MY FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST SAGA

Words by Paul Sigar

If you have been following Overheard lately you would have heard about the FOI saga. Here I present a candid account of my side of the story.

Within 24 hours of the University announcing the appointment of Peter Hoj as the new Vice Chancellor students at the University quickly organised a protest. I have not heard of a single student that celebrated this appointment. In fact, in a rare show of unity, student groups across the political spectrum came together to voice their concern and disapproval of the appointment of Peter Hoj.

I am just an ordinary student with little involvement in student politics or activism on campus. However, the events that surfaced last year implicating the previous Vice Chancellor in severe sexual misconduct have undermined trust in the University’s senior leadership. While Peter Rathjen’s matter was still fresh in the minds of students and staff, came yet another shocking news of the appointment of Peter Hoj. His appointment has raised eyebrows across the University community. Of the many students that I have spoken to about this, the same question that puzzled everyone was, ‘why Peter Hoj?’ — especially given his history of controversies during his time as the Vice Chancellor at the University of Queensland. That was the motivation for the FOI request.

I do not have anything personal against Peter Hoj. I genuinely wanted to know why, after an extensive international search and screening of multiple candidates, the University decided to settle with someone with such a wide range of controversies under their belt.

Above, a response to my FOI request

When I made my FOI request, I did not have high expectations. What I least expected, however, was for the President of the Adelaide University Student Representatives Council (SRC), Oscar Ong, to take credit for my FOI request. After receiving massive backlash, he edited the post which initially read:

If you are wondering why I did not disclose the documents when I first received it, it is because I am still considering filing a review. The documents that were disclosed do not presently contain any information worth knowing. Many of the pages were either heavily redacted or simply completely exempted. While I understand documents are entitled to be redacted or exempted, I query the need for heavy redaction to the extent that it almost defeats the purpose of an FOI application.

Pictured above, a suggested program the SRC President should consider running his public statements through more often.

In relation to the unacceptable behaviour of the SRC President, I wish to say:

I am just a typical student at the University who is graduating very soon. Honestly, I could care less about what happens next under this new leadership. However, my conscience probably could not rest easy if I knew I failed to do something that I personally should have and could have easily done here. Nevertheless, the fact remains that a student like me should not have had to do this in the first place. Student leaders and representatives like yourself are elected for a reason. The SRC President should have taken the initiative from the outset to demand transparency, and not ride on someone else’s hard work and then try to claim credit for it.

That said, since the SRC President has willingly stepped up and assumed my role here, I wish to put on record that I have absolutely no problem with passing the baton onto him for him to finish what I have started.

Oscar, can I really trust you with this responsibility?

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store