Uni Melb Loyalists Dominate Review Committee

Posted by savevca1 on February 7th, 2010

Only 2 out of 9 staff and student positions in the VCAM Review Committee announced by the University of Melbourne on Friday (05/02/10) were elected, proving Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis never had any intention of allowing a truly independent review of the former Victorian College of the Arts and Faculty of Music.

In a move that has alienated Southbank staff and students (formerly the VCA), VCAM Dean Sharman Pretty and Mr Davis have appointed four VCAM Heads of School to the Committee, three of whom (Prof. Gary McPherson of Music, Prof. Kristy Edmunds of Performing Arts and Prof. Ian Lang of Film & TV) have been vocal in their support of the merger, the Melbourne Model and have little or no experience of the VCA pre-merger.

Since coming to VCA in late 2008, Kristy Edmunds has toed the Melbourne University party line with staff and students, even exclaiming in The Age (“Arts Head Says Give Merger A Chance” 03 Sept 09) that the protests against the Melbourne Model and VCA courses being cut was nothing more than a “strange hysteria”. Edmund’s loyalty has been rewarded by being appointed Deputy Dean on 1 Jan 2010 in addition to her role as Head of Performing Arts. By including such senior management in the Committee means Edmunds is effectively reviewing change she helped design and is implementing.

Gary McPherson came to VCAM in 2009 specifically with the mandate to oversee the disastrous merger of VCA Music and University Music (converted to the Melbourne Model this year), and clearly is not in the position to be objective.

Ian Lang (who came to the College six months before the 2007 merger) told students at a September 2009 briefing that the Melbourne Model would save them from a “jobless future”.

A designated “representative of Southbank” Associate Professor Jon Cattapan was also not elected to the position. By comparison, Parkville staff (former Conservatorium) were allowed to elect their staff representative Prof Catherine Falk, although only after making their grievances public in The Age  (“Music Schools Voices Unheard” 07 Dec 09). Whilst Mr Cattapan’s position is not disputed, the fact the two representatives had different means of entry into the Committee for no apparent reason, puts into question the University’s ability to manage even the simplest of review procedures.

The position of “University academic from outside VCAM” is filled by Prof. Pip Pattison who, in 2009, held a session for VCAM student representatives on the virtues of the Melbourne Model. When questioned about her comment that a drama student could “learn more by doing less”, she confessed she was not expert in the arts education area. A strong curriculum representative is obviously important on this Committee but when that expert is the person brought in to advocate the Melbourne Model to student agitators, their impartiality would seem to be compromised.

Besides Prof. Catherine Falk, the only other elected representative is Shane Woon who is the head of the VCAM Student Union.

“There is no doubt that, given the chance to vote, VCAM staff would not have selected Professors McPherson, Edmunds and Lang to represent them on the Review Panel, given the staff perception that these Heads have been dutifully following the University line. We ask independent Chair Dr Ziggy Switkowski to consider replacing the non-elected staff and student representatives with representatives elected by Southbank and Parkville staff and students. Only when staff and students feel they are fairly represented, will they be open to contribute to and accept recommendations made by the Committee. If this is not done, the Review will simply become a charade, relegated to irrelevance,” says former VCA Film & TV Lecturer Ros Walker.

The Committee includes no alumni or arts industry representatives.

Despite the obvious flaws of the review process (see http://savevca.org/archives/322) and the University’s refusal to answer even the most basic questions about the Discussion Paper (see http://savevca.org/archives/577), SAVE VCA has continued to encourage its 13,226 members to engage with the process. However the announcement of the inappropriate composition of Review Committee so close to the submission deadline (12 Feb 2010) risks staff, students, alumni and industry dismissing the whole review as a sham. Urgent action by Dr Switkowski is required to revitalise the review process.

SAVE VCA continue to encourage all arts lovers to submit to the review whilst we fight for a more balanced composition of Review Committee members. Submission Deadline = 12 Feb 2010.

UPDATE 05/03/10: Trevor Green was replaced by Ian Wilcox on the Review Committee today. See this post for more information.


Review Committee & Existing Submissions


03 Sep 2009 The Age – Arts Head Says Give Merger A Chance


07 Dec 2009 The Age – Music School’s Voice Unheard


SAVE VCA Discussion Paper Website


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One Response to “Uni Melb Loyalists Dominate Review Committee”

  1. Robert Stephenson

    Yesterday (3/3/10) I attended an information session at VCA regarding a plan from the University, titled Towards 2011, which outlined proposed changes to the structure of academic programmes at the University and VCA. This included reducing the number of undergraduate students from two thirds of the University student population to around 50%, deleting courses with low-enrolments ( what constitutes low numbers is what I don’t know), making Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) in graduate studies to be considered a bonus rather than the norm, to increase full fee paying places and remove subsidies from graduate programmes so that they have to be self sufficient and rise and fall according to market forces. When the University delegate and Prof Kristy Edmunds were asked whether there had been any market research undertaken in in the area of visual and performing arts, they couldn’t say that there had been.

    The Towards 2011 report was released just on the Christmas break, staff have been on leave, preparing for the new year and, some this week have been attending the Adelaide Festival. Others have started classes in the first week of semester and were involved in teaching classes when the information session started. This has been the first staff briefing on this matter and feedback is to be made by a single faculty response in a week or so.

    This is another example where the University of Melbourne contrives reports, constructed with decisions already made allowing staff minimum time for discussion and genuine feedback. It’s as though they do not trust the input, indeed the staff.

    Yours sincerely
    Robert Stephenson
    Film and Television
    ( from home e-mail)

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