University of Sydney SRC President Claims She Was Not Signatory to NUS KPI Letter

UPDATE 22/03: Curtin President Liam O’Neill told Observer that the letter has not been sent to the NUS yet, and that the date of 28 February on the copy distributed by ANUSA was only an initial plan, before the realisation that some campuses wouldn’t have time to pass the KPIs before then. As such, Observer would like to clarify that nobody is yet a signatory to the letter.

ANUSA President Eleanor Kay said at OGM 1 today that “I believed I had been clear to the SRC that this was a draft [letter], I apologise if I did not”. In a later email, Kay clarified that “The letter as circulated to the SRC was the copy to be circulated for debate/approval by the various SRCs on different campuses. I don’t believe I ever stated to the ANUSA SRC that this had been agreed to by all the parties – it is still up for debate on some other campuses, USyd obviously included. It has definitely passed through some SRCs already, which is why substantive changes to the KPIs were not appropriate.” In reference to Grant’s reported disavowal of KPIs, Kay told Observer that “I was under the impression that all the Presidents listed were aware of the KPIs.”

Just two days after ANUSA passed motions to affiliate with the National Union of Students (NUS) for $10,000 subject to KPIs ostensibly agreed to by a coalition of universities, the agreement behind those KPIs has been thrown into doubt. Imogen Grant, President of the University of Sydney SRC, was listed as an author of a February letter by eight student association presidents to the President and General Secretary of the NUS, which listed joint KPIs (key performance indicators) for accreditation. However, today Grant told Honi Soit that she was unaware of being a signatory to the letter, and that she did not support accrediting with KPIs.

The letter, dated to the 28th of February, lists eight campus presidents as signatories, including Grant and ANUSA President Eleanor Kay. The campuses involved, to Observer’s knowledge, are generally controlled by members of the National Independents or Grassroots Left factions, or small-i independents. The letter was first published last Sunday as part of the agenda for ANUSA’s SRC 2. It sets out a number of KPIs generally demanding accountability and transparency from the NUS. These KPIs were passed by ANUSA at SRC 2 on Tuesday.

Grant told Honi Soit she was not aware of being a signatory to the letter, and would “never have signed without the support of Council”. She said that she supported accrediting unconditionally, without KPIs. Grant is a Grassroots Left member. In 2017, the University of Sydney SRC accredited to the NUS for $63,000. In the proposed KPIs attached to the agenda for SRC 2, it’s suggested that they would conditionally accredit for $60,000, while ANUSA ultimately passed a motion to conditionally accredit for $10,000.

Of the other signatories to the letter, only University of Newcastle Students Association (NUSA) President Christy Mullen and Flinders University Student Association (FUSA) President Ashley Sutherland had responded to Observer when this article was published. Mullen verified that she was indeed a signatory to the letter, but did not confirm whether Grant was a signatory. Mullen further confirmed that NUSA passed the KPIs at their first meeting in February. Sutherland stated that “FUSA Student Council has not yet come to a collective, formal decision on whether or not we will sign the letter in question, and at this stage I have no further comment”.

At SRC 2, some members spoke out about the secrecy involved in negotiating the KPIs, in debating a failed motion to delay the accreditation debate until SRC 3. Former Queer* Officer Ariel Scott said that it was “disappointing” that not every member of SRC was consulted, especially as SRC members were not made aware of the KPIs for nearly a month after the letter was sent. Scott also suggested that some Department Officers were shown the KPIs “in an attempt to influence votes” General Representative Ashish Nagesh proposed a number of amendments to the KPIs, and similarly complained of the limited time to consider them.

Kay denied allegations of undue secrecy at SRC 2, saying that she “rejects the assertion there were backroom deals”. Kay argued that it was not feasible to have all 39 members of SRC involved in negotiating the KPIs. She said that the KPIs were discussed in January, but that it didn’t make sense to bring them to SRC 1 without more information. Kay said that some Department Officers asked for copies of the KPIs last week, but no other SRC members had asked for a copy. At SRC 1 on 27 February, Education Officer Harry Needham mentioned the existence of joint KPIs with the seven other universities in his report, but said that the actual KPIs would be put forward at a later date.

The letter attached to the Agenda of SRC 2, page 1.

The letter attached to the Agenda of SRC 2, page 2.

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