UofA Pro-Choice Club status in limbo after Clubs Committee deferral

Words by Nicholas Birchall

On Dit is able to verify that contained below are excerpts of Clubs Committee minutes from the 25th of October 2019. This meeting followed the infamous September 19th meeting where the UofA Women’s Collective application was rejected by Oscar Zi Shao Ong, Stella Woo, and Ramses Saaid, with their stated reason being that it was not “unique or necessary”.

During the 25th of October meeting, the application for the Adelaide University Pro-Choice Club was considered.

In its application, the Pro-Choice Club listed that it would be “a cornerstone for students who agree that all women have the right to have the choice and fundamental right to access abortion services.” They also noted that they would be seeking to “inform students of the process and available resources regarding the abortion process”.

On Dit would like to note that Ramses Saaid was asked to leave the meeting at its beginning, as he was discovered to have not been an enrolled student during Semester 2 of 2019, and thus illegitimately held the position.

On Dit can confirm that a verbal disagreement occurred during discussion on the application of the Pro-Choice Club, with committee member Mary Kelly insisting that it was the role of the Clubs Committee to make recommendations on club applications. Kelly also noted that it was necessary to recommend the Pro-Choice Club application for approval to ensure the Clubs Committee remained balanced, citing the committee’s previous controversial approval of pro-life club, LifeChoice Adelaide.

On Dit would like to note that Kelly’s characterisation of the Clubs Committee’s role in making recommendations on applications appears to fall in line with the AUU’s description of the role of the Clubs Committee in their official AUU Clubs Manual.

On Dit can also confirm that a senior member of AUU staff present at the meeting informed the committee that their actions regarding the applications of both the UofA Women’s Collective and Pro-Choice Club were being closely scrutinised by the University. They also noted that the University had power to withdraw AUU funding and services if they deemed the AUU and Clubs Committee’s actions to be damaging to their reputation.

The Clubs Committee was also counselled by senior AUU administrative staff that their personal opinions surrounding clubs were not to be a factor in their decision making.

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Screenshot of official Clubs Committee minutes, showing AUU Staff advising the Clubs Committee

As shown in the minutes below, Clubs Committee representative Kelly moved to recommend approving the Pro-Choice Club. Kelly’s motion was not seconded by Ong nor Woo, with Ong being recorded as abstaining.

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Screenshot of official Clubs Committee minutes, showing failed motion to approval the Pro-Choice Club

The application of the Pro-Choice Club was subsequently referred to the AUU Board without a recommendation for its approval or rejection from the Clubs Committee.

This would also mark the last time the 2019 Clubs Committee met, with future scheduled meetings never eventuating.

Despite its referral to the AUU board, On Dit can confirm that the application was not discussed at any future board meetings in 2019.

Editor’s Note: Stella Woo and Oscar Zi Shao Ong, who sat on the Clubs Committee in 2019 and were both present at the Clubs Committee meeting on October 25th, are currently Adelaide University Union President and UofA Student Representative Council President respectively. By virtue of her position as AUU President, Woo still sits on the Clubs Committee in 2020.

Following this, no communication was made to the applicant of the Pro-Choice Club about the status of their application. This directly contravened standard AUU Clubs Committee procedure.

In response, the applicant emailed the AUU and Clubs Committee three separate times on the 4th of December, 4th of March and 16th of April. They sought clarification on the status of their application. In the second email, sent on the 4th of March, after 5 months of no responses the applicant assumed their application had been rejected, and thus sought an appeal to the decision.

It was not until over one month, and one follow-up email later that they received a response on the 17th of April. It indicated that their appeal had been received and was being processed.

On Dit sought clarification multiple times with the 2020 Clubs Committee Chair Angela Qin about whether the Pro-Choice Club would be afforded another appeal if their application was rejected. This being on the basis that the application would have only been formally rejected once, and thus still retained the right to appeal what would be a first ruling. Qin failed to clarify our enquiries, nor action the Clubs Committee Administrator to do so on her behalf.

The Pro-Choice Club’s application was once again considered at the second Clubs Committee meeting of 2020 on April 27th.

On Dit can confirm that the actions of the 2019 Clubs Committee were mirrored during the April 27th, 2020 meeting. A motion was moved to defer discussion on the Pro-Choice Club’s application to the next AUU Board meeting, without the Clubs Committee making a formal recommendation. As On Dit understands it, this was moved and seconded by Woo and Qin.

The application and status of the Pro-Choice Club will be discussed and decided at tomorrow evening’s (18/5) AUU Board meeting, 7 months after the application was first lodged.

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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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