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.