By Associate Professor Grayson Cooke
Here at Southern Cross University (SCU), like much of the tertiary sector, we find ourselves much changed. Being a regional institution, while SCU’s share of international students is small in comparison to larger urban universities, the loss of revenue has been commensurate with size and so has still had a profound effect. Both voluntary and forced redundancy rounds have taken place, hire of casual staff has diminished, and we have lost many valued and longstanding colleagues, including technical staff in the creative arts with immense practical and institutional knowledge. SCU’s academic units have been re-structured, from six schools to four faculties, each of which has a Dean and various Chairs of Discipline, including the Chair of Creative Arts role that I have taken up. Amidst the normal administrative turmoil that accompanies restructures, I’m also hoping this may be salutary!
With oversight of music, media, art and design, my hope is that this role will lead to strengthened community and industry alliances in the arts, and greater cooperation between staff and students in the creative disciplines. Cohesion is certainly required internally – having to study online for much of 2020 was an enormous challenge for students in visual arts and music, whose access to studio spaces and opportunities for collaboration were diminished and this loss felt very keenly.
At least one of our key tasks for 2021 is to bring meaningful experience back to campus, alongside continuing to develop more engaging online experiences, as many units and even courses are now shifted to primarily online enrolment. While some creative arts units have moved online or reduced offerings, the courses remain on offer – creative arts at SCU has fared better than other disciplines in the restructure, and enrolments for digital media in fact appear to be on the rise. But the combination of COVID-19’s vacillating financial and social burden, and the Job-ready changes, coupled with a regional location, makes 2021 a largely unknown prospect.
Like many, I suspect, I vacillate between trepidation and optimism, the emotional superposition of life in a global pandemic.
Born in New Zealand and based in Australia, Grayson Cooke is an interdisciplinary scholar and media artist, Associate Professor of Media and Chair of Creative Arts at Southern Cross University. Grayson has presented media art and live audio-visual performance works in major galleries and festivals in Australia and internationally, and as a scholar he has published widely in academic journals. He holds an interdisciplinary PhD from Concordia University in Montreal.