University of Wollongong staff kicked off the 'Save Our University" campaign this morning.
Community assemblies were held at Wollongong, Batemans Bay, Bega, Shoalhaven and Moss Vale campuses on Thursday morning from 8.15am to 8.50am.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) run events were held ahead of an 11am Vice Chancellor's online address to all UOW staff.
UOW Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings will brief staff on the financial impact of COVID-19, the current financial position of UOW, actions taken to date and options being considered for its continuing response.
Staff have expressed disappointment Professor Wellings recently rejected a National Job Protection Framework negotiated nationally with NTEU.
"Instead he appears to be moving towards wholesale staff related cost savings to deal with budget shortfalls, this has the potential to heavily impact on how our university operates and delivers to the community in coming years," a spokesperson said.
"All this is happening as the Federal Government continues to resist our calls for adequate financial support for universities and their staff."
In Wollongong, Dr Carol Priestley was among a dozen or so staff calling on UOW management to protect its highly casualised staff.
Dr Priestley was told last Thursday that her contract would not be renewed, and she fears many of her colleagues will also lose their jobs.
"I have been at UOW for more than 5 years. I've been stuck on contracts year to year, despite me being busier than ever in 2020," she said.
"Perhaps different to some other industries impacted by the COVID-19 crisis the work I do still exists, it hasn't gone away. My role is to professionally support students to help them get through, to help them stay enrolled.
"If we lose many more domestic students because we do not continue to provide adequate teaching and support we stop the students' chances of success, we impact on our Shoalhaven community's growth and regrowth after drought, bushfires, flood and now COVID."
Dr Priestley said she also worried about her students.
They also appreciated the efforts of the popular lecturer.
"I reached out to Carol to help me and she has. She has made everything make sense," one of her nursing students said.
"I am shocked to hear that they will not have a job next semester. I feel as a fee paying student and we're paying enough for this degree that they will not be around to assist us and we're not getting the expert help we deserve"
Another of Dr Priestley's students couldn't understand why UOW were removing their specialist academic support tutor.
"If we are struggling who are we supposed to go to for help? Who will run the specialist academic support lecturers? Are UOW making us fend for yourselves?
"Why would they remove these valuable resources from a rural university. We still pay the same fees as every other student yet we are the first to have things take from us."
Georgine Clarsen, the UOW branch president of the NTEU, said management needed to give Dr Priestley her job back.
"Carol's situation is symbolic of some terrible management decisions being made in relation to this crisis. Such decisions not only impact individual employees, but also have the potential to undermine the quality of learning and support that so many UOW students need to stay enrolled and graduate, particularly in regional communities," Mr Clarsen said.
"We need the Vice Chancellor to sit down in good faith with staff representatives and come clean about the university finances, then work with staff collegially to protect our jobs and the integrity of our public institution."