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By Mohammed ‘Ayo Busari’, Grok Magazine.
Jesse Naylor Zambrano will be the Guild’s President for 2021, her pronouns are She/Her and she is currently in her fourth year studying Economics and International Relations.
When she is at work, she spends her days answering emails, making sure the Guild is advancing on all campaigns, preparing for, and attending meetings.
When she is at home, she spends her days gardening, swimming, and hanging out with my friends and family.
She started university in 2018 and in her first year, she created the Curtin Film Club (which is unfortunately no more). This is her fourth year being a part of the Guild. She was previously the Faculty of Business and Law Representative for 2020 and now she is President of the Guild.
Where is your favourite place to be on campus?
My favourite place to be on campus is in the Tav Beer Garden on a sunny afternoon with a ginger beer and some good friends.
What are your plans after university?
I want to move countries and live somewhere completely new and different! Beyond that, I do not have much of a plan, although I know my mum wishes I did.
How can the Guild help make university life better?
The best memories I have made so far at university have been through getting involved in clubs, checking out events and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I have been able to find my people, finding those who are passionate about the same things as me. The Guild is the heart of campus culture, running over 100 clubs and a packed activities calendar. We work to make sure there is always something happening on campus and a vibrant community for students to dive into.
We also attack it from all angles, for example fighting the University to keep parking fees low so that students can afford to be on campus. I think the Guild makes university life better because it is our job to see the big picture and fight to uphold crucial parts of our university experience. That way, the students that we represent can focus more on studying and having a great time.
How and why did you get involved in the Guild?
I got involved in the Guild through my involvement in clubs. I started the Curtin Film Club in my first year and seeing the things I both loved and wanted to improve about how clubs work, I decided to run in the elections. I ended up getting involved in the First Year Committee and the Representation Board.
It was and still is satisfying to hear my fellow students vent about something frustrating that is happening and be able to find a solution. When my friends studying Illustration were being forced by tutors to work for free as part of a unit, I thought it was totally messed up. My friends were too afraid of what their tutors might do if confronted, so I relayed the information to the Guild Humanities Rep. They were able to represent them to the faculty and achieve change.
We really can just challenge and change things; we do not have to lie down and take it! That is why I am involved in the Guild.
How do you think you can make a difference this year, and what are you hoping to achieve?
This year the University is trying to usher through a new learning model that would see more and more of our education shifted online. This conveniently comes after Curtin sacked 300 staff and lecturers. I guess they do not see themselves needing those lecturers once they get rid of lectures and replace them with 15-minute videos and podcast episodes. Cost effective maybe, but what about our quality of education? Students have said it loud and clear – our quality of education was worse with online learning, and a lot of us feel underprepared as a result.
We will not let them use COVID as an excuse to cut costs when it comes to the service we are paying for.
I want to make sure students are informed about what is going on, and I want them to realise that they have the power to demand better. I want to build a learning model created by staff and students, because we know what it is like to teach and study at Curtin. Not the University executives who are on 400K a year. I want to see the student body rise and show the University executive that they work for us, not the other way round.
What is the most important issue for students today?
One of the most important issues for students at Curtin is parking. In December 2020, the University announced that it would be charging for exam parking and raising parking fees by 5.26%. The cherry on top? They did not even think to let students know it would be happening.
The Curtin Student Guild has launched a parking campaign that is currently fighting for a 0% increase to parking fees in 2021. We are committed to rebuilding campus culture after COVID and online learning. The last thing we need is to make it more expensive to spend time on campus when many of us struggled financially due to COVID.
The University says that parking needs to be expensive because we do not have that many bays, and because they have a commitment to sustainability. That is, making students use public transport because parking is too expensive. I get it, but what about students who must take children to day-care, or get straight from university to work? What about students who must bring in equipment for their classes? What about students with disabilities who cannot take public transport? What about students who live far away? Curtin’s pricing strategy intends to stop people driving to campus unnecessarily, but it just penalises students who require a car to access their education.
Since PAYG was implemented in 2008, students have been saying that the parking system needs to be more flexible and accessible. If the University is going to push students to take public transport, we need improvements to the transport links available to campus. We need sustainability initiatives that do not start and end with ‘charge students out the wazoo to come to campus’.
Over the next months, the Guild will be creating a parking system proposal based on students' feedback and needs and advocating for its implementation. Stay up to date on the campaign to give feedback on the proposal before it is taken to the University executive.
How do you see universities adapting to students’ needs in the future?
Honestly? I do not have much good news on this front. This year’s cohort of first years is paying the highest University fees in Australia’s history thanks to the Liberals ‘Job-Ready Graduates Higher Education Reform’. Overall government contribution to your cost of education went from 58% to 52%, and who absorbs that cost? That is right, students.
Universities across the board are now receiving less government funding. This means that they must operate more and more like a business to keep running and stay profitable. We are seeing the consequences of this on our campus right now - massive staff cuts, course cuts and restructures, and moves towards more cheaply run online education.
What does this really mean for students in the future? It means if you cannot take on a massive debt, your access to education is limited. It means those with money get to study whatever they want, and those without money study whatever the government wants, or nothing at all.
I believe in fair access to higher education. There is a lot of us who would not be here if money were the deciding factor for going to university. This year the National Union of Students will run a national student movement against the defunding of higher education. Keep your eyes out for information and get involved. This affects all of us and every student who comes after us.
What is your advice for making the most out of the university experience—especially for first years?
Do not let university be something that happens to you. Make sure you are something that happens to this university! My advice is: push yourself out of your comfort zone, get involved, and realise your power.
You are fresh into university and the world is your oyster. I am a fourth-year student, and I have grown a lot since I started university. I have learned heaps of new skills, made close friends, and I have a way cuter haircut now. You are standing at the beginning of an exciting chapter of your life, so when an opportunity presents itself, consider grabbing it by the horns. Even if it is scary. Especially if it is scary!
Once you get comfortable in your new life as a Curtin student, remember that you have agency. See something you do not like? You can try to change it. Got an idea? We can try to do it. Often, if you give it a shot, something will happen. And that applies to the world beyond Curtin too. But while we are here, this is your campus, so ask questions, challenge things, and let us make a ruckus.
If you could make any changes in the university, what would it be and why?
I would increase the proportion of student’s fees that goes towards paying for teaching and learning. Now, the University’s future business prospects are being prioritised over the quality of education students are receiving right here, right now in 2021.
I want to see more money invested in creating great learning material, paying good lecturers who know what they are doing and have worked in the industry, and getting detailed feedback on our assignments in a reasonable timeframe. These are the things students are crying out for, not a hotel and restaurants on campus.
If you were the Prime Minister of Australia for a day, what would you do?
I would do us all a favour and bring back free University education.
This article is part of a Curtin Student Guild interview series conducted by Grok Magazine.