Jazzlyn Breen and Jack Mansell

Week 10, Semester 2, 2020

Over the last two weeks we have been continuously busy organising the fightback against course cuts, staff cuts and fee increases.

On the 28th of October we joined NTEU activists at a rally called by staff to protest both education cuts and police repression of protests. The rally was a huge success, and ended in an impromptu occupation of the F23 building, where students occupied for 5+ hours. The demands of the students occupying were simple: reverse the proposed cuts to medical science and we will leave. It is absolutely reprehensible that USyd is trying to cut staff from the medical science faculty in the middle of a global pandemic, when medical research is more important than ever. Management however refused to even have a conversation with occupying students, and resorted to calling the police to force students out of the building after 5 hours. This response is not unexpected, this year management have shown time and again they would rather suppress and stifle student and staff dissent than engage with their complaints, even to the extent of calling the police on students worried about their education quality.

This response will not deter us, and we have organised another protest on the 3rd of November, at 12:30pm on the quad lawns. This protest will have a specific focus on demanding that the medical science cuts are reversed, as well as demanding that there are no further cuts to any faculty. Please come along to join staff and students in the fight against the attacks to our education.

Please visit our Facebook page “Sydney University Education Action Group” to keep up to date with the campaign, and for all event updates.

Week 8, Semester 2, 2020

Over that last two weeks the EAG has been incredibly busy, continuing in the fight against fee hikes, course cuts and staff cuts.

On the 2nd of October we occupied the student centre in a successful campaign to stop international student Aman from being kicked out of USyd over a bureaucratic decision over the timing of fees payments. After one hour of occupation Aman got the confirmation he needed that he would be able to complete his studies at USyd.

On the 6th of October we traveled down to Canberra to protest against the passing of the LNP’s higher education amendment bill. A group of 40+ students from universities around Sydney convoyed down to meet up with Canberra activists for a protest outside Parliament House.

On the 7th of October we joined activists at Macquarie University for a rally and occupation of the vice chancellors building. The rally was focused on fighting against the firing of staff, cutting of majors and cutting of courses.

On the 13th of October we joined NTEU members at a rally they held in Victoria park. This rally was the first to be legally approved through the courts, an interesting development in the current war on protest being waged by the police.

On the 14th of October we held a rally as part of a “National Day of Action” against fee increases, course cuts and staff cuts. We saw hundreds of students converge for a rally that coincided with a staff teach out. Approximately 100 police officers also turned up, and once the rally started acted in a violent way towards protesters. Students were dragged across roads, pushed onto concrete and otherwise brutalised by police officers acting under the guise of Covid enforcement. The footage from this rally went viral, catching the attention of mainstream media with articles published in various newspapers. The actions of the NSW police in violently attacking students trying to protest against the government is a particularly horrific display of state power used to suppress dissent.

Week 6, Semester 2, 2020

Short of the long, and in character for this truly wild year, we’ve been busy.

Last week on September 23, we scored a victory against the cops that will hopefully go down as an important moment in the development of an enduring, combative student movement. Trying to build on momentum from the previous week’s action, where we were broken up by another large-scale police mobilisation, we resolved to keep fighting and to push the boundaries even further by trying to march on the road.

We went into last Wednesday armed with a plan to converge and a spring in our step. We won, and were able to have a disruptive action that brought City Road to a standstill. Hundreds turned out in a display of staff-student action, and took to the streets in defiance of the police. It was an enormous step forward for both the campaign for our education, drawing unprecedented numbers of students, media and public attention, but also for the campaign for the right to protest.

The police remain an ongoing obstacle. Last Friday police were sent to campus to disperse an organising meeting against the cuts. Activists were told that the presence of megaphones, despite being in a group of less than 20 at the time, was “reasonable suspicion”, and warranted police harassment. This is a dangerous escalation that must be resisted.

Our victory against them on September 23 was an important step in galvanising a fighting student left that is willing to confront the draconian behaviour of NSW police, and to establish a combative movement that attracts students into the campaign to defend higher education. Now is the time to join the campaign. Only increased numbers of students will be able to repel the onslaught on our education and on democratic rights.

We are heartened that the first Democracy is Essential campaign organising meeting drew over 100 participants, and has resolved to support activists from a variety of campaigns including the campaign against Mark Latham’s transphobic bill that will force trans kids and teachers into the closet. Community Action for Rainbow Rights are organising a protest for 1pm Saturday October 10 at Taylor Square, we implore students to join the fight.

The next big event on the student activist calendar will be the October 14 National Day of Action. At Sydney Uni we plan to converge at a “teach-in” on the Quad Lawns at 1pm. Be there or be square! And join Sydney University Education Action Group (EAG) – Organising on Facebook. There’s no time like the present to be a rebel!

Week 4, Semester 2, 2020

Over the last two weeks, the Education Action Group has continued in its fight against the LNP Government and corporate University managements continued attacks on higher education. As a collective we hosted an open student forum ‘How to Fight Campus Cuts’, with over 40 attendees, and participated in the Student Strike Assembly, where over 100 attendees voted to engage in a student walk out on the 16th of September. Students are protesting cuts to courses, firing of staff and increases to university fees. The LNP’s proposed changes to higher education and managements cost cutting austerity measures will hurt students. Increases to fees will leave students with a lifetime of debt, and the decision to cut off government funding if students fail subjects will add unnecessary stress and pain to the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged students. The decisions by university bosses to cut courses and staff (at much higher rates that dropping enrolments) will undermined the quality of education even further. Staff are already overworked, and university is already too expensive. These changes will further entrench the idea that education is a commodity, and that universities operate as degree factories to benefit the economy. Education should be valued for more than it’s economic output, and we have a responsibility as students to fight against changes which will further undermine education.

We encourage every student to not attend class on the 16th of September, and instead join a social distant protest on campus. We will be organised into small faculty, society and club based protests, scattered around campus. These protests will be socially distant, in groups of less than 20, masks will be mandatory and hand sanitiser provided. If you want to get involved but don’t know how, please send us a message via our Facebook page “Sydney University Education Action Group”.

Week 2, Semester 2, 2020

We’ve had a busy while! Education is under serious assault. A couple of weeks ago it was announced that the government is pursuing very punitive restrictions on HECS-HELP loans. These will disproportionately hit disadvantaged students and are an attack on even the semblance of accessibility in education. There have been a series of job cuts announced at campuses across australia, cumulatively numbering in the thousands. At Sydney Uni, this has begun with a push for voluntary redundancies which we stood against on July 31. Sydney Uni has been revealed to have underpaid staff by at least $9 million over the last 6 years, and potentially the total figure exceeds $30 million for that period. The Casuals Network have launched a campaign to recover these stolen wages. We have organised and participated in a series of Friday actions in the lead up to the August 28 action. This included an action at Sydney Uni that was repressed, as well as subsequent actions designed to resist this repression. As mentioned earlier, our action on July 31 was repressed by police with two activists arrested. We managed to raise $2,200 in less than 48 hours to cover their legal costs if so required. Solidarity with their case against the charges, which the two activists are pursuing alongside those targeted at Black Lives Matter rallies earlier. On August 28 further appalling repression was levelled by NSW Police, with 10 students and staff fined a combined amount over $10,000. Again, community support has been strong with the money raised in less than 48 hours. We will continue to find avenues to resist these encroachments on the fundamental democratic rights that workers, students and the oppressed need to organise resistance to capitalist barbarism. We continue to stand with Black Lives Matter and Stop Black Deaths In Custody actions, and stand in solidarity with organisers and attendees targeted by police. We also extend our full solidarity to the incredible uprising in Belarus against the 26-year long Lukashenko dictatorship, that has seen 8 of the 10 biggest factories in the country on strike, and hundreds of thousands take to the streets in a sustained movement. Join us at our forum on fighting cuts on campus this Tuesday at 6pm! Details on the Sydney University Education Action Group Facebook page.

Week 12, Semester 1, 2020

It’s been a massive couple of weeks for the EAG, and the higher education sector more broadly. The sector is in crisis, and desperately needs funding in order to survive.

The EAG has now launched the campaign we have been working on; “Defend our Education USyd” – focused specifically on issues affecting the university of Sydney. We have held various open meetings, attracting a large variety of USyd students who have been able to share their ideas and issues with USyd’s recent decisions. Our key demands address issues which undermine our education, such as the use of ProctorU, and staff job cuts. However USyd does not exist in a bubble, and so we have also been active in the national no uni cuts campaign, and are building up to the National Tertiary Education Union’s national day of action on May 21st.

Another major fight we have taken on recently is encouraging a ‘no’ vote to the NTEU’s proposed concessions which allow the undermining of staff working conditions, including a 15% pay cut. We believe that this is not good enough, and that the NTEU should instead be pushing harder for a university bailout, not throwing staff under the bus. The proposed deal will not save the jobs of thousands of casual staff, who can also not access jobkeeper payments because of the nature of casual contracts.

Last Thursday the EAG hosted an open forum to discuss the current issues within higher education, and the NTEU’s response. Jazzlyn spoke alongside Rob Boncardo from the National Tertiary Education Union USYD Branch Committee and the casuals network, followed by a discussion amongst the 40+ attendees.

Unfortunately 300 words is not long enough to expand on everything we have been doing, or all the fights that need to be had – so please join our Facebook group to get involved!

Major upcoming events:

May 21st “NTEU NSW NDA Car and Bike Convoy” – NTEU New South Wales.
May 22nd “Fight Uni Cuts: we won’t pay for the crisis!” – Students Organising Resistance

Week 10, Semester 1, 2020

The higher education sector is currently in crisis, and is attempting to make staff and students pay to recuperate the losses caused by COVID-19. USyd is no exception to this. Even when we ‘return to normal’ your teachers might lose their jobs, you will have less unit options to choose from, may no longer have tutorials to attend, and will lose face to face teaching time. Universities are attacking the quality of our education to recoup the losses of COVID-19, and this is unacceptable.

In response to this, the USyd Education Action Group will be championing a USyd based education campaign called “Defend Our Education USyd”, focused on making sure students and staff do not suffer because of the failure of private education. We had our first open meeting last Wednesday where we discussed the politics and vision of the campaign, and developed a set of key demands. More meetings will be held in the future, so keep an eye out on our Facebook page. This campaign will complement the “No Uni Cuts” campaign, as it is essential that Universities become fully publicly funded in order to protect the future of higher education. It is clear that the private funding system and business model cannot cope with crisis very well.

Another major event of note which occurred in the last two weeks was May Day, or International Workers Day. This year, due to the need for social distancing, the usual stop work strike and rally was replaced by a car convoy, which was effective in shutting down the city. Over 200 cars and bikes made up this convoy, a heart-warming and inspiring reminder that we can still protest and show solidarity, even in this time of social distancing.

Week 8, Semester 1, 2020

It’s been a frantic period for university students and staff. With Universities Australia coming out threatening over 21,000 job losses, and figures claiming that the collapse in the sector’s revenue could leave a $60 billion hole in the economy, cuts to higher education are well and truly on the agenda.

In spite of a spectacular capitulation by the national leadership of the NTEU, union activists nationally, spearheaded by the militant Sydney Uni branch, have pledged to fight the cuts and instead demand that the bosses pay for the economic crisis. The EAG stands in solidarity with the staff campaign against cuts, and sees the campaign as intimately linked to defending our education. After all, staff working conditions are student learning conditions.

On the student front, where the realities of staff cuts, hamfisted online transitions, and the burden of economic crisis on young people have hit hard already, we are also refusing to accept any cut to the standard of our education, or any attempt to increase fees. Instead, the government must fully fund the deficit in education, and abolish fees for all students. Our extended thoughts are summarised in Jack’s recent article in Honi Soit: ‘We must oppose university cuts’.

Week 6, Semester 1, 2020

Firstly, we hope that everyone is staying well and looking after each other in this time of crisis. We could never have predicted everything that has happened over the last couple of weeks. We have seen a huge shutdown of the country, and have had to fight to force the government to meet people’s basic needs.

As the EAG we played an active role in the campaign to include students on Youth Allowance in the increased COVID-19 crisis support payment. This campaign was successful, thanks to the efforts of countless students around the country, and the NUS. Over 200,000 students who are in precarious employment or living situations will now have access to the support they need. We have also supported the SRC in various other campaigns in relation to COVID-19, and we encourage those who have the capacity to help out, or who need help, to reach out to the SRC.

Going forward we still have a lot to win. In a university context we need to see the census date pushed back, relaxed special consideration requirements, support for students living in university accommodation, fair grading systems, extended time for those currently completing honours, masters of PhD research, and further support for staff impacted by changing working conditions. More generally we need to see rent suspended, mortgages paused, a suspension of utility payments, housing for all, extended welfare supplements to those on the disability support pension and overall, and healthcare put before profit. The education department, the SRC and the NUS will continue to fight for the things that are necessary for students’ quality of life, and broader society.

As always, to keep up to date with what we are doing; follow our Facebook page “Sydney University Education Action Group”.

Week 4, Semester 1, 2020

Over the last two weeks we have seen a rapidly changing world. With the outbreak of COVID-19, huge changes have been made to the university sector. Unfortunately, the changes that have been made are not in the interest of you, your teachers or your education. Hiring freezes, outsourcing of casual labour and other attacks on the hard won rights of university staff and academics are being pushed through in response to the economic losses caused by COVID-19. The NTEU has described these as ‘austerity’ measures, pushed through at an opportune time in order to cut costs that management have wanted to cut for years.

The Education Action Group stands in solidarity with the NTEU’s anger at these austerity measures. We have started to organise the student response to these attacks; holding organising meetings and producing an informative video which has been sent around the NTEU members, and posted on our Facebook page. We are happy to see that the University has announced that casuals will have access to a special two weeks paid sick leave in response to the pandemic. However, we would like to see this provision extended so that all university employees have access to extra sick leave. Going forward in this health crisis we call for action that does not throw vulnerable people and precarious workers under the bus.

In other news, activism has continued pretty much as per usual. Over the last few weeks we have engaged in a variety of activities and organising; Jazz spoke on a Climate Justice Alliance forum panel, Jack spoke to the crowd at the Uni Students for Climate Justice walk off. We submitted a motion to council opposing the austerity measures management are pushing through, which passed. We have engaged in the revitalisation of the Concession Opal Card campaign, and are continuing to organise with Students Against Unpaid Placements. Follow our Facebook page for more regular updates; The University of Sydney Education Action Group.”

Week 2, Semester 1, 2020

Over the last two weeks your SRC education officers have been busy with welcome week, climate protesting, snap rallies, solidarity stunts and other related schemes. We’ve been keeping everyone updated via our Facebook page, which you can check out @sydney university education action group.

On the 22nd of February we attended the Sydney climate crisis rally, just one of many simultaneous rallies across the country. This was a 10,000 strong rally, highlighting workers rights, a just transition away from fossil fuels, Indigenous sovereignty and demanding more funding for fire fighters. A strong union presence and workers rights message on the day pushed against the belief that jobs are juxtaposed to the environmental movement. We hope to see everyone at the next climate and union events on March 13th, May 1st and May 15th.

During welcome week a rally was held by the SRC in protest of sinophobia which has escalated recently due to fears over the spread of coronavirus. This campaign has our full support. While most students started university classes this week, thousands have been unable to, as they are still caught up in the travel ban. The EAG stands in solidarity with those affected, and calls on the government and university to implement a fair, just and effective response to this health crisis – not a racist one. We hope to see all international students back on campus soon.

Last (but definitely not least) of all – farewell Michael Spence! We can’t say we’re sad to see you go. We hope that the UCL students are just as persistent at holding you to account as we have been over the years.

Welcome Week 2020

Before we get into a report back, here is a list of events that are coming up, just in case you were interested!

Feb 19th – stop the travel ban – health care not racism! Fisher library, 1pm.
Feb 22nd – Climate Crisis National Day of Action, Sydney Town Hall, 2pm.
March 13th – Uni students climate strike, Henry Deane Plaza, 1pm
May 15th – national #climatestrike, 12pm, location TBA.

Welcome to a new year of university! For those who are new, or don’t know – the Education Action Group is an on campus organisation which takes action on issues affecting students, through the university SRC. In the past we have fought against increases to university fees, the universities investments in weapons manufacturing, the closure of Sydney collage of the arts and the implementation of a Ramsay centre degree of western civilisation.

Currently our major campaigns include fighting for climate justice, fighting against the travel ban affecting International students, and fighting against unpaid placements. We are also engaged in campaigns for Indigenous sovereignty, decolonisation, anti racism, pro queer and anti sexist campaigns and movements.

If you would like to get involved in any of these movements, or simply just keep up to date, find us on Facebook; Sydney University Education Action Group.