An extraordinary meeting of the academic senate has "encouraged" members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) branch committee at the University of Wollongong.
Marcelo Svirsky is discipline leader of politics and international studies at the university, and attended the Extraordinary meeting on Tuesday.
He said it had been convened by 29 petitioners who were formerly members of the academic senate, but had since been booted from their roles as part of the rollout of a new membership model.
"The new model split up categories of academic members, and imposed associate deans and heads of schools as academic members when they are actually in management-appointed roles," he said.
"The academic senate is for overseeing and reviewing academic processes - if you don't have enough academics it means whatever management wants will be rubber-stamped through the senate."
Dr Svirsky said the move was in direct opposition to a recommendation made by a review committee in 2017 to maintain the ratio of academics and management on the academic senate.
Despite the fears of NTEU members, the new academic senate members voted in favour of the petitioners.
"We presented the resolutions and won 19-5 with an amendment that frames a new review that will take place in two years time," Dr Sviskry said.
"In the next elections to academic senate there will be a new membership model that will take into account the concerns that we raised.
"Certainly we have hope because we saw today the new elected academic members speak on behalf of their true role and students support our fight."
Computer science and mathematics student Isaac Bankier isn't sure the win was enough, however.
"It's a victory but a temporary victory," he said.
"I'm concerned that UOW is being turned into a degree factory.
"It seems like it's being turned into a corporate uni that focusses more on pumping degrees out than being a facility to educate people."
The NTEU also hit back at Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings criticisms of a staff wellbeing survey the union sent out.
Two-thirds of respondents to the survey said they considered quitting their job because of workplace stress.
Prof Wellings argued the surveys had not been audited or independently verified.
"They lack approval by any ethics committee. The surveys are very good examples of bad social science. They are push polls. They score an 'F'," he said on Monday.
The departing VC added UOW's much bigger survey, the COVID-19 Staff Check-in Survey undertaken in April 2020 had 1774 responses (64 per cent of UOW staff).
Lecturer for the Business and Law faculty Nadia Verrucci said the purpose of the survey was to give struggling staff members a voice.
"The community of UOW has been subjected to lots of stress since COVID, and the uni hasn't done anything to survey staff about how they are feeling," she said.
"The union has been asking for this to happen through different committees and in the end did it on their own.
"We're not saying everyone in whole uni shares the experiences of responders, but it is a true indication of people who responded.
"I would have thought it's in senior executives' best interests to say 'thank you' to the union for raising it."
The University of Wollongong issued a media release after the meeting. It read:
"The Special Meeting of the Academic Senate held on Tuesday 18 May was attended by freshly elected Senators along with some returning Senators and registered observers, some of whom were previously members of Academic Senate prior to the recent elections.
"Discussions were constructive, cordial and inclusive, with five senate members and four observers being granted an opportunity to address Academic Senate.
"The resulting resolution: expresses to the University Council the disappointment felt by Senators with the reforms implemented; asks that Council note their concerns regarding the new membership model and the process by which it was approved; and recommends that the UOW Council undertake further consultation with Academic Senate and the wider University community to identify further enhancements to be made to the Academic Senate within the course of the two years prior to June 2023.
"Special Meetings, while rarely called, are allowed by the terms of reference under which the Academic Senate functions. This meeting was conducted according to those terms of reference.
"The University Council will consider the resolution of this meeting in due course.
"The University Council has previously expressed its recognition of the important role of Academic Senate as the principal academic body of the University, and the crucial functions it performs within the broader UOW governance framework.
"The new Academic Senate membership model aims to facilitate greater focus on the Senate's core business of teaching and research, in line with academic boards and senates across the higher education sector.
"The reshaped Academic Senate can now move forward with fulfilling its important role in overseeing academic matters at UOW.
"The University acknowledges the contributions made by Academic Senate members whose service has now concluded following the recently completed elections. Their generous contributions to Academic Senate and to the academic governance of the University are appreciated throughout the University community."
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