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Holocene 2021  •  24 May 2021

R.I.P Enviro Subjects

Geological Processes
Alpine and Lowland Ecology
Forest and Mountain Ecology
Semi-arid Ecology

An Open Letter to UTS

By Melissa Sukkarieh, Damien Nguyen, Finn Billyard and Anna Thieben

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are not those of Vertigo or the UTSSA.

I would like to begin by thanking you all for coming today, and for those who have sent in their condolences. From this day forth, the hearts of all Environmental Science students will be heavy.

Four environmental subjects have been tragically lost. 

Last year, the Liberal government brutally hacked away 29% of funding for Environmental subject courses.1 This was one of the largest cuts to any university course. A crime of this nature must be investigated and condemned. Actions like these should not be condoned, under any circumstances. 

We gather here today to mourn the loss of our fellow courses. 

We miss you, Geological Processes. You would have taught students so much about the geological history of ecosystems and their effects on the resulting environments. You are, and forever will be, my favorite subject. Your absence leaves a gaping hole in the quality of our education. You were the last of your kind; the only geology subject we had left. Alas, we are left, on the top of this mountain, stranded, with no way of identifying the rocks beneath our feet.

We will never forget Alpine and Lowland Ecology, Forest and Mountain Ecology and Semi-arid Ecology. You took us outside our comfort zone, on excursions into the ecosystems of NSW. You showed us our environment, its unique problems, and the challenges it faces from human activity. In an industry that is so focused on fieldwork, you were key in exposing us to these practical skills. You were loved by students. In fact, you were used in every orientation day presentation to promote how practical and exciting this degree could be. Too bad, you were too expensive for this university to justify. It is heartbreaking that our journey with you ends here.

Dear UTS, we’re blaming you. By removing these subjects, you are not only letting students graduate unprepared and inexperienced in their field, but you’re also preventing us from tackling the real and ever-looming issue of climate change. It’s hypocritical for this university to declare a climate emergency, whilst continuing to strip funding from the education of future environmental scientists. After all, scientists will be at the forefront of fighting climate change.

"UTS, we condemn you for reducing the quality of environmental science education at such a pivotal time in the environmental movement."

With zero transparency between students and staff, entire subjects that are still being used to promote environmental courses are being cut away, and the quality of education is slowly decaying. Yet in the wake of these murders, we have seen no action from university management… an interesting lack of reaction from a university that claims to be environment-ally conscious. It’s sad to imagine current and new Environmental Science students mourning the loss of subjects they never got to know. 

It causes us even more pain to realise that Environmental Science is only one domino in the line of courses to fall. Just within the past year, 357 UTS staff members have been cut through the ‘Voluntary Separation Program’. Countless more casual and fixed-term staff will become casualties in the coming years. 

While we mourn these subjects, we also mourn adequately funded tertiary education. We mourn the lost staff. Above all we mourn universities functioning for students, instead of for profit.

We know it will not be in vain, as students we will continue to fight for staff, continue to fight against subject cuts, and continue to fight for free and accessible education.


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