Blackmail powers: AUU Board seeks to control political opponents’ pay & club memberships

Words by Ivan Jankovic

fter the left coalition’s landslide election result last week, many wondered how soon the Progress-Connect alliance would start using its AUU Board majority to make life difficult for them.

The answer is, apparently: not very long.

According to the agenda for tonight’s Board meeting, obtained by On Dit, the Board will move two contentious motions regarding the AUU rules.

The first relates to the SRC President’s salary:

Section 7. Suspension of Honorarium and Other Benefits

The board may suspend any Honorarium and/or Other Benefits of the student elected representatives. This could be but not limited to: failure of (sic) carry out their duties and/or reasons of misconduct.

Both the SRC and AUU President are paid roughly ~30k per annum to discharge their duties.

Where elected representatives have been censured or dismissed in the past by the Progress-dominated Board, it used ad hoc definitions of “misconduct” and did not relate the matter to an impartial third-party. Effectively, it defines “misconduct” on its own terms.

It should be noted that next year’s SRC President, Ana Obradovic, is a political opponent of Angela Qin, who is the Board President.

In early 2020, the AUU Board threatened to freeze the SRC’s funding unless it voted to dismiss former President Henry Armfield for alleged intimidation. This occurred before the university carried out its own independent investigation.

It should be noted that Armfield was also a political opponent of then AUU President Stella Woo. Both Woo and Qin are members of Progress.

The second proposed change relates to the administration of clubs:

Clause 11.5. Clubs (except faculty, course based, invite only clubs), must accept any students as their members provided they have follow (sic) through the appropriate application process.

Reasons of rejection/cessation of a student’s clubs membership application are only limited to: reasons of proven misconduct and/or they present as a potential physical threat to other club members and/or unable to pay for the prescribed membership fees.

The wording of the change implies that the Board has final say over what constitutes “proven misconduct.” It does not make clear the meaning of “appropriate application process” either, and whether this is decided by clubs or Board.

Clubs generally resolve their own grievances, and the involvement of the Board in anything more than an advisory role would be an unprecedented overreach of power in a traditionally autonomous community.

Some club leaders also expressed concern to us that this change will facilitate the practice of “stacking”. Stacking involves registering new members to an organisation in a relatively short timeframe to influence the outcome of crucial votes, like those at AGMs.

Most organisations, especially political parties, explicitly prohibit stacking on the ground that it inhibits self-determination and integrity. Stacking is generally difficult to prove, and these rules do not make clear whether stacking could justify the cessation of membership.

No consultation was undertaken with clubs, nor with the Clubs Committee and its two elected representatives, Nick Birchall and Will Broderick, before this motion was tabled.

The meeting tonight is scheduled for 6pm at the AUU Board Room, Level 4 Union House. The outcome of the vote will be available on the On Dit Twitter.

More to come.

CORRECTION: This article briefly stated the AUU Vice-President is paid a small honorarium, which is incorrect.

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Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Ivan Jankovic, Stasi Kapetanos, Isobel Moore, and Michelle Roylance. Get in touch: onditmag@gmail.com