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Student Affairs

Student Affairs

Wot’s News

Wot’s News-

 

 

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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Student Affairs

The Sweet Life, The Real Life

The Sweet Life, the Real Life

 

University is one of the most important stages of an individual’s life with ‘student life’ regarded as the most memorable part of Uni memories. Similar to Melbourne coffee culture, student life is a distinct culture that Monash University translates as: ‘Joining clubs, making new friends, getting involved with opportunities on campus and in general, cherishing shared experiences’. Over tacos and tequila at Sir John’s Bar, I discovered that Uni and the student experience keeps improving with each successive year. Better, in terms of adjusting to the grind of Uni life, starting and submitting assignments on the same day (possible, but not advisable), achieving HDs without a single textbook, laughing at innocent jaffys, knowing the cheapest everything on and around campus… the list is endless. As students, we tend to graciously or sometimes grudgingly accept all that is served on our plate during these 4 or so years. However, I wish to address several niggling problems that lurk beneath the facade of a vibrant campus experience. Let us remove the rose-tinted glasses for a while and explore the academic and non-academic issues that we experience, but rarely ever discuss (Stalkerspace memes do not count as discussion).

Studying at Uni is equivalent to a full-time workload. Lecture recordings are a lifesaver, especially for those who work/cannot make it to class, but even then, the stress of managing assignments is enough to unnerve a fifth year student. Sleep schedules are often the most abused among students because as Aster explains, “one can get so much work done in those hours” instead of wasting time. The casual attitude towards one’s body and its needs frightens me, because we are not as invincible as we believe. A study at Washington State University discovered that 55% of young adults aged 18-29 wake up feeling tired and craving more rest. Along with sleepiness, decreased concentration and subsequently lower grades, sleep deprivation is also linked to increased alcohol and drug use.

Fuelling the sleepy and stressed student culture, is the need to work to survive through exorbitantly priced degrees. Third year Arts/Law student Tash considers this a challenge, “weighing up between doing lots of hours at a job to live comfortably or sacrificing paid work to give myself more time to focus on Uni”. A friend working part-time at an administrative job shares that there is always too much pressure to compromise, either by means of a rushed assignment or taking a day off to study for an exam. We speak lightly of stress, but it suffocates us for a whole semester.

Other contributing factors include a fickle Eduroam, Moodle tantrums, pricey textbooks and parking permits that chew away at our thin wallets. Denise adds that there is a huge gap between lecture and tutorial questions, and having to teach oneself 50% of the unit is not exactly an enjoyable experience. Red Dinosaur considers dealing with inter-culturally incompetent staff as a struggle. Skipping lectures, feeling demotivated and discriminated against are just some of the problems that arise when teaching staff fail to engage in an approachable and patient manner with their students.

Lack of motivation is another common but often overlooked issue. It could occur for a variety of reasons: disliking a course or feeling lost, not feeling adequately challenged, being distracted or facing what I refer to as a ‘Students’ Block’. This is emotionally draining and numbing, because wanting to give up on study amidst the heavy workload is a dangerous phase. A possible solution is seeking professional assistance if need be, but most students choose not to. ‘I don’t think it would make much of a difference’ is a common misconception. Suffering in silence never helps but when the problem itself is not addressed the way it should be, silence is inevitable. As students, easy service accessibility is a primary concern, which is why Monash University’s move to cut counseling services in 2016 faced much flak from the student community. It is hypocritical: extensive promotion of mental health awareness and mindfulness on campus and ‘R U OK?’ Day, all while slashing mental health services students need, but are hesitant to actively seek.

Stressing over one’s ability to find meaningful employment post graduation is almost a rite of passage for final year students. I asked many students what they thought about their career prospects and an answer worth mentioning is – “It takes a lot of time to prepare oneself for a decent job these days”. I wonder if Uni really prepares us for the real world; are we just faces waving the same white paper in an overcrowded job market? A growing proportion of students share the realization that Uni is a dreary cycle of ‘eat-study-sleep-repeat’. Not much is happening on the work front. Sure, we have Career Connect, Career Expo, Career Gateway… yet, ‘career ready’ is not a term in our dictionary. As such, there is a need for more faculty-based networking events and I propose these should not be left only for the final year. Introducing new students to possible options and the right people will certainly go a long way in boosting their confidence, given that we live in an age of ‘whom you know is more important than what you know’.

More surprising is that even with Monash Student Association (MSA) Host Scheme Camps, faculty led peer-mentoring programs and other social events, many students are still not aware of their options. In a Moodle poll conducted last year, several students said they had not heard of Summerfest. This is discouraging given the heavy advertising and promotion that Monash undertook to publicize the weeklong event. Perhaps Monash could benefit from introducing a platform listing all kinds of events happening on campus, which would allow students to be informed about their choices. Seeing the events on offer, it is possible that students will be more likely to attend events which they know are popular among their peers, simply explained through the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) effect.

Much is desired and much can be done. University doesn’t have to be difficult. Student life is to be savored and it is small but significant changes to university administration and policy that can help us make the most of our time here.  I can only reiterate what both our motto and Sir John Monash have already established:

We are always learning, and it is our responsibility as students and as staff, to enrich and equip ourselves to ensure we offer our best to one another.

*Names of students have been changed.

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Student Affairs

All Gender Bathrooms: What They Mean and Why They Matter

Gender Neutral Bathrooms (Kim Tran)

 

Hey. Hi there. I’m a trans person, and I go to uni with you. We’ve probably been to the same classes together, walked past each other in the campus centre, tried to navigate the ever-changing maze of construction together. Turns out we have a lot in common. We study (ha), go to Sir John’s (procrastinate) and do try to decide exactly which of the myriad of meal opportunities to grace with our presence (procrastinate!) together.

You see, while we do a whole bunch of things together, my every day is very different from yours. When I wake up in the morning, I have to decide how many double takes I can manage throughout the day, whether I’m ready to #bemyself or if I’m going to take a time out and ‘fit in’. Not many of my TIGD (Trans, Intersex and Gender Diverse) peers have that choice. Some of us are hypervisible, and some of us are perceived as utterly invisible – which does not make us any less TIGD than our peers. Crash course: TIGD includes anyone who is gender diverse, transitioning, non-binary, genderfluid, genderqueer, occupies space in a myriad of different genders that exist in different cultures all over the world or is overall just not cisgender. ‘Cis’ = people who identify with the gender assigned to them as a tiny shrieking infant by the doctor that helped birth them. (Turns out that the soul-crushing cuss word that Piers Morgan – cultural icon and treasure of a generation – fears the most is actually just a really benign descriptor.)

I’m trying to figure out whether or not I should change my name, and whether it is worth the hassle, the strange looks, the confused asides and sometimes even the outright hostility. I usually go through my day trying to consider whether it is worth correcting people when they misgender me (Are they going to be cool? Weird? Angry?) and deciding whether it is worth arguing with those who know my pronouns but choose to ignore them anyway. I prepare my bottled smiles for the friends who do know but slip up sometimes (it’s ok) and how to fish them back out of the dark hole of self-flagellation they fall into when they do misgender me.

I’m used to being talked about like a hypothetical, mythical, far away unheard of concept rather than a real being of flesh and bones that walks amongst you every day, sits with you in tutorials, swears under their breath with you when Boost is full to bursting. And when you’re used to being talked about, talked over, or talked to as if you didn’t really, truly exist, it takes a toll. I’m trying to find the right balance between earnest and endearing without coming across as bitter and flippant.

So, as I have covered in my charming monologue above, living as a trans or gender diverse (in any way) person in our society is not easy. There are, however, ways to make the hardships a little less painful, at least until society actually finally manages to understand and accept us. One of these is the whole reason I am writing this article on Gender Neutral Bathrooms.

I was a part of a long line of students who worked really hard with the Ally Network and so many others to make this a reality. Particularly, the hard work put in by both Diversity and Inclusion and Buildings and Property was paramount in seeing these works through. Nevertheless, this took up the majority of my headspace last year. So yes, while you were going about your day I was probably thinking about toilets – and while this may seem like carefully crafted glib aside, it’s the only way I know how to introduce something I am forced to think about more often than I should. In truth, I start my day the same way a family with small children starts a road trip (Has everyone gone to the bathroom? Yes? Go again, just to make sure!). This is because I try my damndest not to have to go into a gendered bathroom during the day, for many reasons I’ll go into.

You may have noticed that there are a couple of gender-neutral bathrooms dotted across campus now, the most significant one being in Sir John’s (I’m choosing to maturely ignore all the potential toilet humor in that one). With all this change going on, I’m here to explain what exactly is happening and most importantly, why these bathrooms are needed so much.

As the name may hint at, all-gender bathrooms are bathrooms that people of any gender can use – and this finally includes any gender identity that isn’t covered by the binary definitions of just (cis) male and/or (cis) female. The moment this gender binary is the only framework we use, not only do we exclude a whole bunch of people who just don’t fall into that category (a very bitter me) but there is suddenly an expectation of how those who use the female bathrooms present as well as those who use the male bathrooms. We suddenly push a whole lot of presumptions on people who just want to use the bathroom!

Now, to properly highlight how much these bathrooms are needed, let me paint you a picture that so many non-cisgendered folks go through every day:

When gender-neutral bathrooms aren’t available, going to the bathroom to simply pee (or poop. Both. Like a champ.) is an activity fraught with second-guessing, emotion and anxiety. Every time I choose one of two doors, I feel like I suddenly need to either choose to hide my transness and do what is ‘expected’ from someone who looks like me or whether I should put myself in a position that will be either highly uncomfortable or even dangerous.

Trans students often have to endure a whole range of reactions when entering gendered bathrooms. Results may vary from the person who attempts to politely stare us out of the room as they wash their hands, to the friends trying their least to hide their laughter from us. Let’s not forget the helpful pal who tries to redirect us to the ‘correct’ bathroom and let’s really not forget the ones who use direct, outright hostility, anger, threats and violence to remove us from where they think we don’t belong. That’s a lot of payout for simply wanting to use the bathroom. In fact, TIGD people are more likely to experience disproportional vilification and violence in a bathroom. And even if it doesn’t happen that one time or even that day at all, the threat is always there. I can never approach gendered bathrooms with ease or without worrying if today is another day that entering a door is seen as an act of aggression from me.

There is also the problem that walking through one of those doors is suddenly a public statement. I can see the ‘female’/’male’ sign. So can you. And everyone else around you. As such, the moment I take one of those doors, I am either lying to myself and others about my gender for their comfort (in turn, affecting mine) or outing myself when I wouldn’t be perceived as belonging to the gender of the bathroom I’ve dared to breach. So even if everyone in the bathroom is lovely and I don’t have to worry about their reactions (or I have the bathroom entirely to myself and can poot as freely and loudly as I want to) I am still coerced into publicly declaring something about myself. Now, if we also think about how there are many wonderful people out there who don’t identify -anywhere- along the gender binary (Also me. Turns out gender is complex!), suddenly they have the choice between a lie, and another lie. Non-binary peeps *don’t* have a bathroom if there are only two gendered ones. Can you imagine not having a bathroom?

Now, the only way to help us out and avoid this whole shitstorm (heh) is to give us bathrooms we can use safely. Having all gender bathrooms at Monash is not only an issue of inclusion, but also one of safety and wellbeing for gender nonconforming students. With the current discourse on bathrooms reaching a terrifying, trans-antagonistic crescendo, it makes a huge difference to actually have the choice to go somewhere where I won’t have to experience any of the above consequences for being a human. While I am writing all this from my perspective, I would be remiss not to acknowledge that the majority of this ‘discourse’ is transmisogynistic – it affects trans women disproportionately and is antagonistic in a way that is so specific to a group of people that already undergoes an inordinate amount of both symbolic and actual violence in society both historically and in the present.

However. None of this means that these should be seen as the ‘other’ bathrooms. Anyone who is cis, please do still use these bathrooms. In fact, we go right back to how using certain bathrooms is outing if these bathrooms are only ever used by gender diverse people. Let’s not do that. These are not suddenly the bathrooms that people who aren’t cis have to use. Part of the reason we worked so hard for these bathrooms is to normalize this concept and have more gender-neutral bathrooms around the place. We want these to be normal bathrooms. Speaking of normal – we still fully promote people being able to go to the bathrooms they should have access to. For example, trans women should be able to use the women’s bathrooms without fear. And anyone who tries to say differently is entirely full of shit.

Note: This article is written from only one perspective with input from many people. Not all of our experiences are the same, and not all experiences can be covered with the depth they deserve in a short article.

We are a diverse, wonderful group of people who deserve respect and safety in the same way you do, and these all gender bathrooms go a way to achieving that.

The MSA Queer Department runs an autonomous TIGD Caucus – if you would like to be added, get information on how to navigate Monash as a TIGD student, or simply meet others and share your experiences please get in touch with us on our Facebook page at facebook.com/MSAQu/ and for more information regarding LGBTIQ matters at Monash refer to monash.edu/lgbtiq.

This article could not have been written without the valuable input of Theodore Murray, Justin Jones Li, the Queer Affairs Committee, TIGD Caucus, the Ally Network and so many more amazing Queer Peers.

 

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Student Affairs

The Most Efficient Way to Learn a New Language, Proficiently

Learning a new language (Isabella Toppi)

If one more 22 year-old tells me it’s too late to start learning a language, I’m going to smack them. My grandma started learning Spanish at the ripe old age of 64. Granted, she doesn’t have work or Instagram to consume her time, but I have met so many young people who yearn to learn another language, yet whinge for lack of time. I say, if you have time to watch Netflix, read the newspaper and do your grocery shopping, you have time to learn a language. Here’s why…

A turning point for me in this endless procrastination battle was the realisation that, although you can set temporal goals for making improvements, there really is no end point for learning a language. You can’t say, “I’ll take Russian lessons for three years and then I’ll be fluent”. It’s not that black and white. Esperanto maybe, but that’s a whole different ball game. The reality is you will never speak as well as a native, but the trick is to learn efficiently so as to incorporate it into your everyday life.

First off, immersion is key. Don’t waste your time lingering around the language for five years and wonder why all you can say is “una cerveza por fis”. Sure, being able to order a beer in Mexico is useful, but what’s the point when you can’t communicate beyond that? I know a guy who, hoping to compliment a girl in a club on her makeup – which is bizarre and a mistake in itself – accidentally told her, “me gusta tu mantequilla”, which means, I like your butter.

Rather, you have to jump right into the language, surrounding yourself with it in as many ways as possible. It’s not enough to say you’ll read ten pages of a foreign book a day, or watch the nightly news on France24. You need to integrate the language into your banal quotidian activities.

So here are a few tricks I’ve picked up:

  • Lists: for example, don’t write “carrots, milk, eggs” on your shopping list. Write “Karotten, Milch, Eier” or whatever it may be. Do the same with to-do lists and reminders.
  • Movies: here is that excuse you have all been itching for, to watch Netflix without the associated guilt. Watch movies and shows in your second language. Better yet, watch movies you have already seen, without the subtitles (although I would not recommend watching 8 Mile in German, Rabbit just isn’t the same).
  • Music: discovering songs you love in your second language is so effective because you listen to them repetitively, which is the best tactic for instilling words and phrases into your long-term memory (Don’t tell anyone but reggaeton is the real reason I picked up Spanish.) Again, Swiss-German rap hasn’t yet proven so sexy though.
  • Reading and watching the News: you’ll learn so much if you follow a story you already know the general gist of. We all know Trump wants to build a wall – read about it online in your new language, as you already know the context. Judging people in other languages adds an extra spice to your life you never even knew you were missing.
  • Cooking: find recipes online in your new language, and follow them. The repetition will help you learn vocabulary, which will help you write your foreign shopping list. Never forget the word butter again, not even in the club.
  • Find a foreign lover: self-explanatory. Get rid of them as soon as they can speak English better than you can speak your chosen language.

Secondly, finding a balance between active and passive learning is crucial. So often I meet people with a decent knowledge of another language but are fearful to actually speak. They know all the grammar rules, extensive vocab, and are fine listening in on a conversation, but when it comes to actually communicating, they get stuck. This reflects that they have only learnt passively, and haven’t been given or embraced the opportunity to actively use the language.

Being able to communicate effectively, whether written or verbal, is a two-way street. You’ll be so much more efficient if you practice active and passive learning equally. Don’t expect to become fluent just by sitting on your arse playing Duolingo. Go out of your way to get in touch with a native speaker, and speak to them! The chances are you’ll be able to help them with their English in return. Exchange Trump articles in your respective languages, bond over your festering hatred.

Third, old habits die hard. Don’t set yourself up for setbacks down the road; make an effort to master correct pronunciations from the beginning. The best way to pick up proper pronunciation is by listening carefully and mimicking, in the same way we learn our mother tongue as kids.  It’s also important to actively correct yourself aloud when you recognise that you’ve made a mistake, so as to imprint the sounds in your memory.

To a native speaker, it doesn’t matter how broad and sophisticated your vocabulary is if your pronunciation is rubbish. Nobody will take you seriously if you can’t pronounce paella. The same goes for accents. Somebody once asked me if I thought written accents were important. I asked him, “¿tienes 22 años o tienes 22 anos?” One means, ‘are you 22 years old?’ while the other means ‘do you have 22 anuses?’.

Speak with as many people as possible, as much as possible. Repeat conversations, however trivial they may be. Repetition is key. Tell every one of your classmates about your difficulty finding a park. Offer to be the one to order the beers at Oktoberfest – no matter how sloppy you get you’ll always be the master at demanding “mehr Bier bitte!”

Moreover, let those you speak with know you’re not going to be offended when they correct your mistakes. Most people hold back from correcting foreign speakers’ mistakes because they still understand what we want to say. This is all well and good until you realise you’ve just told a 9-year old, “tu vas te coucher bien ce soir” (you’ll f**k well tonight) instead of you’ll sleep well tonight; or asked them “bist du kalt?” (literally translated as are you cold? but interpreted in German as are you dead?).

Lastly, don’t hit a plateau. Once you’re at a stage where you still make mistakes but can effectively communicate in day-to-day life, you’re at a pivotal point. Upon realising we can get our point across without too much hassle, most people become lazy, losing the motivation to improve. If it’s become too comfortable, you’re doing something wrong. So speak more, read more, watch more Netflix. Learn how to say merry-go-round; multi-faceted; occultism.  Go to a foreign country and get lost within the culture, and convince your grandma that there’s never been a better time.  

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Student Affairs

Trigger Warnings: Paramount or Pandering

Trigger Warnings (Jesse Thomas)

 

In a time where the tension between the politically correct progressives and conservatives is at a high, one issue that may not immediately come to mind is trigger warnings. So, what even are trigger warnings? Are they just a meme, an overused joke of how sensitive and wrapped up in cotton wool our society has become? Or are these warnings legitimate tools that are essential for allowing those who have experienced trauma to avoid further distress by being prepared for or choosing to not engage with something potentially emotionally or mentally detrimental.

Monash has become the first University in Australia to implement a “trigger warnings” policy. This involves a “pilot program” of 15 of Monash’s course outlines to contain warnings of potentially emotionally distressing content. The topics of this content ranging from the discussion of sexual assault, violence, domestic abuse, child abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, suicide and the list goes on. Although this program is seen by many as progressive, to others this initiative is seen as unnecessary and even harmful. Trigger warnings are nothing new or innovative, originating on Internet forums and communities to warn mostly people with post-traumatic-stress disorder about potentially harmful content.  These warnings give people the choice whether to engage or not with material that could be distressing.

A mere warning to help those who struggle or have experienced trauma feel safe doesn’t sound completely irrational and outrageous, right? Well apparently is does, according to many giving backlash against this motion. Those against this implementation, have the sentiment that “life is potentially inevitably, [and] regularly emotionally distressing, “as stated by Newscastle University associate professor, Marguerite Johnson. To her and many others in opposition to the movement, having warnings before traumatic materials means that universities and educators are simply not preparing students for the real world. There are no trigger warnings in “real everyday life” and if students can’t cope with these issues cropping up in course material, it will just make it worse for them when they come into contact with these issues spontaneously through unfiltered experiences in life outside the classroom. Additionally, there are fears of censorship and the loss of freedom of speech due to “triggering” controversial materials being hidden away from students, or having the option of opting out of these topics, discouraging freedom of inquiry and expression, and discussion about controversial topics.

These reasons seem well meaning, however if “trigger warnings” did have the potential to destroy, censor and hide all intellectual and educational nuance as we know it, why has a similar warning system been widely accepted and non-controversial for decades? We have “warnings” before TV shows and movies in the form of advisory ratings, from G to PG all the way to R 18+. Advisory warnings are important in making sure media that contains potentially inappropriate topics (sexual themes, nudity, violence etc.) does not get consumed by those too young or who would otherwise prefer not to. These warnings are an accepted part of our culture, so why is it so hard and even offensive to accept similar warnings before classes or readings, a brief “advisory” rating that means no more than an MA 15+ rating stating “coarse language, parental guidance recommended.”

At the end of the day, whether you agree with trigger warnings or not, you have to stop and think; do they really affect you? Just a sentence or two at the start of a reading for your unit or a few words of warning from a lecturer before they dive into a class. Trigger warnings do not equate to censorship or selective teaching, to stem the flow of information and education to youths, and stop the promotion of discussion and debate. Rather, their sole purpose is merely to serve as a polite “hey you might not want to read/hear this if…” or “look away/prepare yourself for this topic”, a simple quick heads-up. Trigger warnings are not censorship, to pander or coddle easily offended millennials, but to allow individuals to have a choice in the material they engage with, to decide the best course of action for their own personal mental or emotional health, not yours.

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Student Affairs

Health and Safety: Interview with Sam Hatfield

OH_S (Selena Repanis)

Sam is a Safe at Work organiser at the Victorian Trades Hall. His role is an important one: to ensure that work conditions in Victoria are safe and tenable for workers in a variety of industries. In an industrial climate where occupational health and safety (OH&S) is shunned for the sake of ‘efficiency’ and profit, Sam and his team are vital in the community. After all, everyone deserves to have a safe workplace.

What is OH&S?  

Rather than answer this with a technical definition, in simple terms, OH&S is the ability to go home from work to your family and your friends in the same condition that you left.

People often get bogged down talking about the technicalities and policy of OH&S.  But at the end of the day, going home healthy to your loved ones is what it all boils down to. 

It’s the core of what unions are ‘about’.

Why did you take an OH&S position at Trades Hall?
Every right we have under law in regards to safety at work has been fought for and won by the union movement.

I was a union delegate and Health & Safety Representative in my previous job.  We had to fight with management and negotiate to get every safety protection we had.  The position at Trades Hall was a step out of my comfort zone, but still allowed us to campaign for change at high levels within WorkSafe, the union movement, and the Government.   

We help to create safer workplaces by building the capacity and confidence of Health and Safety Representatives, and also by helping to assist injured workers and migrant communities.  Trades Hall is the place to be for creating real change at the moment and I’m super lucky to be a small part of a such diverse & active team.  

What are the most important rules that govern OH&S (The Hierarchy)?
1. Your boss must provide a workplace that is safe and without risks to health.  As a worker, you have some responsibilities too, such as following reasonable instructions and not recklessly endangering others. But at the end of the day, your employer has the ultimate duty to keep you safe at work.

The hierarchy of controls is a great one to remember.  Your employer must identify and control risks first by: 

  • ‘Eliminating the risk at the source’, e.g by not undertaking that task.  If this is not possible, then your employer must try to reduce risk by:
  • Substituting, e.g. erecting a barrier or scaffolding to stop falls from heights.  If this is still not possible then your employer must then look at:
  • Engineering Controls, e.g. asking whether machinery can reduce risks, such as a scissor lift for work at heights or a trolley for manual handling tasks.  If it is still not possible to reduce risk then:
  • ‘Administrative Controls’ can be used, e.g. using a sign or procedure. Your employer can reduce risk further by issuing PPE.

‘PPE’ such as Hi Vis vests are the least effective way of controlling risk at work.  Sure, you should wear it if your employer requires you to do so, but that is not the only thing your employer should be doing to keep you safe.  They must look at reducing risk in all of the other ways mentioned (Eliminate, Substitute, Engineering Controls, Administrative Controls) before they even look at giving you a safety vest!
2.  Your employer has a duty to provide appropriate training and supervision to do each task. The “just have a go and let me know if you have any problems” attitude just doesn’t cut it. There are horrific cases of serious injuries and fatalities when this attitude is adopted. Massive penalties for employers apply where appropriate training and supervision have not been provided.
3.  You have the right to be represented. If you don’t have elected Health and Safety representatives in your workplace, you should talk to your colleagues about it.  Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) have legal powers that allow them to raise issues and fight for health and safety on the job.  These include the power to write an enforceable notice asking your employer to remedy an OHS issue or otherwise WorkSafe will get involved.  They also have the power to “Cease Work” if there is a serious, imminent, or immediate threat to Health and Safety.  Contact your union or Trades Hall today if you need help with the process of electing HSRs.
4. You have the right to compensation if you are injured.  So many people don’t report injuries. Even though it may feel minor at the time, injuries may turn into something more serious, leaving you unable to work for a period of time (e.g. back injury).  It’s very important to report injuries. You can also lodge a workers injury claim for compensation.  Speak to your union, as they can help you with this process.
5.  Finally, always ask questions if you’re unsure about something.  If you’ve been asked to do something that you think is unsafe: stop work and ask someone for help.  You have the right to refuse unsafe work. ‘Stand Up, Speak Out, Come Home.’

How does OH&S relate specifically to young people?
Young people are much more likely to be injured at work. In the past year, there have been a number of fatalities involving young people.  A 21-year-old French backpacker fell 13 floors to her death on a Perth construction site.  Worse yet, her employer sent her family a letter in response that blamed the young woman for the accident.  A 17-year-old also fell to his death whilst installing a glass ceiling on the new H&M retail building in Perth.

Accidents happen in all industries, and not just construction.  What we have found is that statistically, young people are overrepresented in injuries of all kinds.  The important message that I would give to all young people specifically is that you have the right to be properly trained, inducted, and supervised.  Always ask a question if you’re unsure.

There is strength in numbers, and joining your union and being active about knowing and asserting your rights is the best way to stay safe at work.

What keeps you motivated to deal with OH&S issues and continue to educate others about OH&S?
I used to work on the docks as a wharfie, one of the most dangerous industries around.  Unfortunately I saw too many serious accidents that left people badly hurt, missing limbs, or worse, killed.  No one should ever die at work. Period.

A mate of mine, Tony ‘Hollywood’ Attard, was killed at Toll Shipping in 2014. He was run over and squashed by a trailer. I’ll never forget the look on the faces of his wife and kids or how bravely they spoke at his funeral. That should never happen to anyone. They still deserve to have their father and husband at home with them.  They were robbed.  Thinking about them is what keeps me going. 

OH&S can be a dry subject at times but it is so important to keep working at it and get it right.

 

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Student Affairs

Dreaming of Ivy League

DreamingofIvyLeague(1)

Have you ever thought about attending Harvard, Yale or Columbia, but considered it simply inaccessible? One student, who gained admission to a handful of the world’s top-tier universities, may just change your mind about that. His name is Jamie Beaton: he’s 21 years old but his game-changing business plan has made him worth approximately $40 million. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but no, it’s not because his father gave him a small loan of a million dollars.  

How it began

All throughout his teen years, Jamie had his heart firmly set on attending an Ivy League university. He performed in a league of his own academically, while taking on all the leadership and extra-curricular opportunities that he could get his hands on. With stellar high school results, he applied for about 25 different universities in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Despite his proven intelligence, these highly competitive university applications were not easy for him to comprehend as a teenager from New Zealand. He was faced with an incredibly complicated application process, full of various layers and facets to be considered.

“It was near impossible to navigate alone” he says. Whilst hedging his hopes on going overseas, he felt increasingly concerned when many of his peers were unsuccessful with their first course preference, after following the ‘conventional’ advice they were given at school. In early 2013 however, one particular set of emails dramatically changed the following years of Jamie’s life. 18 year-old Jamie from New Zealand was accepted into every university he applied for, including Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford and Yale. Choosing his original dream of Harvard, Jamie was soon on a plane to Boston for their mid-2013 intake. Although Jamie is only 21, he has now graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Mathematics-Economics, and a Master of Science in Applied Mathematics, two years ahead of schedule.

It didn’t happen overnight for him though: Jamie took a very focused, intensive and strategic approach to his course work during his schooling. Being told by teachers across the board that he needed to ‘slow down’ only inspired him to move faster. Throughout high school, he took ten A-level exams, which was more than double what most students in his year sat. He managed it all through very early preparation, and by having a lot of inspiring advisors and tutors helping him master the content quickly. He was also constantly striving to uncover new realms of knowledge beyond the classroom, often resorting to his own self-directed study beyond school hours. “I believe my ability to self-study was a key factor in my college applications and my ultimate acceptance into Harvard”, he explains.

After countless weeks of confusion spent on mastering applications, and considering every minor detail, Jamie realised he couldn’t sit still any longer. He came up with an idea that could really shake things up for naïve, misled high school students who were constantly told to aim lower than needed, especially those in New Zealand and Australia who saw American universities as nothing but a fantasy. Jamie identified the need for a service, which could accelerate the aspirations of high school students to international universities. He decided to launch a company that could help other students achieve their dream: whether it was Ivy League, Medicine at their local university, or anything in between. He was sick of seeing talented, well-rounded, driven students told there was ‘no need’ to apply for a tertiary course outside their home country.

The business

In 2013, Jamie and his partner Shandre officially founded education consultancy firm Crimson Education. “We both put in many awesome, sleepless days and nights to grow Crimson to where it is today; operating in 10 cities and with a network of over 2,000 tutors and mentors worldwide” says Jamie. During the early days of the business, while waiting for the American university calendar to begin mid-year, he kept himself very busy. He was working part time at an investment unit, chairing a government-funded organisation called YouthFund that made grants for youth-led initiatives, all the while completing 5 subjects at the University of Auckland in second-year Maths and Economics. Jamie and Shandre invested all the money they had at the time, which was only several hundred dollars, for some initial website subscriptions and a company registration. Once Jamie established the Crimson team in New Zealand and soon after Australia, he divided his focus across his Harvard studies and in 2016, graduated from a double degree before gaining admission to further his study with a Masters of Business Administration at Stanford. “It has been a crazy, rewarding journey so far”, he says.

While Ivy League universities have a notorious reputation for being only accessible to insanely privileged students, Crimson takes on clients who are very far from the elite upper-east-side of New York. They aspire to help students realise their potential by assessing their candidacy, and then connecting them with tutors, mentors and consultants who can set them on a clear path to achieve their academic and career goals. Jamie says that they “see students achieve what they never thought was possible, to the point that the landscape of opportunities they can go on to achieve in their life is fundamentally reshaped”. When Crimson gets a student from Camberwell into the University of Pennsylvania, or from rural New Zealand to a full scholarship at Duke University, it’s nothing short of a complete game-changer for the individual, their family, and their community. Despite the stereotypes around these prestigious universities, and the exceptional help Crimson offers them, Jamie still insists that a lot of the success his clients achieve is self-driven. “Obviously, circumstances that are beyond your control can have a large impact on your life, particularly in self-realisation, motivation and psychological development” he states. “However, I truly believe that the ability to self-motivate and persist through hardships can help you overcome any number of circumstances and help you succeed.”

Despite what many might think, Crimson understands that most students can’t afford to pay the cost of a non-subsidised tertiary degree. But, many of the universities Crimson’s clients aim for don’t require students to have a lot of money. In the case of Harvard, for example, “no American college is more affordable”. At Harvard, parents earning less than $65,000 USD annually are expected to contribute nothing. “Admission is based on relative performance with consideration of your environment” says Jamie. The college also specifically states that “wherever you are from, whatever your citizenship, applying for financial aid will not hinder your chances of admission”. Crimson seeks to overcome these misconceptions about prestigious universities and bring the focus away from money and back to nurturing student talent, regardless of socio-economic background. Crimson also provides financial aid that any student can apply for. It is means-tested and merit based, so families can qualify for subsidies or free tuition. They’ve also launched free online platforms such as ask.crimsoneducation.org and hub.crimsoneducation.org, which are a big part of their focus. They emphasise that it is merely a widespread misconception that Ivy League universities are financially inaccessible, as institutions like Yale and New York University award nearly all of their students with scholarships. “A reason Harvard is so competitive is because they have hundreds of millions available in financial aid, for students who get in but can’t afford it” Jamie explains.

Jamie’s advice

Crimson is now providing students with the service Jamie always needed but never received. Accordingly, he says that the most basic and accurate business advice is to simply find a problem and solve it. “You need to find a problem that affects a niche market, and work out how to meet that demand by solving the problem” he says. After that, “agility and responsiveness to change is essential”. He particularly emphasises that you need to focus on your differentiated contribution to the world. “Kick-starting your business will require a lot of time, effort and sleepless nights, it can be an exhausting journey.” He says that for a disruptive business to grow and thrive, you must accept and embrace making ripples in the industry you are tackling. “If you aren’t creating ripples, you aren’t innovating hard enough!”

From his own experience, Jamie realised that what you study, how you study and your intensity of study is incredibly important for setting you on a rewarding career path. “It can also help you seize additional personal development and growth opportunities in the early stages of your life”, he adds.  He believes that self-motivation and hard work simply play the most pivotal role in a students’ ability to excel at university and maximise their potential. “I understand that it can be hard to pursue beyond the standard curriculum as you’re often told you’re taking on too much, or that it’s not necessary, but choosing to be curious beyond the standard syllabus can only do you good” he explains. To Jamie, being passionate about what you’re studying is vital. “Once you realise the area of study that you are passionate about, it becomes so much easier to excel and realise your maximum potential.”

If Jamie could say anything to his younger self, it would only be to have more confidence in his ability, and to trust his own judgment. “Trusting your ability and your own judgment is vital in growing as a person and can help you uncover new passions that will fuel your desire to succeed.” Jamie explains that it’s so easy to become the victim of the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ that plagues communities in Australia and New Zealand. “It’s so easy to just coast through secondary school and university without shaking the status quo or putting yourself out there by risking failure for the chance of a big reward” he says. Once he began trusting his own judgment, his confidence and conviction grew. “The whole process of life and education is like a marathon: you need to have the right motivation, the persistence, the endurance and the strategy.”

Through global expansion and careful investment, Crimson is worth approximately $205 million today. While he has earned an impressive amount financially, unlike most students, there are no parties or holidays happening any time soon for Jamie. All his capital goes straight back into growing his business so Crimson can continue to unlock the potential of more students each day. Jamie’s lifestyle can be summarised in three of the words he frequently gives as advice: work insanely hard. “Taking the path less travelled is hard work, really hard work – but the end result can make it all worthwhile”, he concludes.

Jamie’s success not only inspires students all around the globe to aim higher than they’ve ever been told, but it also proves that Ivy League dreams are for more than just the ‘elite’ members of society. At the end of the day, Harvard doesn’t need any more student money. They’re far more interested in your brain, and what change you can bring to the modern world.

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Many thanks to Jamie Beaton and the whole team at Crimson Education for making this article possible. For more information on Crimson Education, visit crimsoneducation.org.

 

Jamie at his graduation

 

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Student Affairs

Doing Everything We Can

DoingEverythingWeCan

 

Ask any medical student why they decided to go into medicine, and at some point you’ll hear the phrase ‘I want to help people.’ Human motivation is a complex thing, but I don’t doubt that it’s true – most of us want to give back to the world. And on face value, medicine is a pretty good career for it; those same medical students will probably be involved in many life-saving efforts that have earned the medical profession a reputation for doing good.

But as well as being philanthropists, doctors are also scientists at bottom. So what’s the evidence about how much good your average doctor will do over their career?
Research by the career-optimising organisation 80,000 hours shows that although doctors are directly involved in saving lives day-in and day-out, the marginal utility of the average doctor’s career is only 20 lives. What does that mean? It means that if you hadn’t chosen to do medicine at uni, someone else with slightly worse grades would have taken your place – that’s a safe assumption, given how competitive medicine is to get into. That person with slightly worse grades would probably have been a slightly worse doctor than you, and when you add that difference up over a whole career, twenty people would have died that you would have saved. If you chose to open a lemonade stand instead of studying medicine, twenty people would eventually die who would have lived.

Now that’s nothing to be sneezed at – after all, we’re talking about twenty graduations, twenty loving partners, twenty contented retirements. But at the end of the day, that’s a lot less good than most of us like to think we do; over a forty-year career that’s one life every couple of years. That might make us think twice about all the sacrifices we make in the name of doing good.
So am I saying that you should consider dropping out of medicine and open up that lemonade stand you’ve always dreamed of? No, thankfully there’s a way to turbocharge the amount of good you do with your medical career: rather than doing good directly through your work, do good through charitable giving. The average doctor’s salary is $105,000 ten years after graduating, and donating even 10% of that could make a huge difference in people’s lives without significantly decreasing your quality of life (and that’s a research-backed fact).

In consideration of this, how can we grow our altruistic impact as much as possible? One way would be to give a higher proportion of your salary. That would be admirable, but thankfully there are other, less painful options. You don’t have to go into the highest-paid, most competitive specialties for the sake of maximising your salary, either. Perhaps the most effective way to do the most good is through some good old-fashioned bargain hunting.
Let’s crunch some numbers: you could go into the most highly paid speciality in Australia, neurosurgery. You might decide to give away 10% of your $600,000 annual income to Guide Dogs Australia, which can provide a seeing-eye dog to someone for $40,000. Alternatively, you could decide that the slog to get into neurosurgery is too much, and pursue your childhood dream of opening a lemonade stand. You might earn $10,000 a year, and again decide to give away 10%. But rather than going for Guide Dogs Australia, you do some bargain hunting, and give to the Fred Hollows Foundation, which can restore sight through a $25 cataract operation. As the neurosurgeon, you’d help 1.5 people work around their blindness each year, but running a lemonade stand you’d actually cure 40 people of their blindness each year. These figures, based on Peter Singer’s famous TED talk ‘The Why and How of Effective altruism,’ are fairly back-of-the-envelope, but they’re only meant to show that with a bit of bargain hunting, you can multiply the impact of your giving by orders of magnitude.

Now let’s be honest, bargain hunting is hard. It’s not necessarily that we’re lazy (though that could be a part of it), but maybe we just don’t know what to look for in a charity. Thankfully there are some fantastic organisations out there that not only find the absolute most effective charities in the world, but also provide fully transparent reports on how they come to their decisions. Givewell.org is one of these organisations, or if you think that we shouldn’t be speciesist and also consider giving to charities for animals, Animal Charity Evaluators is for you.
The idea of marginal utility should make us rethink how we go about pursuing altruism through medicine. Doing everything we can doesn’t have to mean going the extra mile for all of our patients. It can be as simple as a small, regular and well-targeted donation.

Previously featured in The Auricle.

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Student Affairs

Students Protest Nationwide for Free Education

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Today, over 50 Monash students joined other Victorian students in the CBD for a National Day of Action (NDA), hosted by the National Union of Students (NUS). The NUS is the national peak representative body for Australian undergraduate university students.

The protest in Melbourne today attracted hundreds of students from around Victoria, while protests in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra occurred simultaneously. Protests will also be occurring in Wollongong, Newcastle and Perth over the next few days.

The focus of the protest was to “Make Education Free Again”. Students were protesting for free tertiary eduction, and less cuts to student welfare and penalty rates.

Matilda Grey, the Monash Student Association (MSA) President spoke at the event: “University fee deregulation is a threat to all of you here, and indeed every student across the country”. She went onto say:

“When the university prioritises its budget-saving measures ahead of the wellbeing of its students, we are unable to find a parking spot on campus, let alone one we don’t have to pay for. We are forced to sit in exam rooms at 8pm, even if we have had one at 2pm the same day and one at 9am the following morning. We have to travel great distances to get to university because all of our regional campuses are under resourced and facing imminent closure.”

Abby Stapleton, the NUS Women’s Officer and former MSA President also spoke at the event. A part of her speech read: “the Liberals want to introduce a 20% cut to the tertiary education sector. This will screw women over the most, especially women from disadvantaged backgrounds”. Stapleton went on to say that “this, plus a 10% decrease in the HECS repayment threshold will further limit women’s access to higher education. Many women already struggle to make it to university and these cuts will further exacerbate financial inequality in Australia.”

Stapleton specifically stated that “women should not have to choose between studying and adequately supporting themselves financially – universities need to step up”.

Jasmine Duff, the MSA Environment and Social Justice Officer, who was chairing the event, insisted to the crowd that free tertiary education is a viable idea. She stated that providing students across Australia with a fully funded tertiary education would cost the Australian government an estimated $8 billion per year. Reminding the crowd that this is less than Gina Rinehart’s annual salary, she believed it wouldn’t hurt the taxpayer significantly.

Matilda ended her speech with the poignant words: “here we stand united and fighting, to defend the rights of students to accessible education and welfare, and to demand an end to the tertiary fees and the enormous debt that will encumber us for decades to come”.

The MSA has been affiliated with NUS for a large number of years. This means that part of the MSA’s budget goes towards funding NUS, an amount that changes every year. The MSA contributes an average of $60,000 each year to NUS, out of an operating budget that consists of over $2 million. They are not alone, with student unions across the nation contributing similarly.

Australian National University Students’ Association (ANUSA) stopped affiliating with NUS for a year, however they have chosen to re-affiliate as of the 21st of March. It is believed that this is partly due to the fact Jill Molloy, a National Office-Bearer from NUS who runs the Welfare Department, is a student from ANU. The final decision was after ANUSA President, James Connolly, moved the motion and it was passed after an ANUSA Student Representative Council vote. Student unions across the country are obliged to pay a large fee to accredit with the NUS every year, something that often makes student unions hesitant to do it every year.

All of the Group of Eight universities are affiliated with NUS with the exception of University of Queensland and University of Adelaide. NUS have received criticism in the past for hosting a disorganised annual National Conference, for a lack of transparency, and for the fact that the Union is run heavily by factions.

One of the main arguments used in the ANUSA debate over reaccrediting with the NUS was that in order to effect change, a student union must be a part of the NUS to help improve it, and must be at the table to have a voice.

In order to effect change, NUS believes in taking a ‘two-pronged’ approach. They believe in both protesting and rallying on one hand, and lobbying with individual politicians on the other. It is believed that NUS National Office-Bearers played a large part in ensuring that the tertiary fee deregulation bill – Communications Legislation and Amendment (Deregulation and Other Measures) Bill 2015 – was voted down in Parliament in 2015. This was due to extensive lobbying with individual politicians and a cohesive on-the-ground campaign.The protest today was believed to be successful by those who attended, despite a reportedly lower than some previous NDAs. There was no violence or aggression, and while police watched the event closely, they did not need to intervene at any point.

The National Day of Action rallies are only effective when large numbers of students are involved. The NUS strongly encourages more students to attend the NDA’s, in order to help them effectively create change to the government’s approach to higher education.

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Student Affairs

Monash Ravaged by Wild Weather

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Buildings at Monash University Clayton have been severely damaged as many have been flooded by the thunderstorms occurring this afternoon. Commonly used areas such as the Campus Centre, Monash Sport and the Rotunda building have all been affected, some requiring evacuations of students and staff members. The Facebook group ‘Monash StalkerSpace’ has been inundated with posts about damaged buildings.

The Campus Centre ground floor has been heavily flooded as students have been forced to bravely wade through the water, many centimetres deep in some areas, in order to access the food and retail precinct, health services or study facilities. Many have been unable to escape without sopping wet shoes and socks after taking cover from the tumultuous weather, one of the first rain soaked days after a somewhat extended summer. This has been due to a combination of roof leaks and water rushing in from outside the sliding doors. The first floor has also been heavily impacted, as parts of the panelled ceiling at Wholefoods have collapsed due to the water leakages. There is also a significant leak near the stage at Sir John’s Bar causing tonight’s organised Queer Karaoke to be postponed to next week.

A part of the Monash Sport building roof has also caved in, again likely owing to the water pressure on ceiling panels, therefore causing people to be evacuated. The centre now remains closed until further notice. An ambulance was sighted outside Monash Sport, however at this stage we are unsure of whether it was only precautionary or not.

In an email addressed to patrons, Monash Sport has stated that “due to the large influx of water to the centre, and with a mind for the safety of our members and customers, we have had to evacuate Monash Sport facilities completely. This includes all stadiums, fitness centre, group fitness classes.” The Doug Ellis Swimming Pool remains open but cannot be accessed through the main Monash Sport centre. Updates to the situation and when facilities will reopen will be provided by Monash Sport again via email for users of the facilities.

The weather damage seems to have been the worst at around 2-3pm, potentially owing to a particularly heavy storm during this time. This left students to find shelter where possible, grab the nearest umbrella or to run to cover in order to get to their classes or transport to get home. Other affected buildings include the Hargrave Andrew Library with roof leaks, Rotunda as flooding has been caused by water leaking from the light fixtures, and in between the Green Chemical Futures building and the N1 carpark, 9 and 11 Rainforest Walk have also had severe leaks leading to the former being evacuated.

Massive puddles formed in a large number of outdoor areas of the university, encompassing many of the walkways, during the thunderstorms as storm drains reached capacity, pointing to issues of a potentially inefficient or overworked drainage system.

Machines are being used to soak up the water from the affected areas as the clean up continues. Showers are forecast to be continuing into Wednesday, potentially delaying cleanup efforts. It is yet to been seen how the damaged buildings may affect classes this week, potentially causing relocations where possible.

With winter fast approaching, this raises concerns about how Clayton campus is going to handle future wild weather and the perhaps the efficiency of the infrastructure Monash takes so much pride in.

The Monash Buildings and Properties Division has been contacted for comment regarding the inadequacy of multiple buildings in handing excessive amounts of rain, whether there will be reinforcements made for the coming winter and the time frame to which the damaged buildings will be repaired.

Update on Wednesday the 22nd of March:
Paul Barton, the Director Business Support for Buildings and Property Division (BPD) stated that all buildings would be safe to enter and use from today onwards as the maintenance team worked hard overnight to ensure that there were no major disruptions to classes. The closure of some buildings was attributed to the need to clean up and make sure the buildings were safe to occupy. Further cleaning is still occurring with some building containing large air blowers to dry the carpets.

As for the viability of Monash’s building to handle flash flooding and severe thunderstorms in the future, Barton affirmed that BPD have been improving waterproofing of building and university drainage systems over the years to withstand weather events like the one experienced.

“This also includes regular maintenance and clearing of gutters, down pipes and storm water pits. We will investigate the locations and causes of the flooding yesterday to see if there is more we can do to prevent future flooding and building damage.”

Students at Monash can only hope that the work to weatherproof buildings that have taken place so far and any potential improvements that come out of the investigation following the severe water damage that buildings experienced will hold up with the threat of further severe weather events occurring as we head into winter.

A sweeper continues work into the following morning to clean up the puddles and debris on a footpath in the Northern Plaza

Photo credits: Corey Rosevear and Jessie Lu

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Student Affairs

Make Education Free Again

Make Education Free Again

For their biggest campaign of 2017, the peak representative body of student unions around Australia, the National Union of Students (NUS), have started a campaign called Make Education Free Again. The campaign will defend the rights of students to accessible education and liveable welfare, fight against the tertiary fee, and demand an end to the enormous debt students are saddled with.

Once upon a sweet time, tertiary education in Australia was completely free (say whaaat). This lasted until 1987 – but it means the very people who are forcing us to pay higher fees and scrape by on poorly funded welfare went to university without paying a cent. Since entering politics, these people have pushed heavily to deregulate university fees. The average annual student contribution rose to $1,800 in 1989, then to $5,183 in 1997, and further to $7,600 in 2014. At the moment, universities can only legally increase fees by a very minor percentage. Deregulation means that Vice Chancellors at Australian universities can make degrees as expensive as they like. This cruelly takes advantage of the limited options many students have in regards to their university course, and a working class that increasingly relies on a tertiary qualification simply to live within ones own means.

While deregulation was first introduced as an idea in 2014, it came after a long history of our government slowly dismantling public funding to education. Recent years have shown scholarship cuts, major cuts to student welfare, and a fee structure that makes university increasingly difficult to access. It is no wonder new research shows that approximately two thirds of university students live below the poverty line. Financial stress is not only a huge deterrent from academic success, but it disproportionately affects indigenous students and students from low-socio economic backgrounds. This issue is simply becoming more devastating for students and families by the day. A tertiary qualification is almost the requisite standard for a job that pays a living wage in Australia. Living in such a world begs the question: why is the cost of a qualification so financially crippling?

While much of the deregulation bill was blocked by Parliament, the idea still remains on the table as some university courses are already being deregulated without much public scrutiny. In 2014 when we were on the brink of a complete fee restructure that would be absolutely devastating for students across the board, NUS along with many other groups of students, launched into action by protesting in the streets. NUS President at the time Rose Steele arranged meetings that successfully convinced a number of independent senators to vote down on the bill. Fee deregulation was turned into a poisonous issue and was defeated in the senate three times. While smaller, lesser-known attacks on education have come into place then, the success student activists had with beating the main fee deregulation bill emphasises the importance of student unionism, political engagement and the effectiveness of taking action.  

The Australian Government consistently implements cuts to education every year, often far from public scrutiny. Being deliberately subtle, they take advantage of an increasingly disengaged and clueless the middle class. This means that there’s seemingly no reason to protest anything – and IT’S A TRAP. Fighting back to this in the form of protesting and activism not only pressures the government, but it spreads the message far and wide that the current government does not stand for us: not for workers, not for families, and certainly not for students.

The Australian Government is also cracking into welfare. Recently, in what has been mostly labelled as a ‘scam’, thousands of dollars of false debt have been added onto Centrelink recipients. Debt notices calculated on faulty algorithms have changed the lives of thousands of people already, forcing them into the stressful task of scrambling through old payslips to prove they don’t owe money. It has been alleged that approximately 20% of the debt notices are inaccurate. There are reports of people paying of debts they don’t owe, just to stop the government hounding them. This illustrates the government’s tactful approach to welfare: make it measly, hard to access, and push as many people off as possible.

In 1974, Gough Whitlam abolished university fees with the belief that “a student’s merit, rather than a parent’s wealth, should decide who should benefit from the community’s vast financial commitment to tertiary education” (from his 1972 pre-election speech). These sentiments still ring true, and that’s why instead of just reacting, we are pushing for positive change.

The National Day of Action is an annual protest organised by NUS that happens on the same day, at the same time, in all major cites around the country. This is what helped students in their major win against fee regulation in 2014, and 2017’s objective is the Make Education Free Again campaign. When thousands hit the streets of cities around the country to fight for our right to affordable and accessible education, we are heard. It is absolutely vital that big numbers of students inform themselves of the completely unacceptable education inequity that this government is getting away with, and get involved with NUS campaigns.

The protest to Make Education Free Again will kick of with a bang on March 22nd at 2pm, at the State Library. There will be a barbeque held on the Menzies lawn at 12pm and a contingent from Monash will be leaving together at 1pm. All are welcome to join – and even if it’s you’re first protest, you will be apart of a large and friendly group who are keen to answer any questions.

To join student activists around the country in fighting for this right for accessible and affordable education, contact your student union about how you can get involved with NUS campaigns at events. At a more local level, the Education Public Affairs Officers or the Environment and Social Justice Officers at the Monash Student Association (MSA), located upstairs in the campus centre, are always willing to speak to students who want to know more about their campaigns or how they can get more involved.

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Student Affairs

Unions are Important: Analysing the National Union of Students (NUS)

Why Unions are Important

The National Union of Students is the peak representative body for undergraduate students who are studying in an Australian university. Its basic aims are to safeguard and progress the interests of students. NUS was established in 1987, having descended from the now-defunct Australian Union of Students (AUS). NUS, via its website, asserts that it seeks to achieve its noble aims by ‘by working with campus-based student organisations, running actions and campaigns, and making sure the voices of students are heard by parliamentarians.’

The need for a national union that protects students is pronounced in the current political and economic environment. Universities are no longer public institutions, but businesses that are run according to the profit motive. In many cases this results in universities around Australia subordinating the tangible interests of students to the demand of profit and capital. This is evident in the frequent course restructurings taking place across Australia (the University of Melbourne example being the most infamous) and the reduction of funding for lecturers, tutors and mental health services. Students are also not immune from Federal government action, who only recently attempted to introduce 100k degrees.

Annually, NUS holds a National Conference in Victoria. Delegates are elected from around Australia to vote on, and thereby determine the policy of the union for the upcoming year. Some of the matters voted on at the 2016 National Conference related to opposing government cuts to welfare and universities, as well as advocating for the introduction of sensible drug policies. Many students also come to witness the proceedings and debate policy about which they are passionate.

The main factions are: Socialist Alternative, Grassroots, National Labor Students, the Independents, Student Unity and The Australian Liberal Students’ Federation. There are also independents who vote individually.

Certainly, conference floor is fertile ground for debate. Each faction has a particular perspective on the issues of the day, and they are accordingly entitled to share this with the supporters of the union. Thorough discussion of these issues allows for each attendee to assume an informed, considered personal position. For the most part, this is a politically stimulating thing.

That isn’t to say that National Conference functions perfectly. Sometimes speaker’s arguments can descend into ad hominem statements, and factional hostilities can get in the way of productive debates. For example, there were a number of times where speaker’s were shouted down from other factions, thereby stultifying legitimate discussion. Moments such as these are contrary to the objectives of a representative student union.

However, it would be wrong to assume that this is a defining characteristic of the union. Indeed, there were times where other factions congratulated one another on creating good policy. One of the more memorable instances of cooperation came after lunch on the third day of the Conference. Students in attendance divided themselves into states, ready to discuss their plans for the National Day of Action (NDA) in March. There were many worthy contributions on how to ensure that the day would be a success, and the spirit of collaboration was palpable. It is with great anticipation that we wait for the NDA, the aim of which is to promote discussion about making university education free again.

NUS is a vital student body that was conceived to protect the interests of now under-siege students. It would be erroneous to expect that the members of the union be in complete consensus on every issue. But, a united and harmonious union is bound to be most successful in pursuing the maintenance and advancement of student rights.  

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