This is part 2 of 2 from the Curtin Student Guild AGM Summary. Read Part 1 here.
General Business (Questions)
Word Counts and Due Dates
The issues of word count and flexible due dates, and whether these new assessment policies would “lower the value” of a Curtin University degree by making them “easier to achieve” was the first question posed to the Guild. Finlay emphasised that these changes meant that assessments were graded on things like the quality of the argument, as opposed to a general adherence to assessment structure. In terms of the flexible due dates policy, the President noted it was still in the formative discussion stages.
“We know that students are increasingly facing a variety of different pressures,” she said. “Students are increasingly living under the poverty line, having to work multiple jobs, having to support families, and living away from their home countries, which puts a huge amount of pressure on students. We think that, in University, it is a very different context from when you are out in the workforce, and we should take the variety of things that students are currently facing into consideration.”
Flexible due dates are already available for students who apply for a Curtin Assistance Plan, depending on the kind of assistance with assessments specified in each individual Plan.
The Financial Future of the Guild
Another student asked, “if the trend of declining revenue continues, how can we expect the Guild to raise revenue or cut costs—what will you do?”
David Luketina addressed the question, stating “it’s pretty much what I wake up in the morning thinking about.” He continued by saying that cost-cutting was the first measure to take, so improving rostering and labour were things the Guild had done. “There’s the odd café that will close slightly earlier, operating for less unprofitable hours.” From there, the Guild was looking at expanding its catering service off-campus. The fundamental challenge was students spending less money on campus. “We’re doing a review, mid-year, to just look and make sure that what we’re offering is what the students want.”
“Anyone out there, if you’ve got any really good ideas, feed them through to your representatives, because we’d love to hear.”
Course Handbooks and Unit Content
Another student brought up the issue of course handbooks and outlines not matching the actual content being taught for a unit at university, and asked what they should do in this situation. The Guild advised to bring it up with the Guild’s Student Assist service, contact their Unit Coordinators, and that, should no satisfactory outcome be made after contact with the University, that the student consults with external authorities such as accreditation bodies.
“I’m hoping that the implementation of our Course Reps system will help to address those issues,” said Finlay, “and that, in the future, there are no unit outlines that are misleading”.
Financial Wellbeing of Students
Another question included concern around the financial wellbeing of students, and what the Guild was doing to campaign on the behalf of students in this context. Finlay replied by saying that the Guild has participated in several national days of action, calling on the government “to end the continuing trend of cutting funds from universities.
“As you would have seen, in the leadup to the federal election, we’ve been taking a really strong stance on what we want to see from whoever is elected to government, and one of those things is that we want a fully-funded and accessible education system where all people are able to access higher education. And not just a higher education but a higher-quality higher education.”
Mandatory Curtin Ally Training for Staff
Another student asked, “whether or not there can be a push for mandatory Curtin Ally training for the staff and the lecturers, and particularly the Health Science department.” The student added that they still get deadnamed—the action of misgendering a transgender person by using their old name—by staff, even after having requested by email that their name be respected. Often, even though preferred names are easily updated with the University, a printed roll sheet will only show the legal names of students, which can out transgender students to their classmates.
Chris answered, saying that he has worked with other staff to ensure that the Ally training program, can be independently funded “so that it is mandatory for staff and for students to take.” It is already mandatory for Security staff.
“It is a really tricky process to get that government funding, but I assure you that on the staff side, and on the student side, in terms of what I’m keeping track of and seeing, that is something that will definitely happen, hopefully really soon.”
Chris added that, in terms of the name change process, it was made easier for students to provide documentation to the University, but that many issues are being worked on with BlackBoard system at the moment. He assured that these IT systems were being worked on and revised currently.
Chris emphasised the importance of students bringing up discrepancies to their Queer Department equity officer so that an awareness of these issues can be brought directly to staff and faculty. Finlay echoed his statements, saying that mandatory Ally training was crucial.
Engagement with Multicultural Clubs
Another student, the President of the Curtin African Students Association, asked about the Guild’s engagement with clubs, with the example of international clubs being engaged with for Multicultural Week. “I’ve been to Pasar Malam, I’ve been around when there’s been Africa day, all that, and I don’t see much representation from the African or the black community in general, where I see quite a lot from other countries, which is fine, but can we have more diversity from all continents, rather than just countries from some continents?”
David Jorritsma answered the question, emphasising that the Guild wants to work on strengthening connections with clubs. He welcomed the club to Pasar Malam and market days, “if we can identify opportunities for clubs to get involved, we’ll reach out. It’s important to make sure the contact details for clubs are all up-to-date, and if you see something the Guild’s doing and think you can make a contribution, definitely reach out to us.”
Hana agreed and added that “instead of waiting for people to come to us, we need to be playing a more active role and making sure that all of our events, particularly multicultural week, do have a wider range of representation from continents all across the globe. I think that’s something we can definitely work on this year.”
Student Body Consultation
Another question was asked, regarding the consultation the Guild undertakes with the student body with respect to its political stances, where they “won’t represent the majority, or it won’t represent the entire student populous”.
“We absolutely do feel as though we need to increase our engagement with students on these issues,” said Finlay. “As I mentioned earlier, we have a working group that we’ve recently established that’s going to be addressing these concerns that students have, that we aren’t engaging as strongly as we could to gather the views of students before making political statements.
“It is worth noting that all of the student representatives are elected representatives, and they stand at the election often with a very specific view of what their political stances are and what they’re going to achieve. I would strongly encourage people to run in those elections, to vote in those elections, because that really is the best forum to ensure that your views are being seen and that you are getting people into the Guild who will represent your political stances as well as the things that you want to see from the Guild just on a day-to-day basis.”
The meeting closed at 1:51 pm.
You can find more information on the AGM through the Guild’s minutes. You can find them here when they’re made available, in addition to an audio recording of the event.