This week, Honi ascended the stairs of F23 (gasp) to join the particularly sappy USU executive in the University Board Room. Before the meeting commenced, Isla Mowbray (Switch) thanked everyone for their work over the past year, presenting flowers to Immediate Past President Prudence Wilkins-Wheat (Switch), Honorary Secretary Belinda Thomas (Unity), and Honorary Treasurer Ben Hines (Libdependent). Almost every speaker prepared a short speech to accompany their report, with USU CEO Andrew Mills including many photos of the 2021-22 Board.
As reported last month, the USU is raking in cash well above expectations. In the past year, the USU has pulled in a $364,000 positive operating contribution.
Following an investigation by Honi into the USU’s investments, the Board has been working to re-evaluate their portfolio. The finance committee has reportedly taken steps to move towards a diversified portfolio, putting out expression of interest requests to currently unnamed fund managers. They are seeking advice on a new strategy with “a focus on ESG investments,” according to Hines.
All current and future Board Directors have also undergone training, delivered by an unnamed investment group, on interpreting portfolios and their management.
Wilkins-Wheat stressed the need for further discussions on the nature of a future investment among the newly elected Board directors, identifying “what an ethical investment looks like.” In relation to fossil fuels the Board will need to evaluate how far removed from the industry their investment will be. Wilkins-Wheat pointed to a fund that invests in a bank that invests in a fossil fuel company as an example of where the Board might seek clarity on their position.
Health and Safety
Mills reported that 12 staff have been infected with COVID-19 in the past month, but more have come down with colds and flu.
There were also seven Work, Health, and Safety reports with three connected to the NTEU strikes. While the details were discussed in camera, Honi understands that they were complaints following the blocking of access to a university sports conference running during the strike.
Students lingering on campus with a bad case of post-exam Stockholm Syndrome may have also noticed flooding on Science Road. A burst pipe temporarily shut down some USU operations while being addressed. In the process, one of the old trees (presumably the culprit of the burst) was cut down.
Given the large surplus it is a relief to see some of that money directed into student life.
As reported by Thomas, the revived Pulp has been mostly released from Board control following the selection of Senior Editor Marlow Hurst and the new editorial team. There will also be a launch party held at the Verge in August.
Thomas also highlighted that organising the upcoming Battle of the Bands has been a great opportunity for the USU to meaningfully engage with students at the Conservatorium of Music.
The oft-expressed, yet always nebulous, promise of ‘greater transparency’ may have finally taken an institutional form with Thomas reporting excellent progress on a ‘Clubs Working Strategy,’ whereby clubs (presumably via their executives) will be more involved in the strategic planning and development of the Clubs and Societies program. It is still unclear exactly what shape this plan will take.
According to Mills, the branding for Courtyard wasn’t quite in line with the reality of the space, not being “contemporary enough.” The USU is in the process of rebranding it to Courtyard Cafe and Bar to better reflect its identity. Bye, Courtyard Restaurant!
The USU has also decided now is the time to think about trademarking their logo but has needed to engage the University because they have command over the shield and lion motif.