QUT students have spoken out in outrage after the contract of a beloved lecturer, Christine (Tfer) Newsome, was not renewed.
At the time of publication, nearly 1,000 students, staff, alumni and community members have signed an online petition titled ‘Save Tfer’s Job’, which condemns the University for its alleged actions regarding Ms Newsome’s contract.
This comes after significant industrial action by QUT staff members over the past year.
Heated student discussion about the circumstances around Ms Newsome’s contract not being renewed has also taken place on the non-QUT affiliated Facebook group QUT StalkerSpace 2.1.
One student commented on the StalkerSpace post that they felt ‘…it is unacceptable that QUT believes they can treat their staff this way.’
‘Tfer has taught and impacted hundreds upon hundreds of creatives for several years.’
‘It is important that QUT knows that their students are outraged by their behaviour not just for Tfer, but for current and future teachers.’
Glass has obtained information indicating that there may be at least four staff members who have not had their contracts renewed, and that these recent changes may be part of a wider ‘workforce planning’ strategy being implemented within the University.
One QUT staff member, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated that they did not even feel comfortable signing the petition to support Ms Newsome due to concerns about their own job security.
QUT Student Guild President, Zoe Davidson, spoke to Glass this afternoon. ‘Knowing that Tfer is not alone in the workforce planning and restructuring, indicates possible structural movement in an area which has incredible student interest and impact.’
‘It is evident students are disappointed to hear about such an invaluable member of the School of Creative Practice going through this experience with QUT.’
‘I’ve personally spoken to Tfer who has expressed their absolute admiration of student success and opportunities over the past 21 years of their time here.’
‘To stop their engagement now with students, would be an injustice and detriment to the many more who would have attended their classes.’
‘…The unfair treatment of staff directly impacts student outcomes.’
Many commenters on the StalkerSpace post and petition expressed fears for the quality of education that will be provided for students studying Bachelors of Fine Arts (Film, Screen and New Media) at QUT with the changes to staffing in the faculty.
The creator of the online petition noted that Ms Newsome has, over the past 21 years ‘…been an integral part of many students’ successes and endeavours into the film and television industries. Without Tfer’s passion for teaching, future students are at a great disadvantage.’
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) sent out an email to its members this afternoon urging them to sign the petition in support of Ms Newsome. ‘Senior management’s intentional, repeated decision to keep the majority of QUT staff in insecure work hurts a lot of people,’ NTEU QUT Branch Organiser Erin Campbell wrote.
The email also noted that Ms Newsome was recently promoted to become a ‘Level B’ lecturer, only to be told ‘…about a week later…that her contract would not be renewed and (as far as she knows) her two-decade teaching career at QUT has come to an end.’
In response to Glass’ request for comment, QUT responded that it would be ‘inappropriate’ for the University to comment on this matter due to confidentiality obligations. QUT has not yet responded to Glass‘ request for comment on the claims of a broader ‘workforce planning’ strategy possibly being implemented by QUT, and the impact this may have on students.
Glass encourages any student, alumni or staff members dissatisfied with the University’s treatment of its staff to sign the petition in support of Ms Newsome, and share this article to raise awareness of this issue.
Glass has reached out to the NTEU for comment. Ms Newsome respectfully declined to comment for this article.
More to come.