Opinions flew but tempers did not fray in the University of Sydney Union’s Transparency Members Forum, held last Wednesday in the Holme Building.
Facilitated by Board Directors Tara Waniganayaka and Bebe D’Souza, the forum was held as part of a current review into the accountability mechanisms and level of transparency within the USU. Approximately 60 students attended the forum, the majority hailing from various campus political factions and student media outlets.
Forum participants largely expressed a desire for more transparency within the USU, with a lengthy discussion about the extent to which Board Directors are permitted to speak out about Board decisions. Several people expressed the view that directors should be able to say when they have dissented from a decision and speak in a personal capacity about aspects of the USU they disagree with.
This issue is particularly pertinent as USU members wait to find out if Vice-President Tom Raue will be removed for alleged misconduct. Raue’s initial censure in 2012 was due to comments he made online and in Honi Soit denouncing the USU LifeChoice club and Interfaith Week.
The issue of naming USU staff during the live-tweeting of Board meetings, which is presently not allowed, was another topic of much discussion. Somewhat remarkably, the level of detail and rapidity of dissemination of the minutes from Board meetings also provoked enthusiastic contributions.
USU President Hannah Morris acknowledged the forum was not a catch-all solution, but labelled it a valuable way of hearing from members. “There are still many more avenues through which the Board could enhance our communication with members, and there is a lot of room for improvement,” Morris said. “But this forum and the discussions we are having now are a step in the right direction.”
The forum ran for the allocated two hours, with several unaddressed agenda points to be discussed at a future meeting. Waniganayaka said this second forum will “attempt to provide more of a Q&A style setting in response to member feedback from the first forum.”
Once the consultation process— involving the forum, online submissions and discussions with relevant stakeholders— has been completed, D’Souza and Waniganayaka will compile a report, which will include recommendations for the Board to consider on the matters of transparency and accountability.