The Quenda Files: A Quiet Week

After we were bragging last week about how much better podcasters we had become, somehow we activated Siri mid discussion and stuffed up the file export to lose the last 5 minutes of the podcast, which is probably for the best because we were padding for time after a super uneventful week of politics.

The Quenda Files: Fireworks and Racism

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Troy and Roland ramble on about yesterday’s news including the Fremantle firework ban, systemic racism, staff strikes and fossil fuel divestment. Practice makes perfect as most of last week’s technical blips are ironed out and the volume tends to be more even too! We even wrote a few notes down to plan what were going to say but quickly lost them.

What do you want us to talk about? Do you want to come on the show and tell us we’re wrong? Leave a comment below.

Show Notes

The Quenda Files: Episode 1

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Welcome to our first attempt at a weekly podcast discussing the last week of news and politics. Troy and I sat down to ramble on but both of us had been watching too much Olympics to provide any well thought out opinions. Next week will be better researched we promise. Also apologies over the sound quality, expect a few glitches, we’re very new to this.

Leave feedback and suggestions, positive and negative, in the comments. Anyone who wants to design a Quenda Files logo is welcome to do so.

iTunes subscription coming soon. But for those of you who are more tech savvy, the RSS link is here.

Show notes

Interview: Endeavour Games at Murdoch

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METIOR will be highlighting student run clubs, programs and initiatives on campus this year. If you would like your club, group, event or whatever profiled, contact Roland.

What inspired you to start the group?

The inspiration for the club mostly came after the drive to bring back Humans vs Zombies (HvZ). Our staff came to the decision that as a ‘gaming club’, we could organise or help out with other games that create the same sense of competition and fun that HvZ always has. That’s also where the club name came from: we’re endeavouring to get people together, having fun and competing.

For those unfamiliar, what is Humans vs Zombies?

HvZ is, more or less, tag with a theme. Two sides compete against each other to be the last team standing. One team are Humans (we call them Survivors for our advertising and such), they’re armed with Nerf blasters. All but three people start as Humans. The others are zombies. They don’t get guns, but they tag Human players to make them zombies. If they ‘turn’ all the Human players, they win. If there are humans left, humans win. It’s ridiculous and the best kind of fun, exactly what uni students need to relax.

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Innocent, unarmed zombies

We’ve had HvZ at Murdoch a few times before, what are the best aspects you hope to recapture, and what will be new this time?

I only took part in the 2014 season of HvZ unfortunately, so that’s really my only frame of reference. We only had about 60 players, compared to about 200 in 2013, and even more in 2012. I’ve been told it was run in 2011 as well but I haven’t found anyone that took part. The biggest aim for 2016 is to achieve the sense of teamwork that 2014 had. Everyone enjoyed the Us vs Them, where Them could be Us if you weren’t careful. People explored more of the campus than they would have just for classes and that made things pretty interesting too. We’re hoping to implement a few small ideas, but the biggest change this year is the Costume Competition. Come dress as a zombie or a human in the zombie apocalypse, get your photo taken for our Wanted Posters, and on Friday the 18th we have judges coming in to decide on the best. As well as two of our staff members, and a Guild representative, we have a couple of popular cosplayers (Lady Jaded and Darkforce) coming down as judges. We’re also planning a Hunt the Guild event where a few Council members will make targets of themselves. Beyond that we’re hoping to add a few extra events snd attractions for Round Two.

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Murderous, vile humans

What sort of people should sign up for HvZ?

Everyone. Everyone should sign up because its the most fun you can have on campus! In all seriousness, anyone who likes active games, role-playing, dressing up or just anyone who owns a Nerf blaster should at least give it a shot. It costs nothing and you’ll make new friends and have fun. I’d be pretty sad not to see a METIOR rep at some of the events!

Do you have any other plans or ambitions for the year?

Plans for the rest of the year are pretty much going to be guided by how popular Round One is. We’re really hoping, eventually, to run HvZ twice a semester, or at least twice a year. We’re always on the lookout for new games and events we can run as well.

What sort of support/input/help would you like and how can other students get involved?

All we’re asking for right now is for a huge show of support from the student body. The more interest HvZ gets, the more events Endeavour Games can run for students. We’re also looking for donations of unloved Nerf blasters that we can offer for sale to interested but unarmed students, with the proceeds going towards future projects, better prizes and maybe HvZ MurderU merchandise so players can show off their interest. We’ll also be opening up the club to regular members during week one, to help with planning, staffing and arranging events.

You can like Endeavour Games on Facebook or find out more about Humans vs Zombies Round 1 here.

Photos from Humans vs Zombies 2011

Guild Elections: Action Policy Analysis

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Disclaimer: Roland ran under the ACTION ticket in 2014.

Here we go for round two of policy analysis, rules are the same as before, judging policy on how realist they are in my experience with student politics at Murdoch.

I am familiar with most of the Action candidates, I met their executive team of Troy, Brodie and Gavin in 2014 as Guild President as they were all active students in various clubs and Troy and Brodie ran for election as part of the same ticket with me last year. I met Lauren this year volunteering for WSEN, which she co-ordinated and have met Claudia and Rachel who have been very active getting Student for Refugees off the ground this year. Also David, their School Board nominee contacted The Guild this year to begin the petition about services at the library.

I would’ve liked to have written this earlier but Action took awhile to get their policy out there. Maybe something worth considering when you vote. I did find a flyer though today, so I’ll type the dot points in here and give my appraisal. The flyer has greater detail so if I talk about something not inferred in the bullet point, I’m referring to detail provided in their flyer.

Engagement

  • Get involved week
  • Kick start Education Council
  • Supporting Clubs and Societies
  • Encouraging student led initiatives

Get involved week is the showpiece here, seems to involve week long activities and promotions to engage with new students. Sounds promising. Sounds like a  lot of work but it’s just a bunch of forms for Room Bookings to deal with.

Kick starting Education Council is also something promised by TMNT. Action claim it hasn’t operated in 4 years but the truth is it’s probably been defunct for much longer. Education Council has a better chance of getting up next year no matter who wins though because there is finally a substantial number of students running for school board positions which is encouraging to see.

It was interesting that supporting clubs to obtain external commercial sponsorship came from the more leftwing of the two tickets. I really expected TMNT, with its card carrying Liberals, to come up with that idea but they’re pushing their voucher system instead. Anyway, bringing external sponsors on board would greatly assist a lot of clubs, finding appropriate sponsors is the hard bit. For example MESS (Murdoch Engineering Student Society) probably have a lot more opportunities to make industry links than say the Quidditch team. With some focus though, Action should be able to deliver this idea and it won’t require re-write of Guild procedures.

Encouraging student led initiatives sounds promising and inclusive. A cynic might say that such a statement could read as “we have no ideas” but I’ll take Action at face value and assume they will be open and helpful to students who want to start exciting things on campus. There are caveats though, a big one being that often students don’t have any good ideas. For example a student approached us this year about holding a 4th of July party for American Independence. This is a bad idea because the vast majority of American students are exchange students and only here during semester. They also came to us with their idea on the 2nd of July. That said, The Guild sometimes receives great ideas and I believe that truly engaging activities happen because they have groundswell and drive from the student body. That requires a self motivated and engaged campus atmosphere and that is the harder task.

Standing up for student rights

  • No cuts, no fees, no corporate universities
  • Cross subsidy of research and teaching

The first point is almost redundant now with deregulation off the agenda but it is nice to see a ticket come out and state their position on federal education policy. The second point is more interesting. It’s an open secret that almost all universities in Australia supplement their research budgets with the tuition fees of students. Convincing the university to open its books and show exactly how they redistribute money is a very big task. I think the students at ANU made some progress to this, but it’s a very big task and I doubt Murdoch will be comfortable with this. It may be as straightforward as the Senate and Academic Council asking which documents they can release to the public but even that doesn’t show the whole story.

Accountability

  • Truth
  • Transparency

Not much to say, Actions accountability policies are simple and achievable. No need to redraft Statute 17.

Sustainability

  • Divestment
  • Support Sustainability

Divestment from fossil fuels is an interesting issue. Right now the Guild holds no shares but we do deal with plenty of companies that could be seen as evil. Where do you draw the line? Is having a bank account with a bank that has in the past helped finance mining operations too evil to deal with? Action might say it is. The Guild has changed banks twice in the past two years though so it’s not difficult, it will keep the Finance Manager distracted for a few weeks though. As for making the university divest, see my above comments on cross subsidy of fees and university transparency. I spent a year on Senate and I’m not actually sure if Murdoch has any shares, fossils fuel or otherwise. Again ANU announced a partial divestment last year but I suspect all of Murdoch’s money is tied up in the St Ive’s retirement village.

Social Justice

  • Assist student activism and awareness clubs on campus
  • Collective rights

Much like TMNT, many of Action’s policies lack the procedural detail that outline exactly how they take shape. “Supporting the student activist clubs on campus” could look like funding the Free Syrian Army or it could look like getting the Students for Refugees in the same room as Oaktree and FossilFreeMurdoch. I expect Action will do the latter, which is fine.

Better Study Facilities

  • Library and IT Services

The Action team includes two students, Brodie and David, who were heavily involved in petitioning the Library this year. Their policy statement seems to outline that they will continue to engage with the university on these issues and that’s good because I do know the university is slowly working on them.

In my opinion, Actions policies are more firmly grounded in reality than TMNT’s, although Dean Wicken might prefer the language “less ambitious”. I thought Action might’ve bragged more about Troy and Lauren organising an international sustainability conference on campus this year, but like their policy they seem more down to Earth. A few areas could probably do with greater detail and clarity. The lack of event ideas is also a notable omission but I can almost predict their replies will be along the lines of fostering and promoting club led events.

There you have it. If there is demand, I’ll try to scape together some thoughts on the independent candidates. The comments are open.

Guild Elections: TMNT Policy Analysis

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Disclaimer: Roland ran under the ACTION ticket in 2014.

Welcome to the first installment of election policy analysis, where I will dissect and evaluate the policies of the major tickets contesting the 2015 Murdoch Student Elections. As a paid staffer of the Guild in 2012, Guild President in 2014 and Education Vice President this year, I feel suitably qualified to pass judgement on how achievable policies are, with an occasional comment thrown in. Candidates have the right to leave a comment below.

First up, Teenage Mutant Ni The Murdoch Now Team, or TMNT for short. I have had less interaction with TMNT than Action but their squad isn’t unknown to me. I have been friends with Presidential candidate Leonar Guy McDonald for several years, first meeting him through my partner, and I approached him to be General Secretary on Guild Council this year. I have worked with Bianca Talbot on Council in the past and have a lot of respect for her. I have also met Andy Hunter and had a number of polite conversations with him. The other candidates are unknown to me but I did find Tay Alers on my friends list on Facebook. I’m not sure when I added him.

Let’s go through their ten point plan and break down each point.

campus

These are admirable goals but I’m afraid to say these are not new ideas. Since opening in 2007 there have been endless attempts at getting food into the Tavern. According to 2006 Guild President Reece Harley, the University constructed the venue without a kitchen to appease lease holders in the Refectory, scared of the competition. The Tavern is a victim of the Guild not having control over any commercial leases on campus other than their own.

They can explore options but The Guild has no control over the former Bankwest lease and a suggestion to put METIOR offices there was already flatly refused. The whole area, including senate, bookshop and refectory is earmarked for redevelopment but I expect plans will be stalled and delayed. Murdoch has a terrible track record of consulting with students over common spaces and I have only seen a reduction in common spaces since I enrolled.events

These all sound like pretty fun events. Except for the Colour Run, that can get fucked. Anyone who finds excitement over corn starch shot at them after completing a 4km jog all while supporting a for-profit company that masquerades as a charity needs to get out more. Anyway, otherwise, yeah cool, events but execution is the key and I haven’t seen or heard of TMNT’s event’s officer delivering any great events before. Not like the MUEnSA or MVSA events, which go off.
tresure

Alright wow. So this is a big one and what I’m guessing will be a main point of differentiation between the main tickets. This is possible, however it is such a huge task for such minimal gain that I don’t know why they’d bother. To install a paid Treasurer onto the Guild Executive they’ll need to rewrite the Guild Regulations, the Guild Election Regulations and Statute 17 of the University Act. All three of these require approval by two-thirds of Guild Council (hard enough to two-thirds attendance to meetings) scrutinised by the University’s Legal and Governance Department, approved by the University Senate and then the Statute then has to go to the WA State Parliament for approval. This isn’t impossible, but it is an enormous, year-long task. All this, and the Guild has a professional Finance Manager. I really have to question whether this will actually offer better governance.

It is also worth pointing out that currently financial oversight responsibilities are shared between the President and the General Secretary. At the beginning of the year it was moved to the Gen Sec entirely due to the President’s study commitments. If TMNT are hinting that The Guild has issues around financial transparency, then is it the current Gen Sec, their own Presidential candidate Guy McDonald, who is responsible.

library

I think these are great policies, and I’d really like to congratulate Action’s Brodie Skalko and David Giang for their leadership on these issues. David initially wrote to the Guild and began circulating his petition to increase library opening hours and the size of the Library, with Brodie facilitating from the Guild side all the way. Eventually Guy and myself sat down with the interim Library Director who had heard the call and was already planning to expand Library services. Frustratingly, many of the changes will take some time to implement, due to logistical and security reasons, but the Library has already extended its hours on weekends this semester compared to last. Putting a coffee machine and microwave in the 24 Common Area could happen, but it took about 3 years for the Guild to get microwaves in the refectory.

clubs

Adjustments to club funding are all well within the remit of The Guild. Promises to double expenditure sound exciting but it’s worth remembering that the clubs themselves actually need to spend the money and this year we’ve had less funding requests from clubs than last year.

TMNT are going to have to provide more detail on their club voucher policy. I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of supplying normie students with vouchers that they can donate to a registered club who can exchange that for cash from the Guild. It could be a great idea but it might raise a few eyebrows legally as club funding comes from SSAF. There will need guidelines around who gets vouchers, how they’re redeemed, what they’re worth etc.

publication

I confess, I am suspicious of these policies. They don’t explicitly mention METIOR, The Guild supported publication since time immemorial which is deemed so historically important that the State Library archives it. Considering that The Student Canon has effectively endorsed TMNT it feels like an attempt to supplant METIOR with its rebel cousin. I would also argue that METIOR has flourished since moving online, receiving over 100 hits a day despite being just two months old. Also, if TMNT had a few media arts students on their ticket they might know that bookable student space is available with all the facilities to produce media content.

Editors Note: An interview with TMNT notes this policy plans to involve The Student Canon, METIOR and Radio Murdoch under an umbrella of print, web and radio. 

account

These transparency measures are all reasonable. I particularly like number 4. However, it’s worth pointing out that Guild Council meetings are now open to the public and minutes are (usually) posted on Facebook where they go largely ignored. The writing and circulation of minutes for approval is the responsibility of the General Secretary, so if TMNT are suggesting minutes aren’t published in a timely manner well…loud

These ideas all sound decent at first but a few things need to be considered. Lecture bashes are not an effective way of communicating with students. Many students don’t show up to lectures and those who do are often late or asleep most of the time. If a councillor lecture bashed say, 5 lectures, from 8:30 to 12:30, they might reach 600 students if they’re lucky but they’ve spent half the day doing it and are relying on students to remember with their brains what was said before they sat through a 1 to 3 hour lecture on something they’re actually interested in. As a comparison, the last post on the Guild Facebook page right now has been viewed 763 times in 5 hours and we can measure the engagement it has had. Alternatively we can mail out G-News to 12,000 students (of whom 10,000 will no doubt ignore it, but you get the idea.) I won’t deny that the Guild has an engagement and outreach problem but 20th century ideas are unlikely to solve them.welfare

So far we’ve seen some achievable policies, often already being implemented, and some very difficult to achieve ideas. However, installing a Guild Treasurer whose duties include cooking food at the Tavern would pale in comparison to getting puppies and kittens on campus. Murdoch’s animal ethics policies are among the strictest in the country, tirelessly enforced by the vigilant Animal Ethics Committee (AEC). The AEC and vet College would flip at this. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but yeah it’s pretty much impossible. Last year I wanted to have a puppy parade on Bush Court as part of a ‘dogs against deregulation’ media stunt. I was presented with a five point plan for why it couldn’t happen. It didn’t happen.

The other three points sound fine, although I’m not sure halal microwaves are a thing. Are they a thing? The counselling and welfare map is already in progress.1styear

First year engagement is important. As written, these policies feel like an overreach with The Guild telling clubs and societies how to run themselves. From my experience I would advise they don’t do this or at least provide more detail.

Orientation is a mess and seems to be getting worse. However, it hasn’t been Guild space since 2006 and at the moment the Guild is merely offered 5 minutes of presentation to some schools and the right to host a few activities on Bush Court. I really hope whatever candidates get elected can push improvements to orientation hard but expect resistance from the University.

Overall I think TMNT have a fairly uncontroversial suite of policies but a number of them are extremely difficult to achieve or are underway already. That isn’t unusual coming from an outsider ticket but TMNT have the current General Secretary and former Women’s Officer on board, which reeks of blatant populism. There is also a severe shortcoming in education policy. The Guild’s Education officer is elevated to the rank of Vice President, higher than sustainability or Indigenous or events, because education is absolute core of the Guild’s purpose. What is EVP candidate Dean Wicken’s position on breadth units? What does he think about the Liberal party’s proposed deregulation of fees? What about the cross subsidy of research and teaching? What about the availability of lecture recordings, of the flipped classroom, MOOCs etc. They don’t need positions on all these but TMNT need more education policy than “we will reboot Education Council.”

But then again, at least theirs is out. I look forward to TMNT elaborations on policy and Action to release theirs outside the broadsheet.

Bring Sheglabo Home

We should bring Muhammed Sheglabo home, make him a cup of tea and talk to him.

Think about your life right now, you live in a safe, prosperous nation, you get to frolic around our beautiful Murdoch campus, surrounded by attractive, intelligent people and learning skills that will bring prosperity to your life and community. Compare that to an ISIS fighter, living in a shit, desolate, lawless desert fighting a futile, perpetual battle, mostly against people of the same faith, destined to die in ditch, hated by the world. The fact is, for Muhammed Sheglabo, being an ISIS fighter seemed like a better option, with a brighter future, and that isn’t normal. Continue reading

Prez Sez

And so we close the curtain on another year at uni. You’ll be happy to know that the experience as Guild President is also as hectic and overwhelming towards the end of semester as study is. I imagined it would be winding down by now but now I have to produce all this evidence of doing work, organise all my files and help ease my successor Raeesah Khan into the role. It really has been an honour representing Murdoch students all year and I encourage everyone reading to get involved with their university life as much as they can, be it volunteering with events, contributing to Metior or serving on a club committee there are lots of ways to get involved. My path to Guild Presidency all started with signing up to play hockey. We don’t even have a hockey club on campus anymore, maybe I’ll try and get that going next year before I eventually graduate.

I’m just rambling but this is my last chance to drop all these feels.

A lot of people see university as this one final obstacle they have to overcome before their life truly begins. People constantly ask me “why haven’t you finished yet?” As though I’m holding them back as well. That’s the wrong approach. University is as much a part of your life as any other part of it and if we embrace that, and aim to contribute as much as we can we’ll all have a better experience for it. This campus has never been worse off for a students involvement in it.

Prez Sez

I write this today on the announcement of the Guild elections for next year. Record low voter turnout, although I suspect, but they’ll never admit, that the University forgot to update the voter roll this year effectively leaving all first years and newly transferred students without a vote. Expect the rest of this column to be full of other wild accusations and flippant remarks too because I don’t have many more of these left to write and might as well run my mouth since student engagement seems to be at an all time low.

So what else has been annoying me that you should know about? Well I picked up Metior editor 2, from 1991 and read through President Juddy O’Malley’s editorial. Wow. He opens “this will be as brief as possible” and then proceeds to fill one and a half A4 pages bragging about how terribly he managed the Guild’s finances. In 1991, despite having $400k in the bank, the Guild went about borrowing $300k (interest rates in 1991 were over 13%) to contribute towards the construction of the Sports and Rec centre on campus. Fast forward a decade later and The Guild has sold off it’s remaining stake in sports and recreation for $1. So I think we got ripped off there and, judging from the amount of club grant requests from sports clubs this year, it looks like under the Uni’s management sports has been run into the fucking ground.

What else? Oh yeah, how about that Rockingham decision? In the likely event that you don’t read student announcements; Rockingham undergraduate courses have been cancelled, saving Murdoch $5 million over 3 years. Now I managed to procure the original master plan for the Rockingham campus recently. It wasn’t found in the University archives, which probably explains why the state of the campus appears to have been frozen since 1996. According to the original blueprint, by 2015 Rockingham was meant to be a full fledged campus with on-site student accommodation and over 2000 students. Funnily enough, 2000 students was cited by Murdoch as the number of students they would need to have enrolled at Rockingham for it to be financially sustainable while justifying its decision to reduce the number of students to zero.

In spite of all this, thank you to the handful of students who gave a shit and came along to protest the government’s plans to make student life even worse. There was great solidarity from the Murdoch students who put aside differences in ideology and approach to come together in opposition to the government. I saw everyone from Socialist Alliance to Young Liberals there. It’s a shame the factions of other universities decided to be all sectarian about it and use it as an opportunity to attack each other instead of unifying for two whole hours against a common foe.