Michaela Boland, THE AUSTRALIAN 12:00AM September 15, 2016
Three weeks after students locked the dean of the Sydney College of the Arts, Colin Rhodes, out of his office and made it impossible for him and other staff to return, he has un – expectedly stepped down after a decade heading the school.
As the students’ occupation of SCA’s administration building enters its fourth week, there is no obvious resolution in sight, with parent institution Sydney University refusing to negotiate with them.
The students are protesting against the university’s decision to suspend student intake for a year in 2017 and move the school from 2018 to the main Camperdown campus, away from the Callan Park site in Rozelle, where it has been for 25 years.
They contend the move, which will result in staff losses, will crib the school’s potential and stymie their ability to practise art in suitable studio spaces.
Some international students have launched legal action to recover their fees on the grounds
that the university can no longer deliver the three-year, $30,000 course it had advertised.
Professor Rhodes’s exit comes four months before he was due to retire. A former teacher at the school, Margaret Harris, has agreed to act in the position until a permanent appointment can be made.
The students welcomed news of Professor Rhodes’s exit as a victory that indicated “the university is buckling under the pressure of our campaign”.
University of Sydney deputy vice-chancellor Stephen Garton said “the change in leadership at this time makes sense for us all”.
Professor Garton said, “we think it is an educational advantage for students to come on main campus because they will be able to pick from more subjects and also main campus students will be able to take SCA subjects, so it will become much more embedded and unhampered by travel times.”
The university also hopes to save $4m a year spent running the site at Rozelle, in Sydney’s inner west.
Champions of the SCA point to former NSW premier Nick Greiner’s 1991 agreement with the university in which he acknowledged the significant costs associated with running an art school.
The NSW government gave the university title to the Law School Building in Phillip St, Sydney city to help pay these costs.
The university sold the site for residential development for more than $40 million.
“It’s 25 years ago and things change and the vision pitched was the SCA, the Conservatorium and other arts institutions would be at Callan Park, successive governments did not deliver on that vision,” Professor Garton said.
He also said art degree applications had declined by 32 per cent in NSW over the past five years and SCA student numbers were down 20 per cent.
“It’s not the staff fault, it’s a broader issue of supply and demand,” he said.
Some of the comments from the community on fb
Emily Purser: I believe nothing the university is saying in defence of their outrageous and unlawful actions – it has become a corporation in the worst possible sense and is destroying cultural traditions- academic and artistic… we are deeply hurt and disillusioned that our child can’t apply for next year and I feel like tearing up my degrees from USyd, they no longer mean what they used to. 16/09/16
Tracey Clement: the comments on the Australian site are pretty disturbing. 16/09/16
The following comments were collected from The Australian website.
Principal 16/09/16 Lastly, don’t get me started on the iconic sandstone quad at Usyd being more equal than the iconic sandstone Kirkbride at SCA. Talk about intangible value, probably priceless in the market place.
FLAGSHARE reply to Principal Principal 16/09/16. Market forces II – the staff at SCA worked up a bachelor of visual communication (BVC) catering to the digital virtual reality market [note bigger than Hollywood, via gamer industry with 30 to 40 $1B releases]. Blocked by nabobs like Garton at Usyd.
That’s not market forces. That’s dogma and arguably maladministration under Usyd’s own governance policies.
UTS and ANU have since announced BVC type offerings.
And if a satellite campus was the issue why is the Conservatorium well sited? Why the 10-15 medical clinical schools? Some satellites are obviously more equal than others.
But the point really may be why not simply comply with the consumer law as to educational offerings like every other service provider in the market? Advisedly.
FLAGSHARE LIKE REPLY Principal Principal 16/09/16. Market forces? Au contraire – UAC first preferences were at a record high on 21/11/15, then Usyd worthies such as Prof Garton announced SCA closure 3 days later to head off a boost in enrollments. That’s not market forces – that’s sabotage.
Also what about the demonstrated fundraising ability of SCA as shown by the state govt subsidy in the 90ies realised only in 2015?
FLAGSHARE LIKE REPLY Richard Richard 15/09/16 If they’d save money by moving it, maybe the Arts School should increase it’s fees to cover the foregone savings resulting from staying. They can just pile it on the HECS debt.
Better still, they could close it down altogether and put the savings into STEM courses.
FLAGSHARE 1Erzsebet LIKE REPLY Antonio Antonio15/09/16. Lynching by the mob.
This should become a police matter as they are stopping/or intimidating people going about their daily business.
FLAGSHARE 3RobertAnnettedanny LIKE REPLY Laurie Laurie 15/09/16. So just who is running this institution?
FLAGSHARE 4AntonioJamesHilaryMarilyn LIKE REPLY AnthonyR AnthonyR 15/09/16 @Laurie No-one, apparently.