Doubt surrounding the future of the ANU Union has led to the proposal of a divisive policy at this year’s ANU Sport Council Elections. The proposed redevelopment of Union Court by the University Council has catalysed consideration of the Union’s future. In response, student ticket ‘Your ANU Sport’ has suggested a policy to combine the Union with ANU Sport.
Michael Pettersson, Presidential Candidate for ‘Your ANU Sport’ and President of ACT Young Labor, said, “to get the funds to redevelop Union Court, [the university] is going to sell the commercial space in the new plan to developers and with that they will cut out student representation.”
If elected, those on the ‘Your ANU Sport’ ticket plan to consolidate service provision of the ANU Sport and ANU Union with a future full merger between the two organisations.
“We are scared that the Union, by itself, is not a big enough player to fight for the interests of students, which is why we think having a large single student service provider is the best way to stand up for students,” said Pettersson.
Treasurer candidate for ‘Your ANU Sport’, Chair of the Union Board of Directors and member of the ANU Labor Students’ Club Joshua Orchard, said “the consolidation is basically about finding services where we overlap and then sharing them… for instance say that we both employed marketing staff, we would think it was more prudent to hire one combined marketing staff instead of two marketing staff.”
The future of the Union would be cast in doubt if the redevelopment of Union Court were to go ahead. If dissolved, the Union Board would need to dispense its remaining assets to similarly focused organisations.
“ANU Sport is a like-minded organisation because they do service provision whereas ANUSA does not, they do advocacy and engagement, so essentially the merger isn’t so much about the Union financially, it’s about doing what we can with what is left,” said Orchard.
However, not all agree that ANU Sport and the Student Union are truly similar entities and hence should not be consolidated or merged.
Campaign Manager of the ‘Sustainable SRA’ ticket and President of the ANU Quidditch Club Merryn Christian said “if you’re talking about the fact that they provide services to students, then that is literally every single organisation on the ANU campus which theoretically could be merged into one giant organisation on campus…”
The differences between managing the affairs of the Union and those of an organisation like ANU Sport have also raised questions as to the professional experience of key ‘Your ANU Sport’ candidates.
“It’s about keeping a variety of people in power, keeping certain people doing certain jobs… people who are really good at running finances of gyms, wouldn’t necessarily be the same people who are really good at coordinating [the] kind of..,facilities used by the Union,” said Christian.
Moreover, Vice Presidential candidate for ‘Sustainable SRA’, Paul Compston, maintains that students should not manage ANU Sport.
“The merger is based on the understanding of ANU Sport that student money runs part of ANU Sport and therefore should be run by students… but ANU sport clubs are such a significant part of the sporting community in Canberra that many people who are part of the clubs and pay membership fees are not associated with ANU in any way.”
In order to take into account the varying sentiments regarding the merge, ‘Your ANU Sport’ plans to consult the ANU student body before defining the structure of the new student service provider.
“We don’t want to make this decision by ourselves, we want to make sure the student body is informed about it and that the student body decides on it… the first thing that comes to mind is an ANUSA referendum but that’s not something I will be pushing for anytime soon,” said Pettersson.
Yet Christian also raises the concern that, whilst students should be consulted, it may not be appropriate to let the student body make such a significant business decision. “If the decision is entirely left in the hands of a student vote, I would be worried about that because you don’t get the whole 20,000 students participating so there’s a problem with representation and the students are probably not the most qualified”.
Pending ratification by a General Meeting, an unofficial ballot count announced by “Your ANU Unions” on Friday 20th March revealed that Michael Pettersson and Maya Suzuki of “Your ANU Sport” are elected as President and as Vice President respectively, and Neil Parsons from “Sustainable SRA” elected as Treasurer.