April 8th: AUU proposes massive changes to student media elections
Words by Felix Eldridge
Report of the 8th April AUU Board meeting.
The meeting began at 6.17, following the annual Board photo.
After a few smaller matters and reports, the AUU President Oscar Ong gave his Presidential report. He outlined new events and grants for clubs, noted the upcoming RCC survey which has faced various delays due to the late submission of documentation, said that he found the facebook group ‘Overheard at UoA’ a good method of communicating with students, touched on the upcoming club census where it was revealed that there are 7,000 confirmed members of clubs on campus. Finally, he referred to events during the last SRC meeting, where several ‘unconstitutional motions’ were raised and allegations of ‘shadow directing’ were aired.
In response to the last claim, Director Patrick Stewart claimed that: “There is a long tradition of former members of the SRC helping new members”
SRC President Ali Amin commented: “The meeting went for an absurdly long time with absurd procedural motions and failed for absurd reasons. The conduct was not ideal, it was hijacked by the Board. I’ve learned from my mistakes and I will be a much harsher chair next time.”
Director Angus Heaton said: “It’s disappointing. I wasn’t there but I’ve read On Dit. There are lots of people who run in student elections because they want to participate in student representation, and they should be able to do so without having other people whispering in their ears and handing them motions at meetings.”
Director Tamsin Anspach stated: “I’m just trying to help junior members, especially since it was chaired informally.”
The only substantial area of debate in this meeting was the initiation of a proposal to change the date and format of student media elections. This was proposed mainly to decrease the influence of student politics toward the notionally independent student media positions.
For context, the AUU holds elections for On Dit editors and Student Radio directors concurrently with the AUU Board, SRC and National Union of Student elections. This period of elections is affectionately known as ‘Stupol Week’. The new proposal would have moved them four weeks after Stupol Week and would have changed the voting system so that the elections would be online instead.
Shortly after announcing this recommendation, Anspach asked Ong: “Have past and current student media directors been consulted about this change?”
Ong replied: “Yes”
Stewart then asked: “How can we improve student media? It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It is a substantial body of work to deal with . . . We should be deferring the item and taking a more consultative approach. As it stands, I don’t think the paragraph is enough to make a significant change considering all the work that has gone into it. We need to get it right, not make piecemeal changes.”
Director Arabella Wauchope stated: “I think it’s better that we do something to fix what is clearly an issue. Student media is clearly being overshadowed in student elections.”
Later on in the discussion the Union Executive Officer Gary Sutherland questioned the Union’s ability to run two separate elections with the budget provided.
Stewart added to this concern, saying: “This is the issue I was alluding to, I would suggest this item be deferred to the next meeting. There are some question marks to be answered.”
Ong discussed the possibility that the Union could run the student media elections as they run the club’s committee elections, which are run cheaply and on a much smaller scale. Ong also suggested removing the AUU election rules from this election and letting the AUU Executive Officer organise the election.
Anspach stated: “I will be abstaining or voting against this because I think it’s irresponsible to vote on something that isn’t budgeted for.”
Amin chipped in after this, saying: “The Uni council elections are a good example to look at. There were 1,400 votes cast. I imagine On Dit will have greater votes because they run as teams.”
Director Patrick Kennewell weighed in saying: “I’m not supportive of that change because I think there should be some rules that extend beyond the rules outlined by the University e.g. financial promotions ect.”
AUU Vice President Hugh Sutton said: “Better to do it once and do it right rather than push it through now and figure out the details later.”
Ong then speculated: “Why don’t we get rid of the rule and then next meeting we craft a special rule for this election.”
Anspach responded to this by saying: “I think it’s quite dangerous to go ahead by moving this blanket statement with so many what ifs.”
Stewart and Kennewell then went on to discuss the possibility that the University Council may not approve the new rules in time, which may lead to no enforceable rules being applicable if the current rules were not applied.
Sutton then speculated: “We could look in the future at the viability for online general elections. We should do it properly, if it takes two meetings or won’t go through this year then that’s not the end of the world. Better to avoid a hodgepodge system.”
The Board then resolved to establish a new sub-committee, open to participation by any Board Director and chaired by the student media chair to consider this matter in detail. Stewart moved the motion and Sutton seconded it. The motion passed.
Just before the meeting went in camera, the Board discussed the issue of the SRC Budget re-allocation, which was first raised in the previous SRC meeting. During this time, Stewart acknowledged he had a conflict of interest regarding the NUS and left the room. Sutton discussed allowing a reallocation of money from various affiliated bodies to others including a new affiliation with the Union of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students. This motion was moved by Sutton and seconded by Heaton. The motion passed.
The meeting moved in camera at 7.05
More to come.
Disclaimer: Felix ran as a ‘Unite’ candidate in the 2018 student elections