Students lay siege to Sydney uni

Photo: Patrick Harrison

Students and staff at the University of Sydney ramped up the campaign against management's proposed staff cuts last week, after management ignored a deadline set by the rally and occupation on April 4 to withdraw the cuts by the end of the Easter break.

Four hundred students rallied on the university's front lawns on April 24. Students from more than eight classes walked out to join the rally. In one case, a lecturer emailed her students in advance to tell them to walk out of their class and join the protest.

Erima Dall, an activist from the Education Action Group (EAG), which organised the protest, said management had already started to back down, taking about 20 staff off the list of 100 forced redundancies, including the whole Anthropology department, and reinstating the Refugee Language Program.

The rally also heard from the branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), Michael Thompson, and the NSW Greens spokesperson for education, John Kaye.

After the rally, students marched on the offices of the vice-chancellor and the Provost. Several students tried to stage another occupation, but were confronted by campus security and undercover police disguised as students. One student was pushed out of a window by police.

After protesting outside the Provost's office, the students marched back to the vice-chancellor's office inside the quadrangle and staged a "siege" until the end of the day, blocking the doors for several hours.

The rally and siege was followed by a picket of the Senior Executive Group meeting on April 26. After forcing the meeting to relocate, student campaigners managed to block the stairwell to the alternate location, considerably delaying the start of the meeting.

Michael Spence, the university's vice-chancellor, spoke to members of the EAG for the first time since the campaign began.

Students have resolved to keep building the campaign until management withdraws the cuts. A mass student and staff referendum on the cuts, supported by the EAG, Student Representative Council and NTEU, was organised for May 1 and 2. Students and staff will hold a joint rally on May 7, the date final forced redundancy notices will be sent to staff facing the axe.

[For more information visit "USYD Students Against Staff Cuts" on Facebook.]

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