I strongly support the goals of the Save UTAS Campus campaign, especially as someone who experienced essesntially being forced out by way of bad management.
It is difficult to know where to begin with how poor the management of UTAS has been over the past decade. In no particular order, a small selection of the issues are:
- Allowed a child predator to do a PhD after repeatedly going to jail for their abuse of a 15-year old student, also protecting the predator's identity making it difficult for many people to feel safe anywhere UTAS related, and the person had to fight the courts just to be allowed to speak out about the abuse they lived through;
- Not only were enough votes gained to force an election issue about the public's support for the relocation, a whopping 75% of voters in a compulsory election voted no to supporting the relocation. Numerous advocates in favour of the move even had the audacity to say the time for engagement was years ago when it was the yes side who failed to engage;
- There is a parliamentary investigation into the management of UTAS, with over 140 submissions from those who heard about it in time, seems like more than a few individual disgruntled peeps to me;
- Have repeatedly closed staff feedback channels almost the moment they've opened them due to the sheer amount of negative feedback;
- It was recently reported that one in six staff and many students were unable to afford food at various times in the past year, having to go hungry and are likely living on or below the poverty line at other times;
- Various reports (eg) of buildings worth $100+ million intentionally being left in poor and worsening condition to help sell the locally unpopular relocation to the CBD;
- Have supported and likely funded research advocating for the use of practices deemed to be inhumane and torture by the United Nations (UN Report);
- Numerous staff speaking out about being forced out by way of bullying and/or bad management
- Have claimed to be a world class tertiary institution while having entrance requirements among the three worst examples in the country.
My own experience back around 2016/17 had me lecturing for a class with 600+ students per year across Hobart, Launceston, Cradle Coast, Shanghai and Hong Kong (teaching agreements with foreign universities) while being paid a few grand per year. At the time they cried too poor to pay any more while paying the VC $1.5 million per year and spending millions upon millions on their locally unpopular relocation to the CBD. A class with 600+ students per year should be bringing in $600k+/year in government backed HECS and full fee paying foreign/international students. Despite numerous requests to know where that was coming from, I was only ever told it was coming from above and was not allowed to know where. Attempts to contact the leadership of the university were ignored.
Many people defend that level of pay, yet few to none seem willing to even speculate how many classes lecturers being paid $100k+/year are taking each year if the university is following Australian equal pay laws. The laws around equal pay and candidate selection for positions are meant to help ensure workplaces in Australia are merit based and people are judged based on the quality/quantity of their work. Part of the goal of equality is for groups traditionally treated unequally to each other being equals in the future, but it seems as simple as giving some lip service about culture for universities in particular to be able to discriminate for all sorts of reasons unrelated to merit without any accountability, even if they're the only tertiary institution in the state, a public one at that, and receive all the government funding for tertiary level education and research.
I had already indicated my reluctance to continue working for an unliveable wage the second year, however was also trying to chase a career in academia while living in Tasmania. I was essentially facing homelessness when my father passed away unexpectedly during recovery from what was meant to be a routine hip replacement. When I was at the university to inform them of the situation, the only thing the person I was speaking to wanted to know about was when I would finish the remaining modules, even though prior to my father passing away unexpectedly I had already indicated that the pay was fairly unacceptable despite not being in a financial position to speak up. I cannot remember much of what eventuated at that point, I do know I lost my cool and quite appropriately told the person essentially where to stick it before walking out.
At various times while my financial situation became increasingly desperate, consequently resulting in my mental health deteroriating, I tried reaching out to various members of the research communities I was part of, places like AustMS and AMSI, family etc., however received little to no support with the conditions under which I was being treated at UTAS. Both of my advisors were retired by the time I finished the PhD, my (unofficial) main supervisor having retired before I even started, so I had done my best to try and avoid bothering them when they had already done so much for me. It should also be pointed out that James East was especially good at trying to help me continue down the academic route despite the issues at UTAS and continued to treat me the same as he had prior unlike most other acquaintances. At the time I was trying to get some papers published for already completed research in preparation to put in a DECRA application, something that would be downright impossible to do while completing the requirements to receive something like Centrelink support. Some of that work has since been published in top tier journals by international standards, something one would expect university management to have the chops to gauge or at least know which people to ask, they were claiming to be a world class tertiary institution at the time which is quite laughable.
I was also on a lift-off fellowship from the Australian Maths Society, though only came with ~$3k in funding itself, had repeatedly placed in the top 1% globally and highest from Australia in Google sponsored AI competitions, also coding map generators used in final contests and being a contest organiser for one with ~8k entires. I was even the first to point out during honours a mistaken definition of symmetric games in a paper from the 80s with 1k+ citations and a Nobel prize winning economist as one of the coauthors, which the author has since acknowledged was a mistake, has been pointed out by others since and has even been cited on Wikipedia, coincidentally where I first came across the error. I have since developed several programs which benchmark as the Usain Bolt at what they do, including a framework for making websites (a working prototype was done during the final year of the PhD I did at UTAS). If that's not enough for the University to support someone towards a DECRA application properly, I'm curious to know what achievements those who are supported have if things are actually merit based as the equality movement and laws around equal pay aim to address.
UTAS has made claims such as - “Importantly, we have made difficult yet appropriate decisions to separate people from our institution who have demonstrated behaviours which do not align with our values, and are inconsistent with our desire to create a safe working environment,”. However as far as I am aware, the people who insisted on such unliveable wages along with the person who pushed about work when being informed that someone's close family had just passed away unexpectedly still work at the university. Sounds more like another lip service excuse they pick and choose when to use, either that or the values they wish to have are quite the opposite of being consistent with their claim of desiring a safe working environment. Which also seems inconsistent with recent reports that one in six staff were unable to afford food and went hungry at various times in the last year, or how the current staff recently went on strike due to the university's failure to bargain or negotiate with the staff contract.
Even when people attempt to reach out for help in these situations to discuss what the issues are, practically nobody is willing to discuss the situation and merely suggests that taking some dangerous drugs to alter people's minds, basically sedating them into being walking zombies with little motivation, slow motor skills & reaction times and all sorts of crazy side effects will magically fix the very real problems that have led to someone's financial situation becoming desperate to the point of facing homelessness and their mental condition deteriorating. A very small number of people did attempt to reach out once I was desperate enough to start posting all sorts of nonsense publicly, some of which I have interacted with through school etc over the years but never even really been acquaintances and appreciate them attempting to reach ouch, though my mental health had already deteriorated at that stage to the point I wasn't making much sense and really needed financial assistance in order to start recovering, which only came in the way of inheritence from my father's unexpected passing.
Instead of there being any realistic financial support for someone in the situation I faced, I was dragged out of the place I was renting by the police, carted off to the mental ward in the back of a panel van and then when I refused to take drugs against my will to alter my mind, something considered inhumane and torture by the United Nations (report on the official UN website), I was held down and injected multiple times until I passed out, waking up in the same spot who knows how long later. I was then forced to continue taking drugs against my will, taking away my body autonomy and doing nothing to address the underlying causes of the situation. At the time I couldn't find a single person who didn't insist everything is fine at the University of Tasmania. Dare I say a number of people at the University may have willingly lied to medical professionals about that knowing someone was being drugged against their will in part because they were claiming there are problems at the University. Repeatedly the university and members of its staff have tried to claim there are only a few disgruntled individuals, with a 75% vote of no support along with countless current and former staff speaking out, seems fair to say that's been quite misleading.
Some key quotes from the UN report available directly from the official UN website are:
- "The right to health contains freedoms (such as the freedom to control one’s health and body and the right to be free from interference, torture and non-consensual medical treatment) and entitlements (such as the right to a health system that provides equality of opportunity for people to enjoy the highest attainable level of health)"
- "Forced institutionalization violates the right to personal liberty and security, understood as freedom from confinement of the body and freedom from injury to one’s bodily or mental integrity, respectively. 1 It amounts to a violation of the right to live free from torture and ill-treatment,2 and from exploitation, violence and abuse, and of the right to personal integrity. States parties should repeal legislation and policies that allow or perpetuate involuntary commitment, including its imposition as a threat, and should provide effective remedies and redress for victims."
- "Many practices within mental health institutions also contravene articles 15, 16 and 17 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Forced treatment and other harmful practices, such as solitary confinement, forced sterilization, the use of restraints, forced medication and overmedication (including medication administered under false pretences and without disclosure of risks) not only violate the right to free and informed consent, but constitute ill-treatment and may amount to torture. Accordingly, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has called for the abolition of all involuntary treatment and the adoption of measures to ensure that health services, including all mental health services, are based on the free and informed consent of the person concerned.1 The Committee has also urged the elimination of the use of seclusion and restraints, both physical and pharmacological.2"
- New WHO guidance aims to stamp out rights violations in mental health services - "This comprehensive new guidance provides a strong argument for a much faster transition from mental health services that use coercion and focus almost exclusively on the use of medication to manage symptoms of mental health conditions, to a more holistic approach that takes into account the specific circumstances and wishes of the individual and offers a variety of approaches for treatment and support."
"WHO pointed out that although countries have increasingly sought to reform their laws, policies and services regarding mental health care, following adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, few have made progress in meeting the changes required by international human rights standards.
Severe human rights abuses and coercive practices are still far too common across countries, the agency said. Examples include forced admission and forced treatment, as well as manual, physical and chemical restraint, unsanitary living conditions, and physical and verbal abuse. "
- Plenary Address on Forced Intervention - "I have been tied down in an ambulance and taken to the emergency room of a privately owned general hospital where I was tightly bound in leather restraints for two hours -- a legally safeguarded length of time. There I was injected with a mind altering substance and forcibly hospitalized. In the hospital I was locked in a seclusion room – again for a legally safeguarded length of time -- with no access to a bathroom. I urinated all over myself. (We would not treat a dog in such a manner.) I was then convinced to take anti-psychotic medication – coerced by the further threat of involuntary injections and by the threat of being sent to a State operated psychiatric center for an extended period of time if I did not take the prescribed medication. I need to stress the point that as long as involuntary treatment exists, there is, in fact, no true freedom of choice or freedom of consent in accepting any treatment from the mental health system.
The “treatment” to which I have been subjected and the fear that I will be subjected to it again can be considered nothing less than cruel, inhuman and degrading and is tantamount to torture. I have felt so discouraged that I’d rather be dead than go through the experience of involuntary hospitalization again. No matter how good the legal safeguards are, forced treatment is still torture. No exceptions or legal safeguards can change this reality. We must not use this convention to simply codify existing mental health laws and practices in the various countries. This issue cannot simply be folded into the discussion of a new article on informed consent."
- It’s frightening what happens to patients in Australia’s mental health units. Change is overdue - "All Australian states and territories permit the use of compulsory mental health treatment and restrictive practices, including the use of forced medication, forced electroconvulsive treatment and the use of seclusion (solitary confinement) and restraint (by human force or through mechanical instruments). This is despite consumers telling us this is violence, and despite international authorities finding it is contrary to international human rights law."
The article talks about changes that should be made, but none of the changes suggest properly investigating claims of ill-treatment which might have caused someone's mental health to deteriorate (ie. taking into account the specific circumstances) or respecting the individual's wishes. In such a case those responsible should be the one(s) punished and facing lifetime limitations to what they can and can't do, not those who have been victim to ill-treatment.
Once my mental health did deteriorate I definitely had a mental breakdown and started having all sorts of delusions which seemed no different to any of my real memories at the time. While somewhat understandable that that has caused some rift in some of the communities I used to partake in, I'm still pretty disappointed that so few people were willing to hear/consider my side, and have a hard time having any interest interacting with people who would like me to be the one with limitations placed on me for the remainder of my life as a result instead of holding places like UTAS and their management accountable for the fallout that resulted due to the poor treatment of many staff members including myself, along with a complete failure to investiage and do anything about the situation.
Supposedly even when someone's mental health deteriorates due to traumatic circumstances they have a higher risk of further breakdowns in the future. Strangely enough this is something many people will only mention or even acknowledge when trying to have someone legally required to take mind altering drugs against their will indefinitely, my attempts to point this out when discussing the fallout to my life from poor treatment and whether people should be held accountable for the fallout to people's lives if poor treatment so much as contributed to such a situation has resulted in crickets and tumbleweed, with people unwilling to acknowledge or discuss the topic.
Unfortunately I had a second mental breakdown which resulted from discovering that some old piracy software which had supposedly been shut down years prior still had active chatrooms with people using all sorts of nasty avatars. These p2p piracy networks were riddled with files incorrectly named back in the day, you could download something called Harry Potter only to get Lord of the Rings for example, unfortunately this also included child exploitation material and all sorts of other horrifying material. While my mental health did deteriorate again as a result of that, not only were my attempts to raise awareness about the issue ignored, it was insisted I was delusional about the situation. I gave numerous links to articles reporting that these issues had existed with these piracy networks, however people (in particular the people with the power to have me held and drugged against my will) were unwilling to look at them or do a basic google news search which returned thousands of results on the topic at the time, including authorities repeatedly punishing or committing people who were victims to stumbling across these things online, including many people who were already stuck living with disabilities.
Yet again, the increased risk of additional breakdowns was used to try and argue that I should choose to or otherwise not have body autonomy and be forced to take mind altering drugs indefinitely against my will, while people would also hypocritically argue that the second breakdown was evidence that the first breakdown had nothing to do with UTAS leadership and the way people are being treated, with crickets and tumbleweed when asking them about the claim that there's an increased risk of further breakdowns following the first and hence could have also contributed to how much the piracy software not having been shutdown entirely as claimed affected me. Doesn't really seem appropriate to even call it PTSD for an ongoing problem in society either, while I'm no Elon Musk fan I'll give him credit for supposedly making it priority number one to combat child exploitation on the Twitter platform.