Václav Havel and Wagga Wagga

The main instrument of society’s self knowledge is it’s culture…Where total control over society completely suppresses its differentiated inner development, the first thing to be suppressed regularly is its culture: not just ‘automatically’, as a phenomenon intrinsically opposed to the ‘spirit’ of manipulation, but as a matter of deliberate ‘programming’ inspired by justified anxiety lest society be alerted to the extent of its own subjugation through that culture which gives it its self-awareness (Havel 1986:16).

Emma Horn wrote on 12 May 2020 in The Daily Advertiser, Wagga Wagga

University staff face uncertainty as job cuts flagged

Charles Sturt University staff face an anxious wait after being told job cuts will be imminent under a plan to ensure
the university’s financial viability.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) representative for Wagga’s campus, Dr Helen Masterman-Smith said
there had been “zero transparency” as staff “read between the lines of financial statements” to speculate on where
the job losses may be felt.
“There have been mixed messages and a lot of confusion [but] we’ve been told that every department will be
reviewed,” Dr Masterman-Smith said.
It comes after the university unveiled its ‘sustainable futures program’ last week, which will address an $80 million
decline in revenue since the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’re still awaiting the business case to explain the $80 million deficit, we haven’t seen how many jobs will be lost
or where they will be lost, it’s all just general information and no details,” Dr Masterman-Smith said.
Related: Job cuts loom as CSU faces $80 million revenue decline Coronavirus case confirmed at Charles Sturt
University JobKeeper rule changes target Sydney Uni It is understood, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann
will be hosting virtual meetings next week to address staff concerns.
“The sustainable futures program is reviewing every aspect of our operating model. This includes travel, system
and infrastructure costs, courses and campuses, and, unfortunately, staff positions,” Professor Vann said.
“We expect to release plans for consultation on the first round of changes by the end of June 2020. We are working
through this plan now. It is not yet finalised. We will provide more information to staff by the end of June.”
A downturn in international programs and students has been largely blamed for the significant university deficit.
Dr Masterman-Smith cited Charles Sturt University’s national partnership with Study Group Australia, which works
to transition international students for undergraduate and post-graduate course in Australia.
But, in regional NSW and particularly in Wagga, she said the reliance on overseas dollars was not as profound.
“Our research is indicating that domestic and regional student numbers are holding up, and if not are actually
higher than they have been over the years, so it does raise some questions that this would be the reason,” she said.
In other news: CSU academics aim to help schools transition to online learning Students return to classrooms as
restrictions ease Kildare College review delayed by weeks due to COVID-19 crisis Dr Masterman-Smith further said
the COVID-19 situation has proven the inefficiency of universities having to rely on international students to meet
domestic needs.
“The federal funding cuts over the years have made universities compete for overseas money in a cut-throat
market, so no we’ve got this massive hole with no way to plug it,” she said.
“A lot of staff are now very fearful and angry at the government and at management.”
Among those who have been left in the lurch is Dr Dominique Sweeney in CSU’s arts and education faculty. He said
his colleagues feel “shaky but united” after the news.
“These COVID cuts are hanging over us, they’re imminent, they’re coming but we don’t know what they will be yet,”
he said.
He blames the federal government’s ongoing freezes to the funding of universities over recent years that has forced this current predicament.
“It’s appalling, are [universities] places for people to make money or to shape a thinking and caring future?,” Dr
Sweeney said.
“The focus on profit is counter-productive. Academic initiatives are undermined by profit-driven thinking but that’s
not to say [universities] shouldn’t turn a profit and be managed properly.”

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