Senate elections

Election of five Fellows of Senate by and from the graduates of the University 2013

The successful candidates

The Hon Verity Firth

BA LLB Sydney

Education changes lives. At the Public Education Foundation, where I work as CEO, we focus on removing the barriers to achievement created by social and economic disadvantage and on rewarding excellence in public education.

Sydney University is a great university and its commitment to excellence is clear. However, the Senate needs to play an active role in ensuring our university champions both excellence and equity.

Sydney University must do more to ensure that the university sector meets current federal targets of 20% of students coming from low-socioeconomic backgrounds by 2020.

We also need to ensure that the student experience at Sydney University remains strong and dynamic. It is vital that student organisations such as the University Union, SUPRA, Sydney University Sports and Fitness and the SRC stay student-run and independent.

From 2008 to 2011, I was NSW Minister for Education and Training. As Minister I was proud to introduce Ethics classes into NSW public schools. Prior to that I served in portfolios such as Science & Medical Research and Environment & Climate Change. I have also worked as a lawyer.

I loved my student days at Sydney University during the 1990s, and graduated with a combined Arts / Law degree in 1999.

Mr Peter FitzSimons AM

BA Sydney

I attended Sydney Uni from 1980-82, living at Wesley College. I recall those years as particularly fulfilling and am eternally grateful for the experiences and benefits that Sydney Uni provided me with: life-long friendships, receiving a great education and being able to play rugby for Sydney University Football Club.

Broadly, that background provides the touchstones for my belief in what Sydney Uni should offer in the 21st Century.

The opportunity to pursue academic excellence is most important, but there must also be a culture whereby students are encouraged to embrace campus life and avail themselves of the many opportunities that abound. Personally, I learnt a lot by being Wesley’s representative with the Football Club, and am a passionate advocate of students being involved in running their own institutions.

My nephew is a first year Arts student at Sydney Uni, and is residing at Wesley, which helps keep me in touch with current issues.

I have been on the board of Sydney Writers Festival for six years, am President of the Northern Suburbs Basketball Association (4,500 members), Patron of the Footpath Library - gets second-hand books to homeless people - and have professional engagement in television, radio, documentaries and writing books.

Ms Kathryn (Kate) McClymont

BA(Hons) Sydney

Kate McClymont is one of the nation’s most respected investigative journalists. She is a five-time winner of journalism’s most prestigious award, the Walkley award. She was the 2012 NSW Journalist of the Year and has also won awards for business, sport, court and crime reporting.

Kate graduated with an Arts (Hons) degree from the University of Sydney. Both her parents and her two siblings attended Sydney University and now she has two children studying there, with a third planning to start next year.

As the Senate is the responsible for the administration of the university, it is essential that the benchmarks of good corporate governance are met.

While recognising the pressure on budgets, it is vital that the student/staff ratios are maintained and that the university upholds its tradition of academic excellence.

It is also vital that students both enjoy campus life and are intellectually enriched by a variety of experiences. The proper funding of student resources as well as a commitment to retaining first-rate academic staff should the Senate’s priority.

The University of Sydney is regarded internationally as one of the great centres of learning and cultural enrichment and it is critically important that it has the appropriate governance to meet the challenges of the future.

Dr Catriona Menzies-Pike

BA(Hons) PhD Sydney

I am standing because I am deeply concerned about current transformations at the university. Sydney University has played a major role in my life. I’m a fourth generation graduate and I completed my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees on main campus. I worked as a contract academic in the Arts Faculty between 2001 and 2008. I now work in independent media, formerly as managing editor of daily news website New Matilda. I am taking up an editorial role at The Conversation website as this ballot is being conducted.

The current managerialist approach of university management is having a corrosive effect on the university community. Many new buildings have been erected on campus - but staff have been repeatedly forced to strike this year to avert attacks on their conditions and pay. This level of industrial action is unprecedented in Australia. As the higher education sector changes here and internationally, Sydney University, the nation’s first, should be leading the way to protect what matters most: academic freedom, thriving research cultures, and quality teaching. Instead, morale is low and the university’s reputation is being seriously compromised.

My voice on Senate will represent students and staff, and I will fight to preserve the University’s commitment to world-class teaching and research.

Mr Andrew West

BA(Hons) Sydney MSc Columbia

I am a broadcaster with ABC Radio National, formerly a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald, and the author of two books on Australian politics and culture.

But most crucially, I am a proud graduate of the University, concerned to protect its future.

Even as an undergraduate in the early 1990s, I was passionate about the University as a community of scholars, serving as a student representative on the Arts Faculty Board and the departmental boards in History and Government.

I stand for academic independence – potentially under threat – and I oppose the casualisation of the academic workforce. Not only is it a poor employment practice, it is a poor educational policy.

The university needs to accommodate the digital revolution without undermining critical face-to-face teaching.

I want to protect the humanities and social sciences from creeping pressure to dumb down for the sake of fad, fashion or “marketability”; and maintain the integrity of the sciences, which face increasing pressure to enter potentially compromising “industry partnerships” and commercial agreements.

And I want to strengthen the great professional disciplines, especially law and the medical/health sciences, ensuring the University keeps its place on the honour roll of the world’s leading centres of higher learning.