Student Advocacy: Where we are at and where we need to be

Student Advocacy: Where we are at and where we need to be

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Student Advocacy: Where we are at and where we need to be

Josh Osborne, UNEG Vice-President

It is somewhat depressing that I feel the need to start this piece by explaining the system of student representation at this university and it is indicative of why we need to change it. Currently the Undergraduate Guild of New England (UNEG) and the Postgraduate Association act as sister organisations that represent the students to the university and support/balance the undergrad and postgrad students that sit on Council and the Academic Board. Despite the overarching framework we face some serious problems. Other than the newspaper we have no way to contact our membership unless we get permission to use the email system. Our constitution is a dog’s breakfast, meant to restrict actions as opposed to facilitate them, and lacks clarity. Finally and most importantly we have no financial autonomy. All of these obstacles have all led to successive dysfunctional boards and the loss of all organisational memory about student advocacy. So this is where we are at and when I think about it for too long I get upset.

It isn't all bad however; the UNEG board has gotten the newspaper through and has made significant progress towards re-establishing some capacity and organisational memory. But these factors combine to make any changes slow and difficult, especially as the board tries to lay foundations for the proper utilisation of SSAF for students. The university has recognised this and is helping to find solutions. In conjunction with Legal and Governance and UNE Council we have plotted a way forward that the Board believes will solve most, if not all, of the problems that student advocacy at this university faces.

It seems to us that the formation of a single student organisation is the way forward. A cohort-based board, with sub-committees formed by the different cohorts, be they postgrads, undergrads, external, international or internal, will advise their representatives on the board of the issues and concerns that various parts of our student body face. This will also reduce administrative duplication and make the case for recurrent funding from the university more palatable, essential should the SSAF disappear. Proper governance of one board will be easier, especially when an executive assistant is employed and can retain organisational memory softening the learning curve of new student leaders. So this is where we think we need to be.

BUT we need the approval of our membership! On the 21st of March at 6:00 p.m. in Arts Lecture Theatre One we are holding a Special General Meeting (SGM) to vote upon the proposal to move to a Single Student Organisation. I encourage, implore and beg you to be there and help the board make an informed and legitimate decision. SO BE THERE! If we don’t get this right we risk giving future and current students of UNE less opportunity and a poorer tertiary experience and that this board won’t abide.

 

***ALL undergraduate students are encouraged to attend the SGM and vote on this important issue.*** ***EXTERNAL STUDENTS will be able to attend, and vote, through the online forum 'Adobe Connect'.***

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