Academic Advocacy is a professional service of QUT Guild committed to supporting and representing the interests and needs of students in academic matters, navigating university policies and advocating for better quality of education. This year the Advocacy Team are collaborating with Glass on a Kindness Campaign to promote the values of empathy, compassion, and kindness among members of the community. The campaign will consist of a series of articles that will encourage people to engage in acts of kindness towards each other and themselves. Supporting you with kindness and guiding you with knowledge.
This article was written by Advocate, Shane Snow.
Did you know QUT wasn’t always called QUT? In 1989 the then Queensland Institute of Technology (QIT) merged with Kelvin Grove, Kedron Park and Carseldine Colleges of Advanced Education to form the Queensland University of Technology. This amalgamation meant the QIT Student Union was renamed the QUT Student Guild, and was now responsible for providing advocacy for students at all four campuses.
An indication of the importance that advocacy would play in defining the organisation’s role was encompassed in the motto it adopted of “Representation through Action”. As part of this representation, the Guild established Student Information Offices (SIOs) on each of the four campuses (later three campuses when Kedron Park was closed in the mid-1990s). In addition to providing a range of commercial services, these SIOs also displayed material promoting the role of the Guild’s advocacy service.
The Guild Academic Advocate had set days they would work out of each office to meet with the students on those campuses. For those who required immediate assistance, the Advocate would travel to their campus to meet with them in person – no such thing as zoom back in those days and email wasn’t introduced until the late 90s! In these early days there were limited staff providing this service, therefore an Academic Advocate would work until 8pm on some days to provide services to cater for students outside of normal business hours.
From the beginning, the Guild Advocacy Service did more than assist individual students experiencing difficulties with their studies. Advocacy provided services that benefited the entire student body. A prime example of this was the implementation of the Guild’s free shuttle bus service.
The shuttle bus service was introduced to assist students who had classes on different campuses. Relying on public transport or driving to travel between campuses was time consuming and expensive. Consequently, students were arriving late to class or, in many instances, missing class all together. These were the days of attendance marks, so by missing class students were not only absent for content they needed to succeed in their assessment but were also losing marks by not being able to attend.
The Guild’s shuttle bus service consisted of several mini vans driven by a Guild staff member, travelling between Kelvin Grove and Gardens Point every 15 minutes, and multiple times a day between Gardens Point and Carseldine, as well as Kelvin Grove and Carseldine. Many students used this service, with an average of 1400 passengers per week in 1999.
Eventually demand for the Guild’s shuttle bus became overwhelming as more and more students became aware of the service. In response to the growing need, the Guild Advocacy Service lobbied the University to support a free shuttle bus service for students. This eventuated in the free council shuttle bus service that travels between campuses to this day.
Another initiative the Guild Advocacy initiated from the early 1990s was the “Alternative Handbook”. Before the internet was invented and became commonplace, units that were on offer were published in a University handbook. Information was limited to how many credit points the units were worth and what semester they were available. Students had no knowledge of what to expect from the units they were enrolling in nor what other students had thought of them. If only Stalkerspace was invented back then!
The Guild tried to combat this by going into lectures and surveying students on what they thought of the units they were studying. The Guild would publish these findings in a publication called the “Alternative Handbook”. Students would then be able to gain a past student’s insights on what a unit was like. This publication was not always popular with the University, as sometimes the comments made by students were not complimentary.
The rapid advancement of technology since the 90s, particularly widespread access to the internet, email, and social media, has greatly transformed our lives and provided us with incredible opportunities. Even though so many things have changed since that time, the hands-on and proactive nature of Guild Advocacy is still going strong. By helping students and campaigning for reforms, the Advocacy team and the Student Guild continue to make student lives better today.
About the author, Shane Snow, Advocate at QUT Student Guild Advocacy:
I’m Shane Snow, one of the QUT Guild Academic Advocates with 29 years of combined experience at QUT & The Guild. I have a deep understanding of university policies and procedures and a strong network across QUT to promptly resolve student issues. My education includes a Bachelor of Arts, Graduate Diplomas in Education and Business Administration, and a Graduate Certificate in Governance and Public Policy. I’ve appeared as an expert witness before the Australian Senate and have participated in TV and radio discussions on higher education. Reach out for any assistance you need.