Friday, 11 December 2009

Could it be that one small voice, doesn't count in the room?

So sang Michael Stipe nearly 30 years ago, with a poignant yearning, or something. Anyway, before I lose my train of thought, this has nothing to do with South Melbourne Hellas, the game of futebol, or anything else that would interest 99.9% of my readership.

A couple of weeks ago I was on my way home from an outing with my youngest brother. Waiting at the bus shelter, I get this call from an unrecognisable number. Straining to hear over the Mason Street traffic, I eventually agree to attend a session where I would be a part of a student panel being surveyed about our experiences at Victoria University. I've been recommended by one of the higher ups. I get the email detailing the when and where the next day, and my elation is slightly dampened, because apparently it'll be one 45 minute session. But there's be lunch. Neat.

So the day finally comes, when I can unload all my praise and loathing. But no. The couple of Arts students that have bothered to turn up are lumped in with the Education students. Again. I say again, because this is what happens a lot in my course - education students are required to take some electives, and a lot of them end up in literature and writing classes. And the problems with that are multidimensional. Education students are required to take weeks off to perform their placements at schools - so either everyone who stays behind keeps going, disadvantaging those doing their placements, or we collectively miss weeks every time they go, meaning we lose a ton of momentum, as well as force a 12 week semester's worth of work into 10 weeks. Not good for anybody. Couple that with the fact that a fair proportion of the education students have little passion or interest for what they're learning and are only there because they have to be, and it gets even messier.

So, the point being, once again, the needs of education and arts students are lumped together. So while there were similar threads running through the discussion - about staff, facilities, course structures - overall, it just didn't fit. And it only went for a half hour. There was not a single comment made by the students in that room that I felt was a waste of time. But it had barely scratched the surface of what could have been covered - certainly some of the other students when speaking later thought I could have gone for a couple of hours at a bare minimum. So no, not a complete waste of time, but this is why time-share accommodation sucks. Just a little taste, but never the whole pie.

I really like Victoria University. Academically, its emphasis on class contact and partipation suits me very well. But at the St Albans campus, socially it's a desert. There's no union presence. There's no common lunch hour to even begin thinking about orgainsing a club or society. There's no pub. The food's shit. And they're going to stuff another few hundred or thousand people there when they shut down Melton and Sunbury. The sessionals, who are sometimes teaching courses they've created themselves, have one small common computer lab. I could've gone on and on. And I felt I was robbed of that chance today. Or maybe it's the fact that they, the questioning panel of academics and university admin, know exactly what's wrong, and it was more of a perfunctory exercise. That's harsh to say, but half an hour, being grouped together with the students of a different stream - why?

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