University of Sydney Vice Chancellor Michael Spence has resigned as chair of the main body dedicated to University consultation with student representatives.
The Student Consultative Committee (SCC) exists to facilitate consultation between the University and student representatives “on policy matters relating to student experience and welfare,” according to its terms of reference.
Its members include Deputy Vice Chancellor (Registrar) Tyrone Carlin, Director of Student Support Services Jordi Austin, Director of Campus Infrastructure and Services Greg Robinson, and delegates from a number of bodies representing undergraduate students, postgraduate students and satellite campuses.
Spence sent SCC members a letter on Wednesday, May 31, stating “it is with regret that I must stand down from my position of SCC Chair” and informing members Carlin will replace him.
Students’ Representative Council (SRC) President Isabella Brook, who is a member of SCC, told Honi she was “extremely disappointed” with Spence’s resignation.
“This decision reaffirms our frustration with university management failing to take the concerns of student organisations and the students they represent seriously.
“Despite the Vice Chancellor’s poor attendance in the past, his presence at SCC meetings have provided student organisations with an essential opportunity to set the agenda for discussion and raise important student issues directly with the VC.”
Brook told Honi Spence was absent from the March 2017 meeting, and Honi reported in March 2016 that he had been absent from at least three meetings in 2015. Minutes from 2016 are unavailable.
In the March 2016 article, then-USU President Alisha Aitken-Radburn called for Spence to resign if he could not attend meetings.
In his letter, Spence said he will continue to be a member of SCC and “attend where possible,” and “stress[ed] that student concerns are a priority for my Senior Executive Team and the University community more broadly”.
He also indicated he would like to meet with SCC members in a more informal setting, proposing: “Each semester, I would like to host a small lunch in my office to provide us with an opportunity to catch up.”
The letter suggested this could take place on October 25. Three additional SCC meetings will have passed by then.
Brook also raised concerns about the timing of the decision, in light of recent scandals involving St Paul’s College which, she said, make it “clear that the University needs to be taking serious steps to address systemic issues at USyd”.
“The VC’s decision casts serious doubt on his commitment to implement change in consultation with students.”
In his letter, Spence said he would “[particularly] like to attend the SCC meeting covering the Respect, Now, Always survey data and proposed action items,” referring to Universities Australia’s campaign against sexual assault and harassment on university campuses.
The next SCC meeting is on Tuesday, June 6.