Tag Archives: exams

An Open Letter to the University of Sydney

18 November 2009

The University of Sydney
City Road
Sydney NSW 2006

RE: Your inability to get your shit together

Dear University,

I am contacting you in reference to the recent years I have spent at this educational institution. I wish to point out a number of areas in which I think you could greatly improve the services you deliver to students who pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of this education, and as such have provided you with a brief outline of particular aspects in need of close attention.

Firstly, your administrative services: or should I say, non-services. I understand that admin functions have largely been outsourced to private firms. The consequences of doing so are only too apparent every single time a student such as myself is shunted from one faculty office to another, due to admin staff’s inability to start work before midday, or simply to even give a fuck. Working in administrative and client services myself for over a year has demonstrated to me the importance of working an eight hour work day and making sure customers feel that they have your full attention. Maybe admin staff at the university need a reminder that working in a university rather than a large corporation should not mean that they are permitted to work a pissy little five-hour workday, nor does it entitle them to carry on pointless conversations with fellow staff while students wait in line to submit or collect assignments. When considering the increasing amount of administrative work that is self-administered by students via the MyUni website, it is surprising that the admin staff feel secure enough about their jobs to continue engaging in such behaviour – perhaps now is the time to consider replacing them with computers altogether?

Another area of concern is the examination facilities and the conduct of exams in general at the university. A case in point is the recent second year personality psychology exam in which students were forced to sit the exam in a bug-infested engineering room. Attendees were informed that it was too late for pest-control to arrive, or for the examination to be moved to another room. I sincerely hope that since exam staff deemed it too ‘inconvenient’ to move to another room, that markers will not have any complaints over marking multiple choice papers in which the answers are unclear due to the insects’ blood spatters all over the page.

One aspect in which the university needs to take a good long look at its level of commitment to students is in the quality of tutorials. Your official website informs me that the standard ratio is one teacher to 16.5 students. I am going to call bullshit on this. I have never once experienced a tutorial that consisted of less than twenty students, many of whom frequently struggled to have a seat or have a say. Perhaps some of the huge amounts of money that the university takes off international students or from room hire could be channelled into hiring more staff, rather than overworking the existing academic staff or squeezing more students into existing classes.

Finally, the environment of the university is generally a pleasant one, apart from the menacing wildlife that are usually allowed to stalk the grounds with impunity. Recent evidence has shown that ibii birds, in particular, were behind the spread of avian flu, the global financial crisis, 9/11, and the NSW Labor Party. Please see “Ibii implicated in recent disasters.”

When you have fully considered the suggestions I have made here, I am confident that you will work to implement them in due season. In addition, I would appreciate the opportunity to expand on any of this information at an interview. Please feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss these matters further.

Kind Regards,

Nicole Doughty


Students appalled by media’s anti-investigative reporting

Shock. Horror. Outrage. A recent “news” report by the Sydney Morning Herald identified a “pro-rape” Facebook group created by the male students at the University of Sydney College St Paul’s. However when it was later identified that this group was no more than a supporter group to facilitate meetings for a football team, the journalists at the Herald remained steadfast in their criticisms of the elitist, boys’ club culture at St Paul’s. They argued that the creation of a sports team based on the ideals of “raping” the opposition signalled disrespect for victims of rape and downplayed the horrendous nature of the experience. While this seems like a logical conclusion on the surface, I still find myself asking the good people at the Sydney Morning Herald one very important question – do you EVER understand young people?

Here is a very real world example that any young person these days would be well familiar with:

Thursday Midday, somewhere outside Eastern Avenue Auditorium at the University of Sydney
Student: Man how do you think you went in that exam?
Friend: Let’s go see the counsellor; I think that exam just raped me.

Rape has become synonymous with any act of complete and comprehensive destruction or defeat; in fact the second definition on UrbanDictionary.com for “rape” is “To utterly defeat another person in any form of competitive activies [sic]”. Rape has adapted beyond its original definition to take on new meaning in a new context – and it is this that people have the most trouble with understanding.

An ACTUAL conversation that a friend of mine had with their classmate regarding a psychology exam was “you know how in Pulp Fiction they get kidnapped and then there is the scene where the gimp is raping the black guy in the ass? Well the exam was the gimp and I was the black guy.”

When the college students at St Paul’s formed a football team named “Define Statutory”, a team that sought to “rape” its opposition, it was not downplaying or devaluing the act of sexual assault, it was simply implementing language and attitudes coherent within the current scope of Generation Y vocabulary.

“OK” you say, “Sure. They were just following the crowd. But isn’t this indicative of a whole culture that devalues the torment of rape?”. Allow me to answer this self-proposed question K-Rudd style, and offer: NO! Youth culture is full of examples where words have been warped beyond comprehension. In more recent times, there has been an adaptation of the word “gay” to mean “unpleasant” or “distasteful”, for example:

‘Boy: Dude the video store didn’t have Superbad so I had to get Titanic.

Friend: GAY!!!!!’

This is a very common idiom which seems endemic to modern society – you truly don’t realise how often people say it until you start to pay attention. In this same vein, “faggot” and “homo” have developed into standardised insults used for everyone, rather than derogatory slurs against the homosexual population. While this is still a touchy issue for some, the fact remains that culture is changing and context IS shifting.

As we look back further we realise that this is not simply a cultural trait of OUR generation. Remember when it was cool to say “cool”? I assure you that the 1950s was not simply another ice age, this word adapted beyond the mundane to take on a whole new aesthetic. What about you Rugrats fans? Does anyone think that “neat” was a desirable characteristic simply because Tommy had OCD?

So what then of rape? Well currently the NSW court system has effectively banned the use of the word “rape”, and all incidences are now referred to a “sexual assault”. I must ask, if the justice system- the very entity that seeks to identify and define rape in all situations does not even use the word, then does “rape” even exist in the context of its original meaning? If the leading authority is removing the word from its vocabulary, then surely the only definition remaining is one of common usage.

And it is that common usage which has caused all the problems. The Facebook group “Define Statutory” was not an attack on women, a defence of rapists or an exclusive boys’ club mentality. It was a football team based on an idea supported by pop culture and contemporary common usage of language. The metaphor of raping an opponent has become no more violent or destructive than the idea of “killing” your foes in sport – a common ideal perpetuated by multi-million dollar sports teams all over the world. It is simply that rape is OUR word which makes sense in OUR context. The furore regarding this group was no more than a storm in a tea cup, and if the “investigative” journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald stopped to consider context rather than worrying about poking sensibilities in an attempt to sell more papers, it would have never become the shitstorm that momentarily grabbed the attention of Sydney students, before we rolled our eyes and turned back to Facebook.