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USU botches director ads

Justin Pen reports on procedural failings in the advertisement of 2015 O-Week director positions.


Applications to direct the 2015 O-Week Festival were inadequately advertised by the University of Sydney Union (USU), raising concerns over the USU’s appointment of student leaders.

Complaints made to the USU Board and President Hannah Morris, from former Campus Culture Directors Penina Su and Eden Tollis, allege applications to direct O-Week 2015 were insufficiently advertised between April 2 and May 5 2014.

Applications were reopened on Friday May 23 but were closed again within a few hours. USU President Hannah Morris asserted the “decision was made by the [Human Resources] Director of the USU [Sandra Hardy], who accepts full responsibility for the process”.

“Given the USU has a large and successful presence on multiple social media outlets that it leverages for advertising of student positions it is concerning that none of them were utilised here,” Su wrote in an email to Hardy.

In a statement to Honi, Hannah Morris indicated that the USU had promoted the position on the USU website, homepage and Volunteer email (which reaches 600 students), though failed to use its social media channels.

Former O-Week Director Alistair Stephenson, who co-directed the 2014 festival, said that he had found about the position “through Facebook and the USU website”.

The USU has used Facebook to advertise student leadership positions as recently as April 24 this year in a callout for Hermes Student Editors and an INCUBATE Program Coordinator.

“I recognise that I’m in a privileged position insofar that I am actually aware that I have the ability to lobby Board Directors and have the personal connections to do so,” Su told Honi, but noted that “individual emails of Board Directors aren’t available online – I was only able to email them because I have worked for the USU before.”

The incident has also shed light on the involvement of staff in the selection process and sparked further internal review.

“[Hardy] took 2 days to reply to my email – and that reply was ‘we’ll get back to you.’ I had to email her back pressing for a timeline to hear that it would be ‘sometime early next week’,” Su said.

“The Board [has] recognised the need to create a formal procedure around how decisions are made by Student Leadership Interview panels surrounding the entire process, and where ultimate responsibility for decision making lies,” Morris told Honi.

She further noted that: “Marketing and HR are creating a Student Employment policy to ensure all channels of communication are utilised in future (Facebook, Twitter, member mail, LinkedIn etc.) to effectively recruit for student leadership positions.”

“Staff and Board directors on the panel do not have a formal procedure available guiding how decisions are made in this context, but it is something the USU is working on in light of this recent event,” Morris said.

Despite the early cut-off date, Stephenson indicated that most of the legwork involved in organising O-Week occurred late in theyear.

“We had a lot of the ‘big picture’ stuff worked out as early as May 2013,” he said. “We started coming into the office in August of that year, but didn’t really get into an intensive schedule until around November.”

USU O-Week Festival Directors are paid an honorariam of $5,000.

At the time of publication Hardy had not responded to enquiries from Honi, forwarded to her by Morris.