Campus "Wellbeing" refuses NTEU access to O-Week stall
Dear members, students and lurkers,
Today, after several email exchanges between Campus Well-being/Engagement staff and me, we finally had a definitive answer: the NTEU apparently doesn't qualify for an O-Week stall as our "request for a stall is incongruent with the purpose of O Week which is to celebrate and welcome students to the University... [and] ...introducing students to the social, faculty and wellbeing support services.”
That’s odd, I always thought O-Week was about orientation to University life – with all its complexity, confusion, diversity (including diversity of opinion!) and people. But no, it’s now about ensuring corporate control of the student experience, especially since the “social” services are all run by the University or its companies (like U@MQ, the company that “replaced” the old student union).
Indeed, students no longer have an independent voice in the University – student reps have informed us that they are told by University Management or U@MQ or “Campus Experience” staff what issues they can and can’t raise in meetings, what they can and can’t include in their newspaper and what they should and should not question. It’s amazing that students are even allowed to talk to staff – we might contaminate them with some free thought or inspire them to ask why they are stuffed into overcrowded classrooms and take 60% of their classes from hard-pressed casual staff who don’t even have an office on campus!
Anyway, back to the issue of the NTEU’s O-Week stall application (actually, it didn’t even get as far as an application). In order to even make an application, I was asked to state how the NTEU fitted in to the “priority list” for stalls (although I couldn’t find this set down in a policy ANYWHERE on the University’s website) which is as follows:
“Stalls are for student Groups first, Internal staff offices next (such as faculty/wellbeing etc), approved Chaplains/religious groups with a current affiliation with the University and, mutually approved sponsors following that.”
Naturally I pointed out that the NTEU Macquarie Branch consists entirely of staff members, many of whom are also students and all of whom either teach students or support the teaching of students in one way or another – so we would expect to be treated as an internal organisation. This idea, however was rejected, as Campus Wellbeing would clearly rather see students preached at by religious groups and spruiked at by “mutually approved sponsors” such as Harris Technology, banks and the armed forces than informed about social justice and workplace rights – or even what to expect when semester 1 kicks off with more industrial action.
But all this was to no avail, as we have been refused a stall on the grounds that “the NTEU is an organisation that has been registered and established externally to the University not by the University.” This email went on to say that the “student organisations and groups that have stalls are clubs and societies that are established by and internal to the University. [How things have changed – student groups used to be set up for and BY STUDENTS!] Participating religious groups are all associated with the student group most like their basis.” So there we have it. Maybe we should register unionism as a religion and get some students to worship with us.
This latest move is a continuation of attempts by various University officials to silence NTEU voices. It began in 2010 with the VC’s blog moderator censoring NTEU members’ posts critical of the Management’s stance on enterprise bargaining, budgeting and strategy, and continued during the Information Day action with instructions issued to a DJ to turn up the music in order to drown out speakers at an NTEU rally. The speakers at this rally included Dr John Kaye, MLC and Unions NSW Deputy President Ms Sally MacManus, as well as NTEU office-bearers and members. As Dr Kaye remarked in his well-received speech, the instructions to turn up the music seem to reflect Vice-Chancellor Steven Schwartz’s belief in competition in higher education. As long as he wins the competition.
This goes beyond rudeness to a blatant attempt to silence dissent. It is contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Enterprise Agreement which guarantees staff the right to “express opinions about the operation of the University and higher education policy more generally”, including “the right to express unpopular or controversial views”. The Vice-Chancellor has even affirmed on his blog the importance of dissent and the expression of controversial views as vital aspects of academic freedom – that seems to be an idea that works for him in the abstract but not quite in practical terms!!
Make no mistake, the NTEU WILL have a presence during O-Week. We might just set up our own tent and table – with photographers on hand in case Security try to move us on!
We will be there to take this opportunity to distribute information to students about their workplace rights, since most of them will be taking up casual employment, placing them in the most vulnerable employee group: young workers with no job security.
We will be there to inform students and staff about what’s happening industrially here at Macquarie and how the VC seems determined to maintain the WorkChoices regime despite its rejection in 2007 by the Australian people, at great cost to the quality of education and research in the University.
We will be there to inform students of the disruption they will encounter in first semester if the Management continues to refuse to make a reasonable offer on staff pay and conditions.
And we will be there to urge students and staff alike to act together to resist corporate-style control and to reclaim our space and our voice on campus.
RECLAIM YOUR UNIVERSITY!
Here’s what you can do to help reclaim the University and defend your rights at MQ:
- Write to Steven Schwartz to protest about Campus Wellbeing refusing the NTEU access to an O-Week stall
- Come to the General Meeting on 1 February to hear a report on bargaining and plans for O-Week and the upcoming industrial action
- Participate in the NTEU’s O-Week activities
- Participate in the Industrial Action 28 February – 3 March
- Attend the NTEU’s Town Hall Meeting on 3 March (unlike the VC’s “Town Hall” meetings, at this one you will get to VOTE!)
- Sign the petition at www.mqstaff.org