Students at Victorian universities are pushing back against new rules forcing them to complete “woke” modules or risk being banned from graduating.
Monash University has become the latest institution to penalise its students for not completing certain modules and “credentials”.
Students at the university are being blocked from accessing learning materials or from submitting assignments if they do not complete study modules on “Indigenous Australian Voices” and respectful relationships.
Those who refuse or fail to complete the tasks are locked out of their online learning hub, barring them from lecture recordings and weekly materials until modules on consent, drinking and Indigenous history are submitted.
Arts student at Monash Josh Feldman said while the some of the content included in the modules is valuable, the university should think twice if it believes students are taking them seriously.
“As important as it is to learn about Indigenous Australians, many students view compulsory university modules not as serious learning opportunities, but rather as chores to get over with,” he said.
“I hope that the university isn’t simply patting itself on the back with this Indigenous Voices module and thinking that it’s done its duty in educating the student body about the local Indigenous community.”
Another frustrated student called the move “laughable”.
“After paying full fees for two years despite not accessing any facilities, now we’re being forced to undergo compulsory re-education to access material for class,” he said.
“The module even asked a question about whether we were now more likely to perform an Acknowledgement of Country, which prevented you from completion unless you answered in the affirmative.”
The fifth year law student said it was “completely unnecessary to deprive fee-paying students of their education unless they learn about the institution’s woke political perspectives”.
He reported that most classes are now commenced with an Acknowledgement of Country.
“It feels entirely performative and insincere, particularly if you’re hearing it for the fourth or fifth time in a day,” he said.
“It’s quite laughable when a Vice Chancellor with an annual pay packet of over a $1 million is telling poor university students that they can’t be educated unless they learn about those who have been hard done by.”
However, a Monash University spokesperson said student associations had backed the Indigenous Australian Voices module as a mandatory task for students.
“The Indigenous Australian Voices module was introduced as a compulsory module in July 2022 following a lengthy consultation period with students and a pilot program delivered in 2021 with 6,000 students,” the spokesperson told NCA Newswire on Friday.
“Monash University was the first university to support research and teaching into contemporary Indigenous society and we are very proud to continue working towards positive change and attitudes, and addressing the legacies of the past.”
The representative said the content in the modules was “relevant to all students, not just while at university but in all facets of life”.
So far, almost 50,000 students have been forced to complete the module.
“While some students may already have a depth of knowledge of the experiences of Indigenous Australians, if one student doesn’t, then this module is worth it,” the spokesperson said.
The university said it would continue to “assess the introduction of compulsory modules”.
But not all student unions are on board.
National Union of Students national president Georgie Beatty said students, who pay hefty university fees, should always be able to access materials, no matter how important the topics covered by the modules were.
“Not only should these modules be mandatory and backed up by services on campus, but they should be run with the flexibility that recognises the reality of student life,” she told the Herald Sun this week.
“These institutions have a responsibility to provide education and services on campus around consent and first nations education, but it’s important that it’s flexible enough that students can realistically engage with them.”
Monash, however, is not the only Victorian university forcing students to complete these types of lessons.
At RMIT, some students risk dropping marks if they refuse or fail to complete online training modules, which include modules titled “Cross Cultural Communication”, “Why Gender Matters” and “Truth-Telling: Racism and Reconciliation”.
In one module, “Overcoming bias and assumptions”, students must complete a quiz in order for them to recognise and overcome their own “inherent biases” “distinguish between stereotypes and generalisations” and “critically analyse how assumptions, biases and stereotypes can lead to prejudice and discrimination”.
The module takes two hours to complete.
RMIT was contacted by NCA NewsWire but did not respond to questions.
Over at La Trobe University, academic integrity and Indigenous cultural awareness units are also mandatory for all students before graduation.
The university is also expected to extend its compulsory consent and respectful relationships training to all students at the university from 2023, which will mean students will be required to complete the modules in the first six months of their degree, or be banned from enrolling in the next semester.
“This is a measure to ensure that this significantly important training is undertaken in a time frame that supports students to make the most of their time at university and professionally and respectfully engage as a member of our community,” a La Trobe spokeswoman told the Herald Sun.
For students at Victoria University, Respect and Responsibility is only optional for student leaders but a spokeswoman said the university had not ruled out mandating the lessons in the future.
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