'Last resort': USC staff withhold students' grades in strike
STUDENTS at the University of the Sunshine Coast have had their official grades withheld as part of industrial action taken by teaching staff.
In what National Tertiary Education Union secretary Michael McNally described as a "last resort", staff associated with the union have a ban on providing course results to the university.
Honours candidate Rebecca Hatcher-Anderson said she had missed out on scholarship opportunities when she wasn't provided her grades.
"My biggest concern is that, as an honours student, I need to be achieving 85 per cent or higher as my average and I don't know whether I've done that," she said.
"I'm stressed and I can only imagine what other students are feeling, especially those who need to know whether they passed prerequisites to enrol in courses for next semester.
"There is a lot attached to your grades from scholarships to Centrelink payments."
But Ms Hatcher-Anderson said she still stood by the academics' decision to strike.
"I think they've got cause, they're not asking for anything out of the box," she said.
"If there are inferior conditions here at USC, then the best staff will not be attracted to USC."
Fellow honours student Sherry Barkase agreed.
"It is sad to see the quality of our education being eroded by budget cuts while the university is expanding to new locations and renovating existing infrastructure," she said.
Union secretary Michael McNally said teaching staff were asking USC to improve job security, ensure reasonable workloads and introduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment targets.
He said the union had been in negotiation with USC for nine months to no avail, and withholding grades was a "last resort".
"Our members don't like doing this," he said.
Staff members associated with the union have also stopped marking beyond the extent to which they are paid.
"Because usually they are short-changed," Mr McNally said.
"If they get paid for 20 minutes to mark a 2000 word exam then that's the time they are now taking.
"This means students are getting less feedback."
Mr McNally said a round of industrial action had been taken at universities across the country, and USC was one of the last to reach an agreement.
A USC spokesperson said they were aware of the industrial action in the form of bans, which could result in the non-release of students' results by a group of staff.
They said NTEU only represented a small proportion of the university's staff.
"Previous action of this sort has had minimal impact on university operations but should a student be affected they should contact Student Central for assistance and support," the spokesperson said.
They said students could contact Student Central through the university's website if they were affected.
Mr McNally said the union would continue to fight for better conditions.
"We're preparing for action at the beginning of next semester if, heaven forbid, we are still bargaining," he said.
An exemptions committee has formed to allow students who may be significantly affected, due to visa, graduation or other circumstances, to apply to have their results released to the university.