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Open letter to Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell — 21 August 2020

Today, Hannah will be sending the Vice-Chancellor an email detailing UMSU’s major concerns around the adequacy of the Emergency Support Fund scheme to mitigate the worst impacts of the pandemic on students. Given the urgency of the issue for those students who are in desperate need of financial support for essentials like buying food and making rent payments, we need your continued support to demonstrate to the University the need for urgent action.

We need you to show the University that our voices are important.
🚨 SIGN THE PETITION 🚨 and join the fight: 

https://www.megaphone.org.au/p/greaterfinancialsupportforst…

Dear Duncan,

 

I hope you are well.

 

I am writing to you in the hope that you can review recent University decisions relating to the extension of the Emergency Support Fund (ESF) in Semester 2.

 

While we welcome the announcement that this program will be extended we have deep concerns about the adequacy of this scheme to mitigate the worst impacts of the pandemic on students.  I am aware of reports of your recent comments expressing your own concerns about the impact of the pandemic, and associated lockdowns, will have on young people.  Given our shared concerns in this regard I hope that you will ensure that the ESF provides meaningful and real support to students in need.

 

Our major concerns are:
  • The limits, across the whole year, on total funding available to students that are imposed without reference to the actual hardship experienced by students.  Given the cumulative impact of the pandemic and Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne on top of the internationally worsening situation, the $7 500 limit on students will not be sufficient to address the financial impacts on many students.
  • The blanket ineligibility for students receiving Centrelink payments without reference to whether they are able to demonstrate financial hardship.
  • The University’s refusal to consider using fee relief as a means of addressing financial hardship.  When UMSU proposed that the University could reduce the financial stress on international students and their families by using the same quantum of funding available under the ESF to reduce course fees, the University responded by advising that the ESF was designed to assist students in meeting the costs of living and not to reduce tuition fees.  UMSU is deeply concerned that the University would take such a narrow view about students’ lives.  Clearly, the requirement to pay fees will, for many students, have an impact on students’ capacity to meet the ordinary costs of living.  I hope that you can take appropriate action to address this kind of thinking.

 

I am asking you to:
  • Remove the $7 500 cap on ESF payments and allow eligible students to claim up to $7 500 in Semester 2.
  • Allow students who are in receipt of Centrelink payments and who can demonstrate financial hardship to make applications to the ESF.
  • Allow eligible students to apply ESF funds to reduce their fee liabilities.

 

I am sure you share my concern about the impact of the pandemic on students.  These actions are necessary to avoid potentially catastrophic impacts on students.

 

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Best wishes,
Hannah
UMSU President