You wouldn’t steal a State of the Union

Words by Felix Eldridge

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The State of the Union (SOTU) column is a permanent feature in On Dit. This column enables the President of the AUU to inform students of their plans and achievements.

Startling revelations have now come to light regarding allegations that a former AUU President substantially copied the work of a previous AUU President. Former AUU President Oscar Ong’s 10th column from 2019 bore a remarkable resemblance to former President Brodie Scott’s 12th column from 2017.

While the second half of Ong’s column referred to new policies regarding the National Union of Students and club events, the first half appears almost completely copied from the other document, with only minor changes to both substance and phrasing.

For example, almost an entire paragraph was taken verbatim from Scott’s column:

Ong: “If there is something worth mentioning as the representative of the University’s only apolitical team among other political factions, it’s how our other representatives (particularly Labor’s ‘Activate’ and ‘Unite’ and Socialist Alternative’s ‘Climate Action) will constantly do what they’re told by their ‘regional branch leaders’ and even sitting parliament MP’s, before even considering their roles as your representatives and your best interests as students. (Weird, right?) Probably not surprising for some of you.”

Scott: “But if there was something worth mentioning from my time among the political factions as a representative of this University’s only a-political team, it’s how our representatives (from Labor’s ‘Activate’ and Socialist Alternative’s ‘Left Action’ in particular) will regularly do what they’re told by regional branch leaders of a bigger political party, and even sitting South Australian MP’s, before considering their roles as our representatives and our actual interests as students. Weird, I know, but probably not surprising.”

While the SOTU is not covered under the University Academic Honesty Policy, it does reflect poorly that the AUU’s most senior elected official could not be bothered writing an original piece for his final column.

This is not the first time that Ong has caused controversy. During his stint in office his colleagues accused him of breaching the AUU Constitution and the Board Standing Orders, among other complaints.

However, Ong’s Presidency was also a time of significant change in the AUU. Reforms to club grants and student media elections ranked highly among various positive outcomes for students. His last report however, will not be one of them.

Perhaps future Presidents should submit their columns through Turnitin?

Disclaimer: Felix ran as a ‘Unite’ candidate in the 2019 student elections

For full comparison, see original columns and overlaid image below

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Image: An excerpt of Ong’s column overlaid with highlighting. Blue depicts substantially similar content and yellow depicts almost word for word duplication.

Brodie Scott’s Column:

It’s the last State of the Union for 2017, and the end of another year in student politics.

Yes, student politics — not the most well-regarded part of the university experience. The editors of On Dit have spent a lot of time covering it on other pages while this column has, as much as possible, featured what the union is doing and has to offer students. It’s an arrangement that’s worked out well.

But if there was something worth mentioning from my time among the political factions as a representative of this University’s only a-political team, it’s how our representatives (from Labor’s ‘Activate’ and Socialist Alternative’s ‘Left Action’ in particular) will regularly do what they’re told by regional branch leaders of a bigger political party, and even sitting South Australian MP’s, before considering their roles as our representatives and our actual interests as students. Weird, I know, but probably not surprising.

For that reason, anyone who associates the union with student politics is left with the impression its institutions waste time with issues that don’t matter, or mean very little to them. Important groups on campus are also left behind by representatives when they aren’t seen by the factions as ‘bringing in the votes’, aren’t in the same social circles their members are, and have no commitment to the goals or vision of one political ideology.

These are the people at university left out by every other team claiming to represent all of us; they are the forgotten students.

They’re our international students, supported by their hardworking families or by their own means to be a part of our community. Next year you will have a greater say in what we can do to help; whether it’s through grants or encouraging networks that lead to better support, information to stay for the time you need to find opportunities or to return home with the best prospects for the future.

They’re our Roseworthy and Waite students, whether they are commuting long hours to study intensive subjects or live distantly from the main campus. In 2018 the union and our representatives will be more active in listening to you and delivering what you want for your campus, as well as promoting more events, long established and new clubs and student media coverage.

And they’re our non-political students, sick of trivial, self-important and pointless drama the factions regularly engage in. They came out in large numbers for the first time to vote for the representatives in our team, Progress, when we ran as an alternative to what was happening this year. By making the SRC more relevant to you, putting on more events, supporting your clubs and raising the profile of your union, I’m confident you will do it again.

From what I’ve seen happen in student representation this year, I guess it’s been great to indirectly work beside what is probably a very wide range of talented faceless figures from the South Australian, and potentially, Federal Parliament. My successor will miss out.

Oscar Ong’s Column:

Ahhh what a week it has been! Yes- student elections week, where all student politicians are suddenly becoming very engaging with you and try to show they care about you.

I know, student politics, not the best part of the university life. The political students and editors of On Dit have spent most of their time covering it on the other pages while I have elected to use my column to feature the important work that I have been doing as you President and services that we deliver as the Union. I believe this have worked out well.

If there is something worth mentioning as the representative of the University’s only apolitical team among other political factions, it’s how our other representatives (particularly Labor’s ‘Activate’ and ‘Unite’ and Socialist Alternative’s ‘Climate Action) will constantly do what they’re told by their ‘regional branch leaders’ and even sitting parliament MP’s, before even considering their roles as your representatives and your best interests as students. (Weird, right?) Probably not surprising for some of you.

For this very reason, students tend to think student politicians waste most of the time debating issues that doesn’t matter or doesn’t affect students’ lives and spend students’ money on protests (if you don’t know yet, 35% of your Student Service and Amenities Fees (SSAF) goes to the AUU). This caused important groups on campus are left behind by their supposedly representatives because they aren’t in the same social circles or members of the faction, or aren’t ‘bringing in the votes’. These forgotten students are what the other teams claimed to represent. They are our international students, Roseworthy & Waite students, and non-political students. They are sick of self-important, trivial and dramas the political factions constantly engage in.

And this year, they came out in huge numbers to vote and put their trust for our representatives in our team, Progress, an alternative to all the student politicians. By making the Union more relevant to your student experience, putting more free events, five-days free breakfast, supporting our clubs and solving issues that actually matter to you, I trust you will do it again.

Alongside with my team and other like-minded students-focused directors, we have removed funding for National Union of Students (NUS) and NUS conference fees, which I bet most of you reading this haven’t heard of them too, and you probably asking what they even do ($18,600- imagine what we could have done with it)! I was furious when I found out that International Officer of NUS did not submit 3 out of 5 reports and the answer I got from the NUS President was ‘every organisation have dysfunctional members’. I was livid when I further found out the student values survey which they used to make a series of conclusion was only completed by 336 participants (out of the 1 million students they claimed to represent). Mind you, the AUU/SRC’s RCC survey was completed by 2000+ students out of the 27,000 students. The closed-doors NUS conference where we send 7 elected delegates to is a total waste of money and does not benefit students.

After all the negativity, I am glad to tell you that we have repurposed the funding to Student Care which we established a new Financial Advisor to provide free, confidential and independent advice, information and advocacy to students who are in financial difficulty.

Oh- also! Adelaide University Vietnamese Students Association, with the AUU’s support will be bringing the biggest SA Vietnamese festival- Vietfest to our campus on the 12th October, make sure you check it out and don’t miss out the great chance like how my predecessor missed out the chance to actually do good for students!

Written by

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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