ANUSA’s Student Representative Council Meeting (SRC) 7 ran for over three hours last week and was the final SRC of this year. The meeting ramped up as it went on, beginning with Friday Night Party’s deficit, moving to allegations of racism, and concluding with accusations of bullying and virtue signalling.

Friday Night Party Deficit

A major announcement at SRC 7 was the confirmed financial loss from Friday Night Party (FNP). FNP cost ANUSA $99,943 and the Treasurer, Jaya Ryan, could not confirm the profits because invoices are still ongoing. The substantial cost comes after mixed reviews of the event itself.

Ryan went on to state that FNP made a loss this year, “costing us an additional $100,000 which will come out of our reserves” and “that the cost [of FNP] is too high…. SSAF money would be better spent providing more student assistance grants and other services.”

This means ANUSA’s total deficit at the moment is $400,000, because there are underspends on other budget items.

Phoenix O’Neill, the Clubs Officer who organised the event, defended the loss by noting that the music and events industry generally have struggled with ticket sales after a burst of performances post COVID-19. However, O’Neill acknowledged the need for review and potential changes but maintained that “I think it’s really amazing that we have an awesome music festival right on our doorstep, but [the] cool factor isn’t quite enough to justify spending our SSAF money on in future years”.

On top of financial unsustainability, the Disabilities Students Association also criticised the inclusion of the band The Lazy Eyes as offensive. The band was a last minute replacement organised through a third party and not ANUSA. O’Neill promised that this feedback, as well as other issues raised about accessibility, will be incorporated into future events.

Officers Label ANUSA “Unsafe”

Each Officer of ANUSA’s seven autonomous departments provided their final report of the year. These summarised the work their department has done, and their experiences as Department Officers. The consensus was that being a Department Officer within ANUSA was unsafe, underpaid, unlistened to and unsupported. According to Aarfa Khan, International Students Officer, Officers are paid “$3 an hour.”

Indigenous Department Officer, Katchmirr Russell, claimed, “Not once have I felt safe at ANUSA”, that they have been, “disrespected, not listened to, and sidelined” and that ANUSA needs to, “make this space safe again, you have so far to go”.

The Women’s Department Officer, Avan Daruwalla, urged ANUSA to be “actively aware of microagressions” and the Queer* Department Officer Remi Prica described the role as getting “thrown in the deep end and pretty much drown[ing].”

Disability Co-Officers Mira Robson and Maddison McCarthy spoke about​​ having, “experienced ableism in this room and in this space in the last few months.” Meanwhile, International Student Department Officer Aarfa Khan spoke about this having been “the most stressful role” and called on ANUSA to “please respect department officers.”

Lastly, Freya Brown, the Environment Collective Officer stated that she had “nothing positive to say” and that she “doesn’t wish being a department officer on anyone.” Brown called for ANUSA to,“do better basically… maybe start with the minimum wage.”

Each of the Officers stressed how unsafe they are in ANUSA meetings in particular (e.g. SRCs, and OGMs). This was veiled criticism of Socialist Alternative (SAlt), who have made their disdain for the autonomous departments, their Officers, and the idea of consultation, clear.

Vice-President Chido Nyakeungama later alluded to this when she called on those present to “practise what we preach” when voting against giving Carter Chryse – a member of SAlt – more speaking time.

Christian Flynn also promised to consider raising the Department Officer stipend at the special general meeting (more below).

Woroni will be publishing an in-depth analysis of ANUSA departments in the near future.

Executive Wrap-up: More to be Done

The current ANUSA Executives gave a wrap up of the year and their achievements in a noticeably different tone to that of the Department Officers.

The President’s report by Christian Flynn thanked the Executive, Department Officers and the SRC for the year, and went on to mention major achievements including the expansion of the ANUSA membership to include postgraduate students, improving election turnout, and instituting more permanent written handover procedures.

The Vice-President Chido Nyakuengama thanked the executive and was eager to no longer be a part of ANUSA.

Education Officer Beatrice Tucker reviewed the recent School of Art and Design (SOAD) sit-in as well as the ongoing NTEU protests. Claiming that this “sets the bar for the kind of action that ANUSA needs to be doing next year”, they acknowledged the continued fight performed by students for “our education.”

General Secretary Ben Yates reviewed three things that “weren’t great” this year, including the growing open hostility towards departments, student engagement, and ANUSA’s tendency this year to talk “about ourselves more than ever” urging a change in listening to students. Yates then went on to commend the department election reforms, ANUSA’s response to the National Student Safety Survey (NSSS) and the Clubs reforms this year.

Treasurer Jaya Ryan had four major points to wrap up. The first was the stalling of negotiations surrounding the Night Cafe. The second was the successful takeover of on-campus vending machines by ANUSA. Ryan expects this to raise $17,000 – $25,000 of revenue after a transition period. The third was a few “surprising” underspends in the budget including the Clubs grant which Ryan attributed to the struggle of rebounding after COVID-19.

Finally, Ryan echoed the sentiment of the Department Officers in stating that ANUSA tends to be “whiter and less BIPOC and Indigenous compared to the general student population” and that ANUSA “is not a safe place for BIPOC people.” More on this below.

Clubs Officer Phoenix O’Neill reviewed the year including the burnout felt within the Clubs Officer role, FNP review and the upcoming Union Ball (formerly Clubs Ball).

The Welfare Officer Grace King mentioned an upcoming currently unconfirmed change to the School of Psychology acting to expand their ability to provide services to students.

Thanks for the Opportunity to “Circle-Jerk”

The General Representatives’ reports largely expressed that the role was challenging with a lack of structure, and that with the unpaid nature of the role it was hard to engage as much as they might have wished.

One general representative gave an incredibly colourful final address. Acting General-Secretary Phoenix O’Neill named him several times for accusing ANUSA of “jerking itself off” in meetings and pursuing “pointless” virtue signalling.

Others expressed thanks at the opportunity to be General Representatives.

The General Secretary names people when they violate the standing orders of the meeting, if they name someone several times, they can ask the person to leave.

Motions

The meeting passed the substantive motions – Motions 5.1,5.2,6.1, 6.2 – en bloc. This included honoraria for Officers and General Representatives, further electoral reform, and a Special General Meeting on 26th October.

Motion 5.4 moved by Nick Reich, a member of SAlt, and seconded by Freya Brown was ANUSA’s endorsement of the COP27 speak-out. In a rarity, this solidarity motion committed ANUSA to actively sponsoring ads on Facebook to support the EC’s protest on October 28th. It passed unanimously.

Motion 5.5 for ANUSA to condemn the scrapping of mandatory isolation sparked much more debate. This motion moved by Carter Chryse, a member of SAlt, required “continued mask wearing in ANUSA spaces regardless of ANU’s position.”

The Disability Co-Officer Maddi McCarthy and General Secretary Ben Yates moved an amendment to this motion which added that “ANUSA will ensure policy around mask wearing in ANUSA spaces reflects the need to protect immunocompromised and disabled users of ANUSA spaces.”

Carter rejected this amendment, stating that “its an ethical and moral stance, and a motion on solidarity, not about the rights of the DSA.” Further, Carter rejected the ability of the DSA to represent all disabled students at the ANU and continued to emphasise that consultation should not occur.

Disability Co-officer Maddi McCarthy argued for consultation with the DSA was vital for the conversation because “the reality of COVID is that is does disproportionately affect disbaled and immunocompromised people [and] our collective needs to be at the centre of this conversation.”

Carter continued to argue against consultation until cut off by Vice-President Chido Nyakuengama who raised a procedural motion to first vote on the amendment and then return to the conversation unless it passed.

Chryse labelled the move “pretty censorious” to which Nyakuengama exclaimed, “I don’t care! I don’t care if it’s undemocratic! You’re bullying people and being a dick!” and went on to call on the rest of ANUSA to “practise what we preach – we can’t go on about how unsafe places are and then allow unsafe behaviour.”

ANUSA passed the motion, including Yates and McCarthy’s amendments.

It should be noted that a number of ANUSA members, including Disability Co-officer Maddi McCarthy had to leave the room during this debate.

It raises the question of if, after all the conversation about consultation, support and unsafe environments, is ANUSA really ready to change, and is SAlt willing to listen to others’ feedback?

There’s now one more ANUSA meeting of the year left, the SGM on 26th October.

 

UPDATED: Aspects of this article have since been redacted following a request from an individual previously named in this piece.

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