The Melbourne University Liberal Club’s (MULC) Annual General Meeting (AGM) has been declared invalid by the Clubs & Societies Committee after allegations of corruption surfaced over the recent battle for the presidency.
The Club’s AGM was held on 20 March and resulted in former Secretary Xavier Boffa emerging as President.
The Clubs & Societies Department within the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) received numerous complaints surrounding Boffa’s conduct prior to the AGM, some of which accused the former secretary of branch stacking.
At the AGM, numerous students were informed that they could not vote as their membership applications had been rejected. In a complaint made to the Clubs & Societies Department, Charlie Gerrand, who also ran for the Presidency, asserted that 15 individuals at the AGM were unable to vote.
“The conduct of the Secretary [Boffa], who abused his control over the membership list to selectively add and subtract members from the Club depending on his support, all but eroded any chance of a fair contest of ideals between the candidates at the last AGM,” Gerrand’s complaint read.
Several students attempted to join the Club at UMSU’s Clubs Bazaar, held in the second week of March, but were later informed that the Club was only providing information that day and not signing up members. Instead, they were told to send an email containing their details and to transfer their membership fee to the Club account.
The Clubs & Societies Department said internal membership disputes were “substantial enough to affect the outcome of the Annual General Meeting.”
Boffa told Farrago that there would have been no contention if members who were turned away had “actually submitted membership applications.”
“Sadly, a small minority displeased with the result for purely factional reasons have embarked upon a campaign of deception and disruption that looks and feels like something out of House of Cards or the ALP union movement,” Boffa told Farrago.
Those who were denied membership claim that they were not provided with membership applications despite their requests.
In a complaint to the Clubs & Societies Department, one student asserted that he did fill out the membership form and transferred the funds, but was still rejected from participating in the AGM.
“I was only informed of this apparent irregularity by Mr Boffa minutes before the AGM, denying me any possibility of rectifying the situation and casting my vote,” they said.
Section 10 of the Club’s Constitution states that any person who “applies in writing to an Officer of the Club” and “tenders his or her subscription for membership shall become a member of the Club upon acceptance of his or her application by the Committee or by the Club in General Meeting.”
Several sources from within MULC say email applications are considered consistent with the Club’s Constitution, and that select applicants were approved through these means.
Another complaint read, “despite paying my membership fees to join MULC I was denied the opportunity to vote, being told my membership application was ‘declined’ for unspecified reasons”
“This appears to be a clique of individuals who seem intent on maintaining power and not allowing new individuals to join.”
A returning member blamed the rejection of his membership on 2016 President Andrew O’Shea, who members claim is part of the same faction as Boffa.
“I think it has been a deliberate, corrupt attempt to prevent me from voting, for O’Shea is well aware that I disagree with his political stances, and that I would not vote in favour of the candidates from his faction,” he told Clubs & Societies.
An anonymous member of MULC agreed with these claims, telling Farrago that the club has been ruled by a “dynasty” lead by O’Shea and Boffa, for the last several years.
“Everyone’s sick of it, we want to end this annoying shitty misogynist dynasty,” the source, who wishes to remain anonymous, said.
The source described MULC as a “boys club” which is “not a healthy environment for women… in the active club membership, there are about 50 members, and only four or five of those are girls.”
Boffa denied these claims.
“We’re always striving to do more to engage female members… and I would encourage more women to get involved.”
A former member of MULC who also wishes to remain anonymous told Farrago that neither party is innocent, and plans to branch stack the AGM have been occurring on both sides for months.
“They all think that by doing this they’re going to work their way up to the wider party,” the source said.
“It’s a whole bunch of people trying to play political games, but they haven’t thought it out entirely.”
The source suggested that Gerrand’s friendship with controversial far-right figure of the Victorian Liberal Party, Marcus Bastiaan, influenced his decision to run for President of MULC.
“Uni groups and churches are the easiest way to stack numbers… Marcus wants control of the MULC so he can recruit people,” the source said, “and he wants Charlie to be President because they have similar ideas.”
A supporter of Gerrand denied these claims, and stated that Gerrand was running for President as part of an “anti-Xavier Boffa charge” and “if it wasn’t Charlie running it would’ve been someone else.”
The source did however admit that both Boffa and Gerrand have been undemocratic in the battle for the Presidency. Gerrand did not respond to Farrago’s request for comment.
Once both parties have agreed upon a membership list and Clubs & Societies is satisfied, another AGM will be held to determine the 2017 Executive, including the President.