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From 12pm on March 26th, the MSA will shut down in protest against Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne’s proposed cuts to tertiary education. They propose a radical reduction of funding to universities, capping places available in courses, removing financial aid available to students from low socio-economic backgrounds and scrapping the Student Services and Amenities Fee, along with other measures. The MSA stands strongly against any attacks to education funding – here’s why.

Amy Fitzgerald – Editor, Lot’s Wife 

When John Howard introduced Voluntary Student Unionism for the 2006 academic year, many student newspapers folded. This was not the first time student media had come under attack –in June 1996, Lot’s Wife closed its doors after 33 years due to the first incarnation of Voluntary Student Unionism introduced by the Kennett Liberal government. Kennett’s VSU prohibited student union fees being spent on, ironically, student services such as magazines, welfare services and women’s and queer spaces.

Luckily for students, funding was found and Lot’s Wife returned to the stands just in time for Green Week.

10 years later, Lot’s Wife fought back again – this time against the Federal Liberal party and the nation-wide Voluntary Student Unionism laws which decimated services all over the country. Many student newspapers folded, including The Empire Times from Flinders University, and others were forced to rely solely on funding from their Universities. This has resulted in Universities forcing student magazines to censor content critical of University administrations or face defunding. This, as far as Lot’s Wife is concerned, is unacceptable.

Now it is 2014 and again we stand and fight the same old enemy: the conservative government. Again we are hearing the same old arguments – that student unions are the plaything of baby politicians, that the SSAF is pissed down the drain along with all the alcohol the undergrads drink and (our personal favourite), that the SSAF is socialism. Reds under the beds, anyone?

Student newspapers give students the chance to write, edit and produce a whole publication themselves – this is an opportunity that, at 18, 19 or 20, it is nearly impossible to find anywhere else. Student newspapers provide a voice to students, they hold Universities and governments accountable and they share stories that mainstream media is too afraid to touch.

Lot’s Wife will fight tooth and nail to stop Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne from silencing students. The Editors will be marching on March 26 and we call on you to join us to protect Lot’s Wife.

Sam Hateley- Co-Chair, MSA Activities Department

SSAF is an extremely important part of the services that the MSA provides to university students at Monash University allowing us to provide many more services for students that would otherwise be impossible to provide. There are numerous impacts that the removal of SSAF would have on Activities, this includes a drastic compromise to Activities’ ability to replace and maintain our equipment which we hire out to students to enhance their experience on campus, including speakers stages and BBQ’s, which this year had to be replaced. Furthermore, SSAF has been used to create integral parts of the student experience on campus as has been clearly evident with the construction of the Sound Shell on the Lemon Scented Lawns which, has entertained over 1000 people every Wednesday in its first few weeks of operation, hosting numerous bands, DJ’s and other performances by MUST and the Monash Association of Debaters (MAD) as part of the MSA Hump Day and O’Week. Finally, SSAF is crucial to the Activities department’s ability to provide many great events throughout the year like Ghost Cruise, After Exam Parties and Oktoberfest along with many other great events to be held this year.

Edie Shepherd – Co-Officer, MSA Women’s Department

Without the SSAF, the Women’s Department would be a shallow husk of its former self. We were already ripped to shreds with the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) in 2006, and have only just been able to begin rebuilding the department up to its former glory.

The SSAF funded the Women’s Room refurbishment. For anyone that remembers the old lounge, you know first hand why this was vitally necessary. For any of you that don’t, just know that the lounge was gross, mouldy and peeling. Not exactly the most friendly and inviting space to be!

We wouldn’t be able to fund delegates to go to NOWSA, an incredibly worthwhile experience not just for the education, but for the people that you meet.

We wouldn’t be able to run large social gatherings, provide training programs, or run large scale political campaigns.

In the best case, we would receive funding from the university. Because of this, we wouldn’t be allowed enough autonomy from the university, being able to advocate bias free, for all women on campus hen the university is out of order.

We need the SSAF to be able to grow, rebuild, advocate and support all Women identified and socialised students on campus. If you are free and able today at 2, I would strongly suggest that you make it down to the Victorian State Library to rally against these cuts not just for yourselves, but in solidarity with the Women’s Department.

Nic Kimberley – Officer, MSA Education (Academic Affairs) Department

The Education (Academic Affairs) department is crucial to ensure that Monash University provides high quality education for all students, and to lobby on education issues that benefit students.

This department has played an instrumental role in contributing to change at Monash. The introduction of a 5-day, assessment free SWOTVAC, the increase in library operating hours during SWOTVAC and the examination period, and the increase in equity scholarships that Monash offers are just some of the changes that the Education (Academic Affairs) department has won.

In 2014, the department is continuing to influence change at Monash. So far, the department has seen a commitment from Monash to increase the number of lecture recordings, as well as a commitment to improve on consultation processes with students. In addition, the department is in the process of developing an English support program for students that struggle with English skills when writing essays.

In order to achieve these outcomes, a well-funded MSA is required. Without proper funding, the capacity of the department would be reduced, and programs like the English support program would not be able to go ahead.

It is so important that the Education (Academic Affairs) department continues to be funded to endure that the quality of education at Monash continues to improve, and students who need support and assistance are given it.

Declan Murphy – Co-Officer, MSA Education (Public Affairs) Department

The Education (Public Affairs) Department is not only protesting today- we’ve actually organised the demonstration! That’s because our role as education officers is to build an activist student movement against any attack on our rights as students. These cuts will lead to staff layoffs, course reductions and an almost inevitable increase in the cost of education. ‘Decrease the quality, increase the price’ is the mantra of this Government. Moreover, if these cuts go through, student organisation will be thoroughly undermined. That is why the Liberals are not only cutting university funding, but are also scrapping the SSAF. They want departments like ours to be hamstrung so that the student body’s resistance to their neoliberal agenda is limited. The MSA, like the dwindling number of student organisations across the country, is one of the last bastions of student-run unionism left in Australia. The Education (Public Affairs) Department wants to fight this trend, and that’s what we’re doing today.

 Rebecca Doyle-Walker – President, Mature Age and Part Time Students Division

If the SSAF was abolished it would have a huge effect on the MAPS division and its constituents. A lot of people don’t understand how incredibly scary it is to be returning to study as a mature age student after spending years in the workforce and/or raising a family. The uncomfortable feeling of sitting in a tutorial with a group of kids that may be a similar age as your own children and a tutor who doesn’t quite know how to treat your because you could be their parent. Or when you speak up during a discussion and receive the standard “will the old person just shut up” looks from your classmates. These things can make the return to study even harder because you end up feeling incredibly isolated. That is why MAPS is such an important service. It gives mature age students a ‘safe place’ to relax and catch up with their own peers. They may not be studying the same disciplines but that doesn’t seem to matter because everyone there understands the challenge of juggling work and family commitments with trying to find the time to complete readings and assignments. A weekly morning tea is like a lifeline to many of our students who would otherwise only attend their classes before heading off and trying to study on their own. If the SSAF is abolished all of this could potentially be at risk which would result in many mature age students finding the return to study even more difficult than it already is.

Louisa Ashton – Activities Sub-Coordinator, MSA Host Scheme

Sometimes, usually when I’ve been complaining about a long night spent holding back a jaffy’s hair and getting munt on my shoes, I get asked why I keep devoting every summer to Host Scheme. The answer that I give is similar to my response when asked why I think it’s so important that student programs such as Host Scheme continue to receive the funding which is currently under threat. There are a few moments which stand out for me, which have been repeated every year that I’ve been involved in the program:

  • The moment where the new student arrives at the start of camp, and realises that no one else knows anyone, either.
  • The moment when they realise that trivia at Monash isn’t about answering questions…
  • The moment when they realise that popularity at uni isn’t like high school – no one here likes a dickhead, and being intelligent and interesting is more likely to make you ‘cool’.
  • The moment when an international student sees the beach for the first time.
  • The moment on Host Scheme Day when the student finds the perfect club to suit their niche interests.
  • The moment on the dance floor at Host Scheme Night, kicking off O Week with 1700 new friends.

And most importantly – the moment when the student walks into their first lecture. 600 people in South One, and they already have a bunch of friends to sit with.

I know how great these moments are because I witness it firsthand each year, because I read enthusiastic Facebook posts – and because once upon a time, I was in first year too.

While I’d recommend participating in any orientation program, I believe that Host Scheme boasts a few advantages over faculty specific camps.

The first is obvious – that Host Scheme provides the opportunity to meet students from other faculties. The second is that I believe Host Scheme is generally a more inclusive program, which isn’t completely centred around alcohol consumption, and provides a safer space for a more diverse group of students. The third, however, is the cost. Host Scheme is the only camp for under $100, and each spot is heavily subsidised by the MSA. Keeping the price down keeps HS accessible to more students, particularly those living out of home.

Funding cuts will push the program further out of reach of students with limited finances, and may result in some aspects of the program being axed altogether.

Fighting against the cuts to higher education is fighting to keep programs such as Host Scheme running, and giving new students a chance to participate and become involved at University.

Stefanie Maccar- Coordinator, MSA Volunteering

MSA Volunteering provides opportunities for students to become part of the Monash student community. The MSA’s volunteer program can provide placements in hospitality, marketing, performance arts, skilled services as well as student orientated events. You can volunteer on a part time or casual basis and be rewarded for your time and effort. Our department has grown from 400 volunteers in 2011 to over 750 volunteers in 2014, with 9812 volunteer hours registered in 2013. The department is also responsible for the MSA Host Scheme program, which helps first year students make friends and adjust to university life prior to their first class. As a service department, there is no way of profiting financially from our programs and therefore no way of sustaining the department if SSAF was abolished.

Liyan Gao – Wholefoods

Wholefoods is a student and worker-run restaurant. We provide affordable, nutritious, ethically sourced, and tasty food in accordance with our philosophy – ‘Food for people, not for profit’.  Moreover, Wholefoods is an inclusive community space for students and staff to relax and socialise, and/or promote social justice causes.

At Wholefoods you can enjoy a generous serving of our delicious homemade lasagna, fuel up on a budget with our $3 dahl and rice meal, or kick on with our fairtrade coffee and freshly baked muffins or cake. And if you’re not hungry, you can still spend your spare time lounging on the couches, basking in sunshine on the balcony, enjoying some live music or studying in a quiet corner.

Another core component of Wholefoods’ service is our volunteering program. This program enables students to get involved in all aspects of Wholefoods operations, from chopping vegetables in the kitchen, to drafting budgets and planning parties. Indeed our volunteer program transforms the restaurant from a simple eatery into a community space where people learn, skill-share, engage and connect with those around them.

Wholefoods regularly hosts exciting social events from Free Food Mondays, lunchtime jazz and open-mic session, to yoga classes. Furthermore, Wholefoods is also an important space for the promotion of social justice causes and campaigns. For example last year the Wholefoods Collective started a food bank for the refugee organisation R.I.S.E..

Wholefoods is organised through the Wholefoods collective, a democratic body consisting of students, staff and volunteers who all participate in the major decision making of Wholefoods operations. If you’re interested in getting more involved in our operations, or if you have an initiative and need some space and support to make it happen, we can help you bring it to life in our space!

Unfortunately, not all MSA Office Bearers responded to our request for comment- however, don’t let this stop you from asking them why tertiary funding is important to them from 12pm today on the Menzies Lawn!

Tags : Students Against University Funding Cuts
Lot's Wife

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