AUU and SRC clash: Constitutions, Committees, and Coal Mines
Words by Felix Eldridge
A report about the events transpired during the 18th March AUU and SRC meetings.
At about 6 o’clock the board meeting began. To kick off the proceedings, newly minted AUU Board Director Angus Heaton was elected to the position of Student Media Chair, a position recently vacated by AUU Vice President Hugh Sutton. The vote was 6/3 with one abstention.
After a few uncontroversial items, the Board then considered the AUU President’s Report. AUU Board Directors Tamsin Anspach and Patrick Stewart raised concerns about the validity of changes made to a schedule of the AUU Constitution. Under section 19.4, the President is empowered to correct minor grammatical or referencing errors in schedules; the President used this power to remove an entire clause from the affiliations schedule regarding the affiliation of the National Union of Students (NUS) to the AUU. Anspach said that the changes should be approved by the Board and they should be subject to the normal lengthy process that takes place over two meetings. Stewart mentioned that this could set a bad precedent for the Union with regard to other information contained in different schedules. He also stated that “The Board should be the ultimate decision-making body of the Union.” The AUU President Oscar Ong justified the change because the AUU is no longer affiliated to the NUS, thus the clause was out of date. The Vice President also defended the interpretation, claiming that the Board annually vests the President with powers to deal with many matters on behalf of the AUU, including being the arbiter of minor issues. After a brief discussion about legal risk, a motion to undo the changes failed 4/6. It is interesting to note that the Board has now acknowledged the supremacy of the AUU President over the Board on constitutional affairs. With the stroke of a pen, Ong has established a precedent that any schedule can be altered at will by the President.
Later in the meeting, a motion is tabled to the Board that would give the Student Media Chair a vote in the Student Media committee. The committee, which reports to the Board, is comprised of three voting members. The On Dit editors collectively have one vote, as do the Student Radio directors and the AUU President also has a vote. By granting the chair a vote, the balance of power shifts from the Student Media directors to the Board Directors. Stewart raises this issue by commenting that in the past, if both arms of student media wanted something it would be achieved, whereas if only one group wanted something it would fail. However, the new system would mean that even if both arms wanted something and the Board didn’t, it would fail. The change would completely re-define the power balance. AUU Board Director Patrick Kennewell suggests that the Board give the chair a vote, but double the votes of the Student Media directors, therefore keeping the voting power proportionate. This suggestion was rejected. The motion passed 6/3 with one abstention.
At about 7 o’clock, the Board moved ‘In Camera’.
This meeting made SRC history as the SRC finally reached the two-thirds quorum necessary to change the SRC constitution. Rural Officer Tobias Threadgold moved an amendment that would allow SRC members, with permission from the SRC President, to attend meetings by video link. This was mainly designed for rural and international students. SRC President Ali Amin seconded the motion, mentioning that no other SA campus has a similar system where the Rural Officer must take a two-hour trip out of their own time and money to attend meetings. The amendment passed unanimously.
After arriving during a break in the concurrently held AUU Board meeting, Stewart (who is also the SRC General Secretary) moved a motion granting retrospective leave to an absent general councillor for this meeting and the last two meetings. Amin refused to table the motion because the timing was inconsistent with standing orders. Stewart then moved a motion of dissent in the Chair, which passed, therefore overruling his decision. An amended motion was tabled that only granted leave for this meeting. SRC members questioned why any leave should be granted given the absent member had plenty of opportunities to request a leave of absence earlier. The motion passed. Incidentally, both the dissent and amended motions passed along factional lines with both the ‘Activate’ and ‘International Voice’ blocks voting in favour. This is of interest because the absent member (who had they not procured a leave of absence would have likely been removed from the SRC as per its constitution) was from the ‘International Voice’ block. These motions had the effect of shoring up the ‘Activate’ and ‘International Voice’ block within the SRC.
General Councillor Tom Auld moved a motion about the funding of a NUS climate forum. Amin refers to the fact that this motion claiming to be on behalf of the NUS, was not supported by or shown to the NUS Executive, NUS office bearers or the NUS State President. The NUS office bearers who were present in the room criticise the Socialist Alternative members of NUS for trying to hijack the NUS movement. Auld also moved a motion about the Adani coal mine, criticising the Federal Labor Party for not doing enough to prevent environmental damage. Amin states that the motion is misleading and there are strategic reasons why Federal Labor has not taken a stance on Adani, citing issues of sovereign risk being raised in a court case, which the government may lose if they take an overtly anti-Adani stance. Both motions did not receive a seconder and thus lapsed.
Amin then gives his Presidential Report. During his report, he moves a motion to create a ‘future directions of student representation’ working group along with a $1000 discretionary budget.
During his General Secretary’s report, Stewart encouraged members to become involved in community campaigns such as opposing public transport cuts and the closures of Service SA centres by the State Government. He also encouraged office bearers to get in touch with their NUS counterparts.
At 8.38, the SRC President invoked the mandatory ten-minute break after two hours of continuous meeting. The meeting was resumed at 8.48.
During his report, the Education Officer Sam Chapman moved a motion creating a new committee which Faculty Board representatives and SRC member will be entitled to sit on, thus providing more diverse perspectives on key education issues. This motion passed. He also raised issues about the Federal Government’s under funding of universities and encouraged the SRC to back the NUS campaign ‘A future worth fighting for’. In addition, he also stressed the importance of a change of government, at which point Auld criticised the Federal Opposition’s track record on education.
Queer Officer Rebecca Etienne provided some details about the George Duncan memorial event and moved a motion authorising $500 to be spent on food and supplies for the event. The motion passed.
During emergent business, Amin stated that he will be seeking legal advice over alleged unconstitutional acts made by the AUU Board and intends to meet with the Union Executive Officer.
The meeting closed at 9.21
The SRC meeting was attended by at least 33 people, a third of whom were observers. These included AUU Board Directors and NUS office bearers. The following observers were named for talking during the SRC meeting:
AUU Board Director Angus Heaton
Jack Crawford (twice)
NUS Small and Regional Officer Jordan Mumford
Felix ran as a ‘Unite’ candidate in the 2018 student elections