The Australian National University Students’ Association (ANUSA) has voted to reaccredit to the National Union of Students (NUS), the peak body of student organisations in the country at a proposed cost of $5,000 annually.
Tom Kesina, a general representative, moved an amendment attaching conditions to the ANU’s reaccreditation.
It requires that the NUS budget, financial audit, executive minutes, national conference minutes and a guide to national conference be published online.
If the NUS does not agree to those conditions, it is unlikely that ANUSA will reaccredit.
The debate at an ANUSA general meeting was tense but civil. It paled in comparison to the antics that have occurred recently at USyd Students’ Representative Council meetings.
Even some of the 24 general representatives of the Association who voted in favour (with 11 voting against) were not enthusiastic.
“In terms that describe the NUS, “rancid” comes to mind but it needs to be “hellish” before I vote against”, said general representative Lewis Pope.
In some ways, the vote is a test of NUS’ credibility.
ANUSA has not been controlled by political factions in some years, so it is a largely neutral grounds to test the perception of NUS in students’ minds.
NUS appears to have passed that test.
The ANU stopped paying the NUS in 2016 after then-President Ben Gill put forward a referendum proposing that the University not-reaccredit.
Gill previously argued “Over three years, the NUS has run deficits totalling more than a third of a million dollars, deficits the Union did not report until last year.”
“Students are regularly verbally abused on the conference floor at NUS’ national conference, and members of the executive have failed to call out members of their factions when bullying takes place.”
“I don’t understand how anyone can advocate that we should pay so ANU students can attend a conference in which they are likely to be verbally abused”, Gill wrote.
Current ANUSA President James Connolly moved the motion “that the ANUSA will reaccredit to NUS”.
“Effective student advocacy requires collective action… only the NUS that can facilitate this collective action”, Connolly said.
Several speakers suggested that problems with the NUS could best be fixed by participating in the organisation.
Those problems have been covered in depth over the last year.
Last year, NUS witnessed a legal dispute between its president and general secretary, with General Secretary Cameron Petrie alleging that President Sinéad Colee had been “negligent” in fulfilling her role. The dispute was resolved out of court.
The NUS annually spends substantially more on its office-bearer’s travel than it does on campaigns that support students. In 2016, it spent over $65,000 on travel but just $42,000 on campaigns.
NUS ACT branch President Nick Douros defended office-bearer’s travel on the basis that they have to visit far-flung campuses.
Despite several attempts, the NUS remains hostile to student media.
It refuses to allow filming of NatCon, despite the high registration and travel costs that prohibit most students from attending in person.
In spite of its issues, NUS runs nationwide campaigns regularly on issues from student welfare to the costs of education.
The next, perhaps coincidentally, will be tomorrow.
For any ANU students reading, ANUSA has also renewed its discount arrangement with Murray’s Buses. Sydney students travelling to Canberra can weep.