It’s taken seven months of pressure to force a formal consultation process out of Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis and VCAM Dean Sharman Pretty.
Only problem is they will be playing judge and jury in the “discussion”.
SAVE VCA welcome the University of Melbourne (UoM) finally opening up discussion about the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) to the wider Arts Community as well as to students, staff and alumni. It is also encouraging that some staff recommendations about the composition of the Review Committee have been acknowledged in the document.
However let us not forget the only reason this Discussion Paper exists is because of the seven-month backlash against the UoM changes.
Now UoM want the VCA community to entrust the moderation of discussion to an organisation which has already shown high disregard for VCA’s staff, students and Victoria’s arts business. And considering the ongoing conflicts in the Law, Business, Economics and Arts faculties, SAVE VCA feels it is reasonable to be sceptical about this consultation process, especially as the result is ratified by the VCAM Integration Committee (the same Committee from which the Chair and two other highly regarded members resigned this year).
It is also hard to escape that reality that VCA is in crisis now and it’s because of the UoM. We’ve gone beyond a Discussion Paper. We need the Federal and State Governments to urgently step in to not only safeguard VCA’s courses and funding, but Australia’s arts business:
Students are voting against the Melbourne Model with VTAC first-preference applications down 27% (The Australian 11/11/09 ).
- Victoria is losing arts industry jobs and business now because of UoM’s mishandling of VCA. UoM has cut off the supply of Music Theatre and Puppetry graduates to the ‘arts capital of Australia’ without notice. Ironically VCA’s Music Theatre course was developed after extensive industry consultation and it was the first course UoM cut – clearly the opinions of industry are not held in high regard.
- Even this week The Age reported West Side Story will buck the trend and open in Sydney. VCA is the epicentre of Victoria’s arts business and it is being left to the wolves.
- A National Tertiary Education Union run survey taken by approximately a quarter of VCAM Southbank staff showed 40% are seeking to leave VCA within a year. VCA is facing a huge and immediate teaching talent drain.
- The “independence” of the Discussion Paper is highly suspect. How independent is an “Independent Chair” and his/her Review Committee if they are all “appointed by the Vice-Chancellor in consultation with the Dean of VCAM?”
- There is no mention of whether the highly controversial tenure of the new Dean Sharman Pretty should/will be reviewed. Many would argue there is no point in discussing anything with the current Dean at the helm.
- All the changes done to date (e.g. Puppetry & Music Theatre being axed and staff cuts) are not mentioned in the document. Is UoM embarrassed of its management of VCA to date?
- Nothing has changed in the UoM attitude to VCA. VCA is still presented as ungrateful child that has rudely questioned its parent’s wisdom:
“The VCA affiliation turned into a significant financial disadvantage for other University of Melbourne students. Millions of dollars in teaching income earned from enrolling students at the University have become cross subsidies to the VCA and then the Southbank campus of VCAM. As these student places were already under-funded without this added cost, it would benefit University of Melbourne students if this money could be used as originally intended.”
The above statement is also highly defensive and conveniently forgets the $103million of VCA assets UoM inherited and that three other UoM Faculties are also cross-subsidised. There is also no discussion of the UoM rental and administration cost system which is the major financial drain on the VCA.
- The tone of the Discussion Paper gives a very obvious sense of what the result of the Review will be. The most obvious solution to VCA’s is independence from UoM, but this is demonised and does not factor in perusing funding from the Arts Ministry (like NIDA):
“The risk to the University itself would be low; the risk to the training of students through many of the current VCAM programs and the wellbeing of the existing VCAM staff would be significant.”
The Discussion Paper is box ticking. It’s no mistake this document was launched to the media whilst most students have already ended classes for the year. The UoM have bought themselves another 6 months in the hope staff, students and industry will simply get war weary. It also means the UoM have deflected the Government’s ability to become involved because UoM can say they are “consulting”. All this at a time when VCA can least afford to delay in clawing back its reputation and arts business need urgent certainty on the supply of graduate quantity and quality.
Read the highly subjective UoM Discussion Paper “Defining The Future” document here (http://vcam.unimelb.edu.au/discussion/)
Meanwhile, Sharman Pretty has tried to sell the Discussion Paper on ABC Radio, to listen, click here
As always, comments welcomed below and at facebook.com/savevca
Tags: Arts, Changes, Dean, Defining The Future, Discussion, Discussion Paper, Education, Glyn Davis, Melbourne, Melbourne Uni, Melbourne University, Party, Response, Save VCA, Sharman Pretty, Uni Melb, VCA, VCAM, Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis