Welfare Collective: The Great Divide The Great Divide

By Aylin Cihan

Welfare Collective: The Great Divide

Without a doubt, the Israeli occupation and subsequent apartheid and genocide of innocent Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have impacted people in one way or another. The effect of this issue has also brought to light the greater divide between university management and the welfare of their students. Universities seem to priorities their relationships with the State of Israel through scholarships with military organisations that provide weaponry to Israel, allowing for exchange opportunities on occupied land and censoring students from criticising the Israeli government under the IHRA definition of anti-semitism.

In contrast, many student-led organisations across multiple universities in Australia have been arranging pro-Palestinian protests amounting to thousands of attendees, releasing letters of support for Palestinians and calling for a boycott of the partnerships that their universities hold in contributing to the innocent killing of Palestinians. Effectively, this rift between university management and its students exposes the underlying issue of how they continuously play a role in students’ feelings of frustration, helplessness and loss of community. 

This issue is one of many which highlights how universities seem to fall short when it comes to student voices and their welfare. With the cost-of-living crisis hitting an all-time high, students are struggling to keep up with rent rises and increases in the cost of basic necessities, such as food and hygiene products. In turn, they ask that universities provide support and greater leniency during these times but are often re-directed to student-run associations, which are under-staffed and without enough resources to assist the thousands of students on campus.

While these student organisations and campaigns from the National Union of Students, such as the Change the Age Campaign, are beneficial, they cannot keep up with demand in the same way that university management can. For years, students have requested lower barriers to entry for accessibility and academic support by seeking to ban the expiry of accessibility provisions that would save time and money and asking for an expansion of classes and resource availability to support working students whilst also aiming to
streamline the process for extensions and special consideration across all faculties to ensure fairness.

These requests from students have been overlooked for years and highlights the patterns in which universities refuse to listen to their students and remedy their issues whilst relying on them financially and academically to ensure that they outperform their competitors. Whilst it is crucial that universities implement student suggestions to uphold a sense of community, safety and protection, the conflict with Israel, lack of economic and academic support and financial aid continues to worsen the great divide. It underscores how these issues are not the first and will not be the last in aim to achieve a cohesive university experience. The UTS Welfare Collective recognises this disconnection and will aim to resolve the differing stances to ensure the wellbeing of all students on campus.