As Spring warmed early September, Sydney University geared up to elect its 85th Student Representative Council.
Colourful A-frames sporting the slogans of the major factions sprouted up on Eastern Avenue. At the southern end, a prickly cactus was also blooming; the Stop the Cuts ticket. The ultimate result was the election of a left majority to the council.
Freya Bundey, the Stop the Cuts Presidential candidate, nearly doubled her vote, and the ticket secured a seat on the SRC. A majority of seats went to the Labor Left ticket StandUp! for the first time in two years, giving them 17 seats. The Greens secured six seats.
This left majority in the SRC is something Stop the Cuts and Solidarity can claim much credit for. The aim of Stop the Cuts was to inject some politics into an election which is usually dominated by populist slogans, and pull the other tickets to the left. Our message was that the cuts at Sydney Uni are linked to education cuts around the country; yet another example of the “university as corporation” model.
We argued for an SRC filled with activists, not bureaucrats, to build the grassroots movement on campus born through the campaign against the job cuts. In our leaflets and lecture bashes, we spoke about the Quebec students’ recent mass-mobilisations and their victory against fee hikes and the failures of Rudd and Gillard’s education “revolution”.
It soon became clear that we had succeeded in re-shaping the debate. The Labor and Greens students started off campaigning for free photocopying, but by the end of the election were talking about the cuts and proudly claiming they had a role in the protests of the previous semester.
The new Council should use the opportunity provided by a left majority to support the university staff in their current industrial campaign, and to throw their full weight behind the growing campaign for refugee rights on campus. A new battle on campus is also just beginning. Students living at the Sydney University Village have called a protest on October 17 against rent increases of 7.8 per cent that will take weekly rent to between $256.80 and $449.80. All activists on campus should get behind them.
By Bjorn Wallin