity of our funding.

Last Tuesday USyd held their study abroad festival along Eastern Avenue. Student activists caught wind that Tel Aviv university, an institution complicit in supporting Israeli occupation, apartheid and the ongoing genocide, was invited. Activists staged a peaceful sit-in at the Law Building, and won their demands to have Tel Aviv university leave campus. They were then joined by members of the NTEU in a march down to F23. Our university has a slew of unethical partnerships, whether with weapons manufacturers like Thales, or Israeli universities, like the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which is on stolen Palestinian land. On Wednesday at 12pm at F23, join the speak-out calling for our university to implement BDS by cutting all ties with Israel. On Friday we have the Israeli Apartheid Week: Online Political Tour of Jersualem, which you can find on facebook and register to learn about the history of Jersualem from Grassroots Al-Quds.

Week 5, Semester 1, 2024

Hello! Whilst battling a tenacious throat infection this week, the SRC received news that the NSW Opal Concession Card petition will be discussed in Parliament come the 9th of May, presented by Jenny Leong, Newtown Greens MP. Jenny Leong, in 2006 as SUPRA President, had then brought an anti-discrimination case against the NSW government for failing to provide concession transport to international students. SUPRA’s case was successful, however the NSW government responded by amending legislation to avoid providing international students with concession opal cards. It would be a disgrace if, amidst one of the worst cost-of-living crises this country has ever seen, the NSW Labor government were not to vote-up this bill and provide some minor relief for international and part time students.

In a committee earlier this week, the SRC and USU pressured management on the Wentworth redevelopment set for 2025. G01 the Wentworth building is being redeveloped, with construction set to begin sometime in 2025 and the relocation of its residents happening sometime later this year. The SRC has yet to receive news of where we will be relocated, whether such space is suitable for our staff and student representatives, and whether or not we will be coming back to G01 after its development. We are hopeful that in our relocation and/or our return to G01 that the SRC may be able to return to some form of face-to-face meetings with students accessing our services.
 
If you have any questions, concerns or wish to raise any issue with me, you are welcome to email me at president@src.usyd.edu.au. For the rest of semester one, any student can set up an appointment to meet with me face-to-face (or via zoom) on Friday afternoons from 3-5pm.

Week 4, Semester 1, 2024

A reminder that census date is APRIL 2ND, this is the LAST DAY TO DROP A UNIT OF STUDY.

Recently I learnt that the Vice Chancellor has written to the NSW Labor housing minister Rose Jackson, asking her to designate USyd student accommodation as “affordable housing” so as to “cut red tape” and speed up development approvals of new housing infrastructure on campus. The minimum prices of university-owned accommodation at USyd are as follows: Darlington House $292, Queen Mary Building $347, Regiment $366 and Abercrombie $477. This is amidst the ongoing housing sell-offs over the past decades, international house closed with 200 rooms left in limbo, and the universities approval of a 7-18% rent increase for residents at Sydney University Village. Although difficult to find, it is still CHEAPER for students to live in a sharehouse than to rent at USyd. The university has full control over the pricing of student accommodation that they own, and in this housing crisis decided to hike rents by 6%. The university is fully capable of reducing the cost of student accommodation, but shamefully chooses not to, making student housing unaffordable for the vast majority of students.

Israeli Apartheid Week has begun, spanning the entire month of March. At 12pm Tuesday the 12th of March there is a webinar on Australia’s military ties with Israel, featuring David Shoebridge, Rawan Arraf, Nick Riemer and Lil Barto. On the 21st of March there is an online teach-in with Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoner Support Association. On Friday the 15th of March there is a Students for Palestine protest at the Labor Offices on Sussex Street at 4pm and a campus rally on Wednesday the 20th of March. On Friday the 29th of March at 7pm there is an exciting online political tour of Jerusaleum from Grassroots Al-Quds - to learn more and register for this event visit @usydacar on Instagram.

Week 3, Semester 1, 2024

Last week was the Student Strike for Palestine, a national day of action that saw thousands of students from across the country walking out of class to protest the Labor Government’s complicity with Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza. It is so important that our opposition doesn’t end at last week’s protest, but extends to all future actions of opposition to the Australian government and our universities who continue to express unconditional support for Israeli occupation. This week and throughout the month of March is Israeli Apartheid Week, extended in light of the devastation wrought by Israel in Gaza. The Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR), BDS Youth and Students for Palestine are collaborating to put on a slew of events throughout the first week of March and the rest of the month, not only to educate but to mobilize students to oppose occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing which has been ongoing for over 75 years.

As of last week the SRC and SUPRA, in collaboration with other student unions, managed to collect 20,000 signatures on our NSW Legislative Assembly petition demanding that part-time and international students be eligible for concession opal cards, halving the cost of public transport. A massive thank you to everyone who signed the petition and helped campaign over the past year. The petition is now tabled and will be heard in parliament sometime this year.

On Sunday the 25th of February the Australian Government released their Australian Universities Accords report, outlining a slew of recommendations for how to “drive lasting and transformative reform in Australia’s higher education system”. The Australian Government invested $2.7 over 2 years in this 12-month review of Australia’s Higher Education system, and delivered a report that failed to meet the needs of students across the country. Whilst some of the accords recommendations are promising - adjustments to HECS indexation, paid placements, creation of a student ombudsman - much of the recommendations fail to offer any fix to the structural issues that plague our universities. There is no recommendation of direct funding for universities, not even to 1% of GDP. There is no recommendation to regulate universities and change their for-profit model, nor prohibitions on partnerships with weapons manufacturers and climate criminals - like Thales and Santos. Nor are there any concrete recommendations on fixing the welfare system in Australia to ensure student’s aren’t experiencing poverty whilst undertaking their studies. And, ultimately, there is no recommendation for fee-free education in Australia, that which would widen access to university for many prospective students, lift the financial burden off of current students, and fix the profiteering model of our universities which treat international students as cash cows, and suck domestic students dry after they graduate. The USYD SRC will soon be releasing our response to the universities accords.

Week 2, Semester 1, 2024

Hope we had a great first week of university for 2024. Here what I’ve been up to last week:

In committees this week I’ve raised the serious problems students are facing with finding safe and affordable accommodation as the rental crisis continues. Many students right now are experiencing housing stress, in no way helped by the universities historic approach to housing, namely how they have historically sold-off affordable accommodation on campus, approved extreme price increases at university owned accommodation, and have kept International House in limbo, a building which could house over 200 students.

I attended the Students for Palestine (SFP) open meeting on Tuesday to plan for the upcoming national student strike on Thursday February 29th, and have since been flyering for the rally on Eastern Avenue and at the Scholarship Welcome. ACAR in collaboration with BDS Youth and SFP have also been planning events for Israeli Apartheid Week, so watch this space!

On Wednesday at 2pm student activists and myself headed down to the Families for Palestine Camp For Ceasefire community picket outside of Anthony Albanese’s electoral office in Marrickville. Families for Palestine is looking for people to help man the picket throughout the week. If you are interested in lending a hand, visit their instagram at @familiesforpalestine.

I have been continuing to work with other student unions across NSW on the Fair Fares Now campaign to give international and part-time students access to concession opal cards. If you haven’t yet signed the petition, check out the linktree at @src_usyd to sign!

From Week 2, the SRC will be stalling and flyering on Eastern Avenue every Wednesday at 12pm. If you have any questions, queries or concerns, come visit us in person and grab a handy 2024 wall-planner if you haven’t yet!

Week 1, Semester 1, 2024

Weeks of preparation culminated in a truly spectacular welcome week, the size of which was so exciting to see, a recovery from covid-times. I had an excellent time greeting new students and old faces, and explaining the work the SRC does alongside our brilliant caseworkers and student activists. A massive thank you to everyone involved in organizing this massive week.

During welcome week I attended the Women’s Collective (WoCo’s) annual rally to end sexual violence on campus. During welcome week, a shocking number of college residents experience sexual assault, harrassment or hazing, a culture that has no place on our campus. I also flyered with the women’s collective promoting their ongoing Abolish the Colleges campaign assisted by Newtown Greens MP Jenny Leong.

Throughout this week and next I will be flyering for the myriad of upcoming Palestine actions as the genocide continues. Our Labor government refuses to take action despite the massive dispossession and death Israel has wrought on Palestinians in Gaza and the settler-violence they have endorsed in the West-Bank. We must hold them to account. I want to call attention to the militant community picket in Marrickville outside Anthony Albanese’s electoral office which has been ongoing for several days. This scale of effort is required to combat our government’s complicity in genocide. On Thursday February 29th there is a student strike for Palestine timed for 2pm at Town Hall, but USyd students will begin their march from Eastern Avenue at 1pm.

I will be flyering, handing out the SRC tote bags with our orientation handbook/countercourse and 2024 wall planners every Wednesday throughout the semester. Come say hello and bring with you any questions you might have about the SRC. I wish you all good luck with your studies for semester one.

Welcome Week, Semester 1, 2024

Welcome (or welcome back) to the University of Sydney. My name is Harrison Brennan and I’m 96th President of the Students’ Representative Council.

The SRC is the peak representative body for undergraduate students at the university. We are independent from USyd but we rely on your Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) to operate. We offer a range of free services you may use throughout your academic journey that can assist with anything from USyd’s bureaucratic systems, such as special considerations, centrelink applications, tenancy and accommodation problems, and can help with varying legal matters including encounters with dodgy police or issues with
immigration and employment.

Beyond our casework and legal services lies the very soul of the SRC - its activism and advocacy. As a student union, we are committed to championing the interests of students, agitating for a better education here at USyd and a just world off our campus. Our rich history of activism includes fervent opposition to the Vietnam War, facilitating campaigns for First Nations justice, and our militant response to the corporatising decay of higher education under neoliberal governments and private sector interests. The SRC runs a myriad of activist collectives focused on a variety of political campaigns who hold meetings, forums, and rallies throughout the year. These collectives, both autonomous and non-autonomous, are the best way for students to get involved in activism whilst at university. I am heavily involved in these collectives, and as the President, also sit on multiple committees to raise problems students are facing in their studies.

The SRC is a bastion of activism and resistance. Now more than ever it’s imperative that students unite against the structures of oppression to pave the way for an education untainted by commercial interest, and a future that is just and emancipatory. In 2024, I implore you to check out our collectives, to immerse yourself in activism, to join the struggle and fight for the world that you want to see.
If you want to get involved, have any questions, or need some help, simply reach out to me via email at president@src.usyd.edu.au. I hope to see you around!

 
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