UMSU SGM Results in Radical Change

24 May 2016

The second Special General Meeting of the University of Melbourne Student Union for the semester brought forth significant structural changes to the constitution. Held on 24 May, the successful resolutions at the SGM established new representative departments, committees and affirmative action policies.

Removal of the Asterisk in “Wom*n’s”

The UMSU Wom*n’s Department will now be known as the “Women’s Department” following the successful resolution to remove the asterisk.

As reported by Farrago recently, the removal of the asterisk stems from second-wave feminism beliefs that transgender women are not women. The UMSU Women’s and Queer Departments have opposed this radical feminist belief in previous years, stating that second-wave feminism is a “largely exclusionary movement” and not in the best interests of student representation.

Updating the Definition of Women

A motion passed to update the definition of woman to “a person who identifies as a woman regardless of gender assigned at birth, including but not limited to trans women, cis women and intersex women”.

The rationale behind this motion was to acknowledge that students who identify as women may not have this reflected in University records, therefore making them ineligible to run for UMSU positions.

Elizabeth Briggs, a Women’s Committee member who ran on the Liberal ticket ‘Create’, claimed that transgender women can’t be women. This claim was met with a strongly negative response by the attendees.

“You can be trans and a woman at the same time,” replied UMSU Queer Officer, Lotus Ye.

The People of Colour Department

After much discussion in the past year, a People of Colour Department has been successfully established within UMSU. The first People of Colour Officers, Committee, and Students’ Council representative will be elected this September for the 2016/2017 term.

“We have other departments that represent marginalised students on campus. It makes no sense that we don’t have a People of Colour department on campus,” said UMSU Welfare Officer Yan Zhuang.

Greater Affirmative Action Policies

Affirmative action policies pertaining to gender and race have been put in place within UMSU committee and Officer Bearer structures.

All UMSU Departments which are held jointly between two office bearers now must include one woman. All UMSU committees require four of the seven members to be women – with the exception of the Women’s Committee which are, as the name suggests, all women. However, the Women’s Committee now requires at least three out of seven members to be women of colour. Furthermore, one of the Women’s Officers must now be a woman of colour if the Office is held jointly.

UMSU Women’s Officer, Adriana Mells, noted that “we had more representatives from UMSU named James than we did women attending student representative meetings” at the beginning of the year. Out of the student representatives which attended meetings with the University, only one or two were women.

This affirmative action is carried up to the highest governing body, UMSU Students’ Council, with at least eight of fifteen members now required to be women. The previous affirmative action policies mandated 50 per cent rounded down. These changes alter the requirement to be 50 per cent plus one.

Douglas Roberts, a student who spoke against the changes, claimed that greater affirmative action policies restrict a student’s right to choose their representatives fairly. Roberts claimed that students who pay the Student Services and Amenities Fee should be able to vote for candidates unconditionally.

In opposition, former UMSU Disabilities Officer, Sasha Chong, claimed that the current University population currently has more women than men, so the representation on Students Council and Committees should reflect this.

All motions tabled at the SGM were passed and met with a round of applause. The constitutional changes in relation to the composition of Students’ Council, Committees and Offices will be effective from the next elections held in September.

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