By Charles Fedor
I am interrupting the Guild’s crucial coverage of a Chili Festival and after-hour microwaves to talk about the ongoing threats to student education. If you are looking for how to engage with UWA and its university-wide restructure – consider this your essential reading. This article has handy explainers on the confusing UWA bureaucratic structure and embedded hyperlinks to contact the decision makers of UWA in one to three clicks*. Regardless of your position on the cuts, I urge you to have your voice heard and fire off a few emails!
What is the Process?
It’s been remarkably opaque and has harmed students and staff’s abilities to engage and provide feedback on the proposal. This structure will likely be mirrored in every school going forward, including the business, law, medical, science, and humanities schools. From my own investigations all I can confirm is the following:
- The Consultation Period has closed and the Head of School will review feedback.
- The University will give “genuine consideration” to that feedback and any other matters raised. After this, the Vice-Chancellor will make a final decision on the proposal which can range from an outright rejection of the proposal, re-consultation or an amended proposal. This is where we are currently. A few notes for readers to keep in mind:
- Unclear what “Genuine Consideration” actually means within this context.
- It is a matter of considerable concern that there is no guarantee this proposal will be released to UWA students or the Guild.
- Per the recent ruling by the Chair of the Academic Board, the Academic Board will then consider the final proposal and provide ‘advice’ to the UWA Senate. This will then be voted on by its members.
- To note, Academic Board meetings are extremely opaque. Decisions are not released in a timely manner and people cannot observe its proceedings. Further to this, agendas for meetings are not publicly available, meaning they do not have to disclose when this advice would be voted on.
- Importantly if the Academic Board rejects the proposal it does not guarantee the proposal is dead. Instead the Senate can choose to press on regardless.
- The Academic Board has historically taken feedback from students seriously and have, in the past, created consultation committees on matters such as freedom of speech on campus.
- After advice is provided by the Academic Board, the Senate will vote on the plan. Very similarly to the Academic Board, agendas are not publicly available and people cannot observe these meetings.
- If the Senate passes the plan, it becomes binding and the campaign moves towards other areas such as counter-proposals and the Fair Work Commission.
- If the Senate rejects the plan, it will go back to Change Management Committee for further consideration.
What you can do: Have your voice heard!
There is a lot you as a reader can do, and the important thing is to not take anything as given or assumed. I have already started receiving concerning developments from other schools facing similar cuts and am investigating with urgency.
The Academic Board: “The Academic Board is the chief academic body in the university” and must provide advice to the Senate over the restructure. This advice is not binding but considerable pressure has been exerted on them to approve the proposal. There are six student representatives (including the Guild President and Vice-President) and countless staff. This will be one of the first official votes on the proposal and it is important to note that student representatives did not express an opinion during the first meeting on the restructure. That is why it is important that you contact the Academic Board as soon as possible! Given the mass amount of email addresses you would have to look up (I aged two hours before I finished the list) I have provided you three buttons that will create an email to the Academic Board. If you wish to address the full Academic Board, please ensure you click on all hyperlinks below and state your position on the proposal:
Education Action Network: The Education Action Network (EAN) has been the primary organiser of the protests and forum as of writing. Organised by Nicole McEwen, they are always looking for volunteers. If you have time, join the Facebook group to keep up with events and get involved in activism on campus to resist the cuts. This is where you can keep connected with all campus activist affairs. The EAN always needs volunteers to plaster the university with flyers, spread information to students before lectures, and hand out leaflets to students and staff.
Save Social Sciences UWA: The Save Sciences UWA group is made up of staff and students who are advocating for reconsideration of the restructure. They provide technical support and information for students and staff about the details of the proposal. If you would like to provide assistance, please follow the links below:
The Student Guild: The Student Guild is the peak representative body for UWA students and is comprised of a number of departments. It is the job of the Guild to represent your interests to the university. Currently the Student Guild has only passed a motion to condemn the cuts and shared the petition. Students can ask for a lot more, including motions demanding that student representatives oppose the proposal at the Senate and Academic Board (it is not guaranteed that the student representatives will vote against the proposal as of writing), and also providing regular updates to students via email (which has not been done as of writing). This hyperlink will create an email that reaches all Guild councillors, office bearers and heads of department. This should be done urgently given the current inactions of the Guild (please refer to the “Meeting Expectations” article for details.
The UWA Senate: The UWA Senate has the final word on the proposal. They are our University’s peak governance body and consists of a considerably smaller 17 members. The UWA Senate must approve of the restructure before it goes ahead. Their decision is binding. Please note that this contact list is incomplete as the Senate has a significant number of members who are not members of the UWA community/publicly listed on the directory. This includes company secretaries of Wesfarmers and other large corporate bodies. I would recommend not using this email until the final proposal is released for Senate consideration. If you wish to address the Senate, please click the button below:
Pelican Magazine: Pelican has a dedicated team working on covering the cuts, both to hold people accountable and inform people during this tumultuous period. Even though it sounds grubby I would recommend ‘liking’ Pelican to keep up to date on the latest developments. Pelican has contacts across the media industry in Western Australia and would be very happy to provide coverage of areas that may slip under the radar. If you have information that you believe students and the public should be aware of, please reach out.
Pelican is committed to providing information to students on the ongoing restructure of the university. Though we certainly like the idea of pancakes as a must-run story, we are even hungrier for an informed university community.
The petition has been successful and the Academic Board is meeting on the 17th of August. Students should make their voice heard by emailing the Academic Board as soon as possible
This piece can only be provided to you through the hard work and courage of a number of sources across the university and community. If you have information that you think needs to be shared, please contact me via phone at 0437 496 648. Your anonymity is guaranteed.
*Please be aware Pelican has been CC’ed into those emails to allow us to continue to report on student response. If you wish to opt out just look for my email address ([email protected]) and delete it. We also urge readers to be respectful and not abuse the contact list for malicious purposes.