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Body of Former Monash Student Found Near Campus

A man has been found dead, near a stairwell in the garden of the Rusden House apartments located adjacent from Monash Clayton campus. The body was discovered partially under a bush, near the rear car park entrance at 9:20am on Friday the 14th of April. Police say that the body may have been there for hours. At the time of writing, the case is being treated as a homicide as they believe a weapon was used. The victim, said to be of Asian appearance and aged in his late 20s to early 30s, has been identified as a friendly accountant who enjoyed playing basketball and keeping fit. It is understood that the man’s parents are flying from China to Melbourne to attempt to find answers to his death. His heartbroken family have asked not to disclose the victim’s name until his relatives residing overseas have been notified. A post-mortem had been carried out on the day following the finding. The homicide squad was seen dusting for fingerprints, searching drains for the weapon and seeking any information from locals. Footage from the apartment complex’s CCTV cameras may find useful in the investigation. The murderer is assumed to be at large. Rusden House is primarily used as student accommodation. Police and the victim’s family are appealing to anyone with any information of the incident or who may have been in the vicinity, the night before the discovery. Crime Stoppers can be reached anonymously on 1800 333 000 or at www.crimestoppers.com.au

 

Postgraduate Students Call for Transport Concessions

Students are calling on the Victorian Government to offer concession public transport to all full-time domestic and international postgraduate students through the #FaresFairPTV campaign. Currently, Victoria is the only state where all postgraduate students are ineligible for student concession tickets when using public transport. The campaign has been organised by a coalition of five student associations, including the Monash Postgraduate Association (MPA) and are currently undertaking postcard and email writing actions to inform MPs of the importance of postgraduate student concessions. The Fare Fair PTV campaign can be followed through their website or social media channels and students can support the current initiatives at the clayton MPA office.

 

Confusion Over Changes to Exam Cancellations

In the lead up to Semester 1 exams, Examination Services have sent out an university wide email notifying students of a change to Exam Policy, which now bars students from applying to cancel an exam if they attend it. From a direct interpretation of this email, if a student starts to sit an exam but is adversely affected by exceptional circumstances or illness, students are advised to attempt to finish their exam. This is because, according to the email, in “most circumstances” they will no longer be eligible for special consideration. Previously, students were able to apply to cancel their exam if they were unfit to complete their exam due to illness or other serious cause, provided that they informed an exam invigilator they were unable to complete the exam and intended to apply for a deferred exam at least 30 minutes before the scheduled end. If the cancellation request was not granted, the result of that examination would then be final.

In current eligibility criteria for special consideration, published on the Monash website and Special Consideration Deferred final assessment application form (March, 2017), students who are “unfit to attend or complete an end-of-semester examination” due to acute illness or exceptional cause may apply for deferred final assessment. Examples of accepted causes of acute illness include severe asthma or severe anxiety or depression.

The official Monash University procedure, Assessment in Coursework Units: Adjustments to Assessment Procedures, effective 20th March 2017, states in section 2.3 that students may be granted special consideration and deferred assessment if they are affected by a short-term or acute illness or exceptional circumstance, even if it is in an examination. Section 2.48 states that “students who attend and attempt part of the exam are not eligible for a deferred examination” and also includes the ineligibility for deferred final assessment for students who complete their final examination. Section 2.48 goes on to state that “the Dean of the unit teaching faculty may approve a deferred exam due to exceptional circumstances”, rendering the original exam results void. This directly contradicts the previous sentence. These discrepancies in policy that have been ambiguously communicated, may leave students confused and misinformed.

This change may be in response to perceived abuse of this mechanism by students ill-prepared for the exam, only realising their lack of preparation after starting the exam. Special consideration applications, however, are required to be “genuine and made in good faith” as well as have “genuine, well-attested evidence”, which would seem to deter unentitled students from seeking this avenue.

The MSA Education (Academic Affairs) department has responded to the change with great concern. They have pointed out that the new ‘Assessment Procedures’ were not in line with the recommendations made by the Learning and Teaching Committee that were agreed to in a meeting of the University’s Academic Board. They provide provisions for students who were affected by exceptional circumstances or acute illness during an exam to receive special consideration or to sit a deferred exam. They also outlined the conflicting positions in the ‘Assessment Procedures’, specifically in regards to the aforementioned sections 2.3, 2.24 and 2.48, reassuring students that they are seeking clarification on policy inconsistencies and advocating for students who may be unfairly disadvantaged.

 

Wholefoods Gets Eftpos

Monash Wholefoods has finally introduced Eftpos machines on its 40th anniversary, enabling students not carrying cash to purchase from there. Wholefoods has been in operation since 1977 as a student-run, not-for-profit vegetarian restaurant that operates from a base of volunteers. The Wholefoods Collective is the decision making body using “consensus driven decision making procedures” that allowed Eftpos machines to be installed.The Wholefoods Collective explained the reasoning behind the decision, which was driven by financial factors, since the restaurant faced adverse market conditions in the last year, with many new food outlets opening and their renowned balcony stairs removed as part of the Northern Plaza renovations. It was also driven by the fact Wholefoods is a division of the MSA, which uses the Commonwealth Bank (Commbank) for day-to-day banking. As such, they have to use the same bank. Wholefoods Collective are opposed to banking with Commbank, to giving them 2% of each Eftpos transaction due to their “well-established track record in funding fossil fuels, and in land grabs that perpetuate human rights violations”. In Australia, the Commonwealth Bank is currently the 2nd largest funder of fossil fuels at $20.5billion behind ANZ at $23.4billion. Banks with no current record of funding fossil fuels include Bendigo Bank, Delphi Bank, IMB, ME Bank and the Bank of Queensland. This year, however, with a new Investment policy, the MSA has divested $5 million from Commbank into a managed fund partaking in ethical investments. In order for Wholefoods to stay “financially viable” in an increasingly cashless society, and due to the MSA’s divestments, Wholefoods has introduced Eftpos since“the logic of convenience sometimes has to win over the logic of resistance”. Wholefoods still encourages people to pay cash and are pushing for an ethical bank to open on campus in the future to fully divest from funding fossil fuels. Fossil Free Monash is an organisation aimed at campaigning the university to divest their investments from fossil free companies. Wholefoods has been involved in their campaigns.

 

Petition to ‘Fix Parking’

Monash Student Association has launched a petition regarding the parking situation at Monash. It calls for carpooling fees to be abolished, cheaper fines, expansion of free parking closer to Clayton campus, and “more affordable parking permits and daily tickets”. The MSA argues that permit and ticket prices continue to rise while students struggle financially, labelling  parking costs at Monash as “ridiculous”, whilst parking spots for those even with a permit are highly competitive. They also propose that the carpooling fee inhibits its intended effect: to reduce carbon emissions by reducing the number that drive alone and that the current infringement system has not only very expensive fines but also unfair processes, highlighting the rigid appeal process. The cost of the yearly Blue permit, selling out very early, rose from $400 to $405 this year.

 

New Software for Online Tests

A new custom internet browser that ensures students do not cheat, is being trialled for faculties introducing closed book online assessments. The Respondus Lockdown Browser disallows students from accessing any other materials, programs or functions on their computer whilst completing certain assessments. The assessments are only accessible via Moodle by way of this full-screened software. There is also a webcam feature, the Respondus Monitor, which records the student for the entire length of the assessment. This feature requires that students do not leave their device for the entirety of the assessment, including for any bathroom breaks, and even to not write any notes on scrap paper as that may be deemed ‘suspicious’. Whether this is used or not will depend on the discretion of each examining faculty, however in this trial period, it is currently being employed for assessments. Installation of this software requires a computer with certain requirements, including a webcam and microphone for the monitoring software. Regardless, students will be catered for with an on campus facility, in case they are unable to use the software on their own computers.

According to Monash eSolutions, the primary purpose of the Respondus Lockdown browser is to “increase the integrity of the conditions” in which online examinations and quizzes take place, especially in light of their increased prevalence and online-only courses. By using this software, Monash is attempting to stamp out academic dishonesty and collusion with an “alternative to a ‘traditional’ in-person invigilated exam”. In introducing this software to students, Monash has emphasised the “ethical academic community” in which students belong to, “that is committed to upholding high standards of honesty, fairness and academic integrity”, which is fundamental for the “online learning and assessment environment”. Monash is also quick to point out that over 300 universities worldwide and 16 domestic tertiary education institutes employ the same software, including the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney. Along with indications from the lack of large capacity lecture theatres in the new Teaching and Learning and Biomedical Sciences Buildings, this software that enables for even greater proliferation of online assessments shows the radically changing way that Monash envisions their delivery of teaching. This software was recently used for the first time for students studying Medicine, in the Year 1 and 2 mid-semester tests. This was partly due to lack of available space on campus for the in-person assessments as well as future proposed changes to the structure of assessment for the course. It was implemented successfully to varying degrees; some students had no problems whatsoever, whilst others experienced timer errors causing the software to shut down, internet connection problems, or issues with being unable to use the bathroom in the assessment period. Most issues faced by students could be resolved by the Medicine E-Learning or Respondus support teams, however some students will be forced to resit a revised test. The primary benefit from the new format has been that students have been able to receive almost immediate feedback from Moodle itself, being able to review the questions and their answers in their entirety. So far, the online assessments will not be extended to end of semester examinations and it has been suggested the Respondus Monitor may not be used in the future to allow for bathroom breaks.

 

Berwick Campus Closure Forces Students to Move

The cessation of teaching at Monash’s Berwick campus, scheduled for the end of 2017, has compelled many students to transfer to either Clayton or Peninsula campus to complete their Monash degree. Final year Education students and those studying the Bachelor of Business Administration are the only students able to finish their degree at Berwick. The closure has been attributed to low enrolment rates for the limited range of courses offered at Berwick. Despite efforts to grow and develop the campus over the past 20 years, only 1,600 students studied there in 2016. After a partnership with Victoria University to take over the campus fell through, Federation University Australia came forward to take responsibility for the campus, planning to deliver 15 courses across 4 faculties. Monash sees the transition as a positive move for the local community, as Federation University is offering a greater range of courses, more suitable for the area. Monash is instead focusing its growth on other campuses, promising a new campus MasterPlan for the Peninsula campus. While this is a sustainable decision in the long run, for students currently studying at Berwick, or those who have only recently received and accepted an offer to study there, this is extremely frustrating. Students who had transport and housing situations arranged in order to study there will now be forced to uproot and base their lives around a completely different campus. Hopefully, with the transition this year, Berwick students will be able to adapt to this sudden change with minimal impact to their study. In certain circumstances, students may be able to receive special consideration through a hardship claim for the transfer of their home campus.

 

MSA Feedback Survey

Monash Student Association (MSA) has launched a feedback survey, in order for Monash students to directly voice their concerns. Responses will be used by the elected Office-Bearers to inform their actions and shape their projects, services, events, campaigns and support they provide throughout the year. Students must be logged in to their my.monash account to fill out the Google Form that is available through MSA channels, such as their website and Facebook page. Respondents will be entered in a draw to win 1 of 50 $10 MSA vouchers available for use of MSA services. In addition to the elected positions, other MSA departments include Sir John’s Bar, Student Advocacy and Support, the John Medley Library and Host Scheme and Volunteering.

 

Concerning Satisfaction Rates at Group of Eight Universities

Data just released from the Federal Department of Education shows that students at private universities have rated the quality of their experience at university the highest of all Australian universities. The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) from Student Experience Survey (SES) indicate that students from 6 of the Group of Eight (Go8) universities are less satisfied with their education than the national average with 80% of students rating the quality of their entire educational experience as positive. Bond University and the University of Notre Dame had the highest approval ratings, slightly above 90%. Edith Cowan University was the most highly rated public institution with the satisfaction rate of 85.7%. Students from the University of Queensland and Monash University were the only ones from Go8 to be more satisfied than the average, with Monash scoring just above at 80.4%. Students at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) have the lowest satisfaction score at 72%, with a drop in the rating consistent with a change last year from semesters to trimesters and lectures to interactive tutorials. Other universities, including Monash, are expected to adapt their learning and teaching approaches similarly in a largely transformative time for many teaching and learning departments at universities, moving away from a predominantly lecture based teaching method.

 

Penalty Rates Cut

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has handed down its 4 yearly review of modern awards after 29 days of hearings and over 5,900 submissions, resulting in proposed penalty rate cuts in hospitality, restaurant, fast food, retail and pharmacy industries. This will affect workers that are not under an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. Sunday rates have been cut across the board by 25-50%, bar for casuals in the hospitality industry or level 2-3 employees in fast food. Public holiday loading rates have also been reduced for workers across the 5 industries by 25% except for casual restaurant workers. The public holiday penalty cuts will come into effect on 1 July 2017 with Sunday rate cuts to be implemented at a yet-to-be-determined date after transitional arrangements, likely within a year. Early/late night loadings will also be altered for Restaurant and Fast Food employees, reducing the time frame in which they are applicable. FWC recognised that the employees affected were relatively low paid and that their living standards would be reduced, however justified their decision as the primary purpose of penalty rates were to compensate for the disutility of the days or times affected. The Liberal government has been accused of appointing a series of conservative members to the FWC. The decision has been highly criticised by unions, think-tanks, the Labor party and the former Reserve Bank of Australia Governor, Bernie Fraser, arguing almost 1 million workers would receive huge pay cuts, unfairly affecting the most disadvantaged employees, increasing inequality and accelerating the “mass casualization of the Australian workforce”.

 

Campus Report

Stalking StalkerSpace

We all know and love Monash StalkerSpace, the place that provides Monash students with all the memes and banter they could ever need. The page is a way for students at Monash to feel connected and part of a community. However, many students are upset with a recent increase in negative posts and comments on StalkerSpace. There have now been numerous reports submitted to Facebook of offensive and aggravating behaviour occurring on StalkerSpace. This includes trolling – the act of posting inflammatory material online, in order to provoke or insult others. A small number of individuals and groups have unfortunately used this online space to spread disrespectful messages to many. It comes as the trend of trolling and cyberbullying increases everywhere, particularly in educational environments. The rise has been linked to the anonymity that the internet can provide. The safety of sitting behind a screen, rather than being face to face, means that it is a lot easier to insult someone,. On StalkerSpace, the issue may be exacerbated at times from those who are not student but rather there to join in on the ‘trolling’. There have been consequences for people expressing extreme views on public forums on the past; a recent example is Kurt Tucker, who expressed on a Facebook post that he would have joined the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1930s. Tucker is a prominent member of the Young Liberal National Party (LNP) in Queensland, and after media outlets reported his comments, he has now resigned from all party positions after a statement of apology.

So what can we do to save our beloved space from this troubling minority? While there are options, none of them are guaranteed. When Deakin University had a similar problem several years ago on ‘Deakin University StalkerSpace’ (DUSS), it led to the switch to their current, private group. Those who wish to join must submit a valid Deakin email address, which is then approved by the administrators. This restricts those who join just to promote offensive behaviour. Otherwise, another option is to report an offending post to the administrators, which is a fast way to have something you find insulting removed. However, this is a method that is often not considered or is done too late for it to have any impact, especially as the admins of the group cannot constantly moderate every post. Some students or now ex-students that have been a part of the group for many years have expressed ambivalence at the transformation of StalkerSpace into an increasingly negative space, arguing that the group goes through cycles.

 

Sexual Assault and Inappropriate Conduct on the Rise

Apparently nowhere is safe now for uni students, and young women, no matter if it’s on the train or bus on the way home from class, or staying back at uni studying in the library, minding your own business. Recently there have been reports of at least two sexual assaults in two separate incidents by the same unknown man. The first incident occurred last November. As the 21-year-old victim was travelling by train, the perpetrator got on at Carnegie Station and sat next to her before sexually assaulting her. The same man is believed to have sexually assaulted another victim, a teenage girl this February on public transport. In other news, it has been alleged that a middle-aged Asian man exposed himself on the lower level of the Hargrave Andrew Library. Both alleged offenders have not yet been apprehended.

 

Students Shave For a Cure

The Monash Residential Committee’s first event of the year,The Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave, took place on  March 20th out on the College Green. The aim of the cause is to raise awareness for Leukaemia, of which 35 people are diagnosed every day. Participants volunteered to have their hair dyed, cut or shaved  or their bodies waxed. Approximately 80 spectators enjoyed some quality music and a free BBQ whilst watching the participants. The total amount raised was an incredible $6,153.65, an increase on last year’s figure, which will go towards to support blood cancer research.

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