Speech Given to NTEU Digital Town Hall
UMSU Education (Public Affairs) Officer Charlie Joyce delivered this speech to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) Unimelb Branch’s digital town hall on Wednesday 12th August 2020.
G’day everyone! My name’s Charlie Joyce and I use he/him pronouns. I’m speaking to you all today in both my capacity as one of the elected UMSU Education (Public Affairs) Officers, but also my capacity as a third year arts student looking to one day pursue both further study and potentially research and teaching at this uni.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am calling in from the stolen land of the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. I’d like to extend my respects to both the elders of that nation both past and present, and to any first nations people who are here today. This University in which today we learn, teach, study and work was a key institution in both establishing and legitimising the project of settler colonialism in this city and state. We must acknowledge this and stand in solidarity with our indigenous comrades in the fight for decolonization both on-campus and off.
It’s a real privilege to be asked to share a student voice in this digital town hall today. I wish, however, that it was under better circumstances. The recent attacks on staff in the form of 450 job cuts, coming on the back of hundreds of jobs being cut during this pandemic, is unacceptable. I’d like to extend my solidarity, and the solidarity of Unimelb students, to you all in this time.
Do not let Unimelb tell you that this is somehow in the interests of students, or student wellbeing. That is nonsense.
Students are feeling these cuts. While students are not suffering in the same way a laid-off colleague of yours would be, students are losing faith that this university is worth the HECS debt or the outrageous international student fees that they are paying.
On Unimelb Love Letters, a popular student Facebook page, a new student in the midyear intake asked yesterday why some tutorials had 100 people in them when they were promised maximums of 25. Leading up to this semester, students are also reporting dozens of the subjects that they wanted to do disappearing off the handbook.
In the face of this, many international students have given up, cut their losses and gone home. Transferred their credits to another uni. One that might not be charging 10s of thousands of dollars per year for a seemingly ever-diminishing educational experience. Many of my domestic friends are deciding to drop out of uni and go and try for an apprenticeship. There is nothing wrong with this – far from it – but funding cuts and debt should not be the reason for losing the next generation of academics and researchers.
Might I also state that this is completely no fault of you, the staff. I am constantly in awe at the conditions staff at this uni, particularly casual, are forced to work under and endure out of love for the content and for teaching.
No. This is the result of a profit-driven tertiary education system. A system that puts the health of their assets before the health of their staff; A system that puts the performance of their investments before the performance of their students; A system that puts the quality of their margins before the quality of their research.
This system is being implemented at the level of our university, and it is also being implemented by our federal government. This government stands firm in the face of massive community outrage in not giving JobKeeper to universities. They use this opportunity of a pandemic and an economic crisis to propose massive funding cuts, fee hikes and damaging reforms to the University sector. This only further entrenches a commodified and corporatised higher education system.
This system must end.
The good news is this branch of this union is so staunch, so inspiring, and so capable of being the force that achieves that. I saw that in the occupation of the Dean of Arts’ Office last year, where I was one of many students who joined in solidarity. I saw that in the remarkable campaign to prevent an unnecessary pay cut only months ago. I am seeing this again today, as we gear up to protect hundreds of us losing jobs.
Students at Melbourne Uni were behind you for those fights, and we’re behind you now as we call on Unimelb to Open the Books. UMSU stands prepared to mobilise resources to fight for every job, every course, every research spot, every staff and student condition that has been won by past struggles.
We all know that Unimelb has billions of dollars to pay up. We just need to end the system that has meant that they haven’t.
Want to find out more about Unimelb’s dodgy treatment of staff?
How can I get involved?
Join the UMSU Education Action Collective to get involved in fighting for student and worker rights on campus! Click here to find out more.