Issues at SRC ranged from a freedom of speech debate, constitutional change, o-week parties, camps and accessibility concerns.

Debate rages over freedom of speech, creates constitutional precedent

Motion 8.2 was raised to oppose attacks on freedom of speech imposed by university management and right-wing governments. Of particular interest were attacks on academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of protest. The motion would see ANUSA ratify the free speech charter passed at the NUS 2018 National Conference, which was brought by the Socialist Alternative.

“Increasingly universities and right-wing politicians are infringing on the freedom of speech of staff, students, and others on the campus,” the motion reads.

The motion raised questions as to what extent freedom of speech should be protected. Women’s Officer Priyanka Tomar brought an amendment to exclude hate speech from the suggested protest protections. This was opposed by Wren Sommerville, the student who brought the motion to ANUSA, citing protests on Palestine. “Hate speech can be used to attack people promoting left-wing points of view,” they said. However the motion passed after Queer and former-Queer officers brought forward the case of a transphobic professor last year, who would have been protected by the motion if it had passed without amendment.

Further debates were raised about the relevance to an ANU context. The motion is extremely similar to the motion raised at the NUS National Conference in December. Those promoting the motion cited its discussion within the Education Committee and Environment Collective. Those opposing cited Article 1, which focused on academic freedom rather than protest rights.

Ultimately, the motion received 11 votes for, with 33 sitting SRC members. Due to the number of abstentions, it was initially unclear whether the motion had passed. General Secretary Lachy Day called a break and decided that a majority means a majority of those sitting and present.

This breaks with President Eden Lim’s precedent, and on a case by case basis could affect clubs council and college representative council votes.

Friday Night Party

Social Officer Matthew Mottola spoke on the organisation of Friday Night Party and particularly some of the issues punters faced getting in and to the portaloos. He attributed the long lines to ‘a decision by the exec to reduce the amount that was to be spent on Friday Night Party… by the time it was approaching O-Week, there wasn’t much to be done in terms of scaling up infrastructure that had been scaled down by the executive.’

There were lower expectations for ticket sales after a financial loss in the tens of thousands last year. Ticket sales did poorly at the 2018 Friday Night Party, which was held at the Botanical Gardens. This year ticket sales exceeded expectations, and sales were capped at 3000.

Disabilities Report

Complaints about Kambri came strongly from the Disabilities Department, whose officers named the construction as the key issue for accessibility of O-Week events for students with a disability. Further, the National Health Co-op, the health organisation servicing students on campus, has suffered accessibility issues due to its failing lifts.

Further, the Department has no information as to where the Spoons space will move to on Kambri. The Spoons Space is an autonomous space for students with a disability, and since the Union Court demolition has been found in a demountable building. It appears there’s radio silence from the ANU, with the officer stating ‘there’s no clear reporting channel at this point’.

First year camps

After the abrupt cancellation of the first year camps, elected ANUSA officers have spoken to the reasons behind its cancellation. Vice President Campbell Clapp stated that the reasoning was the mentors not having access to debrief material. ‘This was totally unforeseeable,’ he said. The Treasurer of ANUSA said the financial impact of the event change would not be felt strongly, ‘because we are expecting to make a profit from Friday Night Party’. Last year, First Year Camp tickets garnered over $8000 in revenue.

Things to think about:

Women’s Week is happening this week.

The meeting closed at 8.36pm. To see Woroni’s live tweets of ANUSA SRC 1, visit https://twitter.com/Woroni.