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UTSSA asks student activists to sign declaration amid continuing tensions

A number of office-bearers have been asked to sign a declaration of good behaviour, or else face the removal of privileges or dismissal.

In the University of Technology Sydney Students’ Association’s (UTSSA) latest crackdown on activist collectives, a number of office-bearers have been asked to sign a declaration of good behaviour. The declaration outlines that they will agree to follow the UTSSA by-laws, Constitution and Association Code of Conduct, or else face the removal of privileges or even dismissal.

This incident is the latest in a series of clashes between President Aidan O’Rourke (Labor Unity) and the UTSSA Executive, and activist collectives at UTS. Notably, O’Rourke has previously been accused of censoring the Education Action Group and recently called security on two students who interrupted him to ask to hear his President’s Report.

The UTSSA has imposed sanctions on a number of office-bearers, which include rescinding swipe access and refusing access to Association spaces and expenditure. The affected portfolios include Education Officer, Ethnocultural Officers, Environmental Convenors, Women’s Officer and Queer Convenors.

The declaration, which was sent to affected office-bearers in line with a motion passed in Council, states that a signatory’s failure to conduct themselves in accordance with the by-laws, Constitution and Code of Conduct of the UTSSA would “result in the removal of privileges including swipe access to the Association Office, Collective expenditure, and room bookings.”

Figure 1: The declaration of good behaviour

Notably, the UTSSA’s regulations restrict office-bearers from engaging with the media. Section 5.3 of the UTSSA Media Policy outlines that: “Only the President is authorised to make official comment to the media about sensitive or contentious issues; issues of a political nature; or issues relating to funding or management.”

Figure 2: Section 5.3 of the UTSSA Media Policy restricts the ability of office-bearers to make offical comment to the media.

The affected office-bearers remain barred from Association spaces, with Women’s Officer Eshna Gupta being told by O’Rourke that she would not be able to book a space to hold a banner paint for youth survivors of sexual assault until she signed the declaration. 

In a statement to Honi, Gupta said that the UTSSA’s declaration “provides collectives with no real chance to do activism.”

“If we don’t sign the guarantee, we don’t get funding for our collectives and we can’t book rooms. If we do sign the guarantee, we are unable to poster freely, we have to divulge names of collective members who wish to be anonymous, and autonomous collectives such as Women’s and Ethno[cultural] have to get permission from a white man to spend money.”

“All this shows is that the UTSSA is more concerned with the petty university politics than helping marginalised people.”

Aidan O’Rourke was not contacted for comment at the time of publication.