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One of the pleasures I have in my job is the fascinating insight I get to the inner workings of the large and complex organisation that is the University.
Well fascinating for me, as someone who is interested in how power and bureaucracy works, how decisions are made and who makes them, and how institutions can be progressive and more efficient.
While interesting, the glacial speed at which things progress at Victoria (and society) is also extremely frustrating. Last week I was part of the opening of The Bubble—a new initiative dedicated to wellbeing by making a specific study free zone in SUB. This is a project that I’ve been involved in for almost two years now.
The relatively small step of repurposing a space took an amazing amount of meetings, discussions, concept proposals, designs, re-designs, cc’ing and box ticking. The original concept was downscaled and redesigned to “just get something done” after months of delay.
The result is pretty good, but also just a start in becoming a university that actively prioritises student wellbeing. I’d estimate that the institutional anxiety at Victoria means any substantive, meaningful change to the institution takes years to achieve—and that’s generally after years of “socialising” the ideas.
Universities aren’t alone in this—society can take a frustrating time to shift too. The simple task of rewriting a single line of law to redefine marriage could be seen as the culmination of over 30 years of campaigning for LGBTQIA rights.
And there’s still a whole lot more work to do. From changing laws that continue to discriminate, to changing perceptions within institutions and society—we still have a long way to go to achieve full and true equality.
Proposing to consider queer students as a factor in the University’s Equity and Diversity Strategy is still seen as “radical”. The idea that not everyone identifies as male or female was the subject of a cringeworthy discussion during deliberations about proposed University Council changes.
Challenging and changing the status quo of large institutions is often meet with intense apprehension and anxiety. Changing it can be exhausting and involves incremental changes.
Progressing society takes everyone from the radicals to the policy wonks and a huge number of frustrating incremental steps. As people in the privileged position of having a tertiary education, we have the responsibility to actively contribute.