SRC Executive botches casual vacancy procedures
Words by Felix Eldridge
At last Thursday’s SRC meeting (April 2), the SRC approved the recommendation of the SRC Executive and filled the previously vacant position of Education Officer.
The steps for filling a casual vacancy are laid out clearly. According to the SRC Casual Vacancy Regulations, after nominations are opened and applications have been received, the Executive will form a selection panel and interview all candidates. After this has concluded, the Executive will recommend a candidate and this recommendation will be put to the SRC for approval. While it is possible for such a recommendation to be voted against, it is highly unlikely that the SRC will do so.
Unfortunately, it appears that as of the previous SRC meeting, this process was not adhered to. According to section 5(f) of the regulations, “The Executive shall conduct interviews with all candidates . . .” This section states that all candidates must be interviewed.
It was revealed at the meeting however that of the five or six candidates that applied, only one was actually interviewed. The justification for this was that the Executive had decided to “shortlist” one of the candidates for an interview on the basis of their application. While this may sound appropriate, the regulation does not give them the power to do this and it clearly outlines that all candidates must be interviewed.
This decision appears rather unusual as interviewing five or six candidates by phone or Zoom would be a relatively simple process, yet the Executive determined it was only necessary to shortlist one person. It is also unusual to define the term “shortlist” to include only one person.
There are a few possible explanations for this decision. There may have been political motives, such as ensuring that members of opposing factions were not considered for the role. It may have been because one of the candidates was of such a high standard that the Executive believed it was not worth interviewing the others. Finally, it may have been to save time by streamlining the process so that the perceived best candidate, determined from their written application alone, could fill the important role without delay. This last point was what a member of the Executive implied was the case at the meeting.
However, the reasoning is irrelevant. The fact is this was a decision taken in outright contradiction to the very clearly defined regulations and reveals a level of shocking incompetence in the Executive for not bothering to check the procedure beforehand, or worse, to ignore it.
But putting aside the legal significance of the rules, it also looks like poor form from an organisation whose objectives include providing a “democratic and transparent forum . . . governed in an effective and accountable manner”. The shortlisting method used, intentional or not, appeared to contradict these principles.
This, however, was not the only set of rules breached in the last fortnight. The positions of President, Social Justice Officer, Disability Officer, Queer Officer and ATSI Officer are currently unfilled with interviews pending. According to the SRC’s Facebook page, the advertisement went up on March 27 and the applications closed on April 2.
According to the section 4(b) of the regulations: “The position will be advertised by notice at the AUU reception, in AUU email . . . Notice, where possible must also be given in student publications, including On Dit and Counter Guide . . .” The SRC failed to advertise as they were required to in section 4(b) with any of the listed channels, including On Dit.
Section 4(c) further instructs: “The position must be advertised for a minimum of two weeks.” While the Executive had resolved in a meeting to shorten the application process, given the irregular number of vacancies, neither the SRC Constitution nor casual vacancy regulations provide a mechanism for such ad hoc alterations. In effect, the Executive overstepped their jurisdiction by hastening the selection period.
It has since transpired that this second round of violations were due to a breakdown in communication between the Executive and its staff, a misunderstanding only furthered by the extra strain put on the organisation by COVID-19. As such, while these are no doubt unfortunate, they are more understandable given the circumstances, and blame cannot be attributed to any one person or group in this matter.
It is quite possible that these were just isolated incidents on the part of the Executive, but any future deviations from the rules would imply that the Executive is not above riding roughshod over the constitution in the future. It remains to be seen how the Executive will handle the next five vacancies.
Disclaimer: Felix ran as a ‘Unite’ candidate in the 2019 student elections.