Amendments aplenty for last AUU Board meeting, NUS reaffiliation granted
Words by Tom Haskell & Jenny Nguyen
The AUU Board for the tenure of 1/12/16–30/11/17 conducted its last meeting on Monday night. On the agenda was a swag of constitutional amendments ranging from simple changes of heading to more controversial amendments to the standing orders of the Board. As well as this, NUS reaffiliation was granted, overturning a decision made by the Du Board last year in March.
The reaffiliation to the NUS was the last motion discussed on the night, after almost two hours of lengthy debate about constitutional amendments (see below). Moved by Olivia Savvas (Unite/Student Unity) and seconded by Brodie Scott (Progress) on the eleventh hour, the motion read:
That the Adelaide University Union, in recognition of the important role the National Union of Students has in representing the interests of students on the national stage, reinstates and hereby authorises the payment of monies to the NUS.
Almost immediately, this motion was met with heavy resistance by Jack Newton (Swipe Right/Young Liberals), who protested the motion on a number of points.
Firstly, he protested the nature in which the motion had been notified to the Board. According to Newton, the motion had been sent out in the afternoon prior to the meeting which he argues did not give enough time for directors to consider the motion. Secondly, he argued against the ambiguity of the phrase ‘payment of monies’, asking exactly how much money would be payed and where this money would be spent in relation to paying for the flights and/or accommodation of NUS delegates.
In 2016, Newton was one of the six Young Liberal and Progress board directors who voted on the motion to suspend the payment of monies to the National Union of Students. It was reported that in 2015, the AUU had paid around $14,000 in affiliation fees to NUS.
Newton became audibly and visually agitated with the motion, and on the advice of the General Manager, Gary Sutherland, the meeting was moved in camera (more on this process later!) and On Dit vacated the premise.
The discussions were eventually moved ex-camera where the motion passed, meaning that the Adelaide University Union will now be reaffiliated with the NUS.
There were 143 amendments set over a range of policy documents in accordance with clause 21 of the AUU Constitution. Most of these amendments were administrative or made as an issue of semantics, but there were a few amendments which caught the eye of other Board Directors at times, as well as ourselves.
Controversial motions can be moved in camera
One such amendment was a change to the standing orders of the board which will allow controversial motions to be moved in camera to protect the AUU from reputational damage. The amendment was passed and reads:
23.4. Where a substantive motion raised during a meeting is considered by the Chair (eds note: almost always the Board President) to potentially result in significant damage to the reputation of the AUU the Chair may rule that such a motion be considered in an In Camera session of the same meeting it was raised
If such a standing order were available to the Board this year, they would have been able to avoid the significant backlash which followed their decision not to endorse the ‘Yes’ vote for marriage equality. The implications for transparency is rather staggering from this motion. If the Chair of the Board feels that the motion could cause reputational damage to the AUU, neither On Dit or any other visitors would be able to be privy to the outcome.
Changes to interaction with Media policy
Under an amendment of clause 2.2. of the Interaction with the Media Policy, student media directors (On Dit and Student Radio) will now need to abide by the policy as an ‘Elected Representative’ of the AUU. This means that your future editors will now need the approval of two of either the Board President, the Executive Officer, and/or the Marketing and Communications Manager before going on any outside media publication for an interview.
This amendment raised some eyebrows from Iacovos Digenis (Activate/National Labor Students) who was confused as to why student media directors would be included in this definition.
Interestingly, Olivia Savvas, who only 6 months ago was championing for the independence of student media with the rest of the left, voted for this amendment arguing that student media directors in part represent the AUU and should be included as an ‘Elected Representative’.
Election of clubs representatives to Clubs Committee
One amendment which failed to carry was that of a change to the Election Process rules for club representatives to Clubs Committee. Under the proposed amendment, a club president would be able to request a proxy form from the RO and would be able to nominate any proxy of their choice so long as they were a student or staff member at the University.
This was a motion which everyone but Progress were against. Hugh Sutton and Jack Newton (Swipe Right/Young Liberals) were both concerned about the potential branch-stacking consequences this could have for clubs committee elections, and those on the left were equally unconvinced as to the necessity of this amendment. The motion failed on a vote of 4–3.
Finally, there were some rather nice formalities which took place at the beginning of the meeting. Outgoing President, Brodie Scott, raised and carried two motions to commend the outgoing Board Directors (Jack Newton & Sarah Tynan), as well as the outgoing student media directors from On Dit and Student Radio (Demi Formato, Jennifer Nguyen, Tom Haskell, and Jesse Davidson).
As a contrast to what has been a year of intense scrutiny for Scott and his Board, we personally found his words to be touching and rather professional.