The Guardian April 5, 2000


Tertiary teachers & students take action

In the last two weeks the tertiary education sector has been rocked by 
protests against privatisation, for higher pay rates for teaching staff, 
and for student services to be free of charge.

As part of the National Day of Action by tertiary students on Wednesday, 
March 21, students at Sydney University occupied the library and then the 
student centre until the university called in police and special task force 
officers who dragged the students out of the building.

The occupation was the culmination of a month-long "Log of Claims" Campaign 
in protest at "user-pays" charges for compulsory reading material, funding 
cuts to libraries and overcrowded lectures  to the point where some 
academics have been forced to turn students away.

The President of the NSW National Union of Students, Dom Rowe, said that 
the purpose of the action, "was to raise awareness of the conditions 
students are trying to learn under at this university".

The students are demanding a cap on tutorial sizes, the free provision of 
course notes, free internet and computer access and an end to course cuts, 
closures and staff cuts.

Last week university staff were involved in a number of actions for 
increased pay.

At the University of New England, in NSW, a campaign of rolling strikes 
organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is under way this 
week.

Staff at Deakin University in Victoria are due to take 24-hour strike 
action on Wednesday this week.

Money to throw away

And last week, the NTEU announced it was planning major industrial action 
against privatisation of Melbourne University's internet business.

Allegations of corruption have surrounded the float of Melbourne IT shares. 
The Auditor-General is looking into the process.

The NTEU has accused three university councillors of a conflict of interest 
for not advising that they were on the "preferred customer list" to receive 
shares.

The shares were issued last year at $2.20 to a select group of investors, 
including three council members and a former vice-chancellor, and are now 
worth $15.05. The three councillors between them have shares that are now 
valued at $337,500.

NTEU General Secretary Grahame McCulloch said that the price had been set 
way below market value, resulting in a cost to the university of about $550 
million in lost revenue.

Teachers and students who are fighting against cuts to funding, staffing 
and services have been angered by what they see as corrupt and immoral 
actions by university management who are running the university like a 
business and hoping to profit for themselves.

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