Lauren Lancaster, President 94th SRC
Week 1, Semester 1, 2022
Swapnik Sanagavarapu, President 93rd SRC
Week 13, Semester 2, 2021
Here we are – my final President’s report of the year. After many long hours and innumerable written reports, you’ll forgive me if this last report is something of a sentimental reflection.
What a year it has been. Facing a litany of challenges, I’d like to think that the SRC stood uncompromisingly in defence of students and their rights. We established the FoodHub on campus, providing free food to students in need until we were so unceremoniously interrupted by the lockdown. We ran a free textbook scheme to make sure that good books would not go to waste and students wouldn’t have to worry about exorbitant textbook prices. We restored medical science students to their building when they were so horrifically mistreated by management, and we supported Nursing students in their fight against sexual harassment on placement. We hired a new caseworker, so that students were well supported through online learning. We hired a new solicitor, so that no student was left in the legal wilderness. We were resolute in our defence of students at various University committees and we are continuing to reform the broken special considerations system. We ran not one, but two, successful Student General Meetings, the most recent of which categorically rejected the University’s attempts to cut FASS to shreds. Perhaps most notably of all, we defeated 12-week semesters for the second year in a row.
As much as I’d like to take credit for these victories, none of them were possible without the staff, SRC office-bearers, activists and ordinary students that contributed so meaningfully to each one. Without all of you, much of the SRC’s work this year would not have been possible. I’d also like to thank my nearest and dearest, without whom I would have crumbled under the weight of expectations.
Throughout all of this, it has been a pleasure and an honour to stand at the helm of the SRC. I apologise if I failed to deliver on any of the promises I made at the start of my term – my bold visions were not always easy to carry through. Nonetheless, I hope my Presidency will be remembered fondly by those who think about and remember these things. As I ride off into the sunset, I’m confident that my successor, Lauren Lancaster, will be more than capable of picking up my slack. I’m excited to hand the reins over to her and to see what she accomplishes.
Thank you for the privilege of being your SRC President. What a joy it has been.
Week 12, Semester 2, 2021
Coming up on the final week of the semester, I want to wish everyone best of luck with their exams and assessments. It’s been a stressful and difficult semester for many and it hasn’t been made easier by the University’s decision not to re-implement the CWAM. If you’re in need of assistance with Special Considerations or need to appeal one of your mid-semester grades, contact the SRC caseworkers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To begin, the SRC’s Student General Meeting was a rousing success this week. Over 200 students were in attendance and the motion put before them passed with a huge majority. As I said in my introduction to the SGM, it is a really heartening sight to see so many students actively opposed to the cuts and willing to show up to the SGM. Congratulations to the organisers of the SGM – your hard work paid off in dividends. If you are interested in being a part of the fight against the cuts to FASS, join the Education Action Group and come to the protest this Wednesday at midday on campus.
We also heard some troubling news this week that the University is planning on reintroducing Cadmus, the anti-plagiarism software that was trialled at the University in 2017 before being scrapped. Cadmus has previously been described as “creepy”, “invasive” and “impractical” by student representatives and staff. The software requires that students complete and submit their assessments within an inbuilt word-processing software that disallows copying and pasting, uses keystroke analytics to monitor for academic dishonesty and tracks the location of students. It’s safe to say that this software is as invasive and unethical as ProctorU, if not moreso and I will be making enquiries about its use this week.
Week 11, Semester 2, 2021
This week was unusually quiet, and I enjoyed some limited leave in the earlier part of the week.
To begin with, congratulations to all of those who were elected at the SRC’s 94th Representatives Elect meeting. Despite some procedural difficulties here and there, the meeting went off without a hitch thanks to the work of Julia Robins, Riki Scanlan and Cameron Caccamo. I look forward to seeing what the next crop of office bearers will get up to and I am excited to begin handing over some duties to them.
I also raised the issue this week of inconsistent late penalties across faculties, noting that some assessments have late penalties of up to 30% per day while others have penalties of only 5%. It is a serious issue of inequity if students are being punished so harshly for lateness only by virtue of their enrolment in a particular faculty.
Until next time,
Week 10, Semester 2, 2021
Congratulations to those of you who are vaccinated and are experiencing your first little bit of post-lockdown freedom! This week was not as busy as usual, but I continued my usual advocacy work for students.
Our first special considerations focus group session will be happening this week, on Tuesday morning. It will be a terrific opportunity for the SRC and for ordinary students to have a say in the design and development of this vitally important service. If you are interested in participating, there are still places open for students to be involved – please contact the SRC Facebook page or contact me at email@example.com. You will be compensated for your time by Student Administration Services.
We also heard some promising developments from the University as far as our advocacy efforts go. The University has noted that they will look to implement in person graduation events from December 1st, which is a great result given the SRC, USU and student advocacy efforts that have been taking place over the past few weeks. We also heard that the University will correct issues with incorrect fees across Mathematics units, an issue that I and a number of other students raised concerns about.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention two important events upcoming in the SRC Calendar. The first is our annual Representatives Elect meeting, where office bearers for 2022 will be elected. My best wishes to all those who plan to nominate. The second, and perhaps more important, is our Student General Meeting on Wednesday the 27th, where students from across the University will come together to oppose cuts in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. All the details can be found on the Education Action Group’s Facebook group.
Until next time,
Week 9, Semester 2, 2021
This week has been another busy one as always for me and the SRC – I’m looking to finish many of the projects I started as I come towards the end of my term as President.
To start with the disappointing news, the University decided this week to not implement the CWAM. As I said in the SRC’s media release on the topic, this is a tremendous letdown for the close to 1500 students who signed our open letter, as well as for every student who’s been struggling through online learning and lockdowns this semester. The campaign isn’t over however. Students have clearly demonstrated that they need support, and the University ought to take them seriously. If you’ve signed the petition for the CWAM or you’re just passionate about the idea, please email the Vice Chancellor and DVC Education to ask them to reinstate the CWAM.
In other disappointing news, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is currently in the middle of a scorched earth campaign which may see the loss of up to 200 undergraduate units of study in the faculty due to “low enrolments”. Worryingly, the Faculty is proposing that Honours coursework for small disciplines be replaced with a generic interdisciplinary honours research course – stripping the honours programme of its rigour and intellectual diversity. Along with these cuts, the independence of Gender and Cultural Studies as a Department is likely to be lost. I very strongly urge all those students who are concerned about these developments to attend the Student General Meeting against the Cuts on the 27th of October. All the details can be found on the Education Action Group’s Facebook page.
I continued my advocacy for students in other areas this week. I raised the issue of inconsistent fees across units, continued raising issues regarding special considerations and continued the SRC’s work in reforming the special considerations system. I also met with the University to discuss elements of their plan for reopening, including crucially, the possibilities of in person graduations by the end of this year.
As always, please get in touch if you have any issues.
Until next time,
Week 8, Semester 2, 2021
I hope everyone reading this has had a restful mid-semester break, as I have. This past fortnight has been somewhat of a whirlwind, so I was glad to have some leave at the end of the week and over the long weekend.
The biggest development of this week has been the fact that the SRC presented our CWAM petition to the University. It was presented verbally before the University Executive Education Committee, as well as delivered directly to Pip Pattison (DVC-Education) and Mark Scott (Vice Chancellor). There was quite significant support from the members of the committee, and any concerns were promptly and satisfactorily responded to. What is clear however is that a model of simply excluding Semester 2 2021 from the calculation of the WAM was not satisfactory to support the experiences of all students who were struggling throughout these semesters. We proposed a system where a COVID WAM is only included on a student’s final transcript in the case that it is higher than their regular WAM would be, and that there is a choice of which COVID WAM to include. This could be one of three things: a) Semester 1 2020 excluded, b) Semester 2 2021 excluded, c) both Semester 1 2020 and Semester 2 2021 excluded. We propose that all three of these potential marks are calculated, and if any of them is higher than the student’s regular WAM, that the highest of these three options are included, alongside an explanation of what the ‘COVID WAM’ includes (for that particular student). This seeks to put students in the best stead and aims to not unfairly flatten the experience of all students via one model of exclusion.
However, it would be remiss not to mention that the SRC successfully conducted its annual elections just prior to the mid-semester break. It was a magnificently successful election, with one of the highest turnout rates in recent years. Congratulations to Lauren Lancaster, the successfully elected President of the 94th SRC! Congratulations also to the 39 councillors who were elected. I look forward to seeing what you all get up to next year.
Until next time,
Week 7, Semester 2, 2021
This week has been remarkably busy, with a number of issues taking up my time.
The most notable of them has been our petition for a renewal of the CWAM. The petition has been remarkably successful in the week that it’s been up, with over 1300 signatories at the time of signing. Thank you to all the SRC Office Bearers, interested students, student reps and even some candidates in upcoming elections who have shared the petition around and provided meaningful feedback to it. I’ve been speaking with a large number of students who are really interested in the campaign and in the SRC’s role in supporting students. I’ve even heard a few concerns about the petition which we are meaningfully taking on board. Please keep signing and sharing, the more signatures we have, the more likelihood of our petition being accepted! This has been surprisingly time consuming, but I’m so glad to have launched it as it’s worthwhile.
Aside from that, I’ve been working hard on committees as always. I attended the Academic Board this week to present the first version of our petition, to quite a lot of interest from staff and student reps. I also attended a focus group about the administrative and support services provided through SAS with the USU and SUPRA Presidents and SRC Caseworkers. We workshopped some improvements to the complaints process as well as general principles for how these systems should operate and interact with students. I hope that these criticisms will be well received.
Until next time,
Week 6, Semester 2, 2021
This week has been another extremely busy one, and I’ve spent lots of time working on supporting students and leading new initiatives.
Before going into what I’ve done this week, it would be remiss of me not to mention the National Student Safety Survey which is occurring at the moment until the 3rd of October. About 10,000 students who have been randomly chosen to participate in the survey will have received an email regarding the survey. More information can be found on the USyd Women’s Collective page, including ways to participate even if you have not received the survey link. Support can be accessed for USyd students who are impacted by sexual violence through the Safer Communities Office, 1800 Respect and the NSW Rape Crisis Centre.
This weekend, the SRC launched its open letter and campaign for a return of the COVID-adjusted WAM. This campaign is drawing on the University’s response at the start of 2020, as well as the recent decision to grant “WAMnesty” at the University of Melbourne (on the back of a major campaign from the Student Union). We are calling for three things specifically: excluding Semester 2 2021 results from the calculation of WAM if they were lower than Semester 1 2021, waiving of attendance requirements for all courses and an extension of the deadline for discontinuation. To support these demands, please sign the open letter on our Facebook page.
Secondly, the SRC has begun calling for students to get involved in our restructuring of Special Considerations with Student Admin Services. The SRC are looking for up to 50 students who are willing to attend a one-hour focus group where you will be shown the proposed system and asked to give feedback on the user experience and functional aspects. We are particularly looking for students who have used the Special Considerations system before. We are also looking for students with a broad range of experiences to ensure that the student population is adequately represented. To sign up, head to: shorturl.at/gB357.
The campaign against Arts Cuts also continued this week, when students confronted outgoing FASS Dean Annamarie Jagose about the ongoing plans to cut and restructure Departments within the School of Arts and Media. I attended the meeting and even asked some questions myself about the University’s finances and the justification for these cuts.
To keep up to date with all these campaigns, follow our Facebook and Instagram pages.
Until next time,
Week 5, Semester 2, 2021
This week has been a quite busy one for the SRC, with lots of events and opportunities taking up my time! With the semester getting into full swing, more and more issues are coming to my attention that require relative urgent attention.
To start with the fun stuff, I want to thank Meredith Burgmann and Nadia Wheatley for being a part of my event for Radical Education Week, and talking about their book ‘Radicals: Remembering the Sixties’. We heard some wonderful stories from them about student (and other) activism in the 60s! My favourite story was about a young Geoffrey Robertson (then SRC President, now one of the most famous human rights lawyers in the world), suing the University for expelling a student who led a protest against fines for late return of books! The full recording will be up on the SRC’s YouTube in the coming week.
In another huge win for the SRC, the new director of Student Admin Services, Melissa Roughley has been very kindly meeting with me and discussing ways to authentically integrate student feedback and concerns into the reforms of special considerations. The new system will move away from a simple triage approach to a case-management system, which will hopefully drastically improve student outcomes. At the initial stages, a small number of students will be meeting relatively frequently with the SAS team to work through concrete details of the proposed changes. At regular intervals, we will convene larger groups of students in a trial/focus group type setting. Keep a look out for our recruitment of these student volunteers!
Finally, the SRC Legal Service initiated its process of hiring a new solicitor for our service. We conducted interviews with candidates last week and will hopefully be hiring this week! I’m very excited about expanding the reach of our service, and working more extensively on issues of migration and visas for international students.
Until next time,
Week 4, Semester 2, 2021
Welcome back to yet another Presidential report. This week has been quite a busy one, with a number of issues coming to my attention and taking up my time.
To start with, I want to express my solidarity with all students who are in Afghanistan at the moment, or may have Afghan family and relatives, in this extraordinarily difficult time. After a decades long, brutal war waged in Afghanistan, those most intimately involved in the war have suddenly abdicated their responsibility in their exit. Australia must accept as many refugees as possible from Afghanistan, given its extreme culpability as a partner in the NATO-Coalition forces. I’ve heard some harrowing testimonies of students trying to leave the country and I wish them all the best. The SRC supports the campaign from the Afghan community for: permanent residency to all Afghans in Australia who are currently on temporary visas, expedited family reunion visas from Afghanistan, increased humanitarian intake of Afghan refugees and an end to offshore detention of refugees.
Secondly, I would like to thank Emilie Heath, who this week wrote a great article in Honi Soit detailing the endemic issue of sexual harassment on clinical placements. I’ve been working with Emilie to raise this issue further with the University. Every student deserves a safe working and learning environment, particularly in such difficult and high-stress situations as clinical placements.
Third, we’ve been made aware once again of the government’s continuing attempts to restrict the freedom of charities through changes to the ACNC Governance Standard 3. To quote from an Honi article about the issue, “the ACNC would be able to investigate – and potentially deregister or revoke tax concessions from – entities who have been involved in certain lower-level summary offences. According to the Explanatory Statement to the Draft, this would include “unlawfully gathering or remaining on land or in a building”, which would affect organisations which undertake direct action or physical acts of civil disobedience.” In March, the SRC made a submission to the Treasury about the kind of detrimental impacts this would have on our activities. Quoting from our submission, “In the media release accompanying the draft bill, the Assistant Minister for Charities signalled his intention to curtail the activities of “activist organisations masquerading as charities”. From the point of view of the SRC, the distinction between activist organisations and charities is a spurious one.”
Finally, on a positive note, we’ve rebooted the SRC’s YouTube channel this week, and you will be able to find recordings of the sessions from the SRC’s Radical Education Week on there relatively soon! The channel can be found here: youtube.com/user/srcusyd.
Until next time,
Week 3, Semester 2, 2021
This week’s report will be unusually short, owing to the fact that I’ve just received my COVID vaccination and am currently feeling its effects as I write it. Despite the effects, I’m feeling extremely relieved to be doing my part in bringing things back to normal.
This week, two major things have occupied my time. The first is my continuing project to upgrade and redesign the SRC’s website, which is persisting despite a number of interruptions. We have had a number of struggles with unresponsive quotes, but are now narrowing down our options to make sure that student money is used as efficiently as possible while receiving the highest quality service. I’ve been working closely with our publications staff to think about how we want to re-envision the site and how to make it more accessible for students. If you have any thoughts, concerns or criticisms about the website, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
The second thing that I’ve been working on are the two sessions for the SRC’s Radical Education Week that I will be presenting. Radical Education Week is an annual event run by the SRC that platforms alternative pedagogy, radical thinking and new ways of approaching the world. It draws together students, academics, writers, activists and many others to discuss any number of issues and radical perspectives on how to deal with them. This year, due to the ongoing lockdown, the Week has now moved online and is spread across the whole semester! Every Tuesday and Thursday this semester, there will be an event – follow the Radical Education Week Facebook page for more information. I’ll be involved with two events specifically. The first is this Thursday at 2pm and is entitled “The Ongoing Struggle in Political Economy”. I’ll be moderating a discussion between Lia Perkins, Prof. Frank Stillwell and Dr. Joe Collins about the origins and contemporary relevance of the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. The second is next Thursday at 2pm, and will be entitled “Radicals: Remembering the Sixties”. I’ll be speaking to former President of the NSW Legislative Council Meredith Burgmann and renowned childrens’ book author Nadia Wheatley about their book Radicals, which details the radical spirit of the 60s and features interviews with 60s stalwarts like Geoffrey Robertson QC, Gary Foley, Margaret Roadknight and many others. Looking forward to seeing you there!
Until next time,
Week 2, Semester 2, 2021
Congratulations on finishing your first week of Semester 2! With the ongoing lockdown and the escalating COVID situation, I hope that everyone is staying safe and taking care of themselves. I’m enthused by the recent announcement that workers will be able to receive payments when waiting for a COVID test and also while in isolation. This was something that has been agitated for Unions NSW and a key demand in our Welfare Collective’s Day of Action, so it’s nice to see them implemented.
On a serious note, I’ve been notified that Fisher Library and the Learning Hubs will be closed during lockdown if students do not follow all health regulations, including mask wearing, social distancing, and sign-in upon entry. Accessing a safe area to study is essential for students, but library access will not be able to continue if students do not follow NSW Health regulations. I urge all students to comply with the public health order so that we can continue enjoying the benefits of an open library and open learning centres! Please feel free to email me if you have any thoughts or questions on the issue.
We’ve also begun looking into rents at University accommodation and in the surrounding areas. The University has made a promise in the past for all student accommodation to offer rents that are 25% below the market rates and in fact reduced rents for students last year at the height of the pandemic! With the ongoing lockdown, many private providers of student accommodation have offered reduced rent to students, but no such thing has occurred in University owned accommodation. We’re hoping to begin a campaign in the next few weeks to call for rent reductions in University accommodation so that students who are struggling with income don’t need to worry about their rent.
Finally, join the Education Action Group on August 16th to protest against the Australian Financial Review’s Vice Chancellor’s Summit – all the details can be found on the SRC’s Facebook page.
Until next time,
Week 1, Semester 2, 2021
Congratulations on beginning Sem 2 of this year! I wish I was writing this report under more auspicious circumstances – the ongoing COVID outbreak and lockdown has forced us into online learning for at least the first four weeks of semester. For those struggling with the ongoing lockdown, you can find a list of support services and relevant information on the SRC’s website. These are difficult times for everyone – I hope everyone is able to check in on their friends and family to make sure they are holding up alright.
In case you didn’t know me, I’m Swapnik, the President of the SRC. I’m in my fourth year of an Arts/Law degree. I’ve had the pleasure of keeping myself busy over these past few weeks, advocating for student interests and keeping the SRC chugging along. Before launching into my work, I’d be remiss not to mention that I have put into place some consultation hours for Semester 2. If you’re a student and you’ve got any issues that you’d like to share with the SRC, or any feedback about the SRC’s performance, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am free on Thursdays, between 12pm and 4pm, and will be happy to meet with any student via Zoom.
One of the biggest wins I’ve achieved for students in the break has been a significant overhaul of the special considerations interface. For the past few months I’ve been consistently making the case to the University that special considerations are impossibly bureaucratic and slow, and that this has severely impacted the mental health and wellbeing of many students. Our surveys showed high waiting times, poor communication and a total lack of transparency. Due to consistent SRC pressure, the University implemented extra resourcing in the Spec Cons team at the end of last semester and cleared a huge backlog of cases. More recently, our pressure has led to the University proposing a massive overhaul of the student-facing special considerations site (to be launched early next year at the latest). This site will have a personal SSO login, allow for a library of documents, so that documents do not need to be uploaded multiple times, allow for multiple submissions across UOS and will provide estimated wait times to improve certainty.
I’ve also been in talks with the NTEU (the academic staff union on campus) about their ongoing period of enterprise bargaining. The union is negotiating with the University for the terms of employment for staff over the next three years. They have a hugely popular and ambitious list of demands that they’ve provided to the University including paid gender transition leave, sick leave for casual staff, better casual conversion (into permanent staff) and many more. I can’t emphasise how important this period is for students (as well as obviously staff). The better working conditions for staff, the better the learning experience is for students. I wish the Union best of luck – the SRC is right behind you!
Some more administrative tasks have taken up my time too. We’re currently working on overhauling the SRC website. If you have any questions or feedback please feel free to email me. We will also be having proper consultation with students in the semester about the website, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Finally, join the Education Action Group on the 16th of August at their online action, protesting the AFR’s Vice Chancellor’s Summit. All the details can be found on the EAG’s Facebook.
Until next time,
Week 13, Semester 1, 2021
Unfortunately, a lot of this week was derailed by the unfortunate fact that I came down with the flu. Nonetheless, I managed to get a fair bit of work done before going on sick leave.
At the end of last week, I attended the May 21st Global Climate Strike, showing solidarity with the students and workers who took the day off for climate action, a just transition and publicly owned renewable energy. Shamefully, the students marching from Sydney University and UTS to Town Hall were brutalised by police. These police pushed these students off the road, injured some of them and stole their banner. This kind of violence was reminiscent of the brutality that we saw last year during the Education protests, and it’s absolutely condemnable.
I also continued working with the INGS students whose degrees had been affected by the poor planning, unfulfilled promises and a lack of communication. These students put together a fantastic report, outlining their concerns and providing a number of recommendations to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. I sent this report off to a number of people in Senior Management and in the Faculty, and I hope that these issues will be resolved soon for these students.
We also submitted a number of funding requests to the University this week for infrastructure upgrades and new projects. Some of these projects include a new disability space on campus, a study space for students at the Conservatorium of Music, a permanent staff member for the FoodHub and funding to revive Radical Sex and Consent Week.
Until next time,
Week 12, Semester 1, 2021
This week was a relatively quiet one, with only one major development that I was involved with.
A recent Honi article revealed that students who were studying Arts/Advanced Studies have been struggling under a raft of unfulfilled promises, and poor degree management. Promises of internships, exchange opportunities and the ability to do honours have been totally ignored and students have been stuck with a degree that they did not bargain for. I’m going to be working with these students in the coming weeks to deliver a just solution. Thanks to all those students who approached me and those who have responded to me so far, we’re going to work until the University provides you with some recourse.
It would also be remiss of me not to congratulate the successful candidates in this year’s USU election – two of whom are or were SRC Office Bearers. While I’m disappointed in the student body’s lack of faith in Joe Fidler, I only hope his campaign to bring decency back to the campus is successful in the long run.
Until next time,
Week 11, Semester 1, 2021
This week has been much quieter than the last, but I’ve been dealing with the fallout of last week’s massive revelations of surveillance of student and staff activists by NSW Police and the University.
To start with, I want to give my most sincere thanks to Rose Jackson, MLC, for her speech in NSW Parliament this week. Her speech responded directly to the SRC’s media release regarding the revelations, and focussed in specifically on the use of undercover police and extensive intelligence networks. Rose was a former SRC President and NUS President, and her continuing support of the SRC and its activism is highly appreciated. Similar thanks must go to Jamie Parker, David Shoebridge and Jenny Leong, all of whom expressed their interest in supporting the SRC in this continuing fight. I’ve also been speaking to media figures – I look forward to their stories coming out in the press in the near future.
Aside from this, I’ve been continuing work on SSAF for the SRC. The University has unfrozen contestable spending for the first time in two years, and the SRC is applying for a number of great projects including a space for students at the Conservatorium to study, a full time assistant at the FoodHub and funding for Radical Sex and Consent Week.
Finally, I attended the annual Nakba Day rally at Town Hall. This is especially relevant in the context of increasing Israeli aggression against Palestinians and the ongoing attempts to displace Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah.
Until next time,
Week 10, Semester 1, 2021
This week has been busy and stressful as usual, with a strange mix of remarkable good news and unbelievably distressing news.
To start with the good news, our long-standing campaign against the proposal for 12-week semesters has culminated in an incredible win for staff and students! Not only did we defeat the proposal at the Academic Board, we smashed it by a huge margin! In 2020, the margin against 12 week semesters was in the single digits. This time, we won 69-10. It’s nice to know that my hard work over the past few months, and my persistent advocacy on this topic finally paid off. I’d also like to thank everyone who was involved in this campaign, from the student activists, to the members of the Academic Board, to the staff members who advocated so strongly against it and finally to all of those who generally raised their voice. The status quo has been locked in for 2022 at least, and likely until 2026. Hopefully this is the last we hear of 12 week sems!
This victory has been coloured by some quite distressing news uncovered by the SRC. In October 2020, the SRC’s Chair of Standing Legal and I placed a request to the University for information under the Government Information (Public Access) Act in relation to student protests on campus. This information was released to us last Wednesday. The revealed documents detail an outrageous pattern of surveillance and repression by the University of Sydney and NSW Police. As I stated in the SRC’s Media Release on the subject last week, the documents “reveal the University’s knowledge of NSW Police’s particularly invasive surveillance of student activists (alluding to plain-clothed operations and ‘extensive intelligence networks’). It also details the University’s needlessly intrusive monitoring of media appearances by Professor Simon Rice following his violent arrest at a protest on October 14 and social media posts regarding on-campus actions posted by NTEU representative and Senior Lecturer David Brophy. The University also surveilled students’ social media activity, as evidenced by an internal email showing itemised numbers of attendees responding ‘going’ or ‘interested’ to Facebook events organising individual contingents to the September 16 protest.” Worryingly, the documents reveal the University’s use of Dataminr, a CIA-funded social media monitoring tool that was used to crack down on Black Lives Matter protests in the United States. I’m going to continue raising the profile of this issue, and I thank the media figures and parliamentarians who responded to our press release.
Aside from this, I’ve been raising the plight of Indian international students who are stuck in utterly horrific situations in India. The SRC condemns the government’s racist travel ban and the continuing vaccine apartheid levelled against India and the Global South. I confirmed with the University that evidentiary requirements for special considerations will continue to be waived, and have asked that they send an email to all students in India informing them of their rights under special consideration and discontinuation of study.
I’m also working on two campaigns this week that I’ll briefly mention. The first is continuing the fight against the cuts to SLAM – join the SRC’s protest in Week 13 to prevent this school from being totally wiped out. The second is the continuing campaign against the destruction of Willow Grove, the heritage site in Parramatta that will be demolished by the NSW government to make way for the new Powerhouse museum.
If you have any questions or issues that you would like the SRC to address, don’t hesitate to contact me at email me.
Until next time,
Week 9, Semester 1, 2021
The past week has been a busy and tiring one, but marked by the rare occurrence of good news. As usual, I’ve been working hard to defend the rights of students on campus.
This upcoming Tuesday, the 4th of May, the Academic Board will finally vote on the Academic Calendar at the University of Sydney. To put it in more familiar terms, the Academic Board is finally going to vote on whether or not we move to 12 week semesters. I’m sure by now you’ve heard my perspective on the change. It’s a bad proposal that’s going to hurt staff and students. In a recent survey conducted by the SRC, 93% of undergraduate students agreed with my position. A similar proportion of postgraduate students are also opposed to the change. We’ve held rallies, we’ve held speak-outs and we’ve held forums – all of which have demonstrated just how opposed students are to a shorter semester. The onus is now on the Academic Board to vote according to the wishes of students. I urge you all to contact your Academic Board representatives and tell them to vote against 12 week semesters.
We also heard the news this week that the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has proposed a huge restructuring of the School of Literature, Arts and Media (SLAM). These restructures are going to disband the entire school and wipe the Departments of Studies and Religion, and Theatre and Performing Studies out of existence. Almost 100 jobs are going to be lost, and years of scholarship and institutional knowledge will be tossed in the bin. Management is cutting these departments because they are supposedly unprofitable. We’re gonna organise and stop these cuts, save these jobs and save SLAM. To find out more information, join the Education Action Group on Facebook.
Finally for the good news. The SRC was able to deliver a huge win for the medical science students who were cruelly and arbitrarily excluded from the Medical Foundation Building, and removed from their honours projects. I fought hard over the past fortnight – working with these students and the NTEU, as well as lobbying many decision makers around University. Last Monday, we finally heard that management in the School of Medical Sciences had finally conceded and allowed these students to return to their projects and return to the Medical Foundation Building. Solidarity with these students and their supervisors – I’m so pleased to have been able to help them achieve this result.
Until next time,
Week 8, Semester 1, 2021
Oftentimes, being in this job desensitises you to the ways in which students at this University are treated as commodities, and staff are treated as utterly disposable. This week was a cold reminder of that reality. As ever, the SRC and I were there to advocate for the interests of students and to stand in solidarity with staff.
As was reported in the Honi Soit article entitled “Honours students to be relocated after security incident”, Honours students in the School of Medical Science have been arbitrarily and cruelly excluded from the Medical Foundation Building since the 15th of April. These students have been intimidated and forced to abandon their research projects and have been forced to find new supervisors. The ostensible justification for this decision has been to protect students from a “toxic workplace culture” in the School. In many cases, management have told students that their supervisors are directly responsible for this culture. Since this initial exclusion, the NTEU has been able to establish that these claims of a toxic workplace culture have been unfounded, or at the very least based on a scant number of testimonies. School management has attempted to use these WHS protocols to prosecute their agenda against dissenting members of staff. I’ve been working with a group of brave students affected by this issue over the past week. The SRC has repeatedly attempted to convey the wishes of students to stay in their building and continue their research, but these have been repeatedly ignored. These students have been disrespected, condescended to, and treated as pawns of disgruntled staff members. I’m going to continue standing in solidarity with them and organising to achieve a just resolution to this issue.
This week, we also held our Staff and Students Forum for 12 Week Semesters at the Royal. Our panel, consisting of yours truly, Grant Wheeler of the CPSU, Sinem Kirk of SULS, Bella Anderssen of SUEUA, Minran Liu of SUPRA and moderated by the SRC’s Education Officers.
I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about 12 week sems at this point, but the proposal does not appear to be going away. The newest iteration of this proposal has been a change from the current 13 week semester to a “12+1 model” which will cut teaching in Week 13 and allow assessments to be due halfway through STUVAC (as opposed to not having any assessments). Our forum discussed both the original 12 week proposal and the new 12+1 model, concluding that the status quo is ultimately preferable. Many thanks to everyone who attended and to all the panelists.
Until next time,
Week 7, Semester 1, 2021
Coming back to the SRC after a few days of leave, I was back into the fray immediately.
On Tuesday, I attended a meeting of the Academic Standards and Policy Committee. At the meeting, I continued providing feedback on the University’s proposal to change the policy regarding Student Appeals. I argued that the University’s first priority should be improving the timeliness of the appeals process, and that the student experience should always be front and centre in any reform process. I also argued that the current process creates a huge power imbalance between the students and the people responsible for determining the appeals, and proposed increased transparency throughout the whole process. I’ll be meeting with the Chair of the Academic Board later on to discuss these issues in further detail.
The fight against 12 week semesters has also continued this week – I’ve been meeting with stakeholders on campus to discuss why this proposal is going to harm staff and students. I’ve also locked in some more excellent speakers for our staff and student forum on the 22nd of April (this coming Thursday) – you can find all the details on our Facebook page. I really hope to see some of you in attendance at that Forum, it’s a great chance to voice some of your concerns about the degradation of your learning experiences at University.
Finally, in some good news, we’re going to be recruiting volunteer Paralegals and providing Practical Legal Training through our SRC Legal Service! Those announcements will be going out this week, so if you’re a law student looking for some practical experience in a community-oriented legal practice, this is a great opportunity for you!
Until next time,
Week 6, Semester 1, 2021
Hey everyone, hope you’ve had a restful mid-semester break and a happy Easter. I certainly have, which is why I don’t have a whole heap to report this week. Aside from the Easter break, I was also on leave for a portion of last week.
Most notably this week, we’re announcing the first Student General Meeting of the SRC in over 10 years! This is a historic meeting, bringing together over 200 undergraduate students to vote on a motion relating to the Climate Strike on May 21st, and asking the University not to penalise any student who goes on strike. The SGM will be happening on the 28th of April at 4pm. Keep your eyes peeled for more details.
We’ll also be having a historic staff-student forum to discuss 12 week semesters and their detrimental impacts. It will feature a panel discussion with myself, other student reps and staff reps, along with lots of opportunity for discussion, free food and free drinks. The forum will be on April 22nd (Thursday) at 5pm, with the location TBA. Looking forward to seeing you at both of these events.
During the past week I also spent some time working with housing activists, community groups and academics to try and look into the abysmal state of student housing and housing unaffordability generally. I attended a housing forum at the Gaelic Club in Surry Hills, where I spoke to some interested stakeholders about putting together a survey and report about housing conditions for students.
Finally, we had our April meeting of the SRC Council this week which I chaired as always. You can find minutes and reports from previous meetings of the Council on the SRC’s website.
If you have any questions or pressing issues, I’m always contactable via email or via the SRC’s Facebook page, and I’m happy to present any concerns you may have to the University or to answer any questions you have.
Until next time,
Week 5, Semester 1, 2021
This week, my attention has been focused on opposing various degradations of the student experience.
The largest share of my time has been dedicated to continuing the fight against 12 week semesters at the University. On Monday, I was a part of the first meeting of the “Semester Advisory Group” convened by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education). Alongside me at the meeting were representatives from SUPRA, the NTEU, the CPSU & staff representatives generally. There was an overwhelming consensus from the staff and student reps at this meeting that a 12-week semester would adversely affect staff and students. On Tuesday, I attended a meeting of the Academic Standards and Policy Committee (a subcommittee of the Academic Board), where staff representatives and I strongly made the same case about the dangers of 12 week sems. Finally, we concluded the SRC survey into 12 week sems this week. Out of 374 respondents, 350 were not in favour of the change. The students have spoken – it’s up to the University whether they listen.
Alongside 12 week sems, I also spent some time looking into changes to University systems that may have a detrimental effect on students. Firstly, the SRC has heard some rumblings about changes to Student Services that may involve significant restructure and job-cuts. While we welcome any attempts to improve the abysmal state of Student Services, cutting jobs and centralising roles will not offer any improvements to student services. Instead, it is likely to exacerbate current issues and create a whole suite of new issues. Secondly, at the meeting of the Academic Standards and Policy Committee, I offered some critical suggestions about changes to the Academic Appeals process.
Finally, for some fun stuff! I spoke at a protest on Wednesday organised by the Education Action Group in response to the continual cuts to Education over the past year. I spoke about 12 week sems (surprise, surprise) and the continual underpayment of casual staff at the University. An anonymous email circulated to staff alleged that the University had been registering record high financial surpluses. If this is the case, any attempts at cost-cutting and job-cutting must surely be opposed. Aside from the protest, I’ve been organising a staff-student forum to discuss educational issues and 12 week sems. This will be on the 22nd of April, so keep an eye out for more details.
Until next time,
Week 4, Semester 1, 2021
This week, the SRC has been working hard to defend the interests of students and staff in light of significant proposals for change from the University and the Government.
The first issue that we’ve been dealing with has been the University’s recent proposal for a move from 13-week to 12-week semesters from 2022 onwards. This is a proposal that has been previously rejected by the Academic Board, in 2017 and again in 2020. The University has previously used many justifications, this time they claim that 12 week sems will allow greater offerings of summer and winter courses. Be that as it may, the SRC’s initial consultation with staff and students found that the proposal would be greatly disadvantageous. We found that the removal of the first week of introductory and guidance material from courses would reduce the amount of time students had for study, causing extra stress and worse outcomes for students with work or other commitments. We also found that students would lose the quality of their learning, as courses would be condensed from 12 weeks to 13 weeks, content would be rushed and assessments would be less satisfactory and staff would have to work more hours on average. We’re now soliciting broader feedback from students about the proposal – make your thoughts heard on our survey at surveymonkey.com/r/PRD328D.
The second issue we dealt with is one from last week – the Government’s changes to the ACNC Governance standards which govern registered charities (such as the SRC). The government is seeking to change the law so that charities can be deregistered if they sponsor protests where summary offences are committed, even if the offences are not committed by employees or members of the SRC. This is a significant cause of concern for the SRC, given our proud legacy of sponsoring student activism on a wide variety of issues.
Until next time,
Week 3, Semester 1, 2021
Yes, it’s me again, back with more updates on what the SRC has been up to this week!
As usual, it’s been a busy one, with lots of initiatives and work going on to benefit students. The first thing we did this week was launch our free textbook initiative! By popular demand, it’s back again for another week between the 14th and 18th of March, from 10:30 am to 2:30pm, so head on over to the University Copy Centre (just off from the Boardwalk and near the Aquatic Centre) to pick up your free books. The full list can be found on our Facebook page. We’ve heard lots of positive feedback from students in relation to the free textbooks, and it’s nice to see some students not have to worry about the costs of textbooks for at least one semester. Many thanks to SUSF, the University Copy Centre, Fuji, SUPRA, Hikari So and Lydia Dutcher for their efforts in putting this together!
Last week, an article appeared in Honi describing the awful conditions at the Peter Nicol Russel building. There were reports of doors not working properly, urine leaking out of the bathrooms and into the study area, asbestos being improperly removed and disability inaccessibility. This week, I raised the issue with the University and sought permanent solutions for what appear to be long-term problems. I’ll be following up on it with the University throughout the coming weeks.
I’ve also been working hard in the policy space this week – with two policy projects in particular occupying my time. The first has been the preparation of a submission to the University in relation to their proposal for 12 week semesters. To reiterate, the SRC is strongly opposed to reductions in semester length due to issues around student workloads, staff workloads and the quality of learning. You can find a greater statement of the SRC’s position in last week’s Honi article titled “Third time lucky? University tries for twelve week semesters again”. The second has been a submission in relation to a proposed bill that would deregister charities engaged in activism under highly dubious circumstances. As a charitable organisation engaged in advocacy and activism, it’s likely to impact our operations significantly. More details can also be found in last week’s copy of Honi (“Changes to not-for-profit laws may silence activists and advocacy groups”).
Until next time,
Week 2, Semester 1, 2021
Congratulations to all of you on finishing your first week of the semester! For those of you who are returning to campus, it must be a sight for sore eyes to see students out and about again, going about their business and hanging out. For any first years who are reading this, I hope your first week at uni lived up to your expectations or even exceeded them.
The SRC (and by extension myself) has been inordinately busy this week. We had an extremely successful presence at Welcome Fest, handing out our branded tote bags, branded masks, branded pens, stickers and wall planners. It was a rewarding sight to see so many students on campus walking around with their SRC bags, and we had many students actively seeking us out to get our wall planners and bags. If you missed out on a bag and would like one, we have a limited number remaining, so please email me at email@example.com and we can arrange pickup! Beyond our marketing efforts, it was refreshing to see how many students were interested in the advocacy of the SRC and its collectives and the services that we can provide to students. We had over 500 students sign-up to the SRC email list and join our Facebook group, both of which you can find via the QR code below. I’m sure you’ll be seeing much more of the SRC across campus this year, so keep an eye out for us. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped us distribute the bags down at the SRC stall!
Alongside Welcome Week, I worked on other initiatives that occupied the rest of time. I continued sitting on a number of University governance committees including the University Executive Education Committee and the Academic Board. I raised numerous issues in relation to the new Job Ready Graduates bill including the issue of higher fees for students who were transferring courses as well as proposing solutions to the Government’s punitive policy of removing Commonwealth Support for students failing 50% of their subjects. The University has also proposed a permanent move to 12 week semesters from 2022 onwards. I have previously criticised the proposal and will continue to do so. Keep your eyes peeled for a student survey in relation to the proposal. Aside from committees, I chaired our second SRC council meeting for the year. I also signed an open letter from the NSW Tenants Union calling for an extension of the moratorium on evictions, and I’m also going to be working to help students from Myanmar affected by the recent coup.
Week 1, Semester 1, 2021
This time of year is always one of the busiest for the SRC – it is the culmination of our efforts over the summer and often determines how engaged students are with us over the year. The past week was less busy than the last, but was by no means uneventful. This report outlines just some of the things I’ve been up to.
The major thing in the past week has been the SRC’s preparations for the USU’s Welcome Fest, occurring from the 1st – 4th of the March. I spent much of the time taking stock of the various goodies that we’ve ordered for students: SRC branded tote bags, SRC branded reusable masks, SRC pens, stickers and our renowned wall planners. Having ordered over a thousand of each item, our dedicated contingent of volunteers has been working tirelessly to assemble the bags that we’ll give to you this week. Many thanks to everyone who volunteered to help out. Our collectives have also been hard at work, preparing their materials for Welcome Week and planning their activities for the year. You can find us on the far side of the Fisher Lawns, close to the Quadrangle. Looking forward to seeing you there!
The past week has also been one in which we were able to showcase our services to students. Our Legal Service successfully held an information session on Wednesday. The Principal Solicitor, Jahan Kalantar, explained to a contingent of students their rights under Australian law and how best to navigate the legal system. Our Caseworkers have also been keeping themselves busy. We recently said goodbye to our longstanding Casework and Policy Manager James Campbell. Enjoy retirement James! I also wish best of luck to his replacement Mel De Silva, who I’m sure will be more than capable of steering the ship.
I also spent some time this week working with SUSF, SUPRA and the University to set up a free textbook distribution service for students. Thanks again to the many volunteers who gave up their time to help sort through all of the textbooks. Watch this space for more details about this initiative.
As always, you can find more information about what we’re doing over at our Facebook page (facebook.com/usydsrc) and you can get in touch with me personally via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome Week, Semester 1, 2021
Hello, and welcome (or welcome back to) to the University of Sydney. I’m Swapnik, and I’m the 2021 President of the SRC. I’m a 4th year student studying Arts/Law, and the SRC has been a pivotal part of my time at University. For many of you, University will be a magnificent experience, full of new people, new ideas and new insights about yourself. But for many others, University can be difficult. University fees are rising, staff are underpaid and overworked and COVID19 has cast a long shadow over student life on campus.
This is where the SRC steps in. The SRC is the undergraduate student union at USyd and we exist to best represent your interests within the University, but also within wider civil society. Our office-bearers and collectives run campaigns on a wide variety of issues that affect students, from increasing fees, to sexual assault on campus, to forcing the University to divest from fossil fuels. I also sit on a number of University governance committees, where I bring your concerns to the University’s senior management. Alongside our representative work, we also provide a range of free services to students including a free casework service, free legal service and a FoodHub.
I’m motivated by a belief that every student shares a common interest in seeing their education fully funded, accessible and of a high quality. I’m going to work tirelessly towards realising this goal, and I hope anyone reading this finds this to also be a noble vision of what University should look like.
To find out more about what the SRC is doing, head over to our website at srcusyd.net.au, or like our Facebook page at facebook.com/usydsrc. I look forward to seeing many of you around the campus this year.