Board meeting: What is truth, what is justice?
The final USU Board meeting of the current Board (prior to the Board election on May 22) was held last Friday. Foremost on the agenda was a policy motion written by Board Director Tom Raue that aims to develop an ethical investment strategy for the Union. Currently, the USU has approximately $1.5 million in managed investment funds, the majority of which Raue claims is invested in fossil fuels. The motion prompted a significant amount of debate amongst Board Directors with Jacqui Munro claiming that it was “unreasonable to brand [entire] industries as unethical” – a sentiment that was echoed by a number of other directors. Raue retorted that the USU’s constitution states clearly that it must both “[further] the interests and welfare of the Members and the University community” and “Encourage and practice environmental responsibility”. It seemed that many Board Directors were uncomfortable with the notion of the Board making a judgement on the definition of ‘ethical’, in spite of the Board being a democratic, representative body. This led to the motion eventually passing – with five votes for and four abstentions – but with the caveat that the issue be referred to the Union’s finance committee. The Gate agrees wholeheartedly that the financial impact of a realignment of the Union’s investments should be evaluated by its finance department. But surely, as a members’ organisation, the USU’s elected Board Directors should make the call on what investments are deemed to be ethical and unethical.
The other highlight (or lowlight, rather) of the meeting was Zach Thompson’s response to Rhys Pogonoski’s paper on the USU’s relationship with the University’s Indigenous community. The paper was drafted following criticisms of the USU’s Indigenous Festival. While Thompson said he agreed with “99% of the paper”, he argued that clauses referring to the “horrendous effect of white colonisation” and “the denial of human rights” were based on a “contested history”. The Gate was shocked by Thompson’s statements: we thought that Keith Windschuttle had graduated in 1969. But nay, he has infiltrated the USU Board in 2013.
Protesters gonna protest
A protest against the Federal government’s cuts to higher education was forced off the road after police were reportedly tipped-off that protesters intended to stage a sit-down on City Road. The protest was called in response to the government’s $2.3 billion cut to tertiary education, and was meant to proceed from City Road to federal Labor Minister Tanya Plibersek’s office. The organisers of the protest had made arrangements for police to control traffic on City Road and Broadway. But it has been alleged that some members of the Cross Campus Education Action Network (CCEAN) informed police that protesters were to sit-down on City Road at the end of the protest. The reasons for the tip-off are unclear, but the Gate theorises that certain individuals were simply upset that Ms Plibersek’s office was the target of the protest.
In other activist news, the second ‘Edufactory’ Conference was held last week at Sydney University. The conference was inaugurated last year to bring together activists from around the country, partly in response to perceived failings of the National Union of Students (NUS). This year, the conference passed a motion establishing a new national education activist network called ‘Class Action’. The network could prove to be a significant vehicle for student activism in the years to come, in the likely context of ongoing cuts to higher education, and in light of NUS’ recent campaigns, which in 2010 included a national ‘Noodle Day’.
Bored with the Board?
During the USU Board and SRC elections every year, the campus overflows with enthusiastic candidates. But what happens when they actually get elected; when the hack-shirts are folded away and the rows of couches on Eastern Avenue are returned to their living rooms of origin? When the bombastic enthusiasm associated with campaigning fades, do your representatives actually show up to do their job? This week, we give you attendance figures from the SRC Executive and the USU Board. For the SRC Exec, our attendance graph shows the meetings missed by each member and whether they gave an apology or not (that is, whether they formally let the SRC Secretary know they would not be able to make the meeting). For the USU, we present attendance to meetings based on the first eight meetings of the 2012-2013 Board.
You probably haven’t heard of it, but the SRC Executive is one of the most important organs of the SRC. It controls the financial and strategic direction of the SRC and is elected every year by the Council (which you elect).
As the graph shows, a couple of members have struggled. Clearly though, Eleanor Gordon-Smith has struggled the most. Editing the BULL, working on morning radio, and studying had left her overcommitted, Gordon-Smith told the Gate. She has only recently resigned from her role on the Exec to allow for another student with more time available to take the role.
When it comes to Union Board attendance, we can’t give you the full story. Much of the important discussion and debate happens in ‘informal’ meetings, which we – like the rest of the public – have no access to. Here, and in the committees, is where a lot of the work involved with being a Board Director happens. But we can at least bring you the stats from one day of each month: Union Board meetings. They show that Directors are generally doing a good job. Rhys Pogonoski, Astha Rajvanshi, Hannah Morris, Tom Raue, and John Harding-Easson in particular deserve praise for their perfect records of attendance. Others, like Mina Nada don’t fare so well. Nada, who has missed the most meetings, said he was confident he had made a significant contribution to the Board. Having graduated, Nada has undertaken full-time work as a management consultant, making the Board’s afternoon meetings difficult to attend.