So you may have heard some talk about new developments within UNE’s student representation. Some of you may have no idea what this is all about, but nevertheless it is exciting news for the university, and it’s giving us as students a chance to have our say.But let’s go back to the beginning, for all of those who, when I say UNESA you say ‘who?’… You know who you are!
THE OLD UNION
Student representation at UNE has undergone various falls and reformations, avowing a disillusioned view for students of what our representative body is and does. The University of New England Student Association (UNESA) existed at UNE before, however that union was one that only represented the Undergraduate students, and the Postgraduate students were represented by the UNE Postgraduate Association (UNEPA).
The introduction of Voluntary Students Unionism (VSU) by the federal government in 2006 removed compulsory unionism fees – which provided the funds for student unions to function and provide services. As a result many university unions around Australia collapsed, including those at UNE.
Services UNE replaced the UNE unions, taking control of amenities including the shops in the Union Arcade, Tune!FM, and the café, and the university established undergraduate and postgraduate representative cohorts: UNEG, the University of New England Guild Inc., and postgrads@une. Confusing, I know.
The impact of VSU resulted in losses for UNE, and ramifications of its introduction were pre-empted throughout the university sector. Back in 1999 the UNE Council passed the resolution that it was opposed to the introduction of VSU at UNE; this statement acknowledged the contributions made by the student unions that were the UNE Union, Sport UNE, UNESA and UNEPA, towards the enhancement of the university experience.
Regardless of these actions VSU came into UNE and with the coalescence of once student-owned union functions into the Services UNE model, became a silencer of the student voice, by its removal of fraternity and creation of paternalism towards the issues held by students.
Before VSU, UNE was known for having life on campus. When these different unions fell under the umbrella of Services UNE there was zero student representation, and now, eight years on after VSU was introduced, “the student culture has been lost”, as Dave Mailler wrote in his previous piece regarding the SSAF.
A NEW STUDENT ASSOCIATION
Special General Meetings were held recently by both the undergraduate and postgraduate associations which voted for the formation of a single student organisation. The UNEG SGM was held on campus on the 21st March, passing this motion and endorsing the proposed vision, values and purpose.
It was also proposed that the current Executive committees of both UNEG and UNEPA be authorised to take the necessary actions to prepare a new constitution, incorporate the new association and arrange the first election at the commencement of Trimester 2.
A final resolution proposed was the acknowledgement by students that the current constitutions were ineffectual and were constraining the associations from achieving their desired goals and values. An SGM held by the Postgraduates on the 16th April proposed and passed the same resolutions. After many years and generations of students, UNESA was reborn.
THE FUTURE FOR STUDENTS
These resolutions have now come into effect: the constitution is finalised, UNESA has been incorporated, and nominations for the upcoming Board of Directors – the student representatives who will sit on the board of UNESA, raise issues, take them to the university and advocate for student concerns – have been submitted. Now, we are in the process of the election, which all students are encouraged to vote in for the fairest and most truly representative board. Mailler made it clear as to why this is so important to the future of UNE, saying that we “need to get back to the basics of assuring the student voice”. “There is,” he said, “an expectation that university is so much more than just an education. With VSU we’re stripped of the fraternity and amenity factor.” Mailler states that once our new UNESA Board of Directors is in place, they will work towards “formulating and establishing a new culture.”
- Bridgette Glover
BECOME A MEMBER
As students we were able to support the successful formation of a single student body, and now we can continue to do so by getting involved: vote in the election; like UNESA’s Facebook page; or become a member (all you have to do is email your name, ‘myUNE’ address and student number to firstname.lastname@example.org). Your UNESA board members are there to support and represent you, so engage with them and give them a voice to listen to!
HOW DO I VOTE?
All students will receive an email in their student email account which will contain links to vote, and to sign up to UNESA if they haven’t already. The email will go out around the 15th of July so keep an eye out.