Controversy struck at the year’s first Clubs Council meeting when ANUSA rejected clubs on principle for the first time in years. The Council comprises almost 200 club delegates, and each club, from Debating to Drake Appreciation, has one vote. The meeting was the first time clubs, not an SRC-appointed committee, have decided affiliations. Clubs such as Chess Club, VR Club, and Street Performance Academy were passed without dissent. However, there were ongoing disagreements over two affiliations, and the Council tested out its new democratic mechanisms.
Accusations of “voluntourism” and concerns over use of funds were raised regarding ANU Eager Learning Volunteers Association, a group sending students to teach English in rural China. Language Diversity Executive Erin McCullough spoke on the risk of cultural erasure. When a vote was called, the motion failed resoundingly.
The ANU Men’s Network, a group which claimed to support and provide discussion spaces for men, was also rejected. Current President Sebastian Rossi addressed Council, saying the group was for people of all genders to discuss male health and wellbeing issues. Pointed questions were asked about possible links to Men’s Rights Activism, which Rossi strongly denied. When asked about the potential for this group to propagate misogyny, a concern reinforced by some arguably misogynistic content on the Men’s Network Facebook group, Rossi responded “as long as they’re not discriminatory or malicious… we’ll give people the right to say [their opinions].” During debate, Rossi caused stir by asserting a Men’s Department was a long-term goal– one delegate argued this would be a “step backwards.” Rossi later told the Observer, “I misspoke: being a department is not an official plan at all.”
A motion to delay the decision until the next meeting narrowly failed. Delegate Bodie D’Orazio, who moved the motion, argued the Men’s Network affiliation was added last minute, and “lots of people have strong opinions…there should have been much more time to debate”
33 delegates voted in favour, and 8 against, with 35 abstentions deciding the vote. “We will try again next week, so more people can have discussions” Rossi said. After the Men’s Network vote, most delegates left, leading to a scramble to regain quorum. This was unsuccessful, and another meeting has been called for this week to pass policy reform.