A Farcical Farewell Fiasco

$127,134. One-hundred-and-twenty-seven-thousand-one-hundred-and-thirty-four dollars. To put this into perspective, that is more than double the median annual personal income in Australia, $54,890, it could cover the costs of aBachelor of Arts course (with honours) at Monash, coming to $121,600 using fees dated to 2024; pay the annual parking fees of 157 people parking in the blue permit zone five days a week, a cost of $806; or pay the salaries of three casual employees working for Monash.

It does beg the question, during a cost of living crisis what precisely did the University spend $127,000 on? Being an education institution one may presume it was spent on improving teaching conditions for staff and learning conditions for students. And as reasonable a deduction that may be, it does beg the question when has a managerial bureaucracy ever employed reason, let alone logic in their decision-making, particularly those of a financial nature.

The truth in the matter is that this one-hundred-and-twenty-seven-thousand dollar splurge was not spent on students but rather – as reported by The Age on March 5 – on a black tie dinner at the National Gallery of Victoria in July 2023, to give our former Vice-Chancellor and now Governor of Victoria Margaret Gardner a last hurrah complete with all the trimmings: a three-course meal, one of Gardner’s favourite musicians, and a guest list featuring many notable names from around the state.


In short, this exorbitant affair can only be described as completely lacking in self-awareness, and students and staff alike ought to be livid that it happened at all. For at the same time, Monash is slashing student amenities before our eyes, upping the price of parking, robbing staff of their deserved salaries, and crying poor to the Australian University Accords alongside other Group of Eight members.

All these actions in the name of supposed frugality, yet they decide that a celebration of this magnitude is entirely appropriate. It merely cements what all these cuts actually mean, Monash has no care for its students, so long as they can report a profit – and that should anger not only students but staff as well.

It is the height of ignorance that Monash would choose to spend its money like this at a time where it claims it is too strapped for cash to keep the Matheson Library open until midnight, let alone the HA Library open until 8:00pm, or for that matter repair the N1 elevator which has broken down for what seems like the umpteenth time in the last year. And then when we ponder about the cost-cutting that prevails in the delivery of the degrees we pay for – the digitisation of lectures, increased class sizes, cuts to unit offerings, to name but a few instances – we are forced to remind ourselves that this is a university, not a corporation transfixed on posting the highest profit margin possible.


Without the faintest shadow of a doubt though, the ones who ought to be harbouring anger towards University management for this egregious decision are its staff. Not only are they the ones doing the hard work, but they are the main point of interaction with Monash for many students. And how are they rewarded?

The answer is rather straightforward: Not well enough! Not only are Monash’s beleaguered staff kept in a position of constant uncertainty as the majority are forced to re-apply for their fixed-term or casual contracts as frequently as every six months, but over 4,500 of them have had their wages stolen – amounting to more than 10 million dollars – by the University refusing to acknowledge the extent of work staff put into their jobs.

With all of this in mind it’s no wonder staff are at breaking point. The Monash University Enterprise Agreement expired in mid-2022 and now nearly two years later the University and its staff are still yet to come to an agreement to give staff a better arrangement than the one that currently exists. And yet somehow despite their reluctance to spend more on the very life-blood of this institution, they can justify an expense worth the wages of three casual staff members in the blink of an eye – in short it is an insult to Monash’s hardworking staff, who deserve better.


How the University can continue down this path of needless cost-cutting and fragrant disregard for the needs of its staff and students is beyond me. In the meantime we should all be demanding better, for clearly Monash has money to spend!

Angus Duske

The author Angus Duske

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