ANU students occupy: ‘no ifs, no buts, no tutorial cuts!’

In early August, students at the Australian National University (ANU) showed the Dean of Arts exactly what they think of her policy to axe tutorials. Over 250 students marched on her office—then 150 occupied it for several hours.

Students poured into her office through the fire escape, chanting, “bullshit, come off it, our education is not for profit.”

The Dean wants to cut tutorials in the College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) and replace them with large “forums” of up to 35 people. In an email to students the Associate Dean claimed, “such a model reconfigures current contact hours in a way that is intended to have a positive educational impact.”
Unsuprisingly, this argument isn’t convincing anyone.

This is yet another example of the university administration putting profit ahead of the interests of students and staff. ANU is one of Australia’s wealthiest universities and our Vice-Chancellor earns twice as much as the Prime Minister. Despite this, he and his executive have slashed CASS’s teaching budget.
CASS is using this to justify cutting tutorials. It is an attempt to pass the buck. The Dean and the Vice-Chancellor are two sides of the same coin, both committed to prioritising ANU’s surplus over students.

Our occupation was a step in the right direction. ANU students have been inspired by the successful campaign at Sydney University last year against job cuts. We’ve seen that militant tactics like walkouts, mass rallies and occupations work.

The administration is already making concessions. A review into the planned cuts will be conducted in September. After students invaded a consultation with the VC, the administration has agreed to an open student forum.

We won these small victories because our tactics have been daring and involved large numbers of students. We weren’t afraid to disrupt the running of the university.

We welcome consultations and reviews because they signify the growing strength of the campaign. The concessions, however, are not enough. They are not a guarantee to get our tutorials back.
We need to build a strong campaign that is not afraid to confront the administration and force them to back down.

The Education Action Group has issued the Vice-Chancellor an ultimatum: dispense with the cuts, or face more disruption and protest.

By Geraldine Fela


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