Due to controversial funding cuts, the University of Technology Sydney’s (UTS) student publication Vertigo has this week been left with only half of their expected funding for this academic year. As a result, the magazine has been forced to withdraw the publication of three of their four remaining print volumes.
In a public statement, Vertigo revealed that UTS’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) Shirley Alexander, on advice of the university Senior Executive, had specifically coerced the UTS Student’s Association (UTSSA) to cut funding to the publication. Vertigo receives its funding within the UTSSA’s allocation, but this cut, required by the Executive, requested funding only be cut from Vertigo, as opposed to the UTSSA as a whole.
Alexander argued Vertigo was “a high-quality publication that suits the purposes of a very small fraction of students.” Speaking to Woroni, Vertigo rebutted that the university had not surveyed the student population for feedback on the publication. Vertigo also declared that as a design university, high-quality graphics produced by students should feature in a student publication.
This decision has caused alarm in many student bodies, with particular concern raised at the influence of university executives over student associations and the distribution of SSAF. In conversation with Woroni, Vertigo also identified concern with a lack of consultation before these cuts, with DVC Alexander failing to meet with editors directly for at least the last three years.
Specifically, the editorial team felt the DVC had not given them the opportunity to respond to her concerns, due to the lack of recognition for the changes the paper was introducing to address these issues. These changes included the launching of an online platform and an increase in news and informative pieces published alongside content and design works.
Various student associations and student publications at other universities have voiced concern over this development, with University of Sydney paper Honi Soit penning an editorial in support of Vertigo and critiquing the decisions of the UTS Executive. Woroni’s own editorial is can be found here.
Greens Senator for NSW Mehreen Faruqi has publicly issued support for the UTS publication, stating her “serious concerns regarding this cut,” recognising the role student media plays in providing students “their first publishing opportunity.” Notably, the Senator’s son, Osman Faruqi, is a journalist who started his career in student media.
Senator Faruqi also identified that “student-run publications have a strong history of advocacy on social issues,” which is beneficial not only to student communities, but democracy as a whole.
Due to the funding cut, Vertigo will only produce one more print edition for the year, titled “Vertigone,” which News Editor Joe Hathaway-Wilson stated will focus “exclusively on how universities abuse their SSAF powers.”
The honoraria provided to editors will not be affected by this cut, as these are allocated at the beginning of each academic year.
Vertigo has also published a public petition calling for the funding cut to be reversed, which can be viewed here.