Flip it and reverse it

Alexandros Tsathas gets the lowdown on the USU’s proposed constitutional changes

The University of Sydney Union (USU) wants to make some changes to its governing document.

One could be forgiven for thinking the poor sod tasked with drafting these changes did so in an empty Courtyard Café, to Missy Elliot’s 2002 banger Work It.

The song’s hook, “Is it worth it? I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it”, is a startlingly accurate summary of what’s proposed: mostly benign rearrangements and rewordings. Those few changes that do have meaningful implications, whether by design or coincidence, collectively exude a very early-2000s hip-hop vibe. Let’s blow the lid on these wack verses.

Official tequila endorsement

The first proposed constitutional change is to Article 4 and concerns “The Patrón”. Your correspondent was quick to congratulate Honorary Treasurer Ed McMahon on mandating a single brand of high-end tequila for the USU. McMahon gently clarified the diacritic and explained the proposal is intended to redefine the role of Patron of the USU. Presently, it’s a default, ceremonial title held by the Chancellor. The Board want to be able to appoint somebody with a closer ideological bent to the USU (names like Geoffrey Robertson and Michael Kirby are being bandied around). The move is gestural, and intended to communicate the USU’s independence from the University.

Yung moolah baby

Board Directors get paid ($4,416 a year, plus meal allowance), and have been since the year 2000. The constitution hasn’t been updated accordingly, and so dem hustlin’ Directors have arguably bin linin’ they pockets wit unconstitutional dollaz.

The proposed amendment rectifies this anomaly, and goes further. It calls for a specialist committee to advise on the remuneration of Directors. The current method of determination is arbitrary and problematically asks Directors to vote on their own pay. The specialist committee will consider the USU’s balance sheet, roles’ demands and the equivalent award wage. The argument goes, paying Directors more (the likely resolution of the committee) will enable them to spend more time in their roles, and to do a better job. Fair pay for one’s work is a notion this publication wholly endorses, but pity the (occasional) SRC office-bearer putting in comparable hours for zero compensation.

Club ban lifted

In a move spearheaded by outgoing USU President Alisha Aitken-Radburn, who’s big on alumni ties, the USU is bringing back life membership. Life membership existed until 2006, when it was canned ahead of VSU and imminent financial uncertainty. Back then, it was granted to those who held an ACCESS card for five years.

This time around, the USU have taken care not to enshrine in their constitution what actual benefits life membership will confer. A free lifetime ACCESS card? An annoying subscription to a new USU Alumni Magazine? Who knows. By keeping things open-ended, the USU can switch lanes if any particular approach heads ‘dirty south’.

Just quietly, unless life membership confers real benefits and discounts, ain’t nobody wasting time wit it.

Getting too old for this

USyd just witnessed the annual USU Board elections. Unbeknownst to most, it’s not just students who are eligible to run for Board. Paid staff of the University, USU, SRC, SUPRA and SUSF, as well as USU life members, can throw their hat into the ring.

The proposed changes ensure that only students, University staff and life members can run for Board. This doesn’t change much, as students only ever really nominate for Board anyway. It’s interesting the USU has decided to retain the eligibility of life members for Board nomination. Considered in conjunction with the proposed reinstatement of life membership, it is not unreasonable to ask whether this purportedly student-run, student-led organisation is at risk of slipping student control. Outgoing Director Kate Bullen is a lone critic.

Duckin’ the popo

Board Director-turned-badass Tom Raue tested many processes when he leaked confidential emails and breached his fiduciary duties. Amongst the many points of contention surrounding the saga was that the Senate was able to rush through a reappointment of their (anti-Raue) representative to the Board after her term had recently expired. The proposed constitutional change attempts to ensure the Senate invites and considers Board recommendations for this position in the future. In short, it’s a relatively impotent way to make the Board more student-friendly. Impotent, because the Senate can receive the recommendations…and smack ’em down like they ain’t nuthin’.

The above proposed constitutional changes (and others) will be put to vote at the USU’s Annual General Meeting on May 31, and then the Senate.