Parramatta People’s Forum liveblog

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Packing it up – 3:00pm

I think I’ve got to head. I was meant to be in class like 5 minutes ago. But! This has been a really interesting event!

Until the next liveblog, signing off.

OrgSync, social life, improving communication – 2:57pm

We’re now on to the banality and dead zone of OrgSync. It is being replaced, thankfully. Apparently, it won’t exist beyond June which makes sense because it should not exist at all whatsoever.

It’s turning just into club talk, and clubs wanting to get access to free printing and I’m getting distracted.

It feels like the channel of dialogue between the university engagement and students need to be enhanced. Issues that are coming up have the repeated reaction of “What? Really?”. Chains of communication are apparently fairly lax between university-students and student-student.

There also appears to be a need to enhance the relationship between students and security. Rules need to be clarified for both parties. Security (or concierge at 1PSQ) are generally seen as unfriendly to students, according to what’s coming up in this forum. How can this relationship be improved?

Campus life and campus security – 2:45pm

We’re talking about social issues and how to engage students and get them to stick around at 1PSQ. Normally, people catch the lift to class, attend, catch the lift to the ground and go home.

Security doesn’t help as, apparently, they often pull up loud students by noting that the building is a corporate building and have previously removed noticeboards advertising university events.

If nothing else from today, it seems there are questions to be asked about the directions being given to campus security at 1PSQ.

Design changes to make the campus more soundproof are floated.

There are arguments raised that the culture here at 1PSQ has moved away from student engagement to a different corporate culture. 1PSQ students feel as though they’ve been left behind and the lack of a social aspect is particularly felt. Building a community, including outreach with high school students, seems to be an agreed focus going forward.

Levels 3-6 will be a university students only space from April 8 – 2:35pm

Correction: Level 1 will remain open to high school students for the time being, along with Level 2. This is subject to updates. So from April 8, Levels 3-6 for university students, Levels 1-2 for high school and university students. Student Engagement will be sweeping through 1PSQ daily to enforce this.

‘Banning’ high school students and disruption – 2:32pm

Our high school friends are saying how friendly WSU students are and welcoming, which is a plus I guess? Some people apparently snitch on the high school kids to security. Seeing the petition has made it clear that there is a sense of animosity towards them. It’s understandable, but university students, even those who are just socialising and not studying at 1PSQ, are paying tens of thousands to WSU to be here.

This is broken up by a brief diversion onto the WSU Confessions page and the bad banter on there.

Apparently, security are asking for high school students for their names and ‘banning’ them from attending 1PSQ. Should letters be sent to schools about their students behaving badly at 1PSQ?

Student monitors and the prospect of raising issues with them come up.

Apparently, there are students from specific high schools that are making the most disruption. Cumberland and Carlingford High Schools are allegedly the schools with the most disruptive students at 1PSQ.

High school students join the forum! – 2:23pm

We’ve got two high school students who have joined the forum! Naomi grabbed them from near the table tennis tables. They’re from Baulkham Hills High School and were referred to study at 1PSQ by word of mouth. They seem very respectful and note that students are scattered across the university. They say they like studying here because it’s quiet and note that they don’t want to bother other students. Security has moved them along in the past, because they were high school students on higher levels.

It seems security is working off a different song sheet. It seems, they’ve decided that high school students should stay on Levels 1-3. This will change from next week, but it’s interesting that this hasn’t been communicated to Student Engagement.

Another new member notes that high school students muck around in the classrooms on higher levels late at night and that they vape and smoke in the courtyard area in uniform. What on earth am I covering?

It seems that there are two groups generally: high school students who come here to socialise and vape (God, I feel old) and high school students who are here to study.

The change petition has been seen by the high school students, who say that its gone viral.

An update from Student Engagement about the plan for 1PSQ – 2:16pm

What we know: Student Engagement will be working at 1PSQ next week on campus. It’s yet to be decided whether Level 1 will be restricted for university students or it will be open to high school students. What is known is that Level 3, 4 and 5 will be for university students only. Student Engagement will be monitoring the situation daily and updating their plan accordingly.

Lack of community events at 1PSQ – 2:12pm

A personal question: has the university sending invitations to local high schools to study at 1PSQ?

It comes up that the Campus Life budget has shrunk. In 2017, when the campus was smaller, there was a greater sense of community according to students who were here at the time. Pizza lunches have dropped back from two days a week to one. Community events have been occurring less.

Naomi calls for a quick break to entice other university students in and potentially high school students.

“WSU students feel like they aren’t a priority” – 2:05pm

And now, there’s a need for reinforcing respectful behaviour as people are apparently breaking furniture at 1PSQ? Richard says this should be brought up with security. Who is breaking furniture?

Natasha speaks up. She says that campus life used to be good on 1PSQ and apparently, it changed when the university sent out invites to nearby high schools to use the campus which is detrimentally impacting WSU students. People are upset and WSU students think they aren’t being considered a priority. Since the petition, she has been contacted by other students who feel despondent about the university. Other universities are discussing this issue and she’s been contacted by journalists about the issue.

Air conditioning, exams and hygiene issues – 2:00pm

There’s now the complaint that the air conditioning doesn’t get switched on during the weekends. During the hottest days in the summer, students were studying here and sweating it up. The image of a 9-story sweatbox is very very gross. This issue will be raised. The crowd has thinned to 12.

Exam periods are raised. How will 1PSQ handle school students and stressed uni students during stuvac? . There’s a note that security were kicking out high school students during the exam period previously, which is a lol.

Hygiene in the bathrooms come up. Are these hygiene issues the fault of school students or university students? It’s unclear. Who is ordering late night Uber and leaving the garbage in the 1PSQ bathrooms? It’s unclear.

Study spaces at Parramatta – 1:55pm

The discussion circles back to WSU and high school students, with Levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 being floated as for WSU students only. High school students would be kept to Level 2.

During summer school, it’s noted that high school students would come to study at 1PSQ and that once that university started up again, the high school students became less visible. There’s a question about if there is enough space here at 1PSQ and the lack of study spaces in Parramatta. Richard says there needs to be observations about how space is utilised here at 1PSQ.

We’re now on to the new Engineering campus with UNSW which will be opening deep into the future and how this could alleviate the students coming to 1PSQ. We’re navel gazing with this one.

Redesigning floors and bookable spaces – 1:48pm

Grant says there is potential for redesigning some floors in the future for group study spaces. The small audience is thinning out a bit, despite the pizza still going strong. People are grabbing their bags, looking at their watches.

Group study spaces are now being discussed and how they’re bad uses of space and more used for socialising. Natalie says that letting people find out what spaces are available, ranging from classes to events to study spaces, needs to be a long-term adjustment. We’re a long way from the car park green light, but there’s an agreed need to move towards letting people know where to go.

Signage for keeping Level 1 as an open social space is discussed, including the Soup Kitchen run by Chaplaincy. The plan is to formalise this area as a social area.

In other news, I’ve spotted my first high school student!

Other uni students at 1PSQ – 1:40pm

Natasha asks why are high school students coming to 1PSQ over their community libraries, wondering whether high schoolers come here for the social aspect.

There’s an acknowledgement that there needs to be promotion of rules when people are in 1PSQ and then enforcement of these rules.

The discussion moves to other university students using 1PSQ. Other university students are welcome to study here, but a question opens about restricting access to bookable spaces to WSU students. Research, from Richard, says there are more students from other universities here than high school students.

High school students restricted to Level 2 at 1PSQ  from April 8 – 1:37pm

The fact that WSU students are paying for access to 1PSQ comes up, in particular that international students are paying up front. For Business students, this is their home campus and they may want to relax here in between classes. Grant responds saying that restricting access is a long-term process, involving reprogramming student cards. Natalie notes that a short term solution would be cutting off some levels to high schoolers.

Richard follows this by announcing that, from Monday 8 April, high school students will have their access restricted to Level 2. That’s the plan, anyway. Basic services on Level 1 are to be only available to WSU students.

Restricting attendance – 1:32pm

Restricting capacity, so keeping the high school students on the lower levels and making the higher levels for WSU students only, is a plan but Grant notes that this is a harder goal to accomplish and that there is no timeline for accomplishing this. Restricting access appears to be effective at keeping undergraduates and high school students from the postgraduate floors, according to a postgrad in the audience.

This ambassador plan keeps getting floated, with WSU students being polite and asking students to move down to lower floors and offering tutoring, which feels like a weaksauce version of a sheepdog.

Grant notes that letters have been sent to high schools urging them to address their students about 1PSQ at assemblies.

Natasha notes that the university keeps referring to 1PSQ as a ‘community place’ but when she brought friends from Sydney University to study, they were kicked out.

Restrictions already occur at 1PSQ following 10pm on weekdays and all day weekends.

Natasha Nehme rocks up – 1:25pm

The creator of the change petition has just arrived! Natasha says she was passing by, trying to find students to take to a meeting with Natalie Bradbury from the Student Experience Office and overheard the meeting. She’s a second year student who studies here with her friends and she says she created the petition initially a joke.

Natalie Bradbury says the university has known about this issue for a while and floats a visitor’s card for high school students that could be revoked and physical signs reminding people about behaviour. A clearer demarcation between social and study spaces is considered. She notes that the university is inclusive and doesn’t want to throw people out, but also that people should use the space appropriately.

It’s also noted by a student that we should remember that these high school students are… kids and that they’re stressed. Perfectly reasonable.

Open campus blues – 1:22pm

It seems Richard and Grant are pushing that the university is focused on keeping high school students attending to keep them interested in potentially going to WSU.

A student speaks up and says that if you ask these students to clean up or shut up, they’ll usually do so and they generally respect.

Discussion among attendees begin with high school students often using and taking study spaces which makes it difficult for university students to study or focus. Grant proposes a code of conduct for high school students.

High school students are coming to 1PSQ from across Sydney – 1:17pm

Turns out that high school students are coming to 1PSQ because word has gotten around that the building is open and available 24 hours a day. Grant notes students are coming from St Marys, Cronulla, all across the city. This… is wild. Grant continues, saying that the infrastructure of 1PSQ doesn’t help, as everything is open. I’m experiencing this, because the sound of ping pong and chatter nearby is nearly drowning Grant out.

Grant notes the university is planning to hire WSU students as Student Ambassadors to work with the high school students and corral them to the ground two levels. There will apparently also be new signage going up about rubbish going up and appropriate behaviour.

High school students comes up – 1:13pm

Turns out the forum had been planned weeks in advance but following the petition being put up, it feels fortuitous.

Naomi notes there are two sides to the story: 1) the university appreciates having students here as potential new enrollments and doesn’t want to ban them as a result and 2) the WSU students who want them gone. The aim today is to find a balance between these two.

Grant speaks about being tasked with something to do with 1PSQ and the life here. There’s a lot of talk about infrastructure and the fact that high school students don’t know what they’re supposed to do.

The Forum is underway – 1:08pm

And we’re off. Naomi leads us off, letting us know that if we have any suggestions, we can put them down on post-it notes and put them up on a board. Grant, Richard and Natalie Bradbury from the Student Experience Office are all present and introduced. The crowd numbers about 15, from a quick head count.

Pizza and civic engagement – 1:04pm

We’re about to get underway. Naomi Hastings is working hard as the Parramatta SCC Chair and WSU SRC Vice President, wrangling an audience using pizza and a friendly demeanor. If you take a slice, you’re being made to sit and hear about the forum. I’m awed and a little intimidated by her persuasive ability.

Running order – 12:43pm

So it seems that the agenda for today’s forum is a discussion from Grant Murray (Student Voice Officer) and Richard Martino (Manager, Student Representation & Participation) addressing the high school students issue. This will be followed by an open discussion of general issues at Parramatta City Campus such as a lack of campus life and the rules about moving furniture and putting up posters.

At the moment, campus life seems to be going well on Level 1. Campus Life (the university organisation) has got free pizza, which is always a good way of getting the people in. Lots of groups are around discussing or studying and the ping-pong table is in use. I’ve only seen 1 or 2 high school students around and I’m interested to see how many people turn up overall.

Background to the PPF – 12:09pm

Hello, hello, hello.

I’m Toby Hemmings, student editor for W’SUP and I’m out here at 1PSQ getting ready to liveblog the Parramatta People’s Forum.

The Parramatta Student Campus Council announced this forum following a change.org petition started by a student a week ago. The petition calls for a ban of high school students at Parramatta City Campus. Natasha Nehme, the student who started the petition, claims that hundreds of high school students are monopolising university facilities which impedes the study of WSU students. She also states that repeated complaints have been made to campus security with no response. The petition received 2,000 signatures within the first 48 hours, so it clearly struck a nerve.

There is room for other topics to be brought up at the forum, but the lion’s share will be devoted to high school students. The event should be getting underway at 1pm on Level 1. I believe food is going to be supplied, which is exciting. Follow along here for rolling updates.

Toby Hemmings

Toby is a fourth year Law and Communications student at Western Sydney University. He's fascinated…

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