By Corinne Batt-Rawden
LISMORE — A 250-strong protest rally was held on May 8 to oppose the decision by Southern Cross University (SCU) to abruptly withdraw funding from 2NCR community radio.
The university's unilateral decision in March was made with total disregard for the volunteers who staff the station 24 hours a day, students' right to have a say in how student money should be spent and the special local needs met by 2NCR.
Due to the abrupt way that SCU has defunded 2NCR, the station may collapse and so end an avenue for media students to gain valuable experience.
After the announcement, the University Council notified the 2NCR radio council that "protest is futile". Marge Graham, radio announcer, told the rally that the community is "not going to lie down".
Vicki Finlay from the Community and Public Sector Union spoke on the effect of federal government cuts in reducing staff numbers and worsening conditions in tertiary education. Stewart Metcalf, representing SCU media students, and Bernie Wunsch from Resistance also spoke.
With recent cuts to campus child-care facilities, the closure of Linc TV and a corresponding $4 million investment in a swimming pool complex, SCU has been criticised as speedily moving away from a university of learning to a profit-making venture.
The 2NCR Action Group is demanding that the university funds be reinstated. Many at 2NCR want to break away from SCU, but argue that the station needs time to reorganise itself.
The immediate funding cut may make the station unable to comply with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal licensing requirements (which include operating 24 hours a day). Three staff have already been made redundant, and the university is demanding that redundancy payments come out of the remainder of 2NCR's budget.
The campaign is being supported by the SCU Student Representative Council, Resistance and the Democratic Socialists. Edda Lampis from the SCU SRC told Green Left Weekly that the campaign is "linking students and the community against economic rationalism".