Sue me? Sue the USU!
Raue v Morris wasn’t the only court proceeding concerning the USU last Thursday. A keen-eyed Twitter follower (@Apolden) noticed that at the same time Justice Button heard Raue’s application for an injunction, Acting Justice Windeyer of the Equity Division of the Supreme Court was hearing Shakespearean Mark Anthony Productions (NSW) Pty Ltd v University of Sydney Union.
Mark Anthony Productions seems to be an event photographer based in Crows Nest but its number is disconnected. Meanwhile, the USU is remaining tight-lipped. When asked what the dispute concerned, President Hannah Morris replied: “Unfortunately, as with any ongoing legal proceeding, I am unable to provide a public comment on this.” Where have we heard that before?
The last court proceeding involving the USU (Baggs v University of Sydney Union) was resolved this March, when an employee of the USU was unable to recover damages for an injury sustained in the Wentworth building in 2003 due to the statute of limitations.
Student athletes gone wild
The Gate has been informed that Sydney University Sport & Fitness (SUSF) are considering tougher restrictions on scholarship holders behaving badly at University Games.
The consideration of tougher penalties is a response to a male water polo player being sent home on the first night of the Australian University Games for riding a hotel elevator whilst naked.
A few nights later, the men’s water polo team manager was found passed out in public and hospitalised overnight for excessive alcohol consumption.
Changes informally discussed by SUSF staff include the option to void credit points of students sent home for misconduct or breach of the athlete agreement. SUSF is the largest beneficiary of your SSAF money, and earlier this year we reported that information about where exactly SSAF goes is difficult to obtain.
Glitter in the air (no more)
USYD’s queer community has been rocked by the shocking decision to ban glitter from the Glitter Gala. Event co-organiser, USU queer convenor Fahad Ali, labelled the move “outrageous”, calling glitter “the essence of queer life”. Ali also made some hefty allegations, stating “the fact that the USU would ban this gay ambrosia is indicative of a deep-rooted prejudice within the Union.” Though, because the USU is providing significant funding to the event, and Ali was drunk when The Gate contacted him, we’re pretty sure he didn’t mean it.
The event, to be held on October 23 in the Holme Refectory, has banned the ‘fabulous’ metallic matter from any decorations, out of fear for its ability to linger, unwanted, on any surface it makes contact with. It appears the USU has not gotten over the fateful glitter bombing incident of Verge ‘11.
Even alumni dig USYD elections
SRC elections, SULS elections, and now Senate elections: the Gate loves its elections. An election for five graduate fellows of the University Senate is currently underway via postal ballot.
The Senate is the University’s peak governing body; it is comprised of staff, student, graduate and government appointed ‘fellows’ who collectively make all the important decisions about, well, running the University. Graduate fellows are elected every four years, and all USYD alumni are eligible to run.
An unusually large field of 22 candidates have nominated for the election. Why should we care? Well, the election has already thrown up a number of peculiarities. For starters, its electoral system grants voters what in effect amounts to five votes. That is, each of the voter’s first five preferences count as a primary vote in the first count. The bizarre, ‘five-vote’ electoral system provides a strong incentive for candidates to form a ‘ticket’, for it means that a group of candidates can win all five spots with a bare majority if they run a disciplined campaign.
Two clear groups of candidates have emerged. The first is ‘Unify’, a self-professed “unlikely alliance” that includes former state Labor MP Verity Firth, Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal predecessor in the seat of Wentworth, Peter King, and journalist Peter FitzSimons. A policy statement on Unify’s Facebook page was long on buzzwords, but seemingly short on detail (what the fuck are the “dynamically diverse fields” that they want to “enrich”?).
The second ticket, ‘Reclaim the Senate’, is endorsed by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and is running on an explicitly anti-corporate platform. It includes a number of journalists, and, confusingly, also Ms Firth, whom both groups have chosen to endorse in order to increase their profile. Unify are well ahead in the Facebook like war, with 859 likes to Reclaim’s 359. Whether this will translate to victory when the ballots are in is anyone’s guess.
Among the throng of other candidates in the mix is Kate McClymont, one of the most respected investigative journalists in the country. Interestingly, McClymont was one of the journalists who revealed earlier in the year that current Senate fellow David Mortimer had registered a company in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious tax haven.
On October 9, recipients of the USU’s Member Mail newsletter – received by undergraduates and postgraduates alike – opened their inboxes to find something more than the usual compilation of Hoyts double pass giveaways and Manning gig listings.
Addressed to “Graduate Members”, the email was sent to all those subscribed to the newsletter, including a large number of undergraduate students who are ineligible to vote in the upcoming Senate election. Nonetheless, this did not stop the email, personally signed off by the five members of ‘Unify’, from imploring its readers to vote for the Unify ticket, with its “commitment to excellence and our University”, in the aforementioned election.
Two days later, the USU issued an apology from its Facebook page with a link to a post on the Board Directors’ blog, stating that USU Alumni & Friends (USUAF) was responsible for sending the email. When approached for comment, USU President Hannah Morris revealed that the decision to grant USUAF access to the Union’s membership database was negotiated between herself and the USUAF President because Morris believed the USUAF and its endorsement of Unify would “protect [the USU’s] interests in the Senate”. The USUAF has an alleged history of opposing VSU and the University’s attempts to take over the Union’s commerical operations in 2011.
Morris further defended the decision to pass on the personal details of thousands of its members by noting that because the USUAF does not have any databases or online platforms of its own, USU resources had to be utilised. As for whether a direct message from the Unify candidates was the most appropriate method of communicating the Union’s support, Morris was evasive.
But, like they say, every cloud has a silver lining. Morris also assured the Gate that the database has since been rectified to distinguish between undergraduates and graduates. No need to unsubscribe from that USU newsletter, folks.