Elections for the student representatives to the Academic Senate are open now!
If that sentence is about as exciting to you as the thought of Tony Abbott snapping on a pair of budgie-smugglers before a long day of scaring babies and munching on raw onions, you’re not alone.
Voter turnout for the Academic Senate is historically low, but elections to this body are crucial for the betterment of your time at Macquarie.
The Academic Senate deals with all policy related to what you study: assessment policy, unit structure, how many credit points you need to graduate, how many units you need to fuck up before being kicked out, people and planet units, disruption to studies, and which new coursework gets approved.
Basically, the Senate should ensure that you get a bit of bang for your many, many bucks.
Cissy Shen, the student representative on the university council, has sat on the Senate alongside deans, vice chancellors, and academic staff for a full term.
‘Really, the Academic Senate looks at the lifecycle of a student,’ explains Shen. ‘From admission, different types of pre-entry coursework, the cut-off for ATARs and the policy surrounding that, to when you finish your degree, and you get your graduation certificate.’
Mathew Duardo, an undergraduate candidate in the election running for the Faculty of Business and Economics representative, says that more students should be bringing their experiences, ideas and complaints to the Senate.
‘The Academic Senate is one of the most powerful mechanisms for change in the university, and also one of the least utilised. As a direct conduit between university administrators, chancellors and deans, the Academic Senate is a direct line to the people that need to hear about student problems,’ Duardo tells Grapeshot.
‘The SRC controls a very limited pool of funding in the big scheme of things; the Academic Senate is the only student body that has direct contact with university representatives like vice chancellors at every meeting.’
Shen says that during her time on the Senate, important policy in regard to disruption to studies has been overhauled.
‘Through listening to student feedback, the Academic Senate revised the policy for special consideration, and on the website, on policy central, it clearly lists not only the type of documents required if you’re submitting a disruption to study, but also the outcomes you can expect for different assessment types.’
Shen continues, ‘While I think it’s important to raise your concerns with the SRC, matters relating specifically to academic policy is better raised to members of Academic Senate because they have more of a direct influence on the outcome of such policies.’
Student positions on the Academic Senate are crucial to ensure executives hear directly from students, but because this election is even less flashy than SRC elections, not many Macquarie students usually engage with the vote.
‘We know that at the last Academic Senate election less than 7% of students actually voted,’ says Duardo. ‘The SRC election had just above 10% of student body vote, of which a sweeping majority of elected candidates all came from the same ticket. That’s not necessarily representative of what the other 90% might have wanted.
‘Furthermore, having a majority of representatives from the same ticket means we get very little diversity in thinking, and very little constructive discourse about different approaches to academic problems.’
As someone who has been on the Senate for a full term, Shen encourages voters to look for representatives who are dedicated and driven.
‘The Senate can be quite an intimidating environment. You need people who are not afraid of university bureaucracy and who are there for the right reasons, there for students and not personal gain.’
Shen also says that successful candidates should be in it because they want to improve student life rather than add another line to their CV.
‘I really would encourage people to see what the candidates stand for. Look at their past history, whether they’ve got any involvement on campus through student groups, whether they’ve been involved through lobbying in some other area of their life – someone who has a track record of actually fighting for students, fighting for the little guys. I think that’s really important.’
Voting is open now. You may vote through the link sent to your student email. Grapeshot will be running interviews with the Academic Senate candidates over the coming days. Voting closes May 16 at 3pm.