Students are revolting

Rally out the front of SHAC
272-278 Faraday Street, Carlton
Friday 28th November

Squat students set to defy uni order
Miki Perkins
The Age
November 27, 2008

STUDENTS squatters are refusing to leave a Melbourne University property in defiance of an final eviction notice.

About 20 students have occupied four terrace houses in Faraday Street, Carlton, since August to highlight the scarcity of affordable accommodation.

This week the university issued an ultimatum to squatters that they leave by tomorrow.

But the students, who formed the Student Housing Action Collective (SHAC), have refused to move out and will hold a rally at the houses tomorrow.

“We have nowhere else to go and this rally shows that we’re not planning to go quietly,” student Elizabeth Patterson said.

Inner Melbourne rental vacancy rates are only 1.1 per cent and median rents have gone up by 17 per cent.

The students have proposed converting the properties into a student-run housing co-operative under housing association Common Equity Housing.

“We’re not asking the university for any money. We can finance the conversion ourselves with Common Equity,” SHAC spokesman Teishan Ahearne said.

University spokeswoman Christina Buckridge said she expected that students would move out tomorrow after the university had allowed them to stay until exams finished.

The university said it would not discuss the housing co-operative proposal while university property was occupied.

The houses are to be refurbished as a centre for student off-campus activities.

Christina is the Corporate Affairs Manager @ the University on Melbourne: that is, chief propagandist for the institution. As such, her statement is largely meaningless: until such time as sufficient pressure is placed upon University authorities to agree to negotiations, they presumably believe that they have little to lose by telling concerned students to go fuck themselves.

Given a certain level of rat-cunning on the part of the bean-counters running the ship, the eviction may well proceed at a slightly later date. Over the Summer, perhaps, when many students are otherwise occupied and less able to rally to the support of the occupiers.

Note that the buildings themselves were left unoccupied and unused for several years prior to the August occupation. Note also that the University was more than happy to run Melbourne University Private (2000-2008) at a loss of $20 million, and has recently embarked on a further decimation of the Arts faculty. In the meantime, the University of Melbourne’s VC Glyn Davis earned $610,000 in 2007, and lives on campus in a house that is not included in that package.

That is, Glyn Davis lives rent-free.

In Sydney, students at the University of Sydney enjoy the dubious delights of STUCCO. According to its website: “In 1982, a group of Sydney University students came together to establish community housing. An old glass-making factory was purchased and renovated with a design from the architecture faculty at Sydney University, based around a central courtyard and retaining much of the original timber structure. Funding was supplied by the university and the Department of Housing. STUCCO opened in its current form in February 1991.” Missing from this brief history is the fact that, prior to its purchase in 1982, the factory was squatted: it was only after a struggle such as the one SHAC is now engaged in that the University gave in to common sense and provided some assistance to students wanting low-cost accommodation.

“I like anything that gives people the chance to get together and talk about ideas,” says Davis, 48. “The world is such a fascinating place and it’s full of such possibilities, and how else do you access that except for listening to people talk and debate? A signal to the community that there can be a debate outside the confines of the partisan political process is a really good thing in my view. That we can talk about ideas and not have to frame them in a for-and-against debate isn’t how we (usually) discuss ideas in this country. It will actually, I hope, crack open the agenda a little; there will be a whole range of things we don’t normally talk about.”

And if you don’t leave, we’ll call the cops.

See also : Uphill battle to bring back campus life, Harriet Alexander, The Sydney Morning Herald, November 10, 2008 | Protest over more Victorian universities job cuts, Andrew Trounson, The Australian, November 20, 2008 (“The University of Melbourne has been downsizing its arts faculty with around 50 academic staff cut in the last two years, and a further 12 set to go”) | Minister for Uranium Mining & Woodchipping Peter Garrett continues to pursue a stunning political career: “Mr Garrett stunned the arts community by axing Australia’s only elite training institution for professional musicians, the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne” (Fans pan Garrett’s cuts to music, Cynthia Banham, The Sydney Morning Herald, November 22, 2008).

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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