Madeleine Clark and Thomas Williams

Week 12, Semester 1, 2021

Over the past fortnight we have been organising against yet another round of course cuts and austerity. Management’s insatiable desire for profit over quality knows no bounds.

The arts cuts have been rumoured to be in the order of $10 million. At the same time, 20% of Advanced Studies students in Politics and IR will be forced to miss out on the extended coursework that was promised as part of the degree. There is simply nothing left to trim. Staff are heavily overworked, underpaid and constantly left in precarious circumstances. As international enrolments decline, the University is desperately searching for more targets to exploit. These cuts come alongside a 9.3% decrease in Federal funding, incentivising the squeeze on students and staff.

We spent our fortnightly meeting preparing for the rally in week 13 to oppose these cuts. The route and speakers have been set, and we will be spending this week building for that rally. Kimmy has put together a fantastic poster, so look out for it on Eastern Avenue and the Redfern run!

This past fortnight was also a time of immense suffering, and we extend our full solidarity and support to Palestine. We condemn the University’s ties to arms dealers and those complicit in the violence, and similarly condemn any censorship of academics or students speaking out against the violent dispossession of land. Both officers and many collective members were at the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba last Saturday, and we encourage everyone reading this to continue to show up to actions on and off campus. From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.

Week 10, Semester 1, 2021

This past fortnight has been the busiest so far, and hopefully things are just going to get busier. The EAG had a speakout outside Fisher library against the 12-week semester proposal. There was strong turnout from both staff and students, with speakers from the NTEU, casuals network as well as students. Overall it was a good way to raise awareness about how detrimental these changes would have been. We followed the rally up 6 days later with a snap action on the day of the vote. There was solid attendance despite the rain and we stirred up a fuss outside F23. The efforts of everyone involved in the fight were rewarded that afternoon, with the proposal defeated with 69 votes against.

This fortnight has not only been good news though. “Operation Blue Star” has been slated to cut $10 million from the arts, with Theatre and Performance Studies and Studies of Religion in the crosshairs for the draft proposal. We had a fantastic reportback at our EAG on Tuesday, and we are organising to fight against this shameless austerity. The win against 12 week semesters is a testament, in part, to the power of protest and the necessity of students supporting and uniting with staff. We hope to take these lessons forward in the “Save SLAM” fight. Our next meeting is in a fortnight’s time, week 11, on Tuesday and we have a rally planned for week 13 to protest the cuts when the details are made clear.

Week 8, Semester 1, 2021

This fortnight we’ve been focusing on the “No to 12 week semester” campaign. After the SRC survey showed how many students (out of 400 surveyed, 93%) were against it we decided that it had enough groundswell to organise a rally. Turning our semester to 12 weeks will be detrimental for the students and staff. It represents a massive pay cut for staff and will mean more stress as they adapt content to a reduced time period. For students it also means more stress, a higher rate of drop outs and a decrease in student uni satisfaction. Importantly, it is one step closer to the neoliberal trimester model that is notoriously bad. To build awareness for the 12 week issue, we helped organise and moderate a forum about this issue. This forum had a wide range of panelists from across the uni and was really well attended.

We also talked to NTEU staff members organised in the Casuals Network who are highly active and keen to organise going in to strikes next semester. They said they would support our actions and we are working with them to organise a student and staff rally in Week 10. We’ve also been organizing a zine about strikes that will be published next week which will hopefully build support for strikes well before they happen.

Apart from education organizing we’ve been involved in supporting the actions of other collectives. Students are affected by social justice issues and it’s important that we engage the student body in a whole swathe of activism. There’s lots to organise around and we’ll be having our next collective meeting in Week 9.

Week 6, Semester 1, 2021

We successfully organised our first education protest against the cuts on the 24th of March. This was a vibrant rally and although numbers were smaller than expected (building was deterred due to rain) it was a great to see familiar faces from the campaign last year. The rally marched down City Rd and converged with the UTS rally at the UTS Tower. It was excellent to hear the speeches from both USyd and UTS and to see the similarities. Both campus management’s are going on the attack despite high enrollments and surpluses.

We met up with Rob Boncardo from the left of the NTEU to discuss plans for the rest of semester, in preparation of the EBA negotiations and strike. This was really helpful and it was encouraging to see that there is a mood among staff that they deserve better conditions. We drew up a rough plan for actions for Semester 1 that include a staff and student forum, a student rally and then a staff rally. As we write this we have organised an EAG meeting on the 1st of April to discuss more concrete plans. We really want to build awareness and enthusiasm for the strike among students. We’ve seen so many attacks and this EBA is the best way of fighting back. Having students on board can be the difference between staff striking and not!

There are also so many other campaigns to get involved with. We’ve been coordinating with the other collectives to organise a Panel on Police Abolition in preparation for the Stop Black Deaths in Custody on April 10th.

There are other initiatives in Environment and QUAC that are similarly important to go to.

Week 4, Semester 1, 2021

This past week the EAG has been busy building for our upcoming rally. Sadly our banner paint was a bit of a flop. However, we have had a number of successful days of building since then. We’ve been giving out flyers, postering and doing digital building for the 12pm rally, and will continue to stall over the next few days. We’ve got 250 or so posters to put up with a new design and a roster for Monday and Tuesday. Speakers are locked in and it is looking positive.

We are hoping the rally will offer an opportunity to push back against the 12-week semester proposal. Management is tabling a new model of shortened semesters, and increased optional winter school, which we see at this stage as yet another cover for more austerity, with students and staff worse off. We strongly oppose this change.

There have been a number of important demonstrations over the past fortnight that we’d like to draw attention to. The Myanmar solidarity rally was a great showing of support, and the Women’s Collective speakout was a very significant action to follow on from welcome week. Mardi Gras was a success, with organisers again winning their case and protesting down Oxford Street.

Looking forward, the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement period has been set for June and the NTEU is currently organising working groups. Staff working conditions are student learning conditions, and the struggle for quality education extends beyond the boundaries of “teacher”, “researcher” and “student”.

Finally, in the past fortnight the university has formally appointed a new VC, Mr Mark Scott. Mr Scott oversaw the gutting of the ABC and seems to hold a track record as a vicious manager. We share the concerns aired by Sydney NTEU Branch President Kurt Iveson, that he will treat University as a business, and offer no warm welcomes. Education must be free of the tyranny of exploitation.

Week 2, Semester 1, 2021

The past fortnight has been a very busy and significant one. Library and learning centre staff are still facing austerity, and staff at Macquarie Uni are also facing cuts. As campus resumes we are seeing the extent of the new normal, recorded lectures, limited contact hour, barebones staffing and even more pressure applied to the foundations of the university, the staff and students. USyd is continuing its year-long train of intensified exploitation under the guise of COVID, and we have been organising against it.

Welcome week was a success with signups and good uptake for the rally on the 24th. The tote bags and shirts were very well received, and all given away. Stickers arrived late however we plan to give these out on stalls and at future actions. We promoted our week 2 meeting/banner paint for the 24th, however our speakout had to be postponed until week 3. We’ve also created a testimonial form for education-related issues that can be distributed out to staff and students, where anyone can flag localised cuts to courses or jobs that might fly under the radar.

The march on the 24th has two staff and two students planned to speak from 12:30 before we head towards UTS. We’ll be continuing our building efforts in the coming weeks, taking the momentum from welcome week forward. If you’re reading this report, come along! Fisher library, March 24th.

Both officers were involved in the Mardi Gras protest on Saturday, and it was great to see a strong turnout of USyd activists to the march, especially regular faces to EAG meetings and the collectives. Happy Mardi everyone!

Welcome Week, Semester 1, 2021

This break has been an eventful and busy one. My main projects over summer were attending the NUS National Union of Students National Conference (NatCon) getting Countercourse published and building and planning protests. This year the future we face is dire; a global pandemic, environment catastrophe, economic crisis and attacks at a local university level. I think mobilising against these attacks is what the EAG and the SRC at large should put it’s resources into. To this end, I tried to intervene into the National Conference to secure the NUS’ resources to organise a nationally coordinated campaign against local uni cuts. Although these motions were voted down at the conference, NUS will organise a national campaign in the fourth week of semester. Organising Countercourse I similarly wanted the focus to be on activism; the crisis of last year but also the inspiring resistance we’ve seen spread across the globe.

On the this note I threw myself into organising activism during the break, building Invasion Day and the Climate Rally. I also organised an EAG meeting where we decided on a “no cuts” rally for the 24th of March. Last year proved what the Education Office can be capable of when socialists use it. The campaign to defend the right to protest and defend our quality of education was highly engaging for students. It’s clear that this year the university are continuing their blood bath and are using the cover of COVID to continue making attacks. In a recent Guardian article it was cited that the university owes its workers up to $42 million. This is endemic, and last year’s crisis has increased the uni’s exploitation of staff. Staff working conditions are student learning conditions, and so this directly impacts our quality of education. Although we’re facing many attacks, the protests from last year and previously show how students and staff can resist together. Furthermore, this year is an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement year, enabling the union to mobilise staff into strikes for better pay and conditions. I want to make it a priority that the EAG will rally behind staff and mobilise students in this important fight.