Saving the University Union Complex

The University has become a student industrial complex. The UQ Senate that gave Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen a doctorate of laws and set up a multi-million dollar shrine to Dow Chemicals that helped napalm millions of Vietnamese people now wishes to demolish the last vestige of resistance, the UQ Forum area, the refectory, the Schonell, and Student Union Building. If this ideological move by the University is successful UQ will have put the last touches to a once-was institution of higher learning and critical thought into a multi-billion dollar corporate dreamworld of shopping malls, collaboration plazas and food and beverage opportunity. There are no ‘nuanced negotiators’ on this show they are for creative freedom and political action.

Paradigm Shift discussion saving the UQ Union Complex between Annie Richards (author & academic), Lee Duffield (Journalist), Jeff Rickertt (Librarian & Historian), Priya (Student union Councillor & Socialist Alternative). Hosted by Ian. Historic clip of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s only foray into the University. The University Senate tried to present Joh with an honorary doctorate of laws at Mayne Hall but 3,000 SEQEB workers and their supporters stopped them.

These are the issues addressed:

1. What is a university ?
2. Do universities teach ‘critical thinking’?
3. When I first went to the university of Queensland in 1968 only the top 2% of secondary school students enrolled at university; most of these were from private schools, has this changed and why?
4. What are the bosses up to at the University of Queensland?
Why do they wish to demolish the UQ Union complex and the Schonell theatre that were built in the 1950s & 1960s?
5. Here is a photo that shows the UQ forum area in 1970 during the anti-vietnam war campaign. The sign in the background refers to a construction underway as a ‘commercial redevelopment’ of the UQ Union complex which includes the addition of the Schonell theatre and an extension to the refectory. How did this ‘commercial redevelopment’ differ from UQ Senate proposals to redevelop the site to provide “student based retail food and beverage opportunities and collaboration plazas”?

6. Many students do not attend universities these days, their lectures and assessment are online, they also hold down multiple jobs to satisfy their needs under a consumer society. Angela Davis says radical mean’s ‘grasping things at the root’ what is the relevance of the UQ forum area today?
7. University students pay fees and in return they obtain skills which helps them gain employment and better paying jobs. So are students customers of universities?
8. On the other hand, a worker is paid wages for turning up and doing work for the boss. Is there any similarity between a student at university and a worker at her boss’s workplace?
9. In 1972 Queensland University had grown into the size of a small town. Over 20,000 people attended and worked there each day. This was similar to the population of Mount Isa at the time. Lecture theatres were overcrowded. Exams were held at the end of the year. Students gravitated to the refec. There was a lot of sitting around talking and socialising. Universities were free. Labor was in power in Canberra. The Radical activities of the late 60s and early 1970s were on the wane. The radicals of the New Left had moved on. We had to wait another 5 years for an upturn with the right to march movement trying to bring down the Bjelke-Petersen government. Society changed as a result. How do you see universities of the current era? Can they produce similar critical thinking and a desire for change or have they given themselves over to corporatism, free enterprise and the neoliberal dream?

10. Next Monday the Committee to Save the UQ union complex is putting on a forum and picket at the University of Queensland, can you please tell us about that?

View from a wooden chair by Jumping Fences
Brisbane Barrio by Jumping Fences

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