Students at the Sydney College of Art (SCA) were hardly going to let the University of Sydney’s ‘Info Day’ proceed uninterrupted.
On Thursday, January 5 students, who are currently engaged in a battle to retain their Callan Park campus, stormed the main stage opposite the Fisher library. They chanted “Let SCA Stay” through megaphones, and carried a banner that read, ‘Progressive thinking? USyd you’re embarrassing! Cultivate our art school, don’t destroy it!”
SCA’s parent company, the University of Sydney, announced in July 2016 that it would close the historic Callan Park College campus and merge the art school with its Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), relocating enrolled students to the university’s Camperdown site.
This announcement was a backflip on earlier plans announced in late June, to amalgamate the College with the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) art school. The university scrapped this scheme after sustained protests from students and staff who claimed the decision was made without adequate consultation and was premised on a misleading bid to profit off the move.
The University initially informed students of the amalgamation via email, which immediately provoked a backlash from students and staff, triggering the ensuing campaign to “Let SCA Stay.”
A University of Sydney Masters student and founding member of the campaign, Rachel Evans, said the protest at the University’s Info Day was part of the group’s ongoing efforts to maintain the campaign’s visibility among students, staff and the public.
“There is an assault on the arts at a federal and state level,” she said.
“We had a lot of traction last year during the protests because people were looking to this movement as a heroic and exciting move to save the arts.”
Despite a significant outcry from affected students, Vice Chancellor Michael Spence maintains that the College will merge with FASS, with the shift proposed to begin mid-year.
Ms Evans is adamant that the downgrading is questionable. “None of the reasons that he [Vice Chancellor Spence] put forward ring true. They said it was about saving money, but they’re spending millions of dollars on the business college,” she said.
“Mr Spence is one of wealthiest Vice Chancellors in the country and the University has a $250 million operating surplus.”
“This University is extremely rich, and they’re crying poor over the $5 million per year that SCA is allegedly leaking.”
Ms Evans does, however, hold onto hope for sustained pressure from students and staff against the move to bargain for a better deal.
“We have won a reprieve of six months. Originally they said the shift would go ahead at the beginning of 2017 – now it’s mid year. They have also said that although they were originally going to cut 60% of staff, now it’s 40-60%.”
As published in City Hub newspaper, January 2017. Read the article on their website