Chancellery’s actions speak louder than words.
Hannah Buchan, President and Jack Buksh, General Secretary
Last week, the University Management held their annual Melbourne Leadership Conference in Torquay. Now, when we first heard that, we honestly were very understanding – after all, I’m sure everyone would enjoy an all-expenses-paid retreat by the beach. We waited and waited for our invitation, but it never came!
Jokes aside, this trip was an inappropriate use of student money and we have a few questions for the University. It’s incredibly disappointing that no students were invited to this exciting beach escapade and weren’t allowed to give any input towards the University’s plans for the year. The University is accountable to us, the students. Student voices need to be at the core of everything the University does.
Our Vice Chancellor even agrees with us – he says that “students are at the heart of everything that we do”, yet this message has not yet gotten through to University policy makers. We see time and time again that the university is very good with what they say, but this doesn’t follow through to their actions.
So, why did the University even go to Torquay in the first place? This conference could have easily been held here on campus, so we are quite concerned that University management travelled all that way because they are afraid of real student feedback. We even created our own beach, here at Parkville to show management that you can have fun at the beach and consult students at the same time! Who thought it could have been done?
UMSU has written to Duncan to express our disappointment in the lack of student representation in University decision making, and to outline our plan to move forward. We are also inviting him to UMSU’s Summerfest day – a perfect opportunity for him to come and meet new and returning students so that he can truly practice what he preaches and let students finally be at the heart of everything the University does.
Please read the letter below, and we will be sure to update you of his response.
Firstly, I hope you and the rest of management are feeling refreshed and invigorated for the new year after the trip to Torquay!
I must admit, we were pretty sad to see everyone go – and we were even more sad that we weren’t invited to come along. As you’ll see in the pictures attached, we did make our own beach here on campus, but no one from management wanted to join us. We had a lot of fun though – it turns out you can go to the beach and still do work, here in Parkville.
UMSU is the voice for students here at university – we’re elected as representatives to ensure that students can be at the forefront of decision making that takes place. While we think it is great that University management have a discussion at the start of the year to set the direction for the year, we also think that students should be included in these conversations.
I noticed that in your interview with The Age, you said that “universities are fundamentally about students” and made it clear that like us, you are also not a believer in universities being run like a business, instead of a proper, public educational institution. As far as UMSU is concerned, the first step towards making students the “raison d’être of universities” is to have students properly consulted on the issues that impact them the most. You say that “students are at the heart of everything that we do”, yet this message doesn’t seem to have gotten through to University policy makers.
I think you could understand where we are coming from, and I hope that your trip to Torquay wasn’t simply because the university is too afraid of student feedback. There are many things that students are concerned about. After your trip we were hoping that you would come back with:
A real plan to assist international students impacted by the travel ban;
Real action to ensure that this campus is safe for all students;
A special consideration policy that accommodates for the needs of students, rather than letting them fall behind;
A way forward to include student voices in University decision making
More funding for student services, especially around counselling and psychological services.