ANUSA’s Social Officer is responsible for organising ANUSA’s major social functions and is the point of contact for Clubs and Societies (C&S) and the Grants and Affiliations Committee (GAC) that distributes funds to C&S. Woroni sat down with Amplify Social candidate Cameron Allan, and Connect Presidential candidate Karan Dhamija to discuss social policy.
Allan decided to run as Social Officer because of his extensive experience in event management and a desire to reform GAC, particularly as someone who is engaged in the current Reform Working Group for GAC. He also commented on the “relatively uncontested” nature of the office, noting the very specific requirements for the role.
While he respected Dhamija’s decision to not run a Social Officer, he was disappointed that there would not be a robust conversation on GAC reform during the elections.
Dhamija stated that Connect would not run a Social Officer candidate just to fill the position, similar to the Education portfolio. He noted that Connect approached two possible candidates, but both had to withdraw, with one receiving a job offer that would have interfered with Social Officer duties.
GAC Policy and Reform
Woroni asked both candidates how they would overcome the challenge of the Social Officer’s dual responsibilities of event and bureaucratic management. Allan said that his experiences would allow him to comfortably switch between roles. The Social role is fundamentally about “collaboration” and “connecting people”
Amplify also sees the restructuring of Social Officer role towards being more “social,” as “inevitable.” Trusting the Reform Working Group’s arguments, Allan envisioned GAC being replaced by a C&S Council populated by C&S executives, although it wouldn’t be chaired by the Social Officer in order to separate powers and maintain accountability.
Allan would also support the Working Group’s recommendation to employ a paid staffer to process GAC requests, taking the bureaucratic burden off GAC members and increasing efficiency. Defending the costs, Allan asserted that in his discussions with the current ANUSA executive, it was reasoned that money for another staffer “was not an unreasonable ask in the SSAF bid.”
Dhamija also supported this particular recommendation by the Working Group, again referring to its efficiency and adding that it would make GAC more responsive to student inquiries. It would also quicken re-affiliations at the beginning of the year, prior to O-Week.
Departing significantly from the Amplify position, Dhamija also proposed that one option would be to move GAC into the Treasurer portfolio. According to the Connect candidate, most of the payment processing would be financial in nature, and a committee lead by the Treasurer would be ideal for managing and auditing these payments.
Additionally, Connect also plans on using the Campus Life Officer to provide training to C&S executives, alongside this proposed restructuring.
Amplify would not support shifting GAC to the Treasurer, as they would “not be elected on the mandate to guide C&S policy.” Allan stated that the Working Group sees GAC as moving towards an emphasis on governance, rather than financial processing.
He acknowledged that while there were financial aspects to GAC, it would be “bizarre” to place it under the Treasurer when the chair of a future C&S Council is envisioned as a strategic director focused on engaging student clubs. Regarding any auditing or oversight, Allan said that the Amplify model would have this come from within the executive of the C&S Council.
Dhamija responded by stating that another one of their options was to have the Campus Life Officer chair the C&S Council. He also defended the Treasurer as being suitable for C&S governance because of the skills needed for the portfolio. The chair should not be overestimated either, according to Dhamija, and under his model other executives could pick up the role of training and C&S engagement.
He stated that taking GAC away from the Social Officer would allow them to put more energy in improving social events.
Responding, Allan maintained Amplify’s commitment to the conclusions of the Working Group, and questioned if Connect had involved itself thoroughly with GAC reform discussions therein. He also added that Amplify didn’t want the Campus Life Officer creating the training resources, but to use the Council members to collaborate in order to create these resources.
Dhamija then highlighted that whatever structural changes might occur, they could be set in stone before their terms even begin – a draft for a new constitution is due next week. He also clarified his vision of the Campus Life Officer as “more of a co-ordinator” to assist the efforts of oft-busy club executives.
Regarding engaging all C&S within the Council, Allan asserted that there needed to be incentives to encourage participation, possibly taking the form of making affiliation or funding contingent on Council participation. He also considered using C&S Council executive roles to target the needs of specific groups on campus.
The Connect candidate also added that attempting to organise nearly 200 clubs would be a logistical challenge in itself.
On the topic of social events policies, Dhamija wanted a “remapping of how ANUSA’s social calendar works” as he did not see it as performing to its fullest potential. He also wanted to revamp N-Week, which precedes O-Week, as it would greatly benefit students who come to ANU and move immediately off-campus. The objective was to give non-residential students the opportunity to socially network.
In response, Allan agreed that a reform of the social calendar was needed, and that the Social Officer should eventually be considered a “Clubs and Societies” Officer. Mainly, the Amplify candidate felt that clubs and societies needed to be at the forefront of the event calendar. To ensure this, Amplify would provide C&S with training and information over the summer (via Social Officer or the C&S Council) and intensifying networking as a part of the role. He proposed holding a Presidents’ Camp for C&S to facilitate collaboration, and classifying clubs as they affiliate.
Intersectional and diverse events would thus follow by shifting leadership more towards C&S, although Allan also wanted to focus on hosting events centred on issues affecting young people, such as eating disorders. Moreover, he suggested using the Social Committee within the portfolio for event management.
He also found the idea of revamping N-Week interesting, but was concerned about the resources and time necessary to do so. Improving Bush Week was a greater priority for Amplify.
Dhamija, reflecting on Amplify’s social policies, stated that there was much agreement between the two tickets. However, “the more important thing is to have the capacity is there to provide the resources,” to ultimately increase the potential of the Social portfolio.
Allan added that the multiple, contrasting aspects of the Social Officer role was what made it less effective and not the Social Officer themselves.
When the Amplify candidate raised the issue of possible confrontation on the ANUSA executive, if both Allan and Dhamija succeeded, Dhamija signalled his willingness to find compromise. Ultimately, he felt that there was nothing wrong with having different tickets represented in the final executive team.