By Hayley Hands
ANUSA’s decision to partner with a Canberra property developer JWLand as an O-Week sponsor, was heavily criticised in the comments of a since-deleted promotional post. This comes after a 4% cut to ANUSA’s overall funding for the year, and the ANUSA Treasurer’s election commitment to limit reliance on SSAF funding.
On 19 February ANUSA announced JWLand as a “Silver” sponsor on their Facebook page. This post stated that JWLand is “committed to creating and delivering precincts… where residents feel like they are a part of a community”. The post attracted critical comments from a number of students, with one describing the partnership as “depressing” and “disingenuous”, and another stating that ANUSA had “cooked it”.
ANU student and Labor Left member Henri Vickers criticised the sponsorship in a post of his own on ANU Schmidtposting. Vickers told Observer the sponsorship was “disappointing” in light of the developer’s record of “gentrifying our city”. He said the move was “inevitable” as “the university continues to suck more of the SSAF pool away from democratically-elected student associations”. He called for a “federal reform to SSAF legislation” to prevent student associations from “bootlick[ing] for pennies”.
Will Fletcher, an ANUSA General Representative, described the partnership as a “bad judgement call” which, he believes, caused the Association “to lose credibility among students, staff and alumni”. He stated that whilst he was unaware of the decision making around the sponsorship process, it was representative of a “misunderstanding of student unionism” which would make it “harder to convince people that ANUSA advocates in their best interests”. Fletcher also stated that the deletion of the post following student criticism “reflect[ed] poorly on those who made this decision” and that “no amount of money is worth ANUSA shilling for a property developer”.
JWLand had previously partnered with ANUSA during 2019 Bush Week, during which they were also a “Silver Sponsor”. JWLand also partnered with the University’s Energy Change Institute in April 2018 to “support renewable energy research”.
While 90% of ANUSA funding comes from the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF), other funding sources, including corporate sponsorships, are also common. The amount of SSAF funding that ANUSA and other student organisations receive is reviewed annually by ANU. After consultation with student representatives, this sum can be increased or reduced at the university’s discretion. The possibility of a Federal Coalition Government abolishing SSAF has become a topic of contention in student politics in recent years. ANUSA experienced funding cuts in this year’s SSAF allocation, with student backlash surrounding cuts made to Clubs Council, as well as to ANUSA’s overall funding.
A move towards corporate sponsorship of ANUSA events was an official part of Treasurer Maddy Wang’s election promise to find additional revenue streams. Wang’s policy emphasised partnerships with businesses as a way to hold “zero net cost events”, without students having to foot the bill through ticket sales. Wang stated another goal was to reduce SSAF reliance to 85% of ANUSA’s total income this year, and to 75% within the next 5 years.
JWLand did not respond to request for comment in time for publication
ANUSA did not provide comment in time for publication
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