Factional fighting dominated the first Students’ Representative Council meeting of 2014, with a motion passed condemning the Education Officers for plagiarising sections of this year’s Counter Course handbook.
The motion, moved by Julia Robins of Sydney Labor Students (a Labor Left faction), asked Education Officers Ridah Hassan and Eleanor Morley, both of Socialist Alternative (SAlt), to publicly apologise in Honi Soit for recycling work without attribution and promoting SAlt in the handbook.
In the 2014 Counter Course handbook, aimed at providing a students’ view of the courses offered at USyd, the Ancient History and Geography articles were identical to those found in 2013. Further articles quoted at length from the 2013 edition included Political Economy, Vet Science, Sociology, Economics and the Sydney College of the Arts. The re-using of articles caused out-of-date information to appear in the handbook, including reviews of courses that are no longer taught.
The handbook also mentioned Socialist Alternative on pages two and three, and on page five included a paragraph spruiking the Marxism 2014 conference to be held in Melbourne.
Julia Robins said the SAlt references set a “dangerous precedent,” and that future use of SRC resources for political advertising could jeopardize the Students Services and Amenities Fee funding received by the SRC.
The controversial motion did not pass smoothly, causing heated discussion and accusations of factional pettiness. Both Eleanor Morley and Ridah Hassan expressed a belief that the motion was a matter of political point scoring.
“The point of this motion is to hang us out to dry,” said Hassan. The pair also offered their poor handover as a defence, saying that they had worked hard on the handbook.
However, Julia Robins denied the motion was politically motivated. “It was not supposed to be ‘political point scoring,’ it was supposed to be correcting a wrong that had been done,” she said.
Several SAlt members spoke against the motion, opting to downplay the importance of plagiarism rather than defend the actions of Hassan and Morley.
“Plagiarism is not the biggest thing in the world,” said Anna Sanders-Robinson, SAlt member and an SRC Global Solidarity Officer. “This obsession with plagiarism…whatever,” said Omar Hassan, SAlt member and an SRC Mature Age Students Officer. “There was no malicious intent.”
After lengthy discussion of the motion, an SLS member requested the vote be carried out via secret ballot, at which point Hassan and Morley exited the room in protest, along with all other SAlt members in attendance.
The motion passed 21 to three, with four abstentions.