If there are three slogans I’ve heard over and over across the course of my time involved in uni activism, there are three that really stick out in my mind. The first is the lofty yet frankly ambiguous demand for fair education because frankly fair for the son of a QC in Lane Cove is going to look very different to fair for the daughter of fish shop owner in Lakemba. The second, is the even more amorphous claim of political ‘independence’, a misnomer if I’ve ever heard it. Claiming ideals without ideology, practicality that rejects political pragmatism, fighting factionalism as a faction. The third is student control of student money. Honestly, this too is repeated ad nauseum just like the other two. However, it is by far the clearest message and in my mind the most important message we should making.
I’m for student control of student money not because I think that students have a God-given or inherent right to total autonomy over our affairs free from University oversight and suggestion to run pet political projects around fringe issues or use student associations to stack CVs, but because I honestly think students understand what other students want and more importantly need.
A 21-year-old who’s been screwed over in one of their classes is going to understand that lecturers are more likely to side with an unscrupulous tutor they have to work with, than a student they’re never going to see again. Ask a student a student and an impartial casework service seems like a no-brainer. Ask a uni bureaucrat, and well, it’s got to be put to a cost benefit analysis to meet a strategic plan. We also get that when you want need an emergency loan you might be a bit embarrassed, and might need it on the spot rather having to jump through hoops justifying X, Y & Z.
One thing that really impressed me when I started as General Secretary at the SRC was actually how lean & trim an organisation the SRC is. Student control over student money has meant the SRC has been able to, on a shoestring run a casework service that each year sees more students, a free legal service that will take you from advice to representing you in court, on the spot emergency loans, an Honi Soit that pumps out hilarious papers for you to read every week, diverse activist departments that fight for your rights on and off campus, and a second hand book store where you can pick up dirt cheap copies of your textbooks.
SRC General Secretary