UMSU-in-brief: What’s new with your student union?

25 May 2021

While you’ve been smashing back-to-back coffees, or spending an ungodly amount of time in the Baillieu this semester, a LOT has been happening at the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU). But, don’t fret! Farrago is here to catch you up on everything you’ve missed…

1. General Secretary Resigns

UMSU’s General Secretary resigned in late-April, creating a casual vacancy in one of the organisation’s most important roles. Among many other things, the General Secretary is responsible for maintaining records of UMSU activities, and ensuring the organisation runs fairly and transparently.

To appoint an interim General Secretary, Students’ Council passed a motion opening nominations for the position to the general student population for a period of one week. Following this, Council convened for a Special Meeting on May 10, where Allen Xiao (Community) was elected as interim General Secretary.

2. Proposed Changes to the UMSU Constitution

On 5 May, Students’ Council voted on a series of proposed amendments to the UMSU Constitution. These amendments were the product of discussions held during the collaborative Constitutional Working Groups that took place earlier this semester. These will now head to a Special General Meeting on 27 May at 12pm, where all students will be able to have their say and vote on the proposed amendments. At least 400 attendees are required for the changes to pass. 

Proposed changes relating to Election Regulations included:

  1. Removing the requirement for a physical ballot at UMSU Annual General Elections.
  2. Conducting elections digitally, though still requiring an on campus voting option unless campus is closed.

All of the above changes were passed unanimously. 

Proposed changes relating to the Southbank campus included:

  1. A  Southbank Representative elected by the Southbank constituency was added as a new voting member to Students’ Council. 
  2. The Southbank Activities and Education Officers, who were not previously considered UMSU Office Bearers, were added to this list. 
  3. The Southbank Education and Activities Officers would receive 60% of the standard Office Bearer honorarium.

All of the above changes were passed unanimously. 

Proposed changes to the UMSU International (UMSU Intl) constitution were as follows:

  1. Changing the number of people who jointly hold the office of UMSU International Vice-President from two to three. 
  2. While the UMSU Intl President and Vice-Presidents previously shared honorarium on a 40:30:30 percentage basis, the President will now receive 60 per cent of the honorarium received by individual Office Bearers, and the three Vice-Presidents. would receive 50 per cent of the honorarium received by individual Office Bearers.
  3. Corrections to outdated terminology in the Constitution. 

Though all of the above changes passed at Council, four members abstained from voting, citing concerns about the relative lack of notice given to councillors regarding the changes, and that proper legal advice about them hadn’t been sought.

3. Students’ Council Highlights

Students’ Council— the ‘paramount governing body of the Union’, made up of 15 general and 6 special representatives—has been particularly heated this year. While interfactional disputes within Council are common, multiple council members have (sometimes repeatedly) been called out for misconduct and disruptive behaviour. 

In a Facebook post published 21 April, the Socialist Alternative (SAlt) faction expressed their intention to pass a motion condemning the behaviour of certain people who ran on the Community ticket during 2020 Annual General Elections. The post alleged these individuals had ‘obstructed… important student campaigns’ and silenced debate in Council. However, as the upcoming Council session was adjourned due to the General Secretary’s resignation, this proposed motion was not brought forward or discussed. It has yet to be brought up in another meeting.

4. Political Action

Your UMSU student representatives have also been hard at work organising numerous important political campaigns throughout the semester. We’ve seen everything from protests against staff and course cuts, calls to condemn transphobia on campus, as well as petitions and snap rallies to demand better safety on campus for students. There have also been successful campaigns to extend library hours and extend COVID-19 support services for students.

Outside of campus, your student representatives have also been involved in the fight to free the refugees detained at Park Hotel, and joined thousands of other students on 21 May School Strike for Climate to demand greater action on climate change.

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