Women’s Collective Affiliated
Words by Nicholas Birchall
Last night the SRC voted to affiliate the Women’s Collective.
At the meeting, SRC President Henry Armfield, spoke to his motion to affiliate the Women’s Collective autonomously to the SRC, stating that “it’s ridiculous that [the University doesn’t] have a Women’s Collective.” He further reaffirmed his support for the actions of the collective so far, including the organisation of a rally against domestic violence, decrying the internal power-games responsible for thus far having blocked the Women’s Collective, calling it “frankly ridiculous”. This drew laughter from several members of the right coalition (formed by Progress and Connect).
International Student Officer, Ngoc Lan (Laura) Tran, member of Progress, then called for an amendment to Mr Armfield’s motion, stating that the Women’s Officer must be instated as President of the Women’s Collective. SRC Women’s Officer Rebecca Etienne then spoke against this amendment, affirming the work that the Women’s Collective have already accomplished, and suggesting that this amendment would not change anything substantive, but rather simply “[gives the club] more regulations and laws”, suggesting that this debate was ridiculous given the history, and current state of affairs.
Mr Armfield however found the amendment agreeable, stating that the amendment had no real power as the Women’s Collective operated as an “autonomous group” anyway.
The amended motion was then formally moved, and passed.
Debate then broke out between members of the audience and SRC about the “authoritarian” nature of forcibly appointing a president to a club, with many concerned about the precedent set.
Ms Etienne spoke to her Office Bearer report criticising the 2019 Clubs Committee for their rejection of the Women’s Collective, and effectively causing the further turmoil student representation is currently embroiled in. She also condemned the amended motion to affiliate the Women’s Collective, as it intruded upon the autonomy of the group. Ms Etienne then asked Oscar Ong (former AUU President, and member of 2019 Clubs Committee) to explain his reasoning behind initially rejecting the Women’s Collective’s application in September of 2019.
Mr Ong was initially coy, indicating that he would not disclose his reasoning as the meeting was in-camera. This changed upon presentation of evidence that the meeting was in fact, ex-camera. Mr Ong then took aim at On Dit, suggesting that they had “incorrectly reported” the events of the meeting, and reasoning given by the committee at the time. On Dit’s initial report on these minutes can be found here.
On Dit would like to note that despite Mr Ong’s claims, the official minutes for the Clubs Committee meeting held on the 25th of September, published by On Dit, were later accepted by the Clubs Committee at the following meeting on the 18th of October. This motion to accept the recorded minutes was moved by Mr Ong himself, and can be viewed below. On Dit stands by its initial reporting of these events.
Following this Mr Ong stated that the Clubs Committee rejected the application as it was concerned that the Women’s Collective executive was not “representative” of all female-identifying students on campus, as they held an AGM. Mr Ong reaffirmed his position that the Women’s Officer should be the president of the Women’s Collective. He further argued that the role of Women’s Officer was far more representative of female-identifying students, as student elections occurred over five days. He further stated that “In an AGM, however good you try to carry out the AGM, it’s one day, one time, you can’t get 50% of the population in a room at one time”. The notion that the Women’s Collective forces all women to enrol in it was rejected by Ms Etienne who stated that “No, [membership] is a choice, as in ‘choice’.”
Ong’s logic was questioned by General Councillor Darcy Hermsen, who stated that by Mr Ong’s logic, the Pride Club could not be representative of LGBT students on campus, as their executive is decided by AGM, rather than student elections. Mr Ong responded stating that “The Pride Club is not representative [of LGBT students] so…”.
A member of the audience then further questioned Mr Ong’s logic stating that general student elections cannot be fully representative of women, and who they want as Women’s Officer, as men also have the right to vote on the position, potentially skewing the results.
Ms Etienne then moved a motion of public SRC solidarity with the Women’s Collective, including a Facebook post stating as much, as well as public condemnation of the 2019 Clubs Committee for their rejection of the Women’s Collective. This motion was passed, with the left block voting in favour, and the right block abstaining.
What does this mean for the Women’s Collective?
While the Women’s Collective is technically now affiliated with the SRC, due to the imprecise wording of the amendment, the interpretation of the motion is currently unclear, and will need to be further discussed at a later SRC meeting.
Speaking with the Women’s Collective today, they expressed their disappointed with last night’s proceedings, and the over-politicisation of this issue. Ms Etienne, speaking on behalf of the committee further stated:
“I would also like to express my gratitude to the people who were supportive of the Women’s Collective, and will continue to fight against the face of adversity.”