For & Against

For & Against: The University of Melbourne

23 October 2014

University of Melbourne or University of Smellbourne?


Words by Jenny van Veldhuisen

Ah, Melbourne Uni, the innumerable things I could write about you. The usual clichés are to be expected in my argument: your consistently high world university rankings; your prestige and history that saturates the beautiful old-timey buildings; your notable alumni; and your central location and ambience. You’re really quite conducive to excellence.

Prior to my actual university experience, my conceptions of the University of Melbourne were based entirely upon stories my mother had told me and were saturated with hazy ‘70s imagery. Everyone had bare feet and swam in that inconvenient water feature on South Lawn. Those were the good days, the Whitlam days. I assumed I would have a similar experience, and that my mind would be awakened. Hailing from a depressing rural town, it was an exciting prospect, and this romanticised concept did provide a light at the end of the satanic VCE tunnel.

Obviously, my university experience did not quite match my expectations. Not everyone has radical, groundbreaking views, or—to wankily quote Kerouac—will fit into the idealised stereotype of the enlightened, passionate, “mad ones”, who never “yawn or say a commonplace thing”. Not everyone is accepting or tolerant, and, perhaps most shatteringly, not everyone is like me.

While it may seem like I’m digging my argument a shallow grave, I think this realisation works in my favour. It’s important to be forced into circumstances where you can concede your own insignificance and become the small fish in a big pond, a pond containing people of varying creeds and cultures. There are some uncommonly fantastic people here, and even though you might lament the wankers, the snobs, and the occasional shitty tutors or lecturers, they represent something on a wide spectrumand a spectrum is indisputably healthy. This place attracts everyone and through Melbourne Access and the Kwong Lee Dow Young Scholars program it is trying to provide assistance, however limited, to those disadvantaged by unfortunate circumstances.

At the University of Melbourne, I have always felt that my thoughts and opinions are considered and valued, even if unpopular or transgressive. And that is refreshing and significant, even if you think it is a short yardstick from which to measure. It’s a bit rich not to consider ourselves lucky to be here. But most importantly, if we don’t, we are able to influence change because the student body has a meaningful sway. It’s not perfect, but that’s what makes it interesting and provokes action. And that is what university is all about.


Words by Tim McDonald

Welcome to Melbourne. It’s 8am. It’s freezing. Time to find your tutorial room. Oh great, it’s in John Medley. You can pretty much guarantee that whichever side you walk into, it’ll be in the other building. Who thought having two identical buildings next to each other was a great idea? Probably the same genius that thought naming two different buildings Richard Berry and Redmond Barry wouldn’t be confusing. Or maybe it was the guy who signed off on the design of the ironically hideous Architecture building, now known as the Rochmund Borry Building.

Your phone goes off. Maybe its your tutor replying to your question about the incredibly vague assignment that has been brought forward in due date. It isn’t. It’s another email from the Vice Chancellor with his thoughts on the budget, or uni cuts, or the election, or Blake dumping Sam. That guy is like a Nigerian Prince, only he manages to get his hands on my money.

You walk over another ground sign reminding you that Melbourne is ranked 44th in the world like its something to be proud of, which would be like Justice Crew claiming they’re the best band in the world because Que Sera is 44th on the iTunes Charts. The sign reminds you that this is because of the Melbourne Model, the annoying requirement that you have to do subjects you don’t want to do that are of no use to you just for shits and gigs. It’s kind of like when you have to listen to warm up acts at a Justice Crew concert. God, those guys are the best.

Suddenly you’re accosted by a tattooed random you did a group assignment with in first year. They invite you out for Kale Almond Milk smoothies to discuss their pamphlet or paintballing promotion outside the Rachard Burry Building. I don’t think so. You decline, making a mental note to shoot paintballs at pamphlet people later.

Luckily you make it to the room just in time for the weekly recap of the tutor’s life story and qualifications, only for them to struggle for 20 minutes with basic Microsoft PowerPoint functions. But thank god the air conditioning is on full blast! Your tutor chastises you for not doing the readings, having previously mentioned the reader is still unavailable at the Co-Op bookshop. But when it does arrive weeks after the final exam you can guarantee it’ll be easy to find and reasonably priced.

Time to start the lesson, meaning it’s time for your tutor to sit back and play on their phone, having organised another student presentation so as to avoid teaching. Afterwards, you ask them why they haven’t replied to your emails. They say that this isn’t an appropriate time, and to arrange a consultation (which they remind you needs to be done via email.)

Still. Better than Monash.

Every month, For & Against will tackle a different issue – some serious, some not so serious. If you have a debate you want to see resolved in Farrago, email us at

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