A postgraduate councillor has resigned in a blistering statement that without evidence accuses the student organisation of corruption and criminal activity.
Bradley Wells, who has been on the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) council for three years, wrote: “I can no longer continue to be a member of an organisation that I no longer respect.”
Mr Wells’ letter, which was sent anonymously to Honi Soit, makes unsubstantiated allegations that over three years the council had engaged in “corruption, bullying, participation in and endorsement of criminal activity, [and] misuse and improper association of university funds”.
Mr Wells did not return phone calls from Honi, nor did he respond to calls from the SUPRA President, Angelus Morningstar, to whom he sent his letter of resignation on October 23.
When asked if he considered Mr Wells’ allegations to be defamatory, Mr Morningstar said: “The fact that he’s taken it public without specific allegations, yes.”
Members of the SUPRA council could only speculate as to what Mr Wells may have meant by “criminal activity”. Mr Morningstar suggested it might be related to SUPRA endorsements of protests relating to counter-cultural movements.
Last year some SUPRA councillors participated in a protest against chocolate retailer Max Brenner, which was accused of supporting the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Mr Morningstar told Honi those individuals had acted unilaterally using SUPRA stationery, but without the endorsement of the council.
The SUPRA Vice-President, Tim Scriven, agreed that unauthorised campaigns had been run using SUPRA stationery and printing equipment, but not in the current iteration of the council.
“I get the feeling that a lot of the stuff he’s referring to happened when Socialist Alternative was on council,” he said. “They made things very difficult.”
Mr Morningstar added: “I in my presidency have been very, very strict to ensure that anything that was done had no criminal basis. We get legal advice and we have a risk management process.”
Mr Wells’ letter also complained of “the recent shameful debacle over SUPRA endorsement of Senate candidates”, which he said had been the “final straw” in his decision to resign.
The council took a controversial decision to endorse two candidates for the postgraduate Fellow of Senate position, which was ultimately won by James Flynn. SUPRA emailed students on September 19 endorsing Audrey Irish and Manna Mostaghim, after a long and consultative process which involved publishing a questionnaire and the candidates’ responses.
Mr Wells expressed anger at the decision to endorse candidates, which according to Mr Morningstar had only been done once before in recent history. But in an email sent by Mr Wells to Mr Morningstar on 27 August, and seen by Honi, he is optimistic about the prospect of an endorsement.
“I am also glad that SUPRA has agreed to proceed with the formal process of potentially endorsing one of the candidates. As you know, it goes without saying, that I will certainly be trying to gain such an endorsement,” the email says.
According to Mr Scriven, Mr Wells was in contention for a possible third place endorsement, but council ultimately decided against this.
Mr Morningstar said Mr Wells was also disheartened at SUPRA’s decision to condemn the “British Raj” themed party held at St Paul’s College in May.
“Being the Vice-Master of Wesley [College], he took that poorly.”
Honi will continue attempts to contact Mr Wells for questioning.
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