Sydney University students protest cuts to gender and cultural studies

October 18, 2021
Photo: Isaac Nellist

Students demonstrated on October 13 against the University of Sydney’s (USyd) plans to move the Gender and Cultural Studies (GCS) Department into the School of Social and Political Sciences.

The cuts could mean GCS courses will be merged with other disciplines, such as sociology.

The speak-out, organised by the Sydney University Education Action Group (SUEAG) and USyd Women’s Collective, heard from several speakers including Ell Haber, one of the campaign’s organisers, Tom Williams from SUEAG, Rory Larkins from the Save USyd Arts campaign and Scarlett Franks, a GCS Graduate and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences staff member in social research.

Haber said the cuts would “lead to further lost casual jobs [and] would just put power into upper management’s hands to supervise content that we should be in charge of.” Larkins said the fight against these cuts was part of a broader fight against cuts across the university and against “a corporate management whose sole concern is growing their surpluses [and] a federal government which hikes up fees and cuts our funding”.

Management released the proposed changes to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) in a Draft Change Proposal on September 16. It came just days after Vice Chancellor Mark Scott admitted the university had underpaid casual employees by $12.75 million between 2014 and 2020.

Several days before that, the university announced it would not convert 4000 casual workers, many of whom effectively teach full-time hours at the university, into permanent employees.

The cuts are being pushed despite the fact that FASS is projected to post a record $135 million surplus this year. “The university is not just scraping by; it is a lucrative business for those who run it,” said Larkins. 

A revised Draft Change Proposal for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is slated for release on October 20.

Meanwhile, the Sydney University Education Action Group has called a General Student Meeting on October 27. The motion being proposed at the meeting includes supporting the National Tertiary Education Union’s log of claims against management and building a “mass campaign against all university cuts”.

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