To begin with, the title of the above opinion piece is misleading as it isn’t only about thoughts on the constitution—it is an attack on the current Board. However, to address some of the points in this opinion essay of half-made points, here are some of my own half-made points. Invalid Elections? If the accusation is that the elections were invalid then surely that should be the main thrust of the article. Setting that aside—all members agreed to become a Member of the Association and a copy of the Constitution was available upon request or linked to the document when students signed up. It is now practice to ask student to agree to be bound by the Constitution if they wish to become a Member of the Association.
UNESA as a Controlled Entity? The Student Association has a level of interdependence with the University and these are based on our historical situation; there was no Student Association with any capacity at UNE one and half years ago and now with the acquisition of services and one commercial operation, we are getting somewhere. In order to get this far we have worked with the University, which has been difficult at times, and earned a trust and level of respect as a part of the University that will be cantankerous at times.
There will be a time in the future when the student association has further capacity and resources, beyond the current board, where a process of further separation from the University should be considered. But from where the current Board started to where UNESA is now I am confident that this has been the right course of action.
Democracy and Free Speech? A register is kept as required by the NSW Fair Trading Act, however we will not be handing out the email of every member into the ether—particularly not to students that hold no democratically elected position to do with what they will. The President doesn’t have access to these emails and can only communicate with the whole membership when the communiqué is passed by the Board. It is a duty of care we owe to the student such that the information contained on the register isn’t abused. The Nucleus plays a vital role in providing this space for students.
Directly elected Presidents? Both points for the membership to consider, however there was intent behind the Trimester 2 election. It wasn’t the result of a historical hang-up, but was so that new members could get a feel for the Association and its direction, as opposed to voting blind.
Values and Vision? We are not the Melbourne or Sydney Student Unions that have existed since the beginning of time; we are new and as has just happened, our role is changing and shifting. The Constitution was always meant to have room for growth and was drafted as such. It may not be up to the standards of our Go8 counterparts but I think that is at times excusable. It does need to change in due course.
Final Comments There are a litany of other points to address in the opinion piece but I shall only pick out some. The 200-word bio exists so it can be published in the Nucleus and, when voting, further information can be distributed by candidates if they feel it is appropriate to do so. We are university students and we do have the capacity to seek out more information than 200 words in making decisions. The accusation of Internal v. External on the Board is a myth and minutes can prove it.
The Constitution is not perfect and UNESA is still young. We have growing to do and lessons to learn. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it can be burnt down in a day so beware the person handing out torches and pitch forks.
Josh Osborne UNESA Vice-President