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October 2012

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With the dreaded exams looming once again, it’s a perfect time to visit the newly revamped Fisher Library. It’s definitely a departure from the library of old, with all sorts of gadgetry sprawled across levels 2, 3 and 4. Some are familiar whilst others are completely foreign, but nonetheless welcome, to the library domain.

Level 2 now hosts the new ‘pods’, featuring massive touch-screen computers and roundtables, not unlike those from executive conference rooms. Meanwhile Fisher South on level 3 features karaoke-style pods which, although not conducive to getting any actual work done, make for excellent cinema watching (earphone jacks even adorn each sofa).

Those looking to get some solo work done haven’t been left behind however, with study desks and lounges available on all three levels (power points too, hallelujah!). There’s certainly more noise all around though, so those needing complete silence should visit level 4, a designated quiet zone.

You can check out Fisher Library any day of the week. Feel free to approach the counter staff (which includes students, including me) on level 3 should you need help with the new spaces or movie recommendations for the pods (this goes both ways; let us know what’s good to watch!).

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When someone asks you what you love about going to Sydney Uni, it’s pretty easy to come up with an answer. I mean, there’s the picturesque campus, the vibrant student life, the lecturers (a.k.a. some of the best academics in their field), and so the list goes on.

But I’d like you to forget all that.

From now on, there’s only one answer you need to give when someone asks you what’s so great about going to Sydney Uni.

On sale tomorrow, November 1st, is the first ever Sydney edition of Monopoly, and the only University to feature on the board is – you guessed it – the University of Sydney.

Forget the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge – they didn’t make the cut. But you could be purchasing Sydney University at a bargain price and be setting up your little houses all over campus before you know it.

Sydney Harbour and Darling Harbour hold the prime spots on the board, while other locations to feature include Manly Beach, Centennial Park, Kings Cross, and Taronga Zoo.

You can score a $100 prize for the best Mardigras float from the community chest, or cop a $15 fine from the chance cards for travelling in the T3 lane of the Spit Bridge.

Considering that there were only 22 locations up for grabs and they were all nominated and voted for by the public, a position on the board is nothing to sneeze at. Put it this way, you know you go to a pretty neat University if it scored a place on the Monopoly board.

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(Left: Team Johnson & Friends receiving 5/5 for their performance. Right: 'best new improviser' Rubee McManus)

Thursday 25 October was the culmination of months of improvisational practice and wit, coming together to produce the Sydney University Theatresports grand final. It was an epic night. Manning bar was packed out an hour early and the bar was running low on jugs and glasses. If those two factors were anything to go by, it can be deemed an instant success, yet the actual content of the night far exceeded this initial hint of greatness.

For the past two months, the lovely Bridie Connell and prolific Tom Walker have been hosting weekly Theatresports competitions between 12 teams. It was fierce. Apparently there are a lot of funny people at Usyd. Funny people that can be funny on the spot.

The night saw a furious comedic battle between the 6 qualifying teams; Choose Your Own Adventure Time, Fireman Spam, Doppelgangers of New York, Johnson & Friends, First World Solutions and S Club 3.

Teams were easily distinguished by elaborate costumes, which also provided comedic relief when they malfunctioned.

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I’m coming to the end of my first year of a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications). The course goes for four years, which is longer than most media and journalism courses. There’s good reason for that though!

I’m still quite undecided as to what my ‘end goal’ is, and I’m certainly not alone in that respect within my cohort. But the course caters for indecisiveness – I’ve tried my hand at print journalism, radio, online media and the production side of things, and will do an internship in fourth-year! On top of all these Media units I’ve also decided to undertake a marketing major, which will give me a breadth of knowledge that other degrees wouldn’t have provided me. And my Media lecturers have all had real-world journalism experience, which has been a bonus in terms of learning how to mix lofty theory and practical application.

The range of subjects (media, arts and marketing units) offered by my degree are especially important given the volatile environment the media now finds itself in. Having a broader scope of understanding and learning will hopefully put me in good stead when I’m looking for full-time jobs after graduation.

Another advantage has been the access to experience. I’ve done quite a lot of writing this year for The BULL, where I’ve been able to focus on pop culture and feature writing, but there are other Uni titles for writers more interested in current affairs or international issues.

The malleability of the course means I’ve been able to mould it to fit my own career aspirations and interests. I’d say that’s the best thing about it!

See more information about my course.

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How do you assess and attempt to solve a politically fraught situation from afar? Students from the 2012 Masters of Human Rights and Democratisation course are undertaking a human rights simulation exercise focusing on West Papua, as part of Dr Susan Banki’s ‘Dynamics of Human Rights Violations’ class. The central event in the simulation exercise is the alleged murder of activist Mako Tabuni earlier this year and the alleged involvement of Australian funded anti-terrorist unit Detachment 88.

In the first stage of our human rights simulation we’ve explored the relationships between the major parties engaged in the tragedy that has engulfed West Papua, and developed tactics that could be employed to intervene and prevent further human rights abuses. Key aspects of our work include team building and collaboration between the student groups representing the different actors, applying relevant learning from this unit of study.

Our diverse cohort of international students brings to the simulation exercise a diverse array of backgrounds, experiences and unique perspectives from their home states. Some of these states are in the infancy of building a new democracy after decades or even centuries of authoritarian rule. For these students the oppression experienced by the indigenous peoples of West Papua can be all too familiar.

It is important to recognise that as students undertaking a simulation we in no way trivialise the seriousness of the events in West Papua. However the exercise is a valuable training tool to equip students that one day may be working in the field with INGO’s or governments committed to ending the atrocities of torture, abductions, ‘disappearances’ and murder.

Read more about this unit of study.

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So I’m here. I’ve been here for seventeen days.

Exchange is amazing.

Bristol is a a tiny city. Well, of course it would seem so, coming from Sydney. It’s everything that I could have wanted. There is a magnificent cathedral within 2 minutes walk and the University of Bristol wouldn’t look out of place on the set of a Harry Potter film. The roads are small and windy and the number of BMWs, Audis, Mercedes are about ten fold from back home. Milk is sold in pints and road signs are in miles. There is the perfect amount of drizzle in the air - enough to keep you cool, but not so much that it’s annoying. I am yet to meet someone I don’t like.

My flatmates (seven of them) are some of the friendliest people anyone could meet. There are two medical students, two politics students, a geoscientist and an engineer. They are from all parts of England - from Northumberland to right here in Bristol.

I study health sciences back home, but here I’m taking electives and studying medieval history. This, whilst being a challenge, has been an amazing decision. I’m not used to the language in the readings, or the style of the tutorials (or seminars, as they are called here) - but I expected this. Throwing a science student into an arts unit was always going to see a few glitches. I’ve been studying things for pure interest, rather than for a degree - makes it a lot easier to get work done.

I’ll get back to you with my adventures as they happen!

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Today marks the start of the HSC exams. I’m sure many hopeful future Sydney University students were there in the English Paper 1 Exam today; frustration levels rising as their handwriting slowly became illegible amid hand cramps and annoying people clicking their pens a million times.

I was there not all that long ago. I remember HSC exams as being a frantic time, where I organised my colour-coded notes and tried to condense a whole year’s learning onto a single page, crammed with mnemonics and diagrams. I would repeatedly read and re-read this sheet before going into exams slowly rocking back and forth, trying to reassure myself I would be okay.

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(Left: James Wilson; the original zombie, right: Patrick Morrow and Victoria Baldwin; humans on the run)(Images by Jamie Kennedy)


The main reason I ended up at Sydney University is because of the amazing student life. Sydney has many crazy events to attend, and my favourite this year has to be the Humans versus Zombies Nerf war that was played on 6 October, as part of the Verge festival.

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2012 Verge Festival directors, history and music student Lauren Eisinger and physics and literature student James Colley, did a quick Q&A for us about their work:


This is the 10th Verge Festival. Any stats or facts & figures about why this will be the biggest and best?

This Festival will probably be the biggest yet, however we have to say that this is because we have been able to stand on the shoulders of giants. The University of Sydney Union – who are responsible for the funding and execution of Verge Festival – along with the people who work there, have tirelessly supported our crazy and almost impossible ideas with such passion and energy. Nothing has been too hard or too much effort. We have been so privileged to be able to talk with previous directors and adapt elements of past festivals so they can form the basis of wonderful events in this Verge Festival.

This year Verge is much more visual. We have taken the festival Tent of years past, given it steroids and evolved it into a 15m-diameter geodesic dome that stands 7.5m high. We put this up on the Front Lawns next to the iconic Quadrangle where it cannot be missed, so Verge has instantly taken a higher profile within the university.

We have sold out three major events prior to the start of the festival. We are hosting the Australian premiere performance of The Magical Music of Disney, a symphonic concert of Disney classics accompanied by the animated film footage played on a big screen.

Humans vs. Zombies, a giant Nerf battle of apocalyptic proportions, will be played on campus for the first time and sold out in less than an hour. This festival has more than 33 hours of comedy, 30 hours of music performances, two circus shows, an artwork that was displayed in Vivid Festival, 25 hours of theatre and hundreds of ways to get involved. From drawing on the ground to entering a slow bike race (the winner is the one who comes last) we can honestly say there is something in this festival for everyone.

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Verge Festival is in full swing. Opening Night last night (with the help of some beautifully warm weather) went off with a bang! The Halloween themed opening party was host to many bands making wonderfully loud noises, some SURCAS kids twirling fire and even a tiny dog that wandered about in the Verge Dome who was quite open to affection from strangers!

I was lucky enough to be part of a piece of Headphone Verbatim Theatre called “A Tree Ascending” that opened last night. This piece is inspired by the light installation, “Palettes of Urban Green” on the Law Lawns (you may recognise it from the Sydney Vivid Festival).

The piece was devised by a group of student performers, who are all from the Sydney University Dramatic Society (SUDS). It is centred on the theme of sacrifice.

Headphone Verbatim is a contemporary performance technique where interviews are recorded with audio devices; the audio is then edited and played back through an IPod into the performer’s ears. The performer then repeats the words they hear, a moment after them, attempting to tease out the nuance in the interviewee’s voice.

The piece works as a guided tour. It begins on the Cellar Lawns (home of SUDS) and small groups of audience (of 3 or 4) are guided on foot through the most beautiful parts of the University, whilst listening to the performers recount these interviews.

These are intimate performances, with interviews of real people speaking honestly and profoundly on the subject of sacrifice.

There are only two nights left of this show, so if you would like to come, check out the Facebook eventand prepare yourself for a night of insightful entertainment.


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The 2012 Masters of Human Rights and Democratisation (MHRD) course in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is halfway through its first semester.

31 students from 20 countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Sweden, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Nepal, Taiwan, Pakistan, Philippines, Peru, Greece, Iran, Tibet and Mongolia make up the 2012 cohort.

Highlights of the semester so far include drama specialist Peter Harris from Tel Aviv University, who flew into Sydney to facilitate a three-day human rights drama workshop. Peter carefully forged a hugely diverse bunch into a tightly knit group that in fact had some very real talent.

Complementing our dedicated faculty staff led by Dr Susan Banki, we’ve also been fortunate to have highly regarded guest speakers including:

- Professor Jay Winter from Yale University on ‘Human Rights from the Bottom Up’;

- Associate Professor Danielle Celermajer lectured to us on indigenous peoples rights;

- Dr Devorah Wainer on the Midrash Social Research Methodology;

- Dr Nicola Piper on migrant workers rights;

- Dr Wendy Landbourne on transitional justice;

- Professor John Keane (author of ‘Life and Death of Democracy’) on democracy; and

- from the US, Professor Darius Rejali (author of ‘Torture and Democracy’ and Winner of 2009 Lemkin Award) on yes, torture and many other subjects relevant to our program.

Notwithstanding the gravitas of our studies, the 2012 MHRD cohort is a lively (a little kooky sometimes), garrulous gang (outside of class) and most importantly, a bunch of optimists.

Quite a few are already lamenting that our first semester will be coming to a close soon and we’ll be splitting off to our partner universities for our second semester in January 2013.

For more information on the course, visit the website.


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