Sydney College of Arts Students Claim Unlawful Conduct by University Management

Sydney University’s student legal team, the SRC Legal Service, has launched a formal complaint against the Sydney College of Arts for alleged mismanagement and unlawful conduct by university leadership, Andrew Taylor of the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The embattled university’s College of Arts students have been occupying administration buildings this past month in protest of the provost and deputy vice-chancellor Stephen Garton’s failure to reveal that the university had received a $45 million subsidy for its use of the historic building that housed the arts school at Callan Park, his decision to divert million of funds from the art school to the Royal North Shore Hospital, and the underestimation of the art school’s financial viability—the university had estimated that the art school would operate at a $5 million loss in 2016.

Solicitor Thomas McLoughlin said, “The omission of the $45 million in the draft change plan shows a deliberate omission of the fantastic capacity of SCA to fundraise from government or others.” He added, “It reinforces the false view SCA is financially unviable. Nothing further from the truth really.”

Verity Leatherdale, a spokeswoman for the university, claims that the school did not receive a $45 million subsidy. According to Leatherdale, the school gave $36 million to support government projects in exchange for the title of its Law School building seven years ago. The $45 million is merely that sum plus an allowance for inflation.

She claimed the Callan Park campus was meant to be the home of a number of arts and cultural organizations. “When that vision failed to materialize, the university was left with the SCA as the major tenant and the university footing the bill for maintaining the site.”

Students are also still irate over the previously proposed merger between the SCA and the University of New South Wales, which would have eliminated degrees that the students had originally enrolled for and paid to receive. After the controversial merger was called off, the university moved the arts school to its main campus and cut dozens of jobs, reducing the faculty staff by half, in its attempts to downsize the fine arts program. The university has also decided not to accept students for the incoming 2017 academic year. Colin Rhodes, dean of the College of the Arts, has since resigned and professor Margaret Harris is currently serving as interim dean.