I am a student without a university. While O-Week should be a time of excessive drinking and initiating jaffys (through excessive drinking), for Gippsland Campus it was a week of mourning. Monash has made it very clear our needs are far outweighed by the image of profitability the University wants to portray. And despite the scoffs I hear and read from some of our Clayton brethren, this is not something that we can ignore.
Nor should we. The lack of transparency in this proposed merger has served to remind us that, above all, Monash University is still a business first, and an educational-provider second. As soon as one area is deemed to be unprofitable, it is excised from the Monash name.
This has been happening for years now. Last year, our IT faculty quietly dissolved into the ether. So quietly in fact, that we were still enthusing local students about Monash being the only Group of Eight university with a dedicated IT faculty. Some staff members were actually oblivious to a whole faculty disappearing overnight.
This included staff of the IT faculty. Last year, when asked why the computers were being removed from the faculty, one lecturer replied it was obviously upgrades he hadn’t been informed about. It wasn’t until much later that confused students and staff received an email saying that IT was no longer offered.
Music, journalism and the journalism/science double degree received the same treatment. No key stakeholders were consulted, and the interests of staff, students and the community (which employs many Gippsland graduates), completely disregarded.
Just as current students are now, we were promised that we would not be affected; that the remainder of our degrees would be taught out on campus. Ironically, this semester Journalism Ethics, a core unit for second/third year students, can’t be run because “enrolments were too low’” This despite hiring someone especially to teach the unit, after veteran journalist Louise North left in protest.
Similarly, students studying communications were surprised this week to find out that their classes were no longer on campus. Not via email, but by arriving at an empty room, only to be informed after visiting the faculty their classes were online.
Most disappointingly is how the staff have been treated in this PR disaster. Firstly, they were informed of the ‘merger’ by morning radio. When an official meeting was finally held later that day, no questions surrounding their future employment could be answered. These changes have been proposed to come into effect next year, but Monash cannot even guarantee the course structure, let alone which faculties and departments will be kept under the new banner. Hundreds of staff members may be out of work by next year.
And now we risk losing Monash University Gippsland Student Union (MUGSU) as well. Throughout this debacle, MUGSU have been the only ones who have fought for the rights of students and our interests, keeping us informed while Monash deemed it ‘unnecessary’. When journalism was on the chopping block, MUGSU were the only ones who thought it appropriate to gauge the opinion of students, staff and the community before a decision was passed.
But, like our fight to keep our courses on campus, our fight to keep a union seems futile. The University of Ballarat decided that the interests of students were best represented by the university, and no doubt Monash will be all too happy to follow suit.
MUGSU has been a thorn in the side of the corporate heads for too long. The simultaneous loss of both our student representation and uni parties will undoubtedly crush morale to the point where we won’t notice that we are now at one of the lowest ranked universities in Australia. Goodbye research, ATAR minimums and any chance of future employment.
So why publish this in Lot’s Wife? Why should Clayton care about the plights of its bogan brother? We may be a small university, but we are united by our thirst for knowledge. And now, within the year, over 20 years of community spirit will be lost.
You should care, because this ‘merger’ proves Monash’s ambivalence to the interests of students, and the lack of foresight in their decisions. Their only objective is unloading an unprofitable appendage, and UB will be left to deal with disenfranchised students and staff.
Clayton may be a bigger campus, but that only allows them more space to go unchecked. We need to remain vigilant and critically question every decision Monash makes, especially the ones made behind closed doors.