Stupol Explained #1: AUU Board Vacancies

Words by Felix Eldridge

The Adelaide University Union Board is the management arm of the AUU. It is comprised of 10 directors, elected for two-year terms on rotation so that every year there are 5 new directors.

Historically, vacancies of the Board due to resignations or subsequent ineligibility have been filled through by-elections, where candidates would compete in elections over a single vacancy, rather than the full 5.

After a student referendum nearly a decade ago, Board vacancies are instead filled by a vote of the Board itself. After such a candidate is identified by the AUU Executive Officer, the Board will vote to appoint the next highest polling candidate from the most recent election to fill the vacancy.

In theory, this means that the candidate who polled 6th in the last election would be appointed to fill a vacancy. If a further vacancy arose, then the 7th person would be asked and so on. If the 6th person were, for whatever reason, deemed ineligible to sit on the Board, then the 7th person would be asked to fill the vacancy and so on.

The key issue is that this process is not automatic and requires the Board to formally ‘vote’ to approve a candidate. It may also vote to not approve a candidate or to not fill the vacancy at all.

The AUU Board is by its very nature a political organisation. Students directly elect directors and almost all directors, including all the current directors, were elected under the banners of political ‘factions’. These ‘factions’ are in effect campus political parties, which have leadership structures, policies, candidate pre-selections and whom run swathes of candidates for elected positions.

Given the cynical nature of student politics, it is therefore common for these groups to deny each other any advantage. If for example, a campus faction or factions had a slim majority on the Board and one of the directors had to resign and the next person on the ballot was from the opposing side, this group might consider refusing to fill the vacancy so as to effectively reinforce their majority, e.g. from 6/4 to 6/3.

This allegedly occurred in 2017 when the then AUU President, Brodie Scott, refused to fill a vacancy that would have would have gone to an opponent. While he provided an official justification for the rejection, leaked messages revealed that Scott conspired with fellow directors to deliberately exclude the next eligible candidate for political reasons.

It is highly unusual for the Board to refuse to fill vacancies outright. In late 2018, a vacancy caused by ineligibility was filled uneventfully and with proper process.

More recently, after the resignation of Director Patrick Kennewell in December, the Board chose not to fill his vacancy. As revealed at a meeting on the 24th of February, the Board discussed filling the vacancy ‘in camera’, meaning during the portion of a Board meeting not open to visitors. As such, the reasoning for this decision is unknown. There are a few possible reasons why such a vacancy would not be filled and On Dit does not wish to allege any wrongdoing on the part of the 2020 Board. All that is known is that the two next highest polling candidates are from groups that ran against the majority block. Whether this is a harmless coincidence or a sinister return to the precedent of 2017 we will never know

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Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Nicholas Birchall, Felix Eldridge, Taylor Fernandez and Larisa Forgac. Email us at onditmag@gmail.com

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