As the O-Week haze settled, the ANUSA Student Representative Council sat on Tuesday 17th February for their first official meeting of the year.
While most councilors took a chance to speak, President Ben Gill, General Secretary Megan Lane, the ANUSA Executive and Department Officers dominated the meeting.
The main highlights of the evening included the 2018 Academic Calendar, ANUSA’s future philanthropic work, and the Disputes Committee.
Gill revealed that the 2018 Academic Calendar is currently under review by the ANU, with changes to the length of semesters being a point of focus. According to Gill, the ANU is considering shortening the length of the academic semesters, with the decrease in length possibly being offset by course content being available online up to two months prior to semester.
It was also reported to the SRC that some College Deans advocated moving ANU to a trimester system. While Gill told the SRC that he believes a trimester system is what the ANU is moving towards, it would take 5-6 years to become a reality. Gill clarified with Woroni that ANUSA has no preferred semester format and that he hoped ANUSA would hold a student forum to further consult with the student body.
The next major discussion centered on whether ANUSA should support the Live Below The Line campaign, but ended in a larger discussion about how ANUSA could engage in philanthropic work.
It was raised from a councilor that encouraging students to live on $2 a day could be inappropriate considering that many students already struggle to make ends meet. The mood in the room was one of general agreement when the idea of supporting Canberra-based charities was flagged by several councilors.
Ultimately, the SRC resolved that Ebony Hoiberg, Managing Director of Canberra-based charity Raising Hope, would investigate how ANUSA could engage in more philanthropic work and would report back at the next SRC meeting.
Lane and Gill also presented councilors with their Code of Conduct contracts and emphasized that they must seek the express consent of Gill to speak to the media as a representative of ANUSA. While this is not a new rule in ANUSA (the ANUSA Constitution gives the President the role of addressing the media) this announcement still drew the ire of several councilors who felt that the rule infringed on their autonomy as elected representatives.
Social Officer, Jack Gaudie, spoke briefly about plans to change how the Grants and Affiliations Committee (GAC) is convened. GAC is a five-member committee that administers the registration of clubs and societies and provision of ANUSA funding to them. Gaudie told the committee that he wished to change the quorum of a GAC meeting from three to two members except for when the committee met to discuss breaches of GAC regulations by clubs or societies. This would allow a minority of the Committee to make binding decisions about clubs and societies on campus.
One item that drew the attention of the Council was the status of ANUSA’s Disputes Committee. Under Section 28 of the ANUSA Constitution, a disputes committee is to be appointed to deal with disciplinary matters such as resolutions to dismiss office bearers and breaches of the Association’s Constitution, Regulations or Policy. At the moment, there is no Disputes Committee and records available to Woroni show that while the Committee was appointed in 2013, the ANUSA 2014 SRC failed to do so.
Up to 5 people can be elected to the Committee but there is no set process for nominations or voting. Lane said that she was seeking legal advice to clarify the exact process for electing the Committee but that this would likely take some weeks.
Despite over 5 people wishing to nominate, many of who were members of various student political groups, several councilors expressed concern that the appointment process was not properly advertised to the wider student body. Under the Constitution, the meeting must be advertised on the front door of the Association offices and this requirement was met prior to the meeting.
Ultimately the SRC voted to delay electing a Disputes Committee until next SRC meeting. This delay leaves ANUSA without a formal committee responsible for handling disciplinary action within the Association until the next SRC.
The next SRC meeting will be held on 10th March, 7pm in the ANUSA Boardroom.
Ross Caldwell is a former Digital Editor and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Woroni.