Many of you will already be familiar with the MSA’s work on campaigning for lecture recordings. A universal lecture recording policy is something that we believe would substantially benefit the student population, especially when you consider that students now work more hours both at University and at part time work more than ever (despite that, two thirds of us still live below the poverty line but that’s another issue) and quite often students can’t make it to every class they’ve been timetabled for and are forced to prioritise. We’ve made progress, many of you will have at least one class that records its lectures and some faculties are looking to adopt an opt-out policy that was put forward by the 2014 MSA Education (Academic Affairs) officer.
However the policy remains controversial among University administration and staff. Some cite a lack of equipment and AV knowledge as reasons to not implement the policy, others that lectures are an interactive experience but the core of nearly every objection is the assumptions that students aren’t busy; they’re lazy and won’t attend classes if they have the recording alternative. We’ve always maintained that the issue is not as simple as sheer laziness and that this assumption rests solely in negative stereotyping and doesn’t take in the facts that more people are studying now than ever before, for longer hours and by and large with much less financial support. Recently though, something was bought to the attention of the MSA Education (Academic Affairs) and Disabilities and Carers department that brought this home for us and prompted us to start our new campaign, Equal Access.
We were approached by a student from the law faculty, who took the initiative to ask one of their lecturers to record a lecture that their disability sometimes inhibited them from being able to attend. The Law Faculty does not record all lectures, only core units. The response they received was disappointing. In short, it stated that although they were sympathetic to their circumstances the Law Faculty’s policy is that anyone studying law should be studying full time regardless of circumstances and that choosing to not record these lectures was within their policy guidelines regardless of why someone may need it.
While this puts a number of student groups in a bind it represents an enormous problem to students studying law who have a disability or are student carers. Both of these student groups are statistically more likely to drop out or defer their degrees to deal with either their own health problems or that of a loved one. Student carers (of which there are some 300,000 under 25 year olds) are on average likely to spend anywhere between 40 to 100 hours per week providing unpaid care to someone – while the scope of coping with a disability and study, let alone transport and living arrangements is massive. Furthermore these two student groups are far more likely to experience sudden changes in circumstances that may prevent them from being able to do something like attend lectures.
To hear a member of the University Law Faculty so flippantly disregard their students concerns is highly distressing. Furthermore, staff from the Law Faculty have maintained that it is a ‘great pity’ that students believe they have an ‘absolute right that lectures be recorded.’ They have also said that the university should not be a ‘business’ that provides ‘distance education.’
A system that flat out refuses to make reasonable allowances for student carers or students with disabilities, but is still happy to let them rack up debt and take their SSAF is nothing short of exploitative. A course that teaches people how to access and change the legal system must be accessible to the people who need it most if it is ever going to make a positive change in their lives. Something must change; it’s not good enough to practice indirect discrimination through this kind of policy stance – the Law Faculty should know better.
Our Equal Access campaign is asking the Law Faculty and other Faculties to institute a universal lecture recording policy in order to make a real difference to students with a disability or student carers on and off campus today. No matter what plans for integration there may be for tomorrow, the needs of students with disabilities and student carers must not be an afterthought, they should be at the forefront of the discussion. While we’re confident that there are staff who are passionate about helping these students it’s imperative that they know the students are watching them and that we care about this issue.
If you’re affected by this issue or just think that Equal Access to educational resources is a good idea, sign our petition, in hard copy or at change.org and tell Monash not to shut us out!