Growing opposition to sacking of arts educator at Australia’s Monash University | #students | #parents

A petition calling for the reinstatement of Dr. Jan Bryant, a highly regarded academic and educator at Melbourne’s Monash University, has received nearly 1,000 signatures.

Bryant specialises in art history and theory, fields that are crucial to critical and cultural understanding. The petition points out that many of her PhD students “will be left in the lurch” as a result of her dismissal.

Monash University (Wikimedia Commons)

Bryant has been teaching on short-term contracts in the Art, Design and Architecture faculty for eleven years, educating thousands of students, supervising dozens of PhD students, and publishing books, papers and essays.

One of Bryant’s former students said in a comment on the petition website: “I wish for secure and fair working conditions for everyone. Also, Jan’s talent and dedication played a huge role in me not only finishing my degree but refueling my love of learning and the art world.”

According to the petition, the university advertised Bryant’s role, for which she reapplied, but neither she nor anyone else was given the role. Bryant is quoted in the petition statement as saying: “I’ve struggled with 11 years of insecure work, but through that time have worked hard, and been dedicated to my teaching and research, only to discover that my contract is not being renewed.”

The petition has won a strong response from staff and students at Monash and more broadly. However, it is also a cynical attempt by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) to posture as a defender of Bryant and university workers more broadly. The petition was launched by Ben Eltham, the Monash branch president of the NTEU, which has blocked any unified nationwide struggle against the assault on university jobs and conditions.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in March last year, an estimated 90,000 university workers have lost their jobs, as university managements have sought to protect their profits at the expense of teaching and professional staff, and the courses and conditions of students.

The NTEU has negotiated away wages, jobs and conditions in deals with managements on every campus around the country, including at Monash, where hundreds of jobs have been slashed.

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