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James Gibson to be appointed to USU Board as Marco Avena resigns

Naaman Zhou and Andrew Bell report

USU Board director Marco Avena has resigned with immediate effect, meaning that James Gibson of Sydney Labor Students (SLS) will be promoted to Board.  

Avena, who was elected in 2015 and is a member of Grassroots, tendered their resignation to the Union’s President and CEO on Wednesday.

Under the USU’s regulations, the casual vacancy will be filled by the highest ranked candidate to be excluded from the most recent Board election, which was Gibson.

The resignation comes as SLS and Grassroots are negotiating to cooperate in September’s SRC election. It is highly likely that SLS will be offered SRC executive positions in exchange for supporting the Grassroots presidential candidate, Georgia Mantle.

Sources from Grassroots and SLS denied the resignation was a part of the deal. This is consistent with longstanding rumours that Avena has had personal motivations to resign, making it unlikely either faction considered it leverage in a potential deal.

Current director and member of SLS, Shannen Potter told Honi “Marco’s resignation from Board was not part of any SRC deal between SLS and Grassroots.”

Gibson said it “did not impact the negotiation of specific aspects [of the deal]”.

He told Honi, “I never expected this opportunity to come, but now that it has I’m really excited to have a chance to be an active and progressive board director in the time that I have. I will do everything I can to follow through on my election promises, and to represent students as best as I possibly can.”

Avena wrote in the USU Board private Facebook group late last night: “After a lot of thought I’ve decided to resign from Board to focus on some things which I consider to be more important. I have just sent Mike [Rees, USU President] my resignation email.”

Michael Rees said the USU was “very grateful to Marco for their service to the Board. Marco’s clear commitment to social justice and the interests of students will remain a strong legacy of their time on Board. We are very excited to welcome James Gibson as a new Director. James will serve for the remainder of Marco’s term.”

Michael Elliott, of Labor Right (Student Unity) told Honi that “NLS [National Labor Students] and Unity will be working together in the SRC election, regardless of what happens from here on in. It is disappointing that SLS has chosen to take this course.”