ANUSA will not re-accredit to the National Union of Students (NUS) this year after a vote of the ANUSA SRC last week. ANUSA’s NUS delegates elected in August will therefore not have voting rights at the NUS’ National Conference (NatCon) which will be held next week in Ballarat.
ANUSA initially voted to re-accredit to the NUS at SRC 2 in March subject to certain accessibility and transparency-related Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) being met. The KPIs were written in conjunction with the presidents of the student bodies of seven other universities, though some of those student bodies later repudiated the conditions.
A report presented at SRC 8, authored by 2018 ANUSA President Eleanor Kay and 2018 ANUSA Education Officer Harry Needham, found that some of those KPIs had not been met. In particular, the Audited Financial Statements for 2016 and 2017, which the KPIs required to be uploaded to the NUS’ website by 30th June 2018, were not uploaded. Furthermore, the report stated that the authors were “not confident” that the KPI of the appointment of a non-factional Returning Officer would be met.
The SRC undertook a vote by email last week to determine whether ANUSA should re-accredit to the NUS given the current progress on the KPIs. This is unusual, as ANUSA does not generally have a mechanism for voting via email, but had been laid out in the accreditation motion at SRC 2. Observer understands that while not all members voted, by the time the result was communicated to the NUS last Monday an absolute majority (20 members) of the SRC had voted to not accredit. Only one SRC member had voted to re-accredit.
2018 ANUSA President Eleanor Kay told Observer that the result “was because the NUS did not fulfil the KPIs”. Kay noted that while she was “disappointed” that ANUSA was not able to re-accredit, the SRC “followed our previous commitment” to only accredit if the KPIs were met. Going forward, she said that she hoped the KPIs would “continue to drive change in the NUS to achieve the accountability that their member organisations deserve”.
The delegates elected at the ANUSA elections in August will therefore only be observers at NatCon next week, and will not have voting rights. Observer understands that at the time of their election, Tanika Sibal, Lachy Day, and Croft Sun had intended to sit with the non-binding Grassroots Independents faction, while Niall Cummins planned to sit with Student Unity (Labor Right) and Ashish Nagesh with the Australian Liberal Students Foundation.
Sibal, Day and Cummins told Observer that they would attend NatCon as observers, while Nagesh and Sun said they would not attend.
Sibal (who is also the 2019 ANUSA Education Officer) said she aimed “to still represent ANU students” by attending, noting that she would attempt to ensure ANU’s students were still heard and planned to meet with other education officers.
Day, the 2019 ANUSA General Secretary, said that “it is important that the ANU and ANUSA specifically continue to have a working relationship with the NUS considering we are still affiliated with the organisation”. Day indicated that he believed ANUSA could “gain a lot” through working with the NUS over the next year, through the mechanism of collective advocacy.
Cummins told Observer that he was “disappointed ANU won’t have a formal say at conference” but that in attending NatCon, he hopes to ensure that ANU perspectives would be “represented in caucus and on conference floor”. ‘Caucus’ here refers to the internal debates between delegates who are members of Student Unity, who practice ‘vote-binding’ and vote as a bloc after caucus has come to a decision. Cummins said that he would be introducing several motions, including the motion endorsing the Diploma of Languages action group, which Sibal will be seconding.
Sun said that despite not attending, she was confident that “Lachy and Tanika will be able to represent me at the NatCon”.
Nagesh will not be attending NatCon. He said that the decision was “long overdue and is a good outcome for ANU students”, given that the KPIs had not been met. Nagesh has been a frequent critic of the NUS, proposing a disaffiliation referendum earlier this year. He told Observer that he plans to “explore options” for a referendum on ANUSA’s affiliation with the NUS.
ANUSA has now failed to accredit to the NUS for the past three years. This year featured a number of conflicts between ANUSA and officers of the NUS. This included a motion condemning one of the NUS Queer/LGBTI Officers, Jasmine Duff, for allegedly misgendering a delegate at last year’s NatCon and engaging in other “intimidatory and transphobic” behaviour. The SRC also passed a motion condemning the NUS International Students Officer, Ziqi Han, for “failure to meet her responsibilities as an office bearer”. The other NUS Queer/LGBTI Officer, Kim Stern, was ejected from an ANUSA SRC earlier this year, due to not being an ANU student.
NUS NatCon will commence on Monday at Federation University, Ballarat.
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