Sydney Uni Sport and Fitness (SUSF) and University management have initiated an overhaul of SUSF’s governance structure without consulting student representatives, members of SUSF’s general committee said at a meeting on Monday night.
Members of SUSF, including student representatives from various sports clubs, said that the governance review was announced suddenly and that the process felt rushed. Members were concerned that, in the rush, student perspectives would be absent from the discussion.
The review will consider whether the sports club should become a corporation, which would entail an overhaul of the organisation’s structure, which is currently governed by a management committee made up of staff and student representatives elected by SUSF members. It will also question the funding arrangements between the University and the club, which regularly receives the largest portion of funding in SSAF negotiations, despite having a turnover of $17 million as of 2018.
SUSF’s management committee first decided to undertake the review back in April. SUSF President James Flynn said that the organisation had passed a motion to review SUSF’s governance arrangements at its annual general meeting in May. But multiple student delegates and SUSF insiders said that they first heard about it at the meeting last night.
One student told Honi that it was briefly mentioned at the last meeting but “little to no info was given.”
“Last meeting we discussed how there was a previous governance review conducted in 2016 and we never saw results from it,” they said.
A senior member of SUSF also criticised the way the review has been handled. “Irrespective of the fact that it is being presented as not rushed, it is rushed,” they said.
“It is top-heavy—it’s all happening from the top down,” he said. “There is no real concern for any democratisation […] Who the heck is the management committee to pretend it is operating on democratic principles?”
The University has brought in an independent consultant, Jill Baker, to conduct the review. At the meeting last night, Baker said she is planning to perform research from November to March, and to report back to the Senate by March.
Members were particularly concerned by this timeline.
One student representative said, “It wouldn’t be productive to perform the review in the holidays when students and members that make up SUSF are widely unavailable…”
Representatives urged Baker to reach out to students, rather than expecting students to drive the relationship.
“There really isn’t an appropriate reach out from the top down. It shouldn’t be our responsibility to reach up,” said Jemima Wilson, a student delegate from the Rock Climbing and Mountaineering Club.
Paul Slater, who sits on SUSF’s Audit and Finance Committee, told Baker, “Your comment was, ‘If anyone has anything they want to say, they should come and see me’ but I encourage you to go the other way and be proactive […] if you are genuinely going to get feedback from the people who make up Sydney Uni sport.”
“The governance review is an opportunity for all stakeholders to have a say,” Flynn said to Honi. He said that the proposed time frame “provides ample opportunity for everyone to have a fair hearing, even considering potential disruptions like exams and the Christmas break.”
In light of feedback from the meeting, Baker told Honi that “we will run some form of focus groups or workshops to which representatives of the clubs will be invited” and that they would have to rethink the proposed timeline.
This article has been amended.