Petition for referendum binned: Students vow to do it all again

Words by Ivan Bucalo Jankovic.

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Credit: AUU website.

Last Friday, On Dit reported that an industrious group of students acquired the signatures needed to call a referendum on whether or not the AUU Board should be removed and re-elected. Campaigners referred to a culture that “needlessly keeps secrets” from students, and a failure to affiliate the Women’s Collective and Pro-Choice Club, as their underlying motive to pursue a referendum.

It is now understood that the petition has been dismissed by the AUU’s Executive Officer and General Manager, Gary Sutherland.

In an email to On Dit, Sutherland clarifies that the reasons for dismissing the petition were purely related to the manner in which it was carried out. Because of the ambiguous wording of the petition, and the fact that it was collected over two Board terms, it could not be fairly determined which Board students were actually pledging to recall.

“…The petition I was handed was started in election week, and related to a recall of the AUU Board that presided until December 1st”, said Sutherland. This was a fact undisputed by the campaigners.

“Several other students have also formally advised me that when they signed the petition they were doing so to have the AUU Board of the time recalled.”

The paper petition was delivered to the AUU’s offices last Thursday, with the minimum 1% of the student population having pledged to support a referendum on the question. According to the AUU’s constitution, such a referendum would require at least 7% of all UoA students to vote in it, regardless of their decision, in order for the outcome to be implemented.

“I’m now being asked to run a referendum to recall the new AUU Board which has just started their term on December 1st, using the signatures of students from prior to December 1st largely, that clearly related to the AUU Board under Stella [Woo]. It would be tough to argue that students who signed a petition in October/November were voting to recall an AUU Board that didn’t exist yet.”

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Pictured: An excerpt from the petition, with relevant wording.

A referendum on the Board’s fate would need to be held within 20 academic days of the petition’s receipt, but an early return to stupol is still a long way off:

“My decision doesn’t impact on the timing of any future petitions/referenda regarding a ‘recall of the board’ under the constitution, as I could not act until March 2021 at the earliest anyway [i.e. beginning of semester].”

“We got the support”

Spokesperson for the campaign and expelled Board Director, Ashley Jayasuriya, says this move has not discouraged the organisers.

“This petition will happen, and given the circumstances, it’s in our favour to be able to follow the best practices”, he said. “While it may be a new board, the balance of powers has only been worsened, with the removal of board directors meaning the AUU Board stamps out any dissenting voices.”

Jayasuriya, along with colleague Ella Shaw, was voted out of the 2020 AUU Board in October for what Jayasuriya claimed are dubious and unsubstantiated grounds of misconduct.

“I won’t be surprised if there’s some attempt to make it more difficult for all of this to happen, and at this point it’s a safe assumption it’ll be in-camera... But we got the support, and we’ll build even more as we come up to the referendum period.

“This is a step towards letting students be more effectively engaged with their Union.”

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