It has been a hectic few weeks at UNE. Assignments are the constant reality, a mixture of stress and relief in the atmosphere depending on which side of the assignment submission date. Intensive schools have just finished and it was great to meet a few of our external students. Last month the federal government announced a $2.3 billion cut to tertiary funding. Last week there were threats to the Nucleus editors and the ever present building of a new student organisation. Over the mid trimester break the amenity services for the intensive schools provided a very different atmosphere on campus. Our two independent welfare advocates, Sam and Lloyd working with a team of volunteers should be applauded for the effort of managing to run a mixture of social functions across the fortnight, well attended and appreciated.
Last month the federal government announcing $2.3 billion budget cuts from the higher education sector to fund the implementation of the Gonski reforms has sent a shudder through universities. The federal opposition showed a rare bi-partisan policy and declared that nobody should expect the cuts to tertiary funding to be reversed. These funding cuts will particularly harm regional and low socio-economic students. The National Union of Students (NUS) has been particularly vocal on this.
This University has a long history of holding tertiary education ideals above all else. Last week was not one of UNE’s better weeks. Chewed up and spat out by UNE administration is how I feel and I can only imagine how Stu and Sarita feel. Being threatened by this administration that has resources running out the ‘whazoo,’ was intimidating. University student newspapers are expected to be edgy and Nucleus is running on a shoestring budget. Poor communication, a lack of respect, and high expectations of mushrooms is about the strength of it. Transparency and communication has been an ongoing issue. Under attack was the editorial independence and principles of free speech of the student newspaper, Nucleus. As the president of the undergraduate student association, I do not and will not presume to dictate the editorial content of Nucleus. The ideal and principle of Nucleus is as the voice of the UNE students and a conduit for the UNE community to communicate. There is a perception that the UNE administration sees students and teaching staff as a necessary evil; I would remind them, we the students are the clients that determine the purpose of the university, ‘it is about the education’.
There seems to be at times a genuine commitment to the rebuilding of student fraternity and amenity at UNE, but it is time this administration started to ‘walk the talk’. Students cannot afford the patience and endurance of the granite heart. Students are the vibrant culture and fraternity, providing one of the foundation stones of the vision, values and purpose to any university. Somehow this university, unlike others, has allowed the student voice to be lost and the foundation to crumble. It is important that UNE administration work on supporting an independent and autonomous student representative organisation (SRO), providing advocacy and representing a fair and just tertiary experience for students. Raising the phoenix is challenging and exciting at the same time. The new unified student association will bring life back to the dusty stone heart of this university.
There is light at the end of the tunnel and for the sake of all those people with their shoulder to the wheel, I am assured it is coldest before the dawn and it will get better.
- David Mailler