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telling it like I think it is: sunili’s blog

Archive for April 2008

Networkers and Gen Y (or: “The Blind Leading the Bionic-Visioned?”)

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Networking (v): 1. to establish communication links with other people as a means of exchanging ideas, information and useful contacts;
2. schmoozing and oozing general creepiness at functions when most (normal) people are quite happy to be left alone to their own devices.

Last week I attended a ‘networking’ function organised by the Law Society of WA’s Young Lawyers Committee.

Aside from the fact I was totally exhausted (urgh, friggin‘ 9-5; I’m usually failing to retain normal levels of consciousness by Wednesday mornings, and this was on a bloody Thursday night) I really enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with people from high school and law school who’ve also entered the legal ‘profession’, as aptly described by The Hon Chief Justice of WA, Wayne Martin.

The CJ’s speech was pretty funny, and although it was a little long since he’d spent the first 5 minutes talking about how he knows we must get bored from long speeches from old grey-haired dudes when we would rather be drinking and catching up with mates, at least it was semi-inspirational and entertaining.

The main speaker was a chap called Ron Gibson, Managing Director of Go Networking. Apparently he was there to impart some wisdom and ‘networking’ tools and tips which may put us young’uns in a better position for advancing our careers.

The invite to the function describes him as a “networking guru”. A google (v) of the guy reveals that this he is

the country’s foremost [self-established] authority in the field and subject of business networking – the art and skill of forming and cultivating those all-important business connections. Ron’s presentation offered proven techniques and approaches that you can use to network effectively and socialise successfully in any situation, to network within your industry for maximum effect and to cultivate your new contacts into profitable, long-term business partnerships.

I (and I may speak on behalf of a significant portion of the attendees) would describe him as a bit of a git, but I suppose he’s just doing his job, and I shouldn’t diss what people have to do to put food on their families.

But I just as I don’t want to have to deal with some drug dealer trying to peddle me WizzFizz while I’m chatting to my mates, I’d rather not have to listen to some motivational-life-coach-guy try to teach me about what I should and should not do at parties when I just want to be chatting to my mates.

Because that’s what this networking guy was trying to do.

One of the blogs I’m really enjoying at the moment made some interesting comments about networkers the other day:

Networkers always struck me as overenthusiastic people, the sort of people who want to be your friend right away. They want to know everything about you, where you were born, what your first boyfriend’s name was, what color your childhood blankie was and whatever happened to it. They come off a little creepy, and remind you vaguely of your mother at the dinner table the first time you brought a boyfriend home.

Sounds horrible, dunnit? Well. It could be worse. Some old guy could be standing on a podium trying to tell you that this is what you should be doing every day if you want to get anywhere in life now that you’re out of the playpen that was university. Yep, that stuff was essentially the gist of what Mr Networking Guruji was trying to get us to do to improve our Brand Recognition rating or something. Not many people were impressed.

Tei at Rogue Ink goes on to explain that she now likes networkers despite the fact they are freaks because they are “lovable, wonderful, indispensable” variety of freaks. But, I guess since I haven’t had a networker help to set me up with helpful people who may want to give me bags of money/opportunities, I still consider them, and the whole concept of what they do, to be just plain annoying.

It just seems so smarmy to “network” in the way he was trying to “teach” us.

There were several times during Gibson’s “lesson” when he could not be heard over the rabble of people who had lost interest after he explained that his credentials for teaching young lawyers how to network stems from his being the step-grandson of the founding partners of the Perth firm Gibson & Gibson.

While it was pretty embarrassing to have him try to talk over us like he was a teacher trying to re-gain the attention a rowdy class of Year Fours (especially when the Chief Justice was in the room observing it all*) it made me wonder a couple of things about this whole business networking thing as it relates to us i.e. Kids These Days.

Firstly, does all this schmoozing actually work, and secondly, because it seems to have worked for people who are currently In the business world (if it hasn’t why the hell are we still hearing about it?? Have they all been duped???), do we really have to learn how to be a schmaltzy tool, or can we get by doing things our way?

By our way, I mean the Gen Y way. I realise that that the Baby Boomers in management and our Gen X co-workers hate us, and I’m sure we can learn a few tips from our elders, but I have a tip for them too. If they want to impress us, in terms of trying to recruit us or offer their services to us, they should bloody stop talking at us and rather talk with us.

Because we’re know-it-alls and we freaking know it. So if someone tries to treat us like idiots, we’ll probably lose respect for them quick-smart. Which definitely what happened the other night.

So back to my ponderences on networking… what I was wondering the other night was whether we really need to be taught about making small-talk and the importance of ‘making contacts’. It just seems to me that we’ve grown up having those sorts of ideas as a given, and we’re pretty capable of introducing ourselves to friends-of-friends, or even randoms at parties or gatherings, and keeping in touch. And not to mention our aptitude at using the internet to establish and “grow” our network connections.

By the way, I can’t seem to find this “networking guru’s” website, so I think his Brand Recognition efforts totally suck on the whole internet issue.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being a Gen Y brat. Thanks to the YLC for organising the night; I’m sure if we were less full of ourselves we would’ve gotten more out of it.

– – –

*Speaking of the CJ. At one point in the night, when I managed to find myself in a little group with a fellow Judge’s Associate and His Honour, he tried to introduce himself, as any good, nice, polite person would do when seeing someone they’ve never met before standing an the group you’re chatting with. “Hi, Wayne Martin” he said, extending his hand out. “Yes, I know you, Sir,” I replied, shaking his hand, “I work for you.” He looked down at my name tag, which had “Supreme Court of WA” under my name, and went “Oh right”, clearly not having any clearer idea of who I was. Me thinks I need to work on my Brand Recognition. Or at least spend more time in the main building.

Written by Sunili

22 April 2008 at 7:44 pm

Posted in law, work

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The Perils of Politically un-Popular Publication

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Hahaha so turns out the administration of my un-beloved Noter Dayme has more in common with dictatorial regimes than previously thought. As reported by news.com.au (the Woman’s Day of online “news”):

The closure of Moskovski Korrespondent, whose editor Grigori Nekhoroshev was forced to resign, was a sharp reminder of the perils of invoking Kremlin displeasure.

I thought we should run the story to help break the taboo,” said Nekhoroshev. He paid a swift penalty for his daring: the paper, owned by Alexander Lebedev, the billionaire tycoon, ceased publication immediately.

Its parent firm blamed “costs” and “conceptual disagreements with the newsroom” but insisted in a statement that “this has nothing to do with politics and is solely a business decision”.

Hrm, why does that sound so familiar? Because those Krazy Kats at Kremlin use the same lines to try and shut down press outlets for which they have no care as the Student Life Office gang!

Bless!

Update 22/4:
“So, the Uni learned it’s media-censorship tactics from the Kremlin?” a friend asked at dinner last night. “No,” replied Matt, “The Kremlin learned it’s media-censorship tactics from the Uni. Who’d’ve thunk it, eh?”

Written by Sunili

21 April 2008 at 1:29 pm

The War on Quasi

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My previous rant about my alma mater got me thinking. Now that I’m out of the system… I can bloody say what I want! And, more specifically, what I wanted to say last year when I was editor of Quasimodo, the University of Notre Dame Student Association’s student magazine.

In late 2006, I was honoured to be appointed as editor of Quasi. I had written several pieces for the mag in the preceedings years, and I loved what its existence meant: an outlet for students to write about what interests, or matters to, them and discuss ‘student life’ (as far as that term can apply at UNDA).

Then came the Bullshit.

There were lots of things that pissed me off. But what really got me upset was when they banned two versions of editorial I wrote for my first (ultimately only) issue.

The first version dealt with the reason why it had taken us longer than usual to get the issue out. I wasn’t “allowed” to talk about. Ignore it, they said to me, focus on what we have now. So I wrote on the importance of freedom of the press.

I guess it’s fair that I wasn’t allowed to publish that either. Cause we didn’t have freedom of the press!

Somehow The Sunday Times got wind of it. I had an “off the record” chat to a journo there, which, of course, got published that weekend:

Quasimodo editor Sunili Govinnage said the student association’s constitution ruled that the magazine be vetted by a review committee. She said the committee was meant to provide legal advice, but its student representative had been kicked off and its role was now “pure censorship”.

“They won’t allow any criticism of the university at all, even any analogies that might hint at criticism about freedom of speech,” she said.

Ms Govinnage said she was reduced to tears and felt “like an administration pawn” when the last edition was scrapped.

Ironically, its editorial was on the importance of press freedom.

“The university took it as a direct criticism of the vice-chancellor, which it
wasn’t,” Ms Govinnage said.

Hahahahahaha. That’ll teach me never to say anything “of the record” ever again, won’t it?

I thought I was going to get expelled. Seriously, I had probably never been so scared, or felt more like an 8-year-old who got caught stealing snakes from the Deli (which I have never, ever, done, by the way, this just felt as if I had, like I was falsley accused or something), in my whole life.

Here’s what I wrote about The Bullshit to appear in the Notre Dame Law Student Society paper, The Sundry Crimes, which is, of course, my version of the events:

Back in December 2006, the Uni admin approached the Student Association with a polite request that Quasimodo no longer be published. The concerns related to the cost of the publication and the fact that, in the past, the magazine had criticised the way things were done at Notre Dame without going directly to those responsible and giving them a chance to respond.

To be fair, once or twice Quasi got some little things wrong. The uni wasn’t impressed by the fact they were giving tied-grants to the Student Association (for other purposes) but that the Student Association was in turn spending a significant amount of cash (their own) on a publication which was bad-mouthing the uni.

Bottom line: either Quasi went, or the money went.

The Student Association and the Quasi Committee spent considerable effort getting more sponsorship, cutting down the costs of publication and making an effort to improve the way we write about things happening at Uni. Annabel Hay’s article on the new credit point/fees structure was well researched and all the facts were checked and signed off by the Registrar, who provided us with further information and his responses to our concerns.

But apparently it still wasn’t good enough … until we begged them to actually read the magazine. It was eventually ‘authorised’ for publication (although we’re still not sure what gave them the authority to authorise it or ban it) on the condition that the Vice Chancellor’s delegate gets to censor all inklings of profanity, references to sex, and the story behind the uni’s attempted ban of the mag itself.

Because we just had to get the thing to the printers due to our contractual commitments with our sponsors and the fact we had been fighting over this for months, we capitulated and just said ok to it all … it was more important to get the mag out before exams. Looking back now we’re not proud of it but it felt like we had little choice.

Here’s what we don’t get … we appreciate that we’re a private uni, and that there are something things that are off-limits, but we’re not a primary school. We reckon that our standard is pretty gosh-darn high in comparison to the other uni papers, and to censor the word ‘arsehole’ and ban us from using the common phrase ‘short and curly’ seems a little over the top.

And in terms of commenting, and even criticising university policy, we believe that as the constitutionally-created publication of the Student Association we’re allowed to talk about it in a reasonable, rational way and we shouldn’t be expected to be part of the Uni’s massive Public Relations machine.

‘Freedom of speech’ is a phrase that most of us have accepted into our vocabularies. Without getting into nitty-gritty arguments about human rights (whether they exist, are enforceable, should be legally/constitutionally recognised…) when someone talks about the freedom to express opinions and comment on social and political appenings in a democratic society, most of us probably take it for granted.

While we do not have a Bill of Rights which entrenches freedom of speech in the popularly-known sense, the High Court has recognised that ‘freedom of political communication’ is a fundamental right implied in the text and structure of our Constitution. This right is derived from the fact that we have a Parliament that is “directly chosen by the people”. We, the people, have a right to know everything about whom and what we’re voting for.

CEO of WA Newspapers, Ken Steinke, recently said that while “every government would prefer to have a compliant media which simply recycles the government’s version of events … that is not how The West Australian or any other ‘credible’ nedia organisation operates.”

“Many journalists and critics have encountered the inappropriate pressure applied by some government politicians and staff in an attempt to manipulate news coverage,” he said, but “that pressure has been ineffective and will continue to be resisted by all media.” [link]

It is with shame that I read those words. And from that shame I vow to never let our magazine, your magazine, be unnecessarily censored again. Sure, I agree with Jim McGinty that The West can be shonky (I only ever read the Today section, anyway), and I know Quasi isn’t a beacon of enlightened journalism, but what really is? We’re just a student newspaper, for crying out loud!

Regardless of concerns over quality, which can and in terms of Quasi, I believe has been fixed, I think it’s more important to have criticism and questioning in order to create a real dialogue and work towards improving the way things are done, rather than have the government and other authorities go on doing things their way without batting an eyelid or taking a look at themselves.

Suprise, suprise, this wasn’t allowed to go to print. The Law School didn’t want to risk The Admin coming down on them too.

But at least now it’s in cyber space. The editorial I wanted to print will be here shortly, too.

Written by Sunili

19 April 2008 at 5:47 pm

The Editorial That UNDA Banned

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So this is what They didn’t want anyone to read…

Dear All

Welcome to the first issue of Quasimodo for 2007! It’s been several weeks in the making, but we’re really excited to finally have it out. Hurrah! We think the celebrations are warranted because it is so important to have Quasimodo at Notre Dame.

A vibrant student paper is one the hallmarks of a vibrant student community. It promotes a sense of belonging among the students, encourages debate on important issues, lets us put analytical skills we learn in the classroom into practice, allows us to vent about things that upset us and also gives us a laugh despite our increasingly stressful lives.

And, most importantly, it’s not like they can put the Cocktail Party photos in SLO Mail the same way we do!

Over the last few years, Quasi has come a long way. There have been ups, several downs, and more than its fair share of controversy. I hope that this issue signals a turning point in the history of our little magazine. I hope that everyone, from the students and staff to the Administrators of this fine educational establishment, can appreciate, enjoy and be proud of what we’ve put together.

This issue features a lot more uni-focussed material than we’ve had in the recent past. We’ve got stories from inbound and outbound study-abroad students, info on how you can join up to new clubs, an interview with Keith McNaught, who was recently awarded the Student Association’s prestigious Lecturer of the Year award for 2006, updates from our Sports Rep and the Physio Students Society, as well as regular faves such as the discounts directory (which is bigger and better than ever!) dnd a super-sized, bumper social photos spread.

Because we had to miss an issue this semester to due to reasons beyond our control, we’ve got photos from O-Day, Commencement, the fantastic Back to Uni Traffic Light Party and the Annual NDSA Cocktail Party. How fine and dandy, cotton candy!

What cannot be sugar coated, however, are serious social and political issues in the world around us. In addition to an article from a student who suffered horrific injuries in a high-speed car crash, we’ve also introduced what may be a regular ‘world issues’ section. This edition, we have articles from students and Dr Rob Imre from the

School of Arts and Sciences. Let us know what you think about it, if you’d like to see it continue and especially if you’d like to write about something which matters to you.

An article I’d been meaning to write, but which we didn’t have space for due to the extra photos and such, relates to current political happenings in Sri Lanka, the country where I was born. I may still call Australia home, but I ruefully admit that I cheered for the blue and gold in the Cricket World Cup (Gilly, love ya mate, but squash is just not cricket…)!

A couple of years ago, I wrote in these pages about my heartbreak at witnessing the coastal parts of the island nation six months after the tsunami of 2004. A current issue which now worries me is a political aspect of the brutal civil war between the majority Singhalese (of which I was born a part) and the minority Tamil insurgents, who are seeking an independent homeland.

In February of this year, the Sinhalese government arrested a Tamil journalist and the Singhalese publisher of the Sunday Standard and Sinhala-language Mawbima newspapers. They were not charged but remained imprisoned for weeks under anti-terrorist legislation, which allows for lengthy detention without trial.

The papers’ editors and the NGO Committee to Protect Journalists were disturbed that these arrests occurred after the papers published articles which criticised the Sri Lankan government and army for human rights violations. The journalist and publisher were finally released when the Supreme Court declared there was no evidence against the pair.

Subsequently, the Government froze the papers’ bank ccounts, forcing them to suspend publication and effectively silencing their criticisms. Journalists in Sri Lanka have told the Committee to Protect Journalists that coverage of political and defence matters has become increasingly difficult after the anti-terrorist laws were reactivated last year and that self-censorship is now a common occurrence.

As a writer, an editor and a student of politics and law, it is again heartbreaking to see something so fundamental as freedom of speech being violated by those with power and authority in a place which is such an important part of my life.

So there’s just something to ponder as your peruse these pages. Aside from the heavy stuff, which is supposed to get you thinking, I hope you enjoy! Please write to us at quasimodo@nd.edu.au so that next issue we can bring back the much loved “Dear Quasi” pages!

Finally, I would like to thank the Student Association Committee for understanding that this publication is one of the core services the NDSA provides and kudos sspecially El Presidente James and Pubs Rep Cara for all their hard work in helping to keep Quasi alive.

I would also like to express gratitude to previous editorial committees, including Sean Redden, Carita Kazakoff, Rob Corr, Tim Kennedy, Lauren Burwood, Laura Broadbent, Chris Bailey and Patt Vagg, for all their moral support in recent weeks and for bringing Quasi to where it is now. I really hope that Patt’s fears and worries for his baby are sufficiently quelled with this issue and those to come this year.

Cheers and best wishes
Sunili x

Now c’mon Was that really a thinly-veiled attack on the way the Vice Chancellor and his cronies who had tried to stop Quasimodo from critiquing the university administration by witholding funding from the Student Association?

*shrug*

Written by Sunili

17 April 2008 at 10:33 am

Freedom of Thought and Intellectual Freedom

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She‘s baaaaaaack!!

After her column a couple of weeks ago about how K-Rudd’s been doin‘ O-Kay (which left more than a couple of commenters asking, “Who are you and what have you done with the real Janet?”) Aunty Jan returns to doing what she does best: writing diatribes full of broad, sweeping statements that generally end with “It has happened in the US. It should be happening here.

This week’s thesis: “University is not the place to crush ideas”.

You’re soooooo right Aunty J. Of course it isn’t; High School is.

Sarcasm aside, I once again find myself agreeing with Janet.

Now, there’s a Facebook group called Law School: Where Idealism Goes to Die, but I promise my idealism is only slightly anemic rather than already cremated.

Mind you, my corporate-law coffin is pretty much ready and waiting for me (habour-views, satin lining and all!), but I’m not quite ready to lie down in it.

Anyway, my point is that I am certainly not one of the “group of Young Liberals” who are the subject of Albrechtsen’s current concerns (btw, as one commenter rightly points out, what counts as a ‘group’? 100? 50? 10? More than 2?). However, I do believe that “freedom of thought and intellectual freedom” (maybe articulated a little snappier) is one of the most important (if not the ultimate) tenet of a university.

However, I reckon that if JA really had her way, she’d just as biased for the Right as the Leftie Scum academics the Young Libs have a problem with. My fave comment from the blog is from Steve of Sydney:

Welcome to Janet Albrechtsen University. Please read the Charter for each of our faculties:

  • Business: Maximise profit. It doesn’t matter what you do to achieve it but it helps to use others in order to get there. Global warming doesn’t exist so pollute as much as you can.
  • Law: Screw the poor. The law is there to serve and protect the interests of the corporate state. All other matters are trivial.
  • Medicine: Survival of the fittest is how we should gear our health systems. Don’t waste money on improving public health because there is no such thing as “the public.” It’s everyone for himself.
  • Education: Our role is to churn out compliant but suitably skilled fodder for the business community.
  • Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. This faculty is now permanently closed and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • Science: Studies in this faculty to be geared at improving GM crop yields in semi arid parts of South Australia.
  • Architecture and Engineering: We will will teach you underlings how to design chic blocks of flats that will make good investments for those clever enough to pass our Business or Law degrees.
  • Theology: We operate from the premise that the world is 6,000 years old, that church and state must be blurred and Islam must not be examined, but simply crushed. This faculty is continually upgraded thanks to our friends and sponsors from the Hillsong Church.
  • International Studies. The US is unquestioningly a force for good in this world.

Full course fees, payable by your parents, are required at the time of enrolment. No “special considerations” will be entered into in ANY circumstances.

Hey!! That sounds reeeeeally familiar!!!

I often lament over the fact I have yet to attend a Real University, rather than one that (regardless of the rhetoric, trust me, I was there) pretty much ticks all the above boxes. My dreams of not having a HECS debt ended up becoming a Fee-HELP nightmare and I really don’t have many good things to say about the “University” of Notre Dame Australia.

I recently discovered ND had released an Academic Freedom Policy. And oh, what a glorious example of witty, ironic, sarcasm-based humour it is!!!!

At least I assume it is… ’cause this schizzle canno’ be fo‘ real:

1. The University of Notre Dame Australia … is an integral part of the world-wide group of great Catholic universities, and follows academic freedom norms which are common in all such universities.

5. The University hopes and anticipates that most of its students and staff will support and contribute to the context of Catholic faith and values within which it functions as an institution of higher learning.

6. The University must be a liberal and unfettered place where the basic values and beliefs of Christians are exposed, explained, researched, debated, freely challenged, and openly affirmed or rejected.

Can it?

Well, at least with such clear and unambiguous terms, not, we don’t have to worry about it being binding on anyone.

Cause it (specifically number six) certainly didn’t apply to the Vice Chancellor when The Quasi tried to debate the morning-after pill, in a”fair and balanced” way with perspectives of a female student and a member of the School of Philosophy (who has since resigned, along with pretty much all of the best academic staff ND ever pretended to have).

This year’s PROSH put it so perfectly:

Notre Dame: All the downsides of Catholicism, none of the benefits of university.

Touché.

Written by Sunili

16 April 2008 at 8:19 am