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Congrats – you’ve almost made it through the semester! Now with exams and assignments looming, you have one blessed week of study before it all starts — SWOTVAC. Yikes. A week sounds like a long time but trust us, it will fly by.

Here are some tips on how to survive SWOTVAC and make the most of it.

 

1 — Make a study plan or study calendar

A study plan will help to you manage your time efficiently. Breaking down your workload into small, manageable chunks will make it less overwhelming, and save you from that dreaded night-before cram session. First, figure out when your exams are and allocate time to study for each. Next, identify the topics or subjects you find difficult and stake out time to give them extra attention. Remember — it’s important to actually stick to your study plan so you don’t lose track of what you’re doing!

 

2 — Stay focused, and turn off distractions

We hear you — it’s soo easy to procrastinate or get distracted by scrolling through social media and chatting to friends on messenger, especially while we can’t lock ourselves up in the library at the moment! But, it’s vital to stay focused while you’re studying and not give in to distractions. If you really can’t hold yourself back from checking your phone or tablet when you’re supposed to be studying, try putting it in a far away place and turning it on flight mode, so you’re not tempted to pick it up.

3 — Plan your break times

Studying and understanding the content is the goal, but don’t forget to take regular breaks and rest. Overworking yourself will leave you exhausted, stressed and struggling to get the most out of your study days. For example, you could try a 10-minute break for every hour of studying. This is also a good opportunity to take a break from screen time, especially now that everything is online.

 

4 — Prepare study materials in advance 

SWOTVAC is the time to consolidate what you’ve learned. Now is the time to catch up on lectures, readings and notes, or dig out the academic sources you’ll need before you dive into memorising a semesters worth of content.

 

5 — Eat healthy

A healthy diet is key to unlocking the stamina to power through a 3-hour exam, but when you’re stressed it’s easy to let it fall by the wayside. Make sure you’re eating healthy (fruits, veggies, good fats and protein) and not skipping meals. And hard as it may be, try not to overdo the sugar and caffeine. Sugar crashing can affect your concentration. If you ‘need’ caffeine, try to limit your intake to 1-2 cups a day.

 

6 — Develop a consistent sleep schedule

In a pinch, pulling an all-nighter may seem tempting. But research shows a solid 7-hour night of sleep will have your mind and body operating at their best, and improves information retention. A healthy sleep schedule will also help you wake up for those (objectively evil) early morning online exams.

 

7 — Take care of your wellbeing 

While grades are important, make sure you’re taking care of your mental health and wellbeing. Exercise, do what relaxes you, and reward yourself for your hard work — you deserve it! If you need support, reach out to a friend or loved one for a chat. There’s also the UniMelb CAPS service free for you to access, which is open throughout exam time and semester breaks.

 

You’re almost there! Just a couple more weeks to go. Do your best, but don’t forget your value isn’t dependent on your grades. Always priorities your mental health, and remember that you that you have a strong support system behind you. Good luck and all the best for your exams and assignments!

 

So where are we at?

Since UMSU’s two Student Forums (on April 22nd and May 22nd respectively), there has been no major developments within the Student Precinct project. No spaces have been allocated, no timelines set, and no master-planning architects contracted. As was said at this forums, this is a project that is currently sitting at the start of a very long timeline, and there is seemingly no desire to rush into it/get it wrong.

Food Co Op
UMSU General Secretary Hana and I met with the Food Co Op to discuss their needs within the Student Precinct. We discussed how we might be able to represent the Food Co Op, who are not Steering Group members, at the highest decision making level.
Its important to the Co Op to maintain their independence from UMSU and the whims of student politicians, so we have submitted their needs in the prescribed template, but separately from ours. I will make sure they are included as stakeholders in the reference groups to come over the course of this project.

Food Co Op lovers should feel rest assured knowing that Alex, who is the Director Campus Strategy and at this stage will be very involved in the day to day management of the project, has informed me that she is actually a member of the Food Co Op and hence has an understanding of what it means to be a Food Co Operative.

Student Precinct Steering Group – June 23rd
The Student Precinct Steering Group finally met again, for the second time (the first time being what triggered the first forum). There were a few things to look at, and I added my own long list of agenda items that I felt needed discussing (the forums, the food co op, food and beverage, a student centre update, the architecture studio whose students designed their own student precincts); unfortuantely, in the one hour we had available to us, we didn’t get to discuss many of them… we did have time enough to acknowledge that one hour once every two months is just not enough.

From the outset of this meeting, it looked as if we were close to amending and adopting proposed terms of reference for the Steering Group and stages for the project. I asked for clarification around the meaning of some of the stages to come, including Precinct Planning (which is to be the master-planning of the precinct, and allocation of space), Staging Plan (who moves when based on need and location), Design Development (consultation on specific projects in specific spaces).

I also clarified that we the Steering Group will have approval authority over every planning stage. I asked that each of these separate approval authorities be explicitly added to the Terms of Reference before we vote to adopt them.

The Head of University Services Paul Duldig then presented about the concept of “co-creation”, a model that was employed at the University of Adelaide in his time there to create a new student study space called the Hub.
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The University and students as a whole co-created the new space- with most of the exploratory, consultative work being done by a committee of students with some University staff. This committee then made recommendations to the Project Steering Group which, like ours, was made up of University chancellery members with not enough spare time to invest into looking at the nitty gritty of the project, but trusted the recommendations put to it by the committee. As Paul pointed out to staff, ‘you’re not the demographic’.

This idea was received favourably by the Steering Group who want to consider this model further.
Eoin, the Chancellery Communications Advisor, said this would be a great first project for the University’s upcoming participation website ( which will follow along the lines of City of Melbourne’s Participate platform).
After my many voiced frustrations throughout this process and insistence that students need to play a larger role (which Paul has supported), I’m relieved to see this is finally being made a priority (although disappointingly it was something that staff needed to hear from within).

In light of all of this new information, it was decided that we couldn’t confirm the proposed terms of reference and stages just yet, and more work would be done exploring co-creation prior to the next Steering Group.

Performing Arts Audit

We were informed on Monday that the University is writing a brief to engage a Performing Arts specialist, to audit the performing arts facilities and venues (including North Court). The goal is to establish the extent and nature of the use of those venues and facilities. We remain adamant that we should not be separated from any of our UMSU services.

It’s been a little bit too hectic these past two weeks to get to a Week 6 Wrap Up- so here’s two for the price of one! (that price being $0 + the time it takes you to read this).

Much of the last two week has been taken up with organising the Student Forum: A New Union House?, which some of you may have attended on Wednesday night. This involved *deep breath* working with Comms to develop the branding for the event (which I am going to recommend be used in an ongoing basis for UMSU consultation), the Facebook event, dealing with some of the conflicting ideas that began to emerge around the focus of the event (including clarifying this to the University), liaising with the University Steering Group Chair around who would attend on behalf of the University, responding to comments on social media, compiling a list of FAQs, planning the presentation, creating the slideshow and fact checking every piece of “known” information. Phew.

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The event went well (apart from when my throat went dry and I had to leave the stage for water), and many students expressed that they feel far better informed about the very preliminary stages of this process, so win-win. The University was also able to hear directly from the student community about their concerns and feelings, and see for themselves the importance we all place upon our student spaces. If you missed the event, Daphane from unimelb adventures posted a recap here:  https://storify.com/daphane_ng/student-forum

Post- event, I have uploaded our list of needs (the ones submitted to the University) to our website for students to view and make suggestions if needed. 

The next Student Precinct Steering Group meeting is not until late May.

 

I helped Rory, from our Burnley campus, use UMSU funding to put on a Burnley Mid Semester Event. The Burnley Campus doesn’t currently have an UMSU Rep, but we put aside a budget line at the start of the year specifically for non-Parkville events, which we were able to use to spread the UMSU love beyond the boundaries of Parkville and VCA.  I helped Rory liaise with our Communications department, and as  you can see, Rory is quite the wordsmith :

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It is fantastic that UMSU is able to reach students down at Burnley, and that this student felt comfortable approaching UMSU, as I encouraged them to do at their Orientation.

 

I’ve  been making inquiries around the idea of holding a Second hand market in North Court in Week 12. There is a lot of student interest in this idea. If you’re reading this and this interests you, shoot me an email at r.withers@union.unimelb.edu.au

 

I’ve been on a little bit of a college tour these past two weeks, to speak to them about UMSU, and encourage college students to come and get involved in some of the wondrous things that UMSU offers. I have so far been to St Mary’s, St Hilda’s, Whitley, Medley Hall and International House. Their presidents have been very welcoming in allowing me to promote UMSU to their students. Plus I’ve gotten to wear a hall gown to formal dinners!

I spoke specifically to Olivia the President of Whitley College about the fact the Baptist Union that owns Whitley is considering closing it as a college and turning Whitley into a theological school. This would be a great tragedy in my eyes, and I expressed this directly to Glyn Davis in the hope that the University might consider buying Whitley (in light of the University’s desire to acquire more accommodation options, to lose these beds seems counterproductive).

 

 I also attended Academic Board at which the VC mentioned an upcoming meeting with the Metro CEO regarding the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel- and specifically the Parkville Station (!!!). I have emailed Glyn asking if I might attend this meeting as a student representative, given how much of an impact this station will have on students, and he has offered to ask the Metro CEO to include me in this meeting.

 

What a week.

Until next time.

 

Thank you to everyone who came to the Student Forum last night. As discussed, this is the document that UMSU submitted to the University to begin the process of expressing our space needs to them, and is a work in progress.

 

Feedback from all students is welcome, please email it to UMSUnewunionhouse@gmail.com

Student Precinct UMSU Needs (public 23.04.15)

There’s been a lot of questions raised in the past week around UMSU’s move to a new location on campus.

Here are some of the facts:

Ownership of the Building

Union House is a University of Melbourne building. The University has entered into an agreement with MUSUL Services (a wholly University-owned subsidiary, that is independent from UMSU) that means that MUSUL has responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the facility. The University continues to have some responsibility for bearing the costs of maintaining Union House. MUSUL Services does not pay rent to the University. UMSU occupies space in Union House by agreement with MUSUL Services. UMSU and MUSUL Services have separate roles and organisational structures. UMSU does not pay rent to MUSUL Services to occupy or use space in Union House.

Asbestos

In 2012, the presence of asbestos was discovered in Union House. MUSUL Services and the University closed parts of the building while further investigations were undertaken and the potential for exposure to asbestos was reduced. As part of this process significant sections of the building have been deemed to contain hazardous materials. There is no immediate safety issue but protocols have been put in place to ensure that future exposure to asbestos or other hazardous materials does not occur.

Retail Tenancies

MUSUL Services is the landlord in Union House. All commercial tenancies, including the Food Co-op, are leased from MUSUL Services. Rental income is a significant source of income for MUSUL Services. UMSU receives no income derived from MUSUL Services’ commercial activities.

Student Accommodation

The University of Melbourne has identified the development of increased availability of affordable student housing as a strategic priority. Accordingly, the University has targeted a significant expansion of the number of beds available for student accommodation by 2020. The University has earmarked the site currently occupied by Union House for potential development of student accommodation.

Where is UMSU going?

It’s not yet set in stone where UMSU will be located, however there is no circumstance under which UMSU will be left without a building on campus. The University has repeatedly expressed its desire to improve student experience and services, and do not see Union House as the optimal location for the Student Union. At this stage it seems most likely that UMSU will receive a space in the new “Student Precinct”, which will occupy the corner of Grattan St and Swanston St, alongside the Graduate Student Association, Student Wellbeing, the Student Centre and other University-run student services. This project is in the early stages, and both UMSU and the GSA are involved in these discussions.

Are our current facilities sufficient for UMSU?

There are heaps of things we love about Union House – its amazing history, the Info Desk, the wonderful Theatre productions and community, as well as the close proximity of coffee.

There are also some long standing issues with Union House – things are hard to find due to the current arrangement of space within the building. Anyone who’s ever had to find the Clubs Office will know that getting there is not straight forward!

We’re also unable to do significant building works – meaning that we can’t upgrade technology as quickly as we would like, to support new services and activities. There are lots of areas in the building that don’t have adequate ventilation, heating and cooling. Space is also an issue – and moving should enable us to have more storage and adequate office space, and to cater properly for our new Radio station and new volunteering programmes. Even though there are good things in the building, the limitations on space and how it is used means that there are things we would like to do but we just can’t.

So what is already decided?

At this stage, the Co-op Bookshop and the all-Faculty Student Centre will be located on Level 1 of the 757 Building (on the corner of Swanston St and Grattan St). The bookshop will take the Swanston St side of the building, while the main student service centre will fill the other half of the level. The levels directly above this will house the administrative support staff for this student centre. Work is already underway on this area which is expected to be completed mid-2015.

UMSU has long expressed concerns to the University over the ability of a single main student service point, and the size of the space allocated for this activity. The intention is that the majority of student inquiry will be handled online or over the phone by 13 MELB.

Health & Wellbeing need to relocated from Cardigan St to this precinct by early 2016. No location has yet been determined for these services.

What about food?

The University has expressed its desire for food to be more spread out around campus. The University engaged a food consultant, Brain & Poulter, to advise on the optimal spread and placement of food outlets on campus. Brain & Poulter advised the University that food is currently inappropriately distributed on this campus, with a large percentage of options located in a small percentage of space. UMSU will be circulating its own survey regarding food preferences on campus for you to share your views.

How can I find out more?

Come along to the Student Forum on Wednesday 22nd April at 5pm in Union Theatre. Staff will be attending on behalf of the University to answer your questions. Also make sure you read Office Bearer Reports in Farrago each month, and check the council minutes for more detailed Office Bearer Reports, to keep up to date with this kind of news.

Facebook events:

Social Media:

If you can’t make it, search for #UMSUforum hashtag for live updates!

UMSU never sleeps… Many of your office bearers have been hard at work in the office this week- there was even some outrage at the fact Union House was closed on Tuesday, leaving us locked out of our offices and away from our precious work (I for one enjoyed answering emails in my dressing gown at home, and will be incorporating the dressing gown into my everyday office routine).

This quiet week has been a great chance to catch up on emails that sometimes slip through the cracks- if you ever want to contact me, the best way to get in touch is r.withers@union.unimelb.edu.au.

This week I got some solid planning done for the Week 7 Student Forum on the new future Union House space. You should seem some posters (which look great and were not made in Paint thanks to the UMSU Communications Department) going up around campus next week for it, as well as a Facebook event to come. I have invited a few members of the University Steering Group to this event, so that you can direct some of your “what does this mean/why is this happening??” questions at them. Vanessa Campbell who is in charge of securing more varied type of student accommodation for and around the University will also be joining us to give a run down on this project. Remember this is on Wednesday 22nd April at 5pm in Union Theatre.

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I also had some discussions around Volunteering Programs, and Volunteering in general within UMSU. Students are always asking how they can do more volunteering, and we’re trying to to bring this side of the Union to life. Look out for directorship roles and opportunities over the coming weeks.

Diversity Week will also be coming back this year! We’re currently deciding which week to lock it in for, but if you’re interested in being involved in the planning and running of Diversity Week, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.

I also wrote OB Reports, read financial reports, uncovered an issue with an Academic Misconduct Hearing I will be hearing on Monday and did many other mundane tasks (IN BETWEEN ALL THE EXCITING ONES).

It’s been sad not having everyone on campus, but I’m looking forward to next week- from E*Week (Engineering Week) to a Birdwatching Society movie screening to trivia nights to pub nights to Pirates Cruise to Masters Ball to a Life Size Cluedo Picnic, next weeks is going to be just a little bit hectic!

Events, as always, can be found here. See you at an event or 5!

Four day week! (OK five if you count writing this post)

So what have I been up to this week?

First thing Monday morning I sent off an email to our VC Glyn Davis about the reduced library opening hours at Burnley this semester. Many students had been in contact with me or the staff at Burnley about this, and were rightly quite upset to have their already short library opening hours cut further. Amazingly, by Tuesday afternoon Burnley students received an email letting them know their 2014 hours had been restored, so well done to every student who made their dissent known.

Tuesday I sat on a University Staff Awards for Excellence Selection Committee as the student representative. There were some amazing applicants for these awards- I was asked to do the close reading of applications for the Edward Brown Award for Teaching Excellence in the fields of: Architecture, Engineering, and Economics, Commerce and Business, and it was great to read in close detail about some of the well-loved, passionate teachers in this university (whether I understood the Architecture concepts or not). It was a shame only one award could be awarded per category, because there were many outstanding candidates in some fields.

I had been really looking forward to Wednesday’s “What The Feminism?” panel and was glad I found the time to make it! There were some great panelists who spoke about their journey to feminism and some of the overwhelming frustrations that came with being a feminist. The event was open to all genders, and it was great to see a few men come along to hear from three great feminists. Afterwards I swung by the Engineering Students Club event Beer ‘n’ Chips, but was unsurprised to learn that the chips had run out- you have to be fast at Beer ‘n’ Chips.

Wednesday evening was Activities Trivia, and one of the biggest we’ve had in some time! Trivia was up in the Grand Buffet Hall, which is my second favourite space in the entirety of Union House (after North Court of course). Our “Union Thugs” team of UMSU peeps came tied first- FIRST TIME I’VE EVER WON AT TRIVIA! There were also some solid lip sync performances in the between-round Lip Sync Competition (not to mention a fantastic performance of “I Touch Myself” by The Divinyls from Union Thugs) and a great red cup stacking rivalry.

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Members of the Union Thugs team

Thursday was not the easiest day of the week (see red cup stacking), but the promise of a long weekend got me through. I met with Vanessa Campbell who is coordinating the University’s Accommodation Portfolio- the Uni is aiming to increase its bed numbers so that it can offer an accommodation guarantee to international, interstate and regional students, as some other universities are. We spoke about the current project of turning the old Salvation Army Training College on Royal Parade into student accommodation- a more independent option to that of a college, with individual rooms but shared cooking spaces and lounge spaces.
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We held the first Operations Sub-Committee for 2015, which is the meeting of the sub-committee of Students Council with delegated powers to authorise expenditure. UMSU General Secretary Hana chaired the meeting, while I took minutes. I also started really nutting out the details for the upcoming Student Forum on the future of Union House (spoiler: it’s on its way out). We’re going to be moving into a new space somewhere on campus at some point in the medium term, and I want to make sure that a) students understand what is happening, b) feel consulted and c) that I am doing my best to represent students in the Student Precinct Steering Group I sit upon. The first stage of this will be an evening session in Union Theatre on Wednesday April 22nd at 5pm, outlining where this process is at, and allowing plenty of time for questions- no matter what they might be! We’ll also be setting up an online ideas inbox for students like you to contribute their feedback and feelings about a student precinct on campus.

I also swung by Science Students Society event Kegs ‘n’ Sun (where there may not have been sun but there were JUMPING CASTLES) and grabbed myself a sausage- really, would my Thursday have been complete without sausage?

Rebecca from the NTEU unimelb branch invited us to a Public Forum on Deregulation with the Vice Chancellor and Adam Bandt on Thursday 16th April, which I can’t wait for. I’ll be promoting it through social media next week, but if you’re super keen (keen enough to be reading this blog anyway) you can grab yourself a spot here . I hope to see many of you there!

Have a great Easter and a relaxing midsemester break!

Rach

Well, we are one third of the way through semester! (See, Arts students can do maths)

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve crammed enough work/new friends/beers to last me a WHOLE semester.

The first three days of this week were spent trying to be in two places at once: the UMSU offices and a conference that I was invited to attend with university in order to try to find some more innovative solutions to the planning of the new Student Precinct that’s slowly but surely coming to this campus. The Equity Innovation Conference was all about adapting effectively to the scary, super technological future, and thinking innovatively about challenges. The Swinburne Vice-Chancellor, Linda Kristjanson, was on one panel and talked about the future of universities, and the fact that many more people are opting to learn online (Lindsay Tanner was also on this panel, leading to slight fan girl moment for myself and uni’s Head of Waste Management, Judith Alcorn, but that’s another story).

I rushed back from the conference on Monday to make (firstly) the University Selection Procedures Committee and (secondly) the Building and Estates Committee. Long discussion was held around the university’s Accommodation Plan, with a goal to add 2000 extra beds to the University’s accommodation offering, so that students new to Melbourne can always find somewhere quality to live with ease.

Tuesday started again with conference fun times, but I couldn’t stay long because I needed to make Students’ Council (aka the funnest event of the fortnight). I managed to grab a sneaky snag and a sneaky laugh at the UMSU Tuesday BBQ (with stand up comedy!) before heading to the Student Reference Group, where UMSU Education Officer Nellie, UMSU General-Secretary Hana and I raised some of the most pressing issues facing students within the university. If you ever have any issues with your studies, we have semi-regular forums in which to raise these with people very high up in the university—don’t hesitate to email the Education Officers at educationacademic@union.unimelb.edu.au. They want to know what’s affecting you!

We had a great crafternoon up in the UMSU offices, painting banners and making signs. I was tempted to stop this banner at “<3 STUD” but decided against it and eventually added the “-ENTS”. 11080927_10152602121506899_7838758732532238560_n

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That evening was UMSU Activities Cocktail Party. Cocktails, dancing, meeting friends… ‘nuf said. I have to say, I wasn’t feeling so fresh Wednesday morning….

Wednesday was the long awaited National Union of Students’ National Day of Action: students from universities across Victoria assembled in Melbourne (as did students in other capitals) to make their dissent against all the attempted (and failed) changes to higher education known. We marched down from uni with our UMSU contingent and met with students from Monash, Swinburne, La Trobe, RMIT, Victoria University and other people passionate about higher education in Australia outside the state library.

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From whistles to trumpets to hilarious impromptu chants, it was a very student-y feeling protest.

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(If you look closely, you can see my banner on the right!)

Thursday was entirely taken up for me by CLUBS CARNIVAL! There were about 40 clubs out on Union Lawns cooking BBQs, tasting beer, playing games, facepainting, plus the UMSU stall giving out free popcorn! The Fodder (UMSU student radio) was also live broadcasting (we had a good sing along to Blank Space at the end of the carnival).
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Here is a picture of me eating frozen yoghurt straight out of the machine hired by UMSU club Marketing Intelligence (AFTER they’d stopped serving to the public)

UMSU President Rachel Withers eating frozen yoghurt and looking up at a bottle of chocolate sauce.

On Friday, I attended an UMSU International Central Committee Meeting and heard a bit more about the organisation of some of their events over the last 8 months and some of their events coming up! Get very excited for Night Market, coming soon!

UMSU International will be holding elections in May for their new committee; keep an eye on the UMSU International website section for more details if you’re interested in running!

And that was my ridiculous week. This weekend I’m going to get some desperately needed sleep… hope you have a good one!