Solidarity defended at Melbourne University

May 15, 2002


MELBOURNE — Melbourne University Student Union staff are on indefinite strike and students are occupying MUSU's education office, in protest at student officials' attacks on campus activists and staff.

On May 2, students using MUSU resources to photocopy pro-refugee posters were forcibly removed by campus security officers, on the instructions of MUSU president Darren Ray. Ray then attempted to move the education office to an inaccessible location.

He also sacked the student union's general manager, provoking the staff strike.

"They've banned political stances", said MUSU education officer Seb Prowse. Prowse is a Refugee Action Collective (RAC) activist and a member of Socialist Alternative.

Ray is a member of the student faction Real Students, which is affiliated with the right wing of the Labor Party. Real Students gained control over the MUSU council in controversial elections last year. Real Students was the only ticket to get nominations in on time, after confusion about the deadline.

Real Students has amended MUSU's constitution to limit funding for student activities to "campaigns which exclusively benefit Melbourne University students", thus preventing the student union's resources being used for campaigns such as refugees' rights, solidarity with Palestine or defence of the environment.

The right-wing faction also supports university privatisation, and has drastically cut the funding and pay of the MUSU women's, queer, environment and education officers.

Prowse and co-education officer Ruth Brahm, collected the necessary 350 students' signatures to call a May 15 student general meeting to debate holding new elections.

The May 15 meeting will also decide whether to reinstate funding and infrastructure to de-funded collectives such as RAC, which is one of the biggest collectives on campus, and the social justice collective.

Brahm is confident of success in challenging Real Students, telling Green Left Weekly that "students want to mobilise [in opposition to Real Students' actions]. While the education officers are taking legal action against Real Students, they stressed the importance of grass-roots campaigning and direct action. According to Brahm, the best way to ensure justice is returned to MUSU is to engage in "democracy on the ground".

From Green Left Weekly, May 15, 2002.
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