ANUSA, Explained- Part Two (Roles and Governance)

Jason Pover, Alisa Asmalovskaya, Michael Turvey

The ANU Students’ Association. It receives over $1 million in funding per year. Its electoral candidates take over campus each August. It goes against the general advice to avoid words starting with ‘s’ after ‘ANU’. But what does it actually do? Well, it turns out, quite a lot. This two-part series will explain ANUSA’s structure and the services it provides for students.

In the last part, we explained the services that ANUSA offers, now we’ll tell you how all of that happens. In this part we will explain the structure of ANUSA and the positions within it, we’ll also explain the voting trends of recent elections for these roles. In only a week from tomorrow you’ll be voting in the ANUSA elections, and you’ll see hacks (“Highly Active Campus Kids” – Eleanor Kay, ANUSA president) campaign for Education Officer or General Secretary, President or Gen Rep. You should probably know what they all do before you vote for them. This is ANUSA, explained – part two.

The Structure

Members

All undergraduate students are automatically members of ANUSA (though they can renounce their membership or it can be removed as a punishment – more on that later). If you’re an undergrad that means you are almost certainly a member.

This means you can vote at certain meetings. Members have the power to vote at General Meetings (GMs). GMs are extremely powerful – they can pass regulations that bind ANUSA and overrule the Student Representative Council. GMs are also the only sort of meeting that can pass the ANUSA budget.

The other power you have is to elect your representatives. You’ll be able to exercise this power in a week from tomorrow.

Representatives

ANUSA representatives are elected during Semester 2, and serve for one year beginning on 1 December. Usually this election occurs in week 5, but this year it is occurring early in week 4; only a week from tomorrow. Representatives must be ANUSA members – that is, undergraduate students – and some positions have extra eligibility requirements. ANUSA Representatives are:

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary
  • Education Officer
  • Social Officer
  • 14 General Representatives
  • 12 College Representatives
  • 7 Department Officers

The Student Representative Council (SRC)

This council is an unusual hybrid between a corporate board and a parliament. The SRC can control just about all of ANUSA: which political campaigns are run, what the Executive does, and what official positions ANUSA takes on topical issues. There are 39 people on the SRC: the Executive, the College Representatives, the Department Officers, and the General Representatives.

About twice per term, all of these representatives meet in the Science Teaching Building and make decisions. They can fund a language diversity campaign, or condemn the Co-op bookshop, or approve a campaign against education cuts.

The Executive

While it’s technically true that the SRC controls ANUSA (the SRC can decide to make the Executive do whatever they want), the Executive is where the real power is usually exercised. These are by far the biggest and most important jobs – the SRC meets infrequently and discusses broad principles, while most details of how ANUSA actually runs are in the Executive’s hands. They are paid a wage, and respond to situations as they unfold. The Presidency is a full time role and VP part time, but all the executive officers routinely report working far more than required under the role description.

President

2018 Stipend: $44,500

2018 Office Bearer: Eleanor Kay

This is ANUSA’s most important job. Essentially, every year we elect an undergrad to be CEO of a two million-dollar organisation. The President manages the entire ANUSA staff, is responsible for the administrative affairs, oversees all the representatives, and represents students on a number of high level university committees and councils.

The President also speaks for ANUSA. Any media statements made by representatives have to be approved by the President, and while the SRC approves ANUSA’s official positions, only the President may speak for or about the Association to media as a general rule. Under Kay’s Presidency, she has also taken a role in supporting the departments.

Last year, Kay was elected to the position without relying on preferences after receiving 54% of the total votes. She defeated Shake Up’s candidate, her nearest rival in terms of votes and an independent candidate by 331 votes. The Presidential race last year was different from the 2016 election of James Connolly, in that there was a relatively strong second candidate, but no joke candidates. While there were joke tickets during the 2017 campaign, none actually put forward a candidate. The turnout was also significantly higher, at over 2000 compared to just under 1700 in 2016, perhaps owing to the two strong candidacies.

Vice President

2018 Stipend: $31,595

2018 Office Bearer: Tess Masters

The VP slot is a vital, but seldom understood or recognised position. You’ve seen the parties, clubs, and protests, but you might not have known that ANUSA is constantly handling academic and pastoral cases from the student body. Any time a student feels they’ve been wronged by a course or the University, ANUSA will follow up their case, argue in their favour, and negotiate with the ANU bureaucracy to help them out. The Vice-President is responsible for that side of the Association. The VP also supports ANUSA’s autonomous Departments, and manages the Brian Kenyon Student Space.

In 2017, Tess Masters was elected, running with Lift ANUSA. She won the election in the first round by acquiring 51% of the vote, defeating her Shake Up rival by 234 votes and an independent. The position had previously been held by current President Eleanor Kay, who was elected resoundingly in 2016.

Treasurer

2018 Stipend: $17,800

2018 Office Bearer: Mariah Chang

Over a million dollars in funds from the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) goes to ANUSA each year. The Treasurer is in charge of working out how that, and ANUSA’s other money, should be spent. They produce the annual budget, approve expenditure, and provide updates on the financial state of the Association.

A great and terrible threat hangs over every Treasurer. ANUSA operates in a golden age of millions in SSAF dollars – but the Government-mandated fee we all pay has seemed close to being axed several times in previous years. Every treasurer faces that danger, and every treasurer makes attempts to build a life raft against that terrifying prospect. This usually includes seeking sponsorship from businesses, though some Treasurers and Treasurer candidates have floated more unorthodox ideas – from bikeshares to coffee carts.

In 2017 there were two candidates from the two major tickets running for the role of Treasurer. Mariah Chang managed to secure the position by 25 votes for Shake-Up. Although this was evidently a tight margin it was nonetheless a significant victory as one of two executive positions secured by Shake-Up.

Education Officer

2018 Stipend: $17,800

2018 Office Bearer: Harry Needham

Every now and then, the Government decides it doesn’t like students. The Education Officer’s job is to remind them that students vote. Protests, campaigns and rallies go alongside negotiations and community-building for ANUSA’s chief political advocate.

The Education Officer’s role is to organise protests, campaigns and rallies, and to generally advocate for higher education policy that is in the interests of students. They work with broader student advocacy bodies like the NUS as well as single issue campaigns like Disarm ANU. In 2014, when fee deregulation loomed, ANUSA’s Education Officer sat before federal Senators to discuss how students would be hurt. The Education Officer also runs the Education Committee, which helps choose and organise campaigns. All undergraduate students can join this Committee.

Harry Needham won the 2017 election for the role of the Education Officer on Lift’s ticket. Jessy Wu was elected in the 2016 election, but resigned a few months into her term after disagreements with the Education Committee. Robyn Lewis was selected by the SRC to fill the vacancy.

Social Officer

2018 Stipend: $17,800

2018 Office Bearer: Anya Bonan

The Social Officer has an insanely stressful job: organising O-Week, Bush Week, and the entire ANUSA social calendar. Whoever’s in the job has to organise a huge team of volunteers to plan dozens of events attended by thousands of students.

The Social Officer used to also be in charge of the Clubs system – originally the Grants and Affiliations Committee, and then in 2017 as Chair of the Clubs Council. Now, though, the Chair of the Clubs Council is its own separate role. The Social Officer still sits on the Council Executive as an ex-officio member.

Anya Bonan won the 2017 election with 59% of the vote, a strong result given her ticket Shake-up only elected one other executive. The previous year Cameron Allan running with Amplify ANUSA was able to secure 70% of the total votes. However, this was against two joke tickets: ‘Make ANU Great Again’ and ‘Objectively the most bestest thing ever, you cannot disagree’.

General Secretary

2018 Stipend: $17,800

2018 Office Bearer: Eden Lim

ANUSA is a big, bureaucratic machine, and the General Secretary keeps the gears oiled. They run meetings, organise elections, and interpret the constitution – basically, they’re somewhere between the Speaker in Parliament and a Judge. As such, part of the job requires taking a more impartial approach than other members of the executive. A General Secretary who attempts to push their own agenda can be problematic, their interpretive power can be used to stifle opponents and benefit allies. This year the General Secretary will not be running the election because the incumbent, Lim, is running for President.

The competition for the role of ANUSA’s general secretary in 2017 was much closer than for the other executive portfolios and included two stages. The two major tickets had candidates, alongside an independent. The independent did unusually well for an independent Executive candidate. Lift ANUSA candidate Eden Lim managed to win the election by a significant margin due to receiving the majority of preferences from Shake-Up’s candidate.

General Representatives

The remainder of the SRC is made up of 14 General Representatives, or Gen Reps. Gen Reps make up the largest single voting bloc on the SRC and so can wield a lot of clout over the executive. Generally speaking if there is an ‘Opposition’ within the SRC in any year, it is usually driven by prominent and outspoken General or College Representatives.

Besides voting on the SRC, Gen Reps’ only defined role is to promote ANUSA’s advocacy. Given the vacuum of clear responsibilities, Gen Reps perform a variety of roles and are generally driven by their particular interests: Some scrutinise the actions of the Executive, and keep them accountable for their actions; others aim to further their policies, passing motions and lobbying at SRC. Still other Gen Reps are just generally helpful, volunteering to run ANUSA barbeques and events.

Due to the large number of candidates, around 50, for the position in 2017, their election involves a complex preferential process. This is done using the same vote counting method as the Australian Senate. Observer would love to analyse these results for you but unfortunately Antony Green (bae) was busy.

College Representatives

2018 stipend: $0

Exams, courses, lectures, and other academic issues are decided by Colleges just as much as by Chancellery. The College Reps, two for each College, sit on the decision-making committees and provide a student voice for students from that College. If you’re frustrated about something a lecturer is doing to you, chances are it’s the College Reps who know how to fix things up; if that fails go to the VP.

There are two Representatives for each of the following: the College of Law, Joint Colleges of Science, the College of Business and Economics, the College of Arts and Social Sciences, the College of Asia and the Pacific, and the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

College reps are unique among ANUSA positions in that only people from their College are allowed to vote for the position. So while Exec and Gen Rep candidates will hover around Union Court in the lead-up to the election, you’ll likely see College Rep candidates in and around their particular precinct.

Last year, most Colleges elected one Representative from each major ticket. However, some Reps have since resigned. The position of College Rep can be difficult, owing to recalcitrant Colleges that tend not to listen to students.

Department Officer

2018 Honoraria: Departments are given $15,000 to distribute among Officers and their Deputies

You mostly won’t see the representatives of minority and marginalised communities on the main ballot, but if you come to SRC you’ll definitely hear from them. The heads of Departments are traditionally chosen within the Department community, and so go unopposed in the general election. However, if someone chooses to contest the Department’s internal choice, there can be a balloted race. Technically, only students from the department, (e.g. queer* students, international students) can vote, but there’s no policing: it’s completely self-identified, which is part of why Departments prefer an internal process. Last year, the Queer* Officer was elected in the general election, and it will be the same this year.

The Department Officers advocate for and support minority communities at ANU. As well as creating safe autonomous community spaces and events for students who identify with the department, Department Officers meet with University executives and government to promote their causes and many run their own autonomous common rooms on campus.

ANU Council Representative

2018 Office Bearer: Eleanor Kay

This position seems boring and bureaucratic, but it’s a huge deal. For years, the ANUSA President sat on ANU Council, alongside Brian Schmidt, Gareth Evans, and all the other university bigwigs. Council is where the big strategic decisions get made that determine the direction of the university.

2018 was the first year that the ANU Council Representative has been a role separate from the ANUSA President. Although both roles are currently filled by Eleanor Kay, they are elected on separate ballots, and may in the future be held by two different people. On their own the Representative can’t change a vote, but it’s still a valuable voice at the highest possible level.

This is an update to an explainer written last year by Michael Turvey.