Why are these people always protesting? The fuck’s going on today?

Can’t keep track of on-campus demonstrations? Here’s a quick summary of what the MSA and the Monash Education Action Group (EAG) have been up to.

Earlier this year the Monash Education Action Group was created to get students from various political affiliations all working towards a common goal: fighting the Gillard government’s recently announced $2.8 billion cuts to tertiary education, and standing side by side with staff and the NTEU during their struggle for better wages and conditions.

So, I hear you ask, “Why campaign on Campus when the issue is clearly with Canberra?” Well, part of the EAG’s philosophy has been to keep a presence alive at a campus level, and we’ve done this through a series of peaceful, but controversial protest actions over the last month. Our rationale behind this is that on-campus activities keep the message alive by pushing students to engage with and take notice of an issue that will directly affect them; their education.

Too often, organizations start with a noble cause and plenty of ambition but die a quick and lonesome death because of a lack of activity. Instead, by remaining active with weekly events we hope to maintain a healthy pulse and constant opportunities to bring new student activists into the EAG fold.

Furthermore, these protests put the Monash Vice Chancellor and others from the senior administration on notice, demonstrating to them that they won’t be able to use these federal cuts as an excuse to sell students and staff down the river without a fight

Don’t get us wrong though, it’s not all about on-campus activities. This ongoing campaign will require cooperation with universities all across the state and nation, and coordination with bodies like the NUS and the newly created Class Action to use our collective voices and numbers to force this issue into the mainstream.Sofartheparliamenthasletusdown.Thisneedstobealong-term, mass struggle; only then will we have any hope of winning back what we’ve lost. Dare to struggle, dare to win!

So here’s a quick run down of events over the last few weeks.

The campaign started with an MSA speak out and BBQ days after Gillard’s cuts were announced. But the EAG’s first real action took place on the 30th April when we held another speak out and then ramped things up a notch. Arming ourselves with banners and megaphones, around 100 of us marched through both levels of the Campus Centre during lunchtime chanting and rattling fruit tins. We addressed our fellow students chowing down at Meeting Point and then headed for the Administration Building where we finished up the afternoon.

The EAG also was thrilled by the hard work of all the students (from both inside and outside of the EAG) who played a part in putting together the first Student General Meeting (SGM) in eight years, held the following day. We were heartened to see over 350 students out engaging in MSA governance and condemning the cuts. We really hope to see another SGM held early 
next semester; the last one was good but could be better next time with more students engaged, voicing their opinions and taking part in the decision making by voting on official motions to be carried out by the MSA.

The following week the EAG ramped things up another notch. Gathering on the Menzies Lawn, we again heard from speakers then headed toward
the Matheson Library. It was a bold move, but we are proud of it. It’s true the responses to this move were mixed; many felt it was deeply inappropriate to disrupt students in a learning space like the Library. Some were so enraged that they likened it to setting off a firearm in a church. However, to them we’d point out that long term cuts to the funding of their university will be much more disruptive than 15 minutes of study time lost in the library. If the disruption got people talking then we think it served its purpose exactly as intended.

We finished this action once again at the Administration Building. However, this time we added a little bit of theatrical flare, and in a move echoing that of Martin Luther we presented a list of demands to the Administration and sticky taped pages and pages of student petitions to the doors and windows of the building.

All of these events served to promote the Student Strike and central rally the NUS had called for May the 14th. I think our efforts paid off. On Tuesday the 14th we spent the morning leafleting and chalking and managed to gather over 120 students into pre-booked buses to form a Monash Contingent and another 50 or so Monash students joined us on our arrival. It was a gloomy and wet day, but the atmosphere was electric. The feeling of marching side by side with over 2000 students, staff and even high school students for a common cause was heart warming and genuinely elating.

If you would like to get involved with the campaign, the EAG will be holding a video and information session on Wednesday May 22nd, at 1pm in H6. Here we will discuss student activism throughout history and how we can build a strong student movement.

The next major NUS event will be held to welcome the Prime Minister to Melbourne. A speak out and rally has been called for at 4pm on May 30th at the State Library of Victoria.

For more information on upcoming actions, join the Monash Education Action Group on Facebook.


Tags : Students Against University Funding Cuts
Thomas Whiteside

The author Thomas Whiteside

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