The University of Sydney Union has been embroiled in controversy after President Hannah Morris confirmed the Executive would move a Special Resolution calling for Vice President Tom Raue to be relieved of his duties as one of the Board’s 11 student Directors.
The move came after Raue openly leaked information contained in a confidential USU report which suggested the University of Sydney had collaborated with police during a strike that took place on August 31.
Morris, Honorary Secretary John Harding-Easson, and Treasurer Sophie Stanton originally called a Board meeting for Friday October 4, but were forced to delay the date by a week to ensure due process. The meeting will now take place on October 11 with a two thirds majority vote of Directors needed to remove Raue. Morris confirmed that ACCESS card holders will be permitted to attend the meeting.
Aside from Raue and Morris, every single one of the Board’s nine other student Directors declined to comment on the matter. In a blog posted from the USU’s website, Raue was accused of breaking his fiduciary duty to the USU and using information improperly. The post argued that Raue had breached his Regulations and Duty Statement and that expulsion from the Board was an appropriate response. The post made no comment on the public interest value of the information leaked, noting only that Raue was aware of its confidentiality. Multiple Directors confirmed that Morris had asked them not to speak publicy about the issue.
Raue has responded by accusing the Board of excluding its members from the process. “I think it’s ridiculous for a number of reasons. First of all a democratically elected Board Director shouldn’t be removed by a Board of other Directors, only the students should have the power to do that. I’m not sure whether this motion is constitutionally valid or not,” he said. The Special Motion was only announced publicly by the Board after Honi Soit broke the story.
Raue was elected to the Board in 2012, polling second behind Morris but taking a higher percentage of the vote than Harding-Easson, Karen Chau, and Stanton. He secured the role of Vice President a year later.
Defending his actions, he has accused the USU of pandering to the University. “By keeping this information in order to preserve our relationship with the University we weren’t doing our jobs. So my duty to confidentiality in this case [was] outweighed by my duty to let our members know they were being lied to by the University and I made the call that releasing the information would be in the public interest,” Raue argued. The leak put pressure on the University to provide further details about its level of engagement with police during this year’s industrial action. Police actions have resulted in severe injuries to some picketer and protesters, including a broken leg and a fractured rib. Raue himself has accused officers of choking him during a May 14 strike day. The University has consistently tried to distance itself from the violence.
Publicly, the University is playing down the significance of the leak. “It is entirely a matter for the Union Board to determine how they deal with Mr Raue’s apparent breach of confidentiality but the University was not seriously alarmed by the story which appeared in Honi Soit,” University of Sydney Head of Media and PR Kirsten Andrews said via email.
If a two thirds majority does emerge on Friday and Raue is dismissed he will have his placed filled by Jeremy Elphick, who was the highest ranked candidate not to be elected at the most recent USU election. Elphick has confirmed he will take the spot, should it open.
Since the news went public, Raue’s supporters have rallied and created a facebook event encouraging sympathisers to attend Friday’s meeting. With the numbers looking grim, it’s unclear whether such support will be enough to help the Vice President keep his job.