spring of the student associations

September 10, 2009 at 12:09 pm (community, complex pleasures, musings, simple pleasures, ultimo sa)

the mulberries are growing and the student associations are blooming. life is good.

i dropped in at macquarie uni the other day. there are people running around in red, screen printed tshirts for their first student-council-equivalent. and not just a few, there were tshirts everywhere! over the years since i was around, the student council and other organisations got eroded, corrupted and eventually abolished. good people have been working hard for the last several years to create a new, better organisation within the generic association they were bequeathed to replace the whole lot. i’m sure there’s plenty more to do, but on a nice sunny day with people out and talking to eachother, it looks like they’ve gotten somewhere. there’s an energy i haven’t seen there for a long time, perhaps ever. it helps that the wonderful old space that the women’s room never should’ve given up has now become the queerspace, and that people are meeting about a food co-op. people were dancing outside the atrium and i didn’t even feel bad that the old rabbit warren that used to house the student council and the art space has been gutted for the new generic association offices – they’re shiny and glassy and full of people, with a functional reception with a reasonable list of clubs evident at the pigeonholes. the two organisations that the space was taken from were long dead, but indications are that, when their replacements get big enough to be able to use office space, they will have competent enough people to win that fight.

yesterday i was at ultimo tafe and stopped by their student association to catch up. i came away with a similar feeling of hope; there’s been shakeup in the staffing situation, with someone getting a promotion and others shuffling up, and it all seems to be to the better. not only have memberships have gone up to about a third of the population (take a look at that, unis!) but the new board is active, both helping out with the general activities of the association and having ideas. gosh, ideas! all four of them are being put through the frontline management course, which both displays a certain level of commitment and means that there will be four serious student-run projects happening this year. collaboration with departments is going well, including a shiny makeover for the student newspaper that i started, which indicates that it will continue. sports have started up again after a few years of not being able to fill teams, with a soccer competition against eora – one of many collaborations with them which are fruit of the seeds i kept planting back when. all this is in the environment of the tafe pushing a serious commitment to greenskilling, actually surveying people about the footwear courses and trying to work something out, and security keeping up the good work we’ve seen the entire time i’ve been involved. seven of their 21 staff are permanent, and it seems enough to keep up good continuity and make them the best and most understanding service in the area.

i’m no longer enrolled in either of these organisations, but i can delight in seeing results of my previous hard work amongst the bubbling up of good things, even if i’m not there to enjoy them directly. now i’m at yet another educational institution. i’ve gone and nominated for uts’ academic board already, and their student elections are coming up too. i’ll have to investigate…

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contract fun

August 31, 2007 at 1:01 pm (ultimo sa)

In this Agreement unless the context otherwise requires:

  • The masculine includes the feminine and vice versa.
  • The neuter gender includes the masculine and feminine.
  • The singular includes the plural and vice versa.

does this mean that a contract for one amusement machine actually allows the company to pepper the campus with 253 of the things? ‘but, but, the singular includes the plural!’

i’d hate to think how gender would come into it.

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tafe newspaper!

July 20, 2007 at 12:58 am (simple pleasures, ultimo sa)

one of my projects was realised this week. sorta.

i’ve been wanting a student newspaper at ultimo tafe for a long long time. drooling over other tafes’ modest versions, sighing over the universities’ established media collectives, prolificness (Word spellcheck says it’s a word!) and independence.

we decreed it to happen at a board meeting a couple of months ago. we decided it would be monthly, a single A4 sheet to start with, folded to A5. we listed the content we wanted; mostly ads for the services we provide, a calendar of events and a callout for people to get involved. i didn’t care about the ads for the first edition, but i pushed hard for what i really wanted – a format, a schedule, a precedent. sam, a staff member, was to do the work and the board would authorise the final version before it was run off on the association photocopier in time for the first week of second semester.

i saw the first copy on tuesday. it looks like a leaflet, but competent and informative. at first i compared it to a well established broadsheet, but then i remembered it was pretty fantastic for a bureaucratic and stagnant tafe campus. bright yellow. there weren’t many copies, but they were working on it.

today there was a stall being set up to advertise legal aid and the like, and music and games on the grass. i ran up to the office to grab a handful of papers, and found eight. printing more was impossible without permission and allison had just left the office. lu didn’t have the file on her computer. what i brought back was slapped on the table, half underneath a bigger leaflet, with the entire title covered. to save it from the wind. she didn’t
it was also impossible for me to duck in and make up a poster, print it out and stick it up. the stall had nothing but a few unexplained stacks of leaflets, and there was certainly nothing to celebate the launch of our inaugural newspaper, but the answer came back, on all fronts, as ‘students aren’t allowed to use the computers’. students? i’m the president. how would me making a poster lead to a flood of students and viruses? apparently it would. next board meeting…

i flirted with the idea of braving the systems of the library computer room and printers, which i haven’t needed to use since ten years ago and may have changed a touch, but i probably would’ve had problems getting tape after that. i settled for taking a bunch of papers, which had by now materialised thanks to our overworked staff member who really shouldn’t insist on doing work i’m offering to do for free, and distributing them to the people loitering around the games.

it was fantastic! i’d forgotten how good it can be to get over that social barrier and approach people. i only gave out a dozen papers, but almost everyone i approached was friendly, interested, impressed, looking forward to seeing the next edition bigger and better. i got feedback, from ‘it’s got a calendar, i’ll keep hold of it’, ‘gym open day? i’ll be circling that’ and ‘do i have to be a member?’ to ‘what do you offer’, ‘what do you need’ and ‘how can i contact you?’

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raising my voice, dropping my voice

July 6, 2007 at 4:35 pm (gender, ultimo sa)

i was at the frontline management course today. it was very interesting. after class yesterday sylvia and i had mentioned to the teacher that we didn’t appreciate the sexism that was coming out. today, we had to sit boy – girl – boy – girl around a u-shape. this was justified by a story about army dinners with her army husband, with the men getting up and moving down two places like a barn dance, to keep the ladies entertained.

then she got someone to keep time for ten minutes, in which none of the men were to speak. they couldn’t do it, with people starting to speak and being hushed, whistles, noise, and someone making a sign, with lots of antics to try to make people read it. the women meanwhile, got the fairly basic work done with a minimum of fuss, and i enjoyed the quiet immensely. the noise level in the room had been loud and constant.

then we had to switch. the noise level went back up, though not quite as high as before, and they discussed everything at rambling length, with plenty of not-quite on topic comments, and heaps and heaps of commentary on what the women were doing. if we looked at eachother we were communicating. hand gestures was not allowed, and got heckled. sylvia came in for lots of hassling, when she couldn’t reply. the work talked about anti discrimination and stereotypes, and i was not happy to be unable to contribute. there were lots of dubious comments and laughter, and one particular comment from a certain person sitting directly opposite me, about male florists and female mechanics, and how if there was an all-female auto mechanic business, it wouldn’t go well because noone would trust them. or something. i sat bolt upright and glared at him.

the third ten minutes, only the five most noisy people were allowed to speak. this included sylvia and the main offenders from the previous set. it continued largely as before, but sylvia could argue. she was unsupported however, so she couldn’t fight everything.

the fourth round those five had to stay silent. it was a farce; the sign holder had decided he had something that was worth saying, and we tried to shush him many times, but he refused to follow the rules. the rules we had all been following, which meant i had spent twenty minutes already forced to listen to his blather with no recourse. the other barred boys got in on the shushing, which was even worse. in the end, i raised my voice to approximate the total noise level we’d been having in the room, and commenced speaking, trying to shut him down by taking up all the verbal space. i had to go on and on, talking about how i would have to keep this up until someone else who was allowed to speak joined in, as that appeared to be the only way to keep others from assuming all the space. it worked a little, shutting him down, but everyone else decided that they had comments to make about this display. eventually the woman who was moderating that bit came to the party and opened her mouth, and asked me to read a passage. i dropped my voice down as low as i could considering i was shaking with adrenaline, and read. and then people listened!

many years ago, when i attended even more meetings than i do now, i was in one that was as noisy as usual. when katrina, the vice chair, dropped her voice to speak rather than raising it to compete, everyone stopped talking, leaned in and listened. i was amazed! i have always kept that in mind, and tried it a couple of times, but this was the first time it had worked.

at lunch time, i wanted to tell mr female-mechanics-are-ok-in-a-male-business that i don’t like his constant sexism. he actually approached me first, and it ended up as the two of us with the teacher for quite a while. he said he was using examples of prejudice to make a point; he didn’t mean anything against female mechanics. i told him that i appreciated that, but it wasn’t just the comment, it was the constant sexualised environment he was creating. i also talked about how examples have subtexts, and are read differently by different people, and his were fuelling the general environment in a way that i and other women were uncomfortable, and being prevented from talking as much as others. i didn’t say that if i were a female mechanic i would be delighted to work in an all-female company, and i think it would go very well indeed because there wouldn’t be a man for customers to view as better, and anyway there should be enough people who have trouble with male mechanics for us not to need the chauvenists. much was said, and i was very impressed by how he took it on and affirmed a commitment to do better on these issues, instead of belligerently repeating how it was all humourous, as i have been subjected to by so many people i’ve tried to explain things to. he was very quiet through lunch and all afternoon; i hope it was just lots of thinking. it would be very good if he becomes better on this, he acts like he is in charge wherever he is, and often enough it’s true. what’s more, i think he knows more about how to make things work at tafe than anyone else, and i hope to learn more from him.

interestingly, the one example of defensiveness in that exchange actually came from the teacher. i was explaining that i was a little uncomfortable with the heterocentricity of the environment, with a touch too many examples and questions about husbands and wives and children, and not enough talk about tafe student associations. and too much talk about restaurants, thanks to one person – but we all knew that! she acted a touch offended, saying, many times, that she didn’t realise her examples were a problem, they were just from her life. she took it like an attack on her, not a comment on the whole classroom and something to be aware of. after lunch she apologised beforehand for every comment she made that was personal. maybe she took half the point, but at least half was missed.

eventually we joined the others for lunch. i was much happy birthdayed, and my lunch was payed for. several people also came up to me and asked if i was ok, if i was very upset. it was because i had raised my voice. it was unexpected, from me, and lots of people thought it meant i was very upset. i had been a little upset, but that wasn’t the point! they hadn’t listened to the content, just the volume. is this always the case? the sign writer seems to have been leaned on to apologise, as he did, gracelessly; demanding to know if he had upset me, then cutting me off with his ‘well sorry if i did’. twice.

the afternoon was more subdued, between silence in one corner and apologies from the front (for herself and her examples, while she was talking about assertive behaviour no less) but possibly productive.

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i can now, with excellent authority, thoroughly recommend tafe trained cooks!!

June 23, 2007 at 2:26 pm (out and about, ultimo sa)

i spent last night at the tafe awards night. i got all dressed up in my suit and blue silk shirt and shiny tie, and ran for the bus.

i was supposed to present an award as president of a students association. four of us were there, but it turned out there were only two awards to be given and sylvia and alex were it. rob and i were stuck up the very back of the hall on a half full table, and i decided my new mission was to not need to eat for a week.

grace was sitting down the front, and right when i was finding out from her that actually, alex hadn’t even remembered to come, allison was at my table grabbing rob to present the award. i got back to my even emptier table, and made full use of my dedicated orange juice waiter, who can’t have done much all evening but for keeping my orange juice constantly topped up.

the speeches were tedious, the keynote speech ended with ‘and god bless’, the entertainment was a little half-hearted, but the food was fantastic. there were two choices of entree, main and dessert, and thanks to the empty places next to me, i got to eat both of each. in fact, as three people ate the prawns off the top of one entree and left the delicious saffron linguine base, i effectively had four entrees. the chocolates at the end were also stunning, but they nearly made me sick – just too much. i can now, with excellent authority, thoroughly recommend tafe trained cooks!!

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