A few weeks ago, we published an article about collaboration between police and the University at this year’s strikes. That article included a sentence from a confidential USU report. The sentence was something a USU staff member recalled a police officer saying. It was leaked to us by Tom Raue, the USU’s Vice President.
As a direct result of a story we published, the USU’s Board of Directors plans to expel its own Vice President this Friday.
The USU has released a blog post explaining why there is a motion to expel Tom. It says that he knew the information was confidential and leaked it anyway, in breach of his duties. It doesn’t explain why he would do that.
We published the piece because we strongly believed it was in the public interest.
We have reported all year on the strikes and police presence, including the numerous injuries and arrests that have occurred when riot police showed up. We have also published the University’s non-responses to our questions about police on campus and its repeated denial that it had anything to do with police presence.
The story was not about the USU. It was about the University.
You might not have been affected by police violence this year. You might have opposed the strikes. But the University’s involvement with the presence and actions of riot police on campus still concerns you. It tells you that your university is not concerned enough with students’ safety and that it will deceive you.
We only included one sentence of the report and did not name the staff member. Plainly, the story did no harm to the USU’s staff.
The article stated that the information was released against the wishes of the other members of the USU Executive, minimising any harm that could be done to the relationship with the University.
But even if it did harm the relationship with the University – why should a student body keep information which concerns the safety of students secret?
In 2011, the University announced it would take over the USU’s commercial operations. The USU and student community fought back. The t-shirts read “Are you with us?” By and large, students were. The USU won that battle. Its flags on Eastern Avenue still proudly display its motto: “Student life, student run”.
What was the point, if the students who run the USU are so concerned about the University’s view of them that they act in the interests of University management rather than in the interests of students?
The decision to remove Tom is one from which other Directors stand to gain. If he is expelled, a position on the Executive will open, allowing someone else on the Board to take the title and stipend of Vice President. It is therefore a decision which merits particular scrutiny.
As editors of the student newspaper, we believe in transparency and openness. If the USU reacts to the leaking of one sentence that causes it no harm but has significant public interest by firing its own Vice President, that will foster a culture of secrecy and fear. It will significantly dampen the chances that other student representatives will tell Honi information that you deserve to know.
What sort of university do you want to attend?
What sort of students do you want to represent you?