Early Friday morning, The Australian published an article about an UMSU workshop called ‘How Privilege Manifests in Tutorials’ (HPMIT). The article contained a number of inaccuracies and misrepresentations, so I’d like to take a moment to clarify the purpose of these workshops and the context around them.

These workshops ran as part of The University of Melbourne’s Diversity Week and Respect Week programs and provided students with the opportunity to discuss their own experience of being in classes and tutorials. Beyond that, students are encouraged to question the status quo and apply rigorous critical practice to their own lives and personal situations.

The HPMIT workshops explore how university spaces can be inaccessible to students and the ways in which unconscious bias affects their experiences. All students should be given an equal opportunity to participate in any university space. HPMIT addresses the gap between this ideal and the reality faced by students. The workshops allow students and tutors to discuss their experience and strategies in tutorial and seminar settings.

Despite what was published in The Australian, no male students have been instructed to modify their behaviour on campus. University staff have not received recommendations as a result of these workshops.

The outcomes and discussions in these workshops are a reflection of the experiences of UMSU’s constituents. It was attended by students across a number of faculties: arts, science, medicine, architecture; by both undergraduate and postgraduate students; by both local and international students. Across all these differences, the majority of attendees at the workshop felt that at one point or the other, they had been unheard or unable to speak in a tutorial. This is an important issue which should not be ignored, and is part of bigger questions of equity and accessibility in university spaces.

These workshops enabled students to share their own experiences, but also to suggest solutions to some of the problems that arise in the tutorial setting. These solutions include:

    • Acknowledging country at the first tutorial in a subject
    • Negotiating as a class the expectations, models and tools for the space (for both students and tutors)
    • Making sure mental health, special consideration and support services are properly represented to students
    • Providing tutors with more extensive training, including cultural awareness training
    • Teaching strategies, including: asking questions and letting students write down answers/think about question for a minute before returning to a group discussion; considering more activities in which roles are reversed and students are empowered to lead aspects of tutorial discussion

As students, we are recognised by the University’s governing legislation as constituent members of an academic and social community. We have a right to reflect on the academic experience of our peers, as well as the quality and accessibility of teaching practices. When students feel discouraged from participating or have their voices ignored in discussion, they are hindered from making the most of their education.

UMSU’s goal is to support students of all backgrounds while they are studying and, as such, will continue to offer services that allow students to be their best.

When students share their experiences of life at the University, we think it is important to listen to what those students have to say and to respond in a constructive way. If students say that they feel that they have been unable to speak in a tutorial or that they are marginalised by the conduct of other students should we, as students, respond by entrenching and reinforcing that experience, or should we acknowledge that experience and contribute to the development of a thriving academic and social community?

For UMSU, the answer is clear.

Yan Zhuang
UMSU President

Sometimes, it’s fun to imagine that the pursuit of your education is like a grand quest in the tradition of Lord of the Rings (especially if you are trying to procrastinate). After all, you are after that precious (a.k.a your degree).

Sometimes in pursuit of precious, you might encounter some obstacles much like Frodo did on his way to Mordor (especially if like Frodo you’re not wearing shoes). In the case of illness, orcs, events outside of your control or creepy ghost horses with skeleton riders on their back chasing you, there’s an amulet with restorative powers that may help. Legend foretells of the online form called Special Consideration.

Its specialness derives from its ability to delay the time and date of an exam or to grant a late withdrawal. But, the amulet is not automatically granted.

There is a special time period where the amulet is accessible (up to 4 days after the date of your exam) and requires special supporting documentation to obtain (usually an HPR form or letter completed by a registered health professional).

If the elders at SEDS reject your application, you can ask them to review it. If they still refuse to give you the amulet, you might have grounds to take it up with the Fellowship of the Ring (a.k.a the Academic Registrar).

Wanna find out more? Click here.

There’s something really satisfying about watching Jim Carey over-enunciate and over-emote his lines in Liar Liar. Particularly “I object!”.

It’d be great to have that recording on your phone when you’re at Union House ordering two curries and rice and the ratio of juice/curry to rice is #sad or when the library only has 2 copies of the first book that appears in your week’s reading list in a class of 150 students.

The same impulse may emerge when you get your marks back from an assessment you submitted or an exam. If you do, there’s a couple of things to note. You can request feedback on how you sized up against the marking rubric or assessment criteria (usually found in your subject outline). Note that you’re entitled to seek feedback but you’re not entitled to get remarked just for any reason. You actually need to make a case for it.

So, here comes the technical boring bit that I need you to focus on for a wee bit. I promise to make it worth your while. Ok, so you can request a review of your mark on either academic judgement or procedural issues.

The first means that you’re getting the department’s academic opinion about your work and whether it was marked correctly in reference to said rubric/criteria.

The second relates to whether the department followed the University’s assessment policies. Be warned: if you are successful in getting the department to look at your work again, there are three possible outcomes. That you get a higher mark. That you get the same mark. That you get a lower mark. Yep, you read correctly. Just keep in mind that some disputes are worth pursuing and some become planet vampires that suck your energy with their own gravitational pull.

If you’d like to get some advice about it, contact the Advocacy Service. Ok, I said I would make it worth your while.

Click here for kittens and puppies.

Remember when in year nine your Insta was so on point? You were the first to post an artsy photo of The Hunger Games movie tix, the first to rock sepia-toned photos of St Kilda beach because nature and beauty and the first to post a three-part photo series showing people’s hands on their laps riding on public transport?

So deep.

And then what’s-their-name in your year started to copy everything you posted…even the retrospective of hands on public transport. Such a copycat. You felt angry that someone was stealing your brilliance and originality. How dare they. And some stupid adult said something about imitation being the highest form of flattery. Stupid adults with clichéd words of advice.

Well, to labour the point ad nauseam, the same does not apply in academia.

In these hallowed halls of knowledge, if you intentionally or unintentionally copy another student’s work, or stuff off the interwebs or from some know-it-all expert bloke or lady in a journal article or book, you will very probably be found out by either Turnitin or the actual tutor correcting your work. The University takes this as seriously as you did you Insta back then.

So, in this crazy world of footnotes and acknowledging your sources, what to do? Well, first off, familiarise yourself with the rules. Second, make sure you reference the crap out of everything in text via footnotes or endnotes AND in your reference list/bibliography at the end. Don’t know where to begin? Ask a friendly librarian what referencing style is used in your faculty.  Thirdly, if you do get into trouble, seek help from the Advocacy Service. Pronto.


This post was brought to you by the UMSU Advocacy Service.

They have a combined educational experience of approximately 500 years. Their collective HECS debt is zero per cent of your business. They call themselves ‘the justice league of UMSU’ (they have a poster on their wall to prove it). They are: the most interesting advocates in the world*.

*They are very likely not the most interesting advocates in the world.

The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) is deeply disappointed to see that that young people and society’s most vulnerable were not the Government’s priorities in this Federal Budget.

Young people today face unprecedented challenges to financial stability. Graduate employment prospects are at an all-time low, having fallen from 88% to 68% in the last thirty years. We are being priced out of the house market while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Despite this, the Government has decided to hand down a budget that will exacerbate student hardships while providing tax cuts to big businesses. This budget illustrates just how the Government perceives young people – as a source of revenue, dole bludgers and drug addicts, rather than an integral aspect of the nation’s future. It shows just how out of touch the Government is with young people and their needs.

These are the areas of the budget that will hit students the hardest:

University fee increases

The rise in course fees for students means that for a four-year course, a student may need to pay an additional $3,600. It is ridiculous to expect students to pay more for a degree in an economy where they are increasingly worthless. Graduate outcomes have continued to fall and graduates face a hostile job market. Increasing university fees in our current economic climate is student exploitation.

The lowering of the HECS repayment threshold from $54,869 per annum to $42,000 will require students to repay their loans sooner and adversely affect students trying to achieve financial security in an unstable job market. It will drag almost 200,000 extra graduates into the repayment system. On top of this, the 2.5% cut in University funding programs will reduce the quality of education while encouraging institutions to increase student fees to make up the difference. We have seen time after time that funding cuts to universities lead to bigger class sizes, more staff redundancies and less available resources and support services for students. This instance will be no different. 

These measures will disproportionately affect students from already disadvantaged backgrounds at a time when students face higher costs of living than ever before. By increasing the barriers to higher education, students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, rural students, and more will be priced out of attending university.

Furthermore, by increasing fees for New Zealand and Australian permanent residents, an integral part of our student cohort will be discouraged to study in Australia. UMSU has already spoken to multiple students who are reconsidering doing further study in Australia because of these changes. 

Changes to allocation of Commonwealth Supported Places

We are deeply concerned about what the changes to the allocation of Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) will mean for University of Melbourne students. The cuts to CSP places and the potential for changing scholarship criteria from year to year will create massive amounts of uncertainty for current undergraduate students.

It seems that students will be faced with a choice between doing postgraduate study at an exorbitant cost they hadn’t anticipated, or risk being unable to find a job with only a bachelor’s degree – a choice they never signed up to make.

These changes also have the potential to significantly discourage postgraduate study and disrupt the foundations of the University of Melbourne. The premise of the Melbourne Model is that students do a general undergraduate degree, followed by a specialised postgraduate degree, combined in one holistic package. New measures which increase the cost of these types of degrees will significantly lower their desirability. In an increasingly competitive market where a postgraduate degree is a requirement for many jobs, UMSU condemns any measure to discourage postgraduate study.

UMSU is heartened to see that the University of Melbourne has come out in opposition to higher education measures that will leave students worse off.

Welfare measures

The proposed measures to “crack down on dole bludgers” will require students to jump through yet more unnecessary hoops. The move to a demerits system assumes that young people cannot be trusted to do the right thing on their own. It ignores any number of reasons why someone might not be able to fulfil their requirements – e.g. health reasons or having a disability. To impose a condition that someone must take any job they are offered, lest their payments be cut for four weeks, will force people to accept any manner of work even if it is unsuitable for them.

The proposed random drug testing of welfare recipients, similarly, plays into negative and demeaning stereotypes about welfare recipients. It seems like the government is constantly trying to find new ways to try to catch out these mythical “dole bludgers”. However, as incidents like the Centrelink debacle at the beginning of the year show, these measures have been ineffective and enormously stressful for those subjected to them.

There is little evidence to support the notion that our current welfare system is overrun by “dole bludgers”. Rather, young people are trying as hard as they can to find work in a market that simply does not offer enough jobs.

A system which tries to solve youth unemployment by holding welfare payments hostage unless people apply for and accept jobs indiscriminately is absurdly short sighted and unrealistic. If young people are failing to fulfill their welfare payment requirements, the Government’s response should not be to suggest that they are trying to game the system. It should be to take them in good faith and treat them with compassion, understanding that there may be a number of other factors at play.

UMSU’s future budget actions

UMSU calls upon students at the University of Melbourne to stand in opposition to these measures in the Federal Budget.

We will be running a campaign to target cross-bench senators with the aim of stopping these budget measures from passing in the Senate. We will be getting students to send postcards voicing their opinions to these senators, as well as running a number of phone banks.

We are also supporting the National Union of Students’ National Day of Action on Wednesday 17 May. As well as organising a University of Melbourne contingent to the rally, we will be running a number of events in the lead-up including a banner painting session and a speak out BBQ pre-rally.

 

Yan Zhuang
UMSU President

 

Ever had to wait two hours to select your timetable and think the system should be changed? Want more summer and winter subjects, or annoyed about only being able to do some subjects as intensives during the break?

The University of Melbourne is currently considering a whole range of changes to the way it delivers educational content to students through their Flexible Academic Programming project (FlexAP). These include changing the way timetabling is done, increasing the number of classes held outside traditional class times, using more technology in teaching practices, and more – things that could really affect your academic experience.

There are eight areas that are being considered, and recommendations have been released for four of these areas (with the other four set to be released in the next couple of months).

These are:

Large Undergraduate Subjects

Recommendations

  • Create more opportunities for active engagement in large lectures (e.g. asking students to do polls on their laptops/smartphones)
  • Increasing the types of assessments conducted (think more multiple choice questions in exams, peer assessments, and online assessments)
  • Improving Uniwireless

University Timetabling

Recommendations

  • Moving to a preference based timetabling system, where you put in your preferences for classes and are automatically given a timetable based on that – where this has been done at other universities, in most cases, students are given their first or second preference
  • Opening up more classes slots earlier on (so you won’t have that situation where you select your class, check back a few days later and four other tutorial slots have popped up out of the blue). This means that there’s the potential that some classes will be cancelled if they don’t have enough students, but the University estimates that there will be more students who benefit from more class choice than who will need to be reallocated  
  • Letting students do their timetabling as soon as they enrol/re-enrol for the year (so in November)
  • Having more information about subjects (e.g. subject guides, Powerpoint slides from previous years) available earlier on, with the aim of reducing how many times students need to change their subject selection

Harnessing Virtual Infrastructure (i.e. how to use technology)

Recommendations:

  • Providing more online only subjects for those students who wish to be able to take an online subject.  
  • Using more technology so that assessments can be done and feedback given online
  • Using technology to encourage interaction between students (think online discussion boards, wikis, Peermark)
  • Creating a University-wide clicker system to allow lecturers to do more in-lecture polling

Optimising Physical Infrastructure (i.e. how to maximise space at uni)

Recommendations

  • Looking into the possibility of holding more classes outside of traditional class times – after hours, on the weekend, and during the summer and winter break
  • Making classrooms available as informal study spaces when they’re not being used for classes

Some of these recommendations could have really great results, but as always care must be taken to ensure that any changes do not negatively impact learning quality or course flexibility. We want to know what you think of them, so that we can represent your voices when talking to the University about them. Fill in our student survey at: https://goo.gl/forms/zszlNnXDlBaT0j7R2

If you’d like to read the papers in full, you can do so here: http://go.unimelb.edu.au/uy5a

And if you have any questions, please feel free to contact our Education Academic officers at educationacademic@union.unimelb.edu.au

Special C is similar to Special K* in that it isn’t.

One is an application for special consideration that you make online when (clears throat) “exceptional or extenuating circumstances outside of your control” have had a “demonstrated impact on your ability to complete academic requirements” while the other is an artificial squishing of one of humanity’s oldest crops into the unsatisfying palatability of cardboard.

Much like Special K progressing through your digestive system, Special C should go through the University’s administrative system easily enough. Sometimes, a (ahem) blockage occurs either at SEDS, the faculty or review stage. The Advocacy Service may be the Metamucil that gets you going again.

We can advise you on how the system works, what the policy says on the issue and what results common practice have yielded. Even if we can’t get the blockage removed, you can at least have peace of mind knowing that you got a third party to have look at the, um, situation.

Also, if it’s more of a long term thing, then you might want to consider registering for Special C. But that’s another fandango.

Wanna know more? Click here.

*We know you’re thinking about the other other Special K. Yeah, no.


This post was brought to you by the UMSU Advocacy Service.

They have a combined educational experience of approximately 500 years. Their collective HECS debt is zero per cent of your business. They call themselves ‘the justice league of UMSU’ (they have a poster on their wall to prove it). They are: the most interesting advocates in the world*.

*They are very likely not the most interesting advocates in the world.

Inevitably, in a long enough academic timeline, you will be required to participate in group work where you’re either lumped with doing all the work or you’re paired up with a control freak who insists on doing all the work. Either option is as pretty as that damned pimple on your nose that just keeps on getting bigger.

Allow us to be the Clearasil of your group work troubles.

First off, pay attention to that damned subject outline (that’s the equivalent of a bank’s small print when applying for a car loan). When it describes the assessment, does it say that you will be marked individually but can work in groups? If so, be aware to present your own work in the final instance. When it becomes murky who did what and who copied from who, the lecturer/tutor is obliged under university policy to report you and your group to the faculty for collusion (a.k.a Academic Misconduct). This process could result in you getting a fail for the WHOLE subject (even if your group work is only weighted 3% of your final mark).

To avoid these pitfalls, keep track of your contribution in, say, a diary or any other written form. This could come in handy in proving that the work that you presented is your own. Ultimately, working in a group can be a great experience or one that brings you to the brink of wanting to pull your hair out. Either way: remember that group work is much like a ménage à trois. To go smoothly, everyone should be on the same page, equally engaged and active.

That, my friends, requires communication.


This post was brought to you by the UMSU Advocacy Service.

They have a combined educational experience of approximately 500 years. Their collective HECS debt is zero per cent of your business. They call themselves ‘the justice league of UMSU’ (they have a poster on their wall to prove it). They are: the most interesting advocates in the world*.

*They are very likely not the most interesting advocates in the world.

The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) is appalled by reports that the upcoming federal budget will contain university fee increases, a lowered HECS repayment threshold and funding cuts to universities.

Students will see a significant rise in course fees of 7.5%, while university funding will face a 2.5% cut. While student fees currently cover about 42% of the cost of a course, the Government will increase this to 46%. This means that for a four-year course, a student may need to pay an additional $3,600. In addition to this, the announced lowering of the HECS repayment threshold means that students will need to begin to repay their loans when they start earning $42,000 per annum, rather than the current $55,000.

These budget measures will have a catastrophic effect for students. The decrease of the HECS threshold will require students to repay their loans sooner and adversely affect students trying to achieve financial security in an unstable job market, dragging almost 200,000 extra graduates into the repayment system. And funding cuts reduce the quality of education while encouraging institutions to increase student fees.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham, through these budget measures, has shown that he is unaware of the realities students currently face. In an economy where a degree is increasingly worthless, it is ridiculous that students are expected to pay more. Graduate outcomes are not improving and graduates face a hostile job market. Increasing university fees in our current economic climate exploits students. It does nothing to improve the state of higher education or the prospects of graduates.

Furthermore, these cuts will disproportionately affect students from already disadvantaged backgrounds at a time when students face higher living costs than ever before. By increasing the barriers to higher education, students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, rural students, and more will be priced out of attending university.

Education Minister Birmingham uses the concerns of the average Australian to justify these cuts, stating that Australians want to know their tax dollars are being used effectively and efficiently. However, this simply shifts the issue away from the Government and onto universities, and does not provide a sustainable long term solution to the nation’s funding shortage. By pushing the economic burden onto already struggling students, we are disadvantaging the entire nation’s future.

UMSU also condemns the decision to exclude student media from the Budget Lock-up. Farrago, the University of Melbourne student publication, has attended the budget lock up in 2015 and 2016. Other student media organisations have been attending since 2014. Why is it that these organisations have been suddenly excluded this year, when there are measures present in the budget which will specifically and drastically affect students? The fact that the voices of those who will be most affected by these changes are being excluded from the discussion is extremely concerning.

UMSU stands against funding cuts, fee increases, and the lowering of the HECS-HELP repayment threshold. It also stands against the silencing of student voices in this important discussion. If these are things you feel passionately about, here are some ways you can get involved:

  • Listen to Radio Fodder’s live coverage of the budget, happening from 7:30pm on next Tuesday 9 May on http://radiofodder.com.
  • UMSU will be organising a contingent to the NUS’ National Day of Action on 17 May to protest these predicted budget cuts. Find out more here.
  • The UMSU Education department will be running a campaign to give students an opportunity to voice their opposition to the budget on postcards, which we will send to relevant MPs. Keep an eye out at our next Tuesday BBQ, or contact educationpublic@union.unimelb.edu.au to find out more.

Stand with us. We are powerful together.

So by now you’ve figured out where the toilets are, where the best coffee is and how to get to your lecture located on platform 9 ¾.

The wide eyed wonder with which you stepped onto campus has been replaced by a knowing twinkle in your eye (soon to be replaced with the empty gaze of the unslept once end of semester hits). You know stuff. But do you know ‘all’ the stuff? There’s still a hidden world out there in the universe.

A sort of invisible structure of policies, procedures and rules that oversee your life on campus. Much like your great aunt’s map of spider veins running up her leg, you might not want to know about it. Unlike her network of spider veins, you need to know about it. Also, the University kinda expects you to be well, um, familiar with the spider veins, er, policies.

Chances are, you’ve already entered the invisible structure through your student account on the interwebs. You may be stuck and need some advice about how to deal with the University, SEDS, Stop 1 or your faculty. We can give you that advice. That’s what an Advocacy (Service) is.

Want to find out more? Click here. We know you want to.


This post was brought to you by the UMSU Advocacy Service.

They have a combined educational experience of approximately 500 years. Their collective HECS debt is zero per cent of your business. They call themselves ‘the justice league of UMSU’ (they have a poster on their wall to prove it). They are: the most interesting advocates in the world*.

*They are very likely not the most interesting advocates in the world.