Threats, theft, and abuse: Murdoch's only Socialist Club pushed to the edge
BY HANNAH CROSS
Petty theft from the Guild Council Room is one thing, but frequent abuse and alleged lack of organisational space is a whole other ballpark.
Theft from the Guild Council Room left members of Murdoch’s Medieval and Communist Clubs without resources on Wednesday April 11th.
After Medieval Club President, Vlad Bychkov, accidentally left the door unlocked, the Council Room was open to the wider student population. Posters for the club’s upcoming event, pamphlets and newspapers from the Communist Party of Australia, and photos of famous Leftists were among the stolen items.
While not a serious ransacking, this is just another incident adding to rising tensions between Murdoch’s left and the student body.
According to Communist and Socialist Society President, Kathryn Pearlman, the theft seemed a little off-kilter and more targeted towards people rather than the stealing of items themselves.
“Things like money and really expensive equipment were all left untouched,” she says, “So it was a definite thing to just spite us, I think.” Pearlman says the Medieval Club posters that were stolen were under stacks of METIOR magazines which were left untouched. A photo of Karl Marx was also stolen.
“We keep all of our stuff – both the Communist Society and the Medieval Club – in the Clubs Room,” says Pearlman. Those who know the Guild and Clubs scene well will know that Bychkov is also the Vice President of Pearlman’s Communist and Socialist Society. “It was an attack at all the progressive people,” says Bychkov, who notes most of the stolen items belonged to the Medieval Club, which he says consists of mostly Socialist leaning people from other clubs and societies on campus.
Student Engagement Officer, Christina Huxley, says although the theft was promptly brought to the attention of Guild President Kombo Mashumba, the Guild is ultimately not accountable for each club’s unattended property.
“Since the incident, we have been reminding council members to lock the council room door when not in use,” she says. Huxley also says the Council Room is neither a secure storage room nor a dedicated clubs room.
While there is a voting process in place to decide which clubs are funded and defunded, Pearlman suggests there is no real defence against this for the clubs in question. “You’re not particularly protected in any way from being defunded,” she says.
Pearlman also adds that last year she decided it would be best to not apply for registration at all after she felt a hostility on campus around her starting the Communist and Socialist Society. For a student body that prides itself on inclusion, it sounds as if certain groups on campus are feeling doubtful they will be allowed the space to express their views. Within the Guild, it’s another story. “Murdoch Guild supports all clubs and their viewpoints without discrimination and aims to provide safe spaces for all beliefs,” says Huxley. “As the Student Engagement Officer handling administration for the club approvals and funding, I have not noticed any discrimination or prolonging of registration in order to deny any specific club.” Murdoch’sclubs and societies should be able to gather peacefully without the uncertainty of their property or themselves. If not a safe space on campus – then where?
Abuse on and offline
While Murdoch’s Communist and Socialist Society has recently been subject to online abuse, Pearlman says she and Bychkov have experienced unpleasant interactions on campus too. “We were at a MUEnSA [Murdoch University Environmental Science Association] Party [at the start of semester] and somebody we knew came up [to us] while we were talking to a big group of people and just threw in that we were ‘fascists’ and walked off,” says Pearlman, “The conversation pretty quickly died.”
Moments like these make it difficult to forge connections with others on campus, says Pearlman. “We kind of get treated like we’re a political party, despite the fact that we are definitely not,” she adds.
Reviving the left
Although the Communist and Socialist Society has not been defunded, they remain the only Socialist club on campus. Bychkov says his goal is to revive the left at Murdoch. “We are a collective, safe space for learning economics, women’s rights and progressivism, and not a hate group,” he says. Pearlman agrees: “We’re just people who share views.”