Adelaide Uni Clubs are under threat
By Louise Jackson
At November 16’s YouX Board meeting, the board voted on the controversial amendment to the clubs administration policy. Rather than the 75% student ratio which was believed to be the proposal, the Board voted on a 75% student, staff and alumni percentage. No more than 24% of the 75% was to be alumni.
Significant discussion occurred between Board Directors about how the policy would be administered. YouX keeps track of membership numbers based on record of attendees at a club’s Annual General Meeting, rather than the club providing their roll. The ratio was suggested to continue to be monitored by AGM attendance.
A number of representatives from the clubs community attended the meeting to express their opinions on the proposed change. Despite the difference in the proposal, representatives were still concerned about the results of the survey being ignored. The ability to prove who was or was not alumni was questioned.
Several clubs representatives pointed out the benefits they have experienced from having external members and the significant administrative and organisational burden a change would present.
The conclusion of the agenda item was that further (in-person) consultation needed to be undertaken and that it needed to be made clear to clubs that this consultation was occurring.
The motion passed was to require at least 10 members where at least 51% are students at an AGM.
The YouX Board will vote tonight on a proposed change to Clubs minimum student percentage requirements — from 50% to 75%. Survey consultation with the clubs community saw 95.1% of respondents vote against any change (the survey specifically stated a raise to 80%).
The official recommendation from the survey report was that ‘there is no evidence to support moving forward with the proposed change to club membership composition’. Despite this, the proposal has been moved by the YouX President to the YouX Board for vote, allegedly bypassing a recommendation from the Clubs Committee.
It was seemingly not intended for the results of this survey to be released publicly. If not for the release of the report to the clubs community by a member of the Clubs Committee, this decision would have been made without giving the clubs community opportunity to make their opinions known.
If this proposal passes, the YouX Board will undermine both the wishes and inclusive foundations of the clubs community — with no support for the change.
The Clubs Administration Policy currently requires clubs to have ‘at least 50%’ student members. In an August Clubs Committee meeting (minutes not made public), YouX staff suggested raising the student minimum to 80%. On August 31, a survey was posted to the YouX Clubs Network 2022 Facebook group and emailed to clubs asking for the clubs community’s feedback on the proposed change. Clubs are the key stakeholders affected by these decisions. The consultation period went from 31 August to 14 September.
The 50% current requirement sets a reasonable expectation of students representing the majority of voting members. It ensures clubs have a student majority, while allowing them to engage external members as they see fit.
The root of the issue is around the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) — a fee paid by all students which is dedicated to improving student services on and off campus. Clubs received less than $200,000 of the $2,520,000, or 8%, SSAF budget provided to the Adelaide University Union for 2022.
YouX administration suggested that raising the student minimum for clubs could ensure the benefits of SSAF were directed primarily at students.
For comparison, the University of South Australia Student Association’s guide to conditions for new clubs requires ‘a minimum 2/3 majority of members as current UniSA students (meaning there can be some external members, staff etc.)’. The Flinders University Student Association Clubs, Collectives & Academic Associations Regulations state that clubs ‘must maintain a membership composed of at least 50% Current Students at all times’.
Clubs Committee chose to consult the community before making a formal recommendation.
The Findings of the 2022 Membership Consultation Survey
The concerns of the clubs community are reflected in the survey report. All quotes in this section are taken from the survey’s written responses. The written responses skewed entirely against the proposal, unlike the ‘yes or no’ response to the question.
The financial impact of this ratio change may be more severe than any alleged SSAF lost to non-students. Some clubs ask ‘non-student members to pay a larger fee’ and those who do not fit grant requirements may direct this to ‘financially subsidising student costs’. One respondent suggested ‘a hypothetical amount of funding being spent on bettering the clubs which would (indirectly, I might add) benefit non-students, is a non-issue’.
Many respondents raised concerns about the administrative impact on clubs with less than 80% students. It may be exclusionary to ‘members [who] spend time on leave or deferring study’ and ‘signals to non-students that they aren’t welcome here’. One respondent pointed out that those on leave are ‘disproportionately disabled students’. A change would create an ‘obstacle’ for clubs with non-uni members, ‘creating more stress for clubs in ensuring they’re hitting this amount when most already do’.
It was suggested clubs would be forced to ‘purge members en masse to comply with the rule’ and that ‘turn[ing] away those who volunteer their time and enthusiasm to willingly enrich the lives of the Adelaide Uni students would be extremely detrimental’. The positive impact of non-student members was the focus of several respondents, emphasising that they are ‘helpful to the student body involved’.
Furthermore, many clubs do not keep accurate or current membership records. One club president stated ‘I honestly couldn’t tell you how many of our membership are even alive, let alone university students’.
Several respondents noted that this change could disproportionately affect ‘smaller service-based clubs’/‘small clubs’ in general and will ‘favour larger, generalised clubs’ and ‘faculty and support clubs’.
The decision could ‘further limit the potential of clubs’, particularly the potential to reach out to students from other universities without similar clubs and to be supported by the knowledge and experience of non-student members. One respondent summarised it well: ‘very bad proposal, arbitrary number of 80% picked, no real merit for students, pain in the arse to administer, would lead to clubs having to expel members’.
The Immediate Impact
The impact of this decision will hit at a time when many clubs are approaching reregistration.
Reregistration occurs after a club holds their Annual General Meeting, normally around the end of semester or exams. This is a requirement for active clubs at the University of Adelaide.
While staff can support clubs needing to enact changes, many clubs would be left to sort out these changes over summer break. This leaves little option other than expelling current non-student members to guarantee the continued registration of their clubs. 50% to 75% is a huge leap to make for clubs who are currently toeing the line.
CORRECTION: this article previously stated that the survey had not been emailed to clubs, this was incorrect. Thank you to the reader who pointed out which email it was included in.
The YouX Board has made it clear with this decision that consultation was never more than an stepping stone to pushing through an unsupported, underthought change which will do more harm to the clubs community than good.
If you would like to express your opinion on this topic, please email YouX President, Oscar Ong, at email@example.com
Disclosure of Conflict of Interest
Louise Jackson is President of the Adelaide University Choral Society, a club which will be impacted by such a decision.