Originally published as “‘The guild needs to do more to stand up for students’ says Vice President hopeful” in Grok Magazine.
Left action candidate Clare Francis is the quintessential student activist and she believes the Curtin Student Guild needs to do more to stand up for students.
She is running for the position of Education Vice President, against Illuminate’s Nicola Gulvin.
The history student, NUS staffer and Socialist Alternative member wants students to hold university cuts in their minds when they go out and vote in the upcoming Guild elections.
“One of the key issues affecting students is the cuts to funding. So, it’ll mean $40 million cut from Curtin University directly, and massive fee increases,” she said.
“Left Action is an activist ticket, we campaign against these changes even when we’re not in the Guild, but I think these campaigns will be strengthened with a more active and left-wing student union, both in terms of the Curtin Student Guild and the presence in the National Union of Students.”
Francis served on the guild in 2014 as the Humanities Faculty Representative, and she said she was most proud of the guild’s campaign against cuts to contact hours and staff.
“In my area of humanities there were campus cuts. So, one of the things they were trying to push through was actually halving contact hours in architecture for instance, which massively affected the grades of students in that area, and I managed to get that reversed,” she said.
In the same year, the Left Action-led Guild mobilised against the university’s decision to sack a much-loved economics lecturer mid-semester.
“We visited their lectures, we got a petition going, but the students were so pissed off it turned into a protest at the Business School and she kept her job for the rest of the semester,” Francis said.
“It was important for us to stand up for a staff member and actually to show that students notice and students care, and this isn’t something that can just happen without anything happening.”
Left Action’s core election promise is to oppose the federal government’s proposed cuts to university funding, as well as cuts to staffing and contact hours at Curtin.
Francis expressed concerns at the low voter turnout at previous guild elections, and said it was concerning how many roles within the guild were filled unopposed, including the presidency.
Which, of course, begs the question as to why Left Action didn’t put forward a candidate for the position.
Francis said running a presidential candidate just wasn’t on the cards for the party this year.
“We’re an activist ticket. We want to take positions where we think we’ll be able to use them to further campaigns for students,” she said.
According to Francis, Illuminate has been missing in action when it comes to informing students of the issues that matter to them.
“Many students here don’t know that their calendar’s going to be restructured, there’s a huge process going on for that; that their faculties are being restructured as well. I think the first step is informing students, and organising students to oppose these things,” she said.