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Censure Motion Proposed Against USU Vice President Bebe D’Souza

Joanna Connolly on the fallout from this year’s Board elections.

President of the USU Tara Waniganayaka yesterday proposed a motion of censure against fellow Board director and Vice President Bebe D’Souza. The motion, which does not appear to have a seconder, relates to D’Souza’s conduct during the recent USU Elections, which was found to have directly violated the electoral regulations against the endorsement or promotion of Board candidates by sitting directors.

In a draft of the motion obtained by Honi, Waniganayaka outlines that on 19 May, the evening before the main polling day, D’Souza posted a status on her Facebook page making reference to three candidates, Lamisse Hamouda, Atia Rahim and Jennifer Zin. The post was supportive of each candidate, also linking an article authored by Hamouda. D’Souza has told Honi that the post also included a statement that it was not intended as an endorsement for either of the three candidates. Nonetheless, early the next morning Returning Officer of the Election Penelope Crossley emailed D’Souza stating the post was ‘in direct and blatant breach of the electoral regulations’, and asking that it be immediately removed. The status was removed later that afternoon.

While in previous years, Board directors have actively campaigned for candidates, new rules passed in March this year prohibit a Director from directly campaigning, endorsing, promoting or distributing materials for any candidate. In the draft of the motion, Waniganayaka argued that as the relevant rule change occurred recently, it was particularly important that any breach be acknowledged. It was with ‘utmost regret and disappointment’ she proposed the censure, doing so to ‘uphold the integrity of the Regulations and keep fellow Directors to account’.

The three candidates named by D’Souza were all from different political factions–Hamouda from Grassroots, Rahim from Student Unity and Zin from the Liberals. All were wom*n of colour, with D’Souza stating she was happy to see diversity in the candidate field. D’Souza is the current ethno-cultural portfolio holder and, when contacted for comment, re-iterated the importance of diversity in student representation and on the board. In particular, she noted that when her term as director finishes, there will be no people of colour amongst the remaining five board directors, none having been elected in the 2014 intake. Beyond concern about diversity broadly, D’Souza specifically stated her concern that, unless a person of colour was elected in the 2015 election, there would be no clear candidate to inherit her portfolio. As it eventuated, Rahim was elected, while Hamouda and Zin were not.

Crossley’s ruling against D’Souza was one of the only to be made against a board member, despite a number of other directors having indirect, though clear, involvement with various campaigns. Most of these actions appeared not to have crossed the line of ‘directly campaigning’, perhaps shedding light on some confusion surrounding the change in regulations.

Should it pass, the censure motion would be the first received by D’Souza. If a director receives two censure motions, they can be removed from Board.

The motion will be discussed at the Board meeting, to be held on 29 May 2015.