By Nicole Gismondo and Kelly Munro:
EDIT 1.40pm 23/02/17: the university has issued a new statement and has retracted any previous statements:
“The University has reconsidered its position and will reinstate Study Hall. We would like to work with students regarding some of the issues surrounding the use of Study hall to ensure that SSAF funds are invested appropriately.”
Western Sydney University students were shocked this week by news Library Study Hall hours have been cut in 2017. The service saw libraries on campuses open for extended hours during semester, assisting students with their study. The service will now only operate during the formal exam period, for a total of six weeks throughout the year.
During study hall hours, students were able to access the libraries resources and computers up to as late as 3am and as early as 5am, with at least a 2 hour shut down period during the early hours of the morning. Hours varied between campuses, but students were simply required to activate their student ID in order to access the space during the allocated times.
Study Hall began as a Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) funded initiative in 2013, after being endorsed by the universities SSAF Working Party. This body includes both staff and student representation, and is responsible for allocating a portion of the university’s SSAF pool each year.
Ellen Brackenreg, Executive Director, Student Participation and Success, informed the W’SUP that the cuts were made as part of a routine review of all “’ongoing and Enhanced” SSAF funded projects. The funds were then “reallocated to other initiatives considered and endorsed by the 2016/2017 SSAF working party such as Yourtutor, Career Connect and e careers.”
While the service will continue during the formal exam period, it still represents it will still deal a significant blow to students who attend night classes, those who work long hours while balancing study, and those who do not have home environments conducive to study. The longest library hours are now 8am-10pm at Bankstown and Parramatta South during semester.
“The [changes to Study Hall hours will] have a massive impact on my studies, as I mainly have time to study at night. This means without access to the library at these hours I can’t access books,” says Lucy Borg, a fourth-year student undertaking a Bachelor of Laws/Business and Commerce.
There are many students who feel that these shortened hours will be detrimental to their work, particularly those who work during the day. Sam Glazebrook, a third-year Medical Science student, believes that not only do longer hours provide more flexibility for working students, but also provides students with access to resources they could not normally access.
“This is the biggest direct way the university can help students, by letting them study. This is the most important tool for students,” Sam states.
One group of students that will be significantly affected by these changes are mature aged students, who rely on the longer hours for studying. Tegan Tattersall is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Applied Leadership and Critical Thinking, as well as being a mum. “I wait for my son to go to sleep so I can get to university and study effectively… there [are] so many distractions in the comfort of home,” she states.
Tegan alerted the online group UWS Confessions to the changes, which has sparked a major debate about the changes and have led to a petition being shared on change.org. Tegan hopes that if enough students express their concerns, the university will “reinstate Study Hall, and fingers crossed, extend it to a Saturday also.”
2016 Western Student Representative Council (SRC) President, Michael Wright told the W’SUP that “the SRC was not consulted about these changes, and stands in solidarity with all students who are disadvantaged by the University’s vicious cuts.”
He continued, “Educating students is the core purpose of university, and library access clearly falls under the University’s legally mandated functions… It’s time the university started acting like the ‘distinctively student centred university’ it so longs to be.”
An original statement from Ellen Brackenreg* suggests that the cuts stem from “limited use of the Study Hall service particularly between the hours of 12pm – 6 am and during non-peak periods,” coupled with increased anytime-access online availability of library resources. Brackenreg also reminded students that I.T. labs are open 22 hours a day and learning commons on three campuses are open 24/7 as an alternative.
A spokesperson from the library informed the W’SUP that “the Library will be working with students in 2017 to submit another bid to try and bring the 24 hour service back in 2018.”
Students can have their say on SSAF funding initiatives by emailing SSAFpriorities@westernsydney.edu.au or by visiting the SSAF Priorities page on the university’s website. Students wishing to contact the library directly are advised that the library has its own feedback form.
The office of Student Participation and Success has been contacted for further comment on how much student consultation was involved in the decision.
Editors Note: Michael Wright is also an elected student editor for 2017, as there is not yet an elected SRC President for 2017, Michael was conflicted off this article.
*Full Statement from Ellen Brackenreg, Executive Director, Student Participation and Success
“Study Hall was considered by the 2012/2013 SSAF working party and endorsed as a service to be put forward for approval. The service commenced in 2013 and has been funded by SSAF since this time. It is common practice for all SSAF funded initiatives from the New and Enhanced SSAF to be regularly reviewed as part of the annual reporting process. As part of this process all ‘ongoing’ New and Enhanced initiatives were reviewed. Consideration was given to the fact that Library resources are now available online and accessible to all students anywhere, anytime, together with the limited use of the Study Hall service particularly between the hours of 12pm – 6 am and during non-peak periods. In addition, as a substitute to Study Hall, the Learning Commons on three campuses are now open 24 hours, and I.T labs are available 22 hours per day (the labs are closed 3am-5am for system updates). SSAF funds were therefore reallocated to other initiatives considered and endorsed by the 2016/2017 SSAF working party such as Yourtutor, Career Connect and e careers. Please note, we will still be providing Study Hall services during the two major exam periods for both semesters.
It is important that we continue to receive student feedback on services and amenities so as to determine and prioritise SSAF spending appropriately. Feedback can be provided via email to SSAFpriorities@westernsydney.edu.au or you can approach your SCC, SRC representative or Campus Life Officers to discuss an idea or to suggest a service or amenity you think the University needs, or should improve. For more information on SSAF funding priorities please use the following link: SSAF funding priorities.”