[OPINION] Profit. Now. Always.

Words by Maya Tlauka

Raised in Adelaide, I have enjoyed the festivities associated with ‘Mad March’ and the Adelaide Fringe for as long as I can remember. Nothing brings me more joy than visiting the Garden of Unearthly Delights to indulge in a delicious, albeit overpriced cocktail or attending a show at the comically pig themed venue ‘Gluttony’. I’ll even admit that the Royal Croquet Club (RCC), despite its instagrammably pretentious atmosphere, has a place in my heart.

You can imagine my surprise when the University of Adelaide recently announced that the North Terrace Campus is set to become the home of the RCC in 2019. I read the responses of many students who raised valid concerns about potential conflicts between the University’s education-oriented environment and the festival atmosphere of the RCC. I soon realised that the event would coincide with O’Week and the beginning of the semester, interrupting what is a crucial time for students commencing their studies. Equally frustrating, is the fact that it appears that the University did not undertake any consultation with its students regarding this decision.

While I love the Fringe, this announcement greatly concerned me, for reasons beyond those outlined above. Beginning my first semester at the University of Adelaide in late July, I was reassured to see that the University is committed to student safety. I, admittedly grudgingly, completed the “Consent Matters Module” which glared at me from my dashboard every time I tried to study. I viewed the Safer Campus Community webpage and learnt that the University promotes Respect. Now. Always and participated in the Change the Course report on sexual assault and harassment. The latter even resulted in a task force and a list of 65 suggested actions, 89% of which have been completed to date.

I feel conflicted, as I struggle to understand how the University can protect its students while inviting thousands of, potentially intoxicated, strangers onto campus. To put it plainly: surely hosting this event would increase the risk of sexual assault and harassment to students? I can only assume that the main motivation behind this partnership is the large pay packet that the University will undoubtedly receive for establishing this partnership. This is a thought which engenders a whole set of uncomfortable, secondary emotions regarding the notion of the University increasingly functioning as a business and, consequently valuing monetary profit over student safety.

To be clear, I understand that hosting such an event has the potential to enrich the “university experience” and may also provide a valuable insight into the performing arts industry for students enrolled in degrees such as the Bachelor of Music. I, however, feel great trepidation about the safety of students and challenge the University to consider how best to address this matter.