Tobias Langtry

Every month the student representatives meet to discuss the business of the UWA Student Guild. This report details the Student Guild Council meeting held Wednesday 26th July, 2023. Discussion concerned opposition to the AUKUS submarine deal, the resignation of Guild Wellbeing Officer (Kaelin Abrahams), and the right to place posters on campus.

Readers can find the meeting agenda here. If an amendment is considered ‘friendly’ by the council member who initiated the motion the amendment is accepted. If an amendment is ‘non-friendly’ the amendment has to be voted on by the whole committee to be accepted.

Jelena Kovacevic proxied for Akshata Jois, Alevine Magila proxied for Melani De Alwis, and Lorenzo Iannuzzi proxied for Claudia Bruce.

6.0 DIRECTORS’ REPORTS

6.1 Managing Director

Things are busy, as the Guild works on their Masterplan. A new Creative Officer and Volunteering Manager have been appointed. The Guild have received positive feedback from University management on the Masterplan. Tony Goodman is “confident” the Guild is heading in the right direction. Nominations for Guild elections open soon. 

6.2 Finance Director

States there has been a good start to the year and the situation on the ground is “reasonably healthy.” There are many international students and people on campus.

8.0 STUDENT REPORTS

Luke Alderslade bought a wooden gavel, which he gave to Geemal as a gift for the Guild. The gavel was engraved with the year 2023 and the 110th Guild Council, so future generations will know where the gavel came from.  

[Author’s note: I got to hit the gavel. It made a nice sound. :)]

9.0 QUESTIONS TIME – Student Reports

India Creed has a question for Geemal Jayawickrama. Geemal mentioned the expansion of halal dietary options on campus. Can he explain further?

Geemal says they are doing this partly because there are a lot more international students on campus, and it’s important to cater for their needs.

India has a question for Viknash VM about special consideration. Viknash is happy to report the Guild have successfully lobbied for Ramadan related fasting (and other cultural events) to be valid grounds for special consideration. Lecturers can now give short extensions of a few days where necessary, without students needing to go through the standard special consideration process.

 Geemal explains that the University had received many fake medical certificates related to special consideration requests. David Sadler (Deputy Vice Chancellor of Education) told the Guild reports are growing every day. The end result is the exclusion of students with legitimate special consideration requests. Police may even become involved in some cases because using fake medical certificates is fraud. Geemal stresses the importance of the Guild educating students about the issue.

10.0 BUSINESS FROM THE EXECUTIVE

10.1 Guild Masterplans

Geemal Jayawickrama explains that the Guild will be presenting the Guild’s Masterplan to the University Senate soon. Campus Management has agreed to pay for half of the upgrades to the Guild’s CCTV system. Campus Management has also committed to pay for lighting upgrades, which Geemal is very proud of. A dark campus has been a big security concern and it’s important to Geemal that students feel safe. There are conversations about building study spaces above the Refectory. There is a lot of bureaucracy within the University but “we’ll get there.”

13.0 MOTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE (OPERATIONS)

Robert Whitehurst proposes an amendment to motion 12.2.3 from the May Guild Council, which would allow the Student Living Committee to actively campaign for the ‘Yes’ vote in the upcoming referendum on the Voice.

Kaelin Abrahams supports this motion. Alevine Magila was “bloody right” when he pushed back against the neutral stance taken by motion 14.1 at the April Guild Council meeting. Kaelin admits he was too idealistic in thinking he could separate politics from education. Instead, the Guild should advocate for the ‘Yes’ vote while still educating students fairly. 

Alevine says this is a “welcome change.” It is “pretty f***ed how prominent” the ‘No’ vote has been, especially since so many avid ‘No’ campaigners have racist intentions (such as Pauline Hanson).

Motion passes.

14.0 MOTIONS ON NOTICE (REPRESENTATION)

14.1 The 110th Guild Council

    1. Affirms that the right to poster is a basic right student are entitled to as a means to communicate with the student body.
    2. Acknowledges that there is no complete student democracy without the right to poster.
    3. iii. Recognises that bollards are guild facilities.
    4. Reaffirms that all guild members have the right to use guild facilities.
    5. Supports the right of guild members to put posters up on guild facilities such as bollards.
    6. Acknowledges that it is unacceptable for bollards, poster boards, and other Guild facilities to be completely covered by material organised by Guild staff, to the exclusion of ordinary Guild members.
    7. vii. Condemns the argument that e-posters are good for the environment as not serious, plainly cynical, and a falsehood.
    8. viii. Condemns any restrictions on the ability to exercise the right to poster, including paperwork and other bureaucracy.
    9. Notes that the characterisation of minor scuff marks on Guild banners around bollards as a form of “damage” is an inflammatory and deliberate attempt to intimidate guild members from exercising their recognised right to poster.
    10. Recognises that any scratches or scuff marks on Guild banners around bollards is wholly the responsibility of the Guild authorities who put these banners up to the exclusion of everyone else among the Guild membership.
    11. Notes that e-posters are inaccessible and bureaucratic.
    12. Notes that while e-posters are available for use, that it is unacceptable for this to be used as a pretext to abolish the use of ordinary posters, which is provocative, extreme, and an offensive infringement on basic and longstanding democratic norms.

Moved: Sean Cheung

Seconded: Melani De Alwis

Alevine Magila speaks in favour of the motion. It is important for student democracy that students can place posters on campus. Placing posters on campus to advertise events and draw attention to major issues has been a long lasting tradition. Alevine alleges that students placing posters have been threatened by Guild staff, threatening fines or disaffiliation. The Guild is an independent body and should encourage student democracy, regardless of policy made by University management.

Taleah Ugle asks Alevine whether he has noticed a difference in attendance for events that have or haven’t been advertised with physical posters.

Alevine says that posters are important for events organised on a short notice (such as snap protests). In those cases, it’s too time consuming to go through the process of approval from the Guild’s marketing team. 

Cooper Mason speaks against the motion. It is wrong to accuse staff of intimidation without proof. Can Alevine confirm these claims?

 Kaelin Abrahams speaks in favour of the motion. “Quite frankly, it’s just the right thing to do.” There are obvious exceptions (such as posters spreading hate speech) but students should have a general right to poster. “It’s a good motion.”

Sean Cheung speaks in favour of the motion. Posters are a really important way to communicate with students. Taking away the right to poster is undermining that fundamental form of communication.

Tony Goodman (the Guild’s Managing Director) explains that the concrete bollards (which have historically been used to display posters) are owned by the University, on land owned by the University. As such, the Guild has to comply with University policy and the University’s bylaws state that posters should not be applied to any University property. 

Alevine attempts to interrupt Tony, which angers Cooper.

 [Author’s note: there were a lot of passionate interruptions from Alevine, Tony Goodman, and Cooper throughout the discussion. Alevine is especially frequent in his interruptions.]

Tony continues, saying there is an official simple process that students can follow to have their posters approved by the Guild. This process was endorsed by the Guild Council in 2020 and 2022. The University covered the concrete bollards because so many students refused to follow the approval process. The Guild is not trying to take the right to poster away. The Guild could install Guild-sanctioned pin boards but the problem remains that not enough students are complying with the approval process. Guild staff have been verbally abused by students over the issue. Staff are there to do their job and it’s not right to get angry with staff for doing this. 

Cooper speaks against the motion. Postering may have been historically important, but this does not mean we have to continue allowing them in the present. “Disgrace” is not quite the word he’d use to describe Alevine accusing staff of intimidation, but Cooper thinks it is wrong for Alevine to do so.

 [Alevine attempts to interrupt but Cooper keeps on talking.]

 Cooper says that Guild staff work really hard and if Alevine has a problem with staff, he shouldn’t air it in council meetings.

 [Alevine attempts to interrupt again.]

Cooper says that Alevine isn’t even a Guild Councillor, just a proxy. “As much as I think freedom of speech” is important, the bollards are University property and the Guild can’t just ignore the rules.

 Alevine says the right to poster is fundamentally about student democracy. Alevine is simply trying to affirm that right with this motion. Alevine thinks what Tony said is “a bit silly.” Alevine sees the noteboards and bollards as Guild property, in some way. If University management disagrees with the Guild on this issue, then the Guild should confront them. “Tony and his henchmen” might want the Guild to do the University’s bidding, but “what’s more important than policy is us” [the Guild.]

Viknash VM attempts to diffuse the tension. We should all agree that there should be a right to poster. The discussion should be about how we can make a compromise that solves the issue, not simply a yes or no argument. The Guild should find high-traffic, suitable places to place posters.

Tony reminds the Council that he is an employee of the organisation, and he simply wants to do his job (by complying with legal requirements and University policy). The Council are his superiors and they have a legal requirement to treat their employees well. Tony won’t stand in the way of protest but it is wrong for Alevine to single him out this way. “99%” of clubs follow the approval process. Guild policy requiring approval is not a “slap down,” and not about democratic rights. It is wrong for Alevine to target students and staff while justifying his behaviour by talking about democratic rights.

The Chair of Council, Robert Whitehurst, calls for a 10 minute break. Robert wants to return to calm constructive discussion. 

After the break, Geemal Jayawickrama proposes an amendment, which will commit the Guild to investigating places where posters can be displayed. That way, the Guild can find a solution without pre-determining the details at the meeting.

 India Creed suggests the Guild could purchase the bollards from the University or otherwise build something nearby. Tony explains that they can’t do that; regardless of whether the Guild or University owns the bollards, students will have to comply with the same approval process. Tony reminds the council about the display of Nazi and hate speech a few years ago. India clarifies she was simply suggesting the Guild have dedicated places for poster display, that the Guild would own.

 Robert suggests that the Guild put a pin board on Guild property. Tony says the Guild would still require students go through the approval process, to comply with University policy. India wonders whether the Guild could just have a pinup board outside Reid Library.

 Viknash says the Guild Council should consider specific locations, such as Reid Library, the Guild Village or the Business School. Charlotte Kennedy suggests pin up boards at the food outlets on campus.

Luke Alderslade asks whether the discussion is currently about the location of pin up boards or the approval process. 

[Author’s note: there has been some discussion about the electronic posters around campus and how hard it is to have posters displayed using those displays.]

 Cooper asks what the problem with the electronic displays actually is. India explains that the process for having posters displayed electronically is harder and more time-consuming than simply printing out physical posters.

Charlotte wants to know what the approval process for print and electronic posters actually is. Tony explains that the approval process is the same for both (submit poster, wait for approval from the Guild’s Marketing team). Charlotte asks whether we can make the process simpler and faster. Tony wants to know what the issue is, given it’s already so simple.

 Charlotte wants to know about posters advertising hastily planned events, like snap protests. Tony explains that if a club on campus wants to host an event they have to apply for approval of an EMP (event management plan) anyway (for insurance purposes). “That’s just the rules,” a legal and insurance necessity. Given that they have to go through that process anyway, approval for a poster does not actually add that much time (because the two approval processes can be run concurrently).

Taleah explains she has heard from students that the approval process can take two business days. While she supports protests, she sees how approval for an event is worthwhile where there are risks to student safety, like protests with heavy police presence, or where there are counter-protesters. In those cases it’s good to have the details as set out in an EMP. 

Geemal says that the Guild is responsible for student safety if they approve and endorse an event. So a proper approval process is necessary.

Alevine asks about posters that don’t advertise events. Alevine doesn’t want the discussion to be too confined. It’s important to protect the basic right to poster for students.

Kaelin has a question for Tony. Given that the approval process for posters is a human-led process, it can be arbitrary. Can Tony explain the process in more detail? Tony explains that posters are denied only rarely (such as if they spread hate speech or contradict policies around alcohol). There are a lot of policies that apply to any poster or event the Guild approves.

Lorenzo Iannuzzi wants to know whether e-posters are more difficult to update than simply printing out a physical poster. Tony explains that the 2024 budget includes funding commitments for building more electronic notice boards. The Guild is the biggest promoter and advertiser on the University.

Alevine is concerned about how much the average student is aware of the electronic notice boards and the ability to upload an e-poster. Does the average student have that much engagement with the Guild and its policies?

Will Partridge says uploading an e-poster only requires sending one email. Geemal says that club leaders know of the process but ordinary students don’t. Better education is necessary.

Alevine proposes an amendment to remove points 14.1.3 to 14.1.12. The Guild Council shouldn’t worry about the nitty-gritty details right now, and instead just affirm a general attitude on the right to poster. (Friendly). 

Geemal proposes an amendment to add point 14.1.3, which directs the Guild to consider alternative arrangements for student posters. Tony agrees, saying the Guild shouldn’t pre-empt a specific solution before a proper discussion has happened outside of the meeting.

 Kaelin disagrees. Broad, vague statements of attitude are merely symbolic and don’t achieve anything. The Council should not be afraid of deliberating extensively to work out the details. Governing is about details and considering the nitty-gritty.

Cooper and Will Partridge vote against the motion. Motion passes.

14.2 The 110th Guild Council:

    1. Recognises that AUKUS is a provocative and dangerous military alliance that increases the risk of war between the West and China.
    2. Acknowledges that the Australian acquisition of nuclear submarines is a cornerstone element of AUKUS, which will have an overall cost in excess of AU$368 billion.
    3. iii. Condemns the spending of billions of dollars for nuclear submarines and other modern killing instruments by the federal government when we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis and where public funds should be directed towards supporting ordinary people.
    4. Condemns the AUKUS alliance and calls for the withdrawal of Australia from the US-Alliance.

Moved: Sean Cheung

Seconded: Melani De Alwis

Sean Cheung speaks in favour of the motion, saying that AUKUS is bad policy. The issue is the Guild’s opposition to war and support for Indigenous rights because Sean says nuclear waste will be stored on Indigenous land.).

Alevine Magila waives his speaking rights so Finn Penter can speak. Finn says the Guild should condemn the AUKUS submarine deal, and repeats the claim that nuclear waste will be stored on Indigenous land. The government is wasting a lot of money on submarines, money that could be spent on helping students.

Cooper Mason wants to know whether anything had changed between now and the March Council meeting, where a similar motion was proposed and failed to pass. Sean explains that the NUS (National Union of Students) has since condemned the AUKUS submarine deal

Lorenzo Iannuzzi wants to know what the motion is meant to achieve. Is it merely symbolic?

Alevine says that the next motion, 14.3, provides a practical plan for action. However, even if there was no action attached to the motion, it would still be valuable. Because the motion would be a statement of the Council’s values (anti-war, pro-Indigenous rights, pro-student). 

Geemal speaks in favour of the motion, saying that the university sector has suffered from a chronic lack of funding. If money can be spent on submarines, why can’t the government spend money on education?

India speaks in favour of the motion. The AUKUS submarine deal will involve the purchase of highly enriched uranium, counter to Australia’s international obligations. India agrees with Geemal that funding should be directed to education, not submarines.

Cooper speaks against the motion. The Council has already voted against a similar motion. Is this the message that the Council wants to send, that they care more about foreign policy issues than students? The motion doesn’t reference students or their needs. “We’re here to govern students, not the country.”

Cooper also wants to specify that Australia is purchasing nuclear powered submarines, not nuclear weapon submarines, as the motion may misleadingly suggest. There is no call to practical action in the motion and the Council should not waste its time on issues they have no control over. The Council should instead focus on advocating for student interests. Cooper accepts that there is a lack of funding for the education sector, but the motion does not address that issue directly.

India says she has been in classes where students have brought up the AUKUS submarine deal, expressing alienation from a government that cares more about submarines than their needs. The motion is meant to speak to this disconnect between student needs and government priorities. The motion really does relate to student concerns.

Cooper says the body of the motion does not actually relate closely to student interests. Cooper proposes an amendment to specify is talking about nuclear powered submarines, not nuclear weapon submarines. (Friendly).

Cooper votes against the motion. Motion passes.

14.3 The 110th Guild Council:

    1. Supports the National Union of Students Welfare not Warfare National Day of Action on August 9
    2. Commits to mobilising resources – including displaying e-posters and sending an email update to the student body—to promote the event.
    3. Commits to printing 50 posters to promote the August 9 National Day of Action and putting these up around campus.
    4. Commits to printing 300 leaflets and mobilising staff and/or guild volunteers to hand these out throughout week 2, semester 2 to promote the event.
    5. Encourages all OGCs to attend the event.

Moved: Sean Cheung

Seconded: Melani De Alwis

Alevine Magila speaks in favour of the motion. It would be great if the UWA Guild could unite with the NUS and Curtin Student Guild on the issue. It’s “kinda dumb” that it’s primarily Socialist Alliance engaging in this activism, not the Guild. The Guild should step up.

 Viknash VM asks why the motion specifies only OGCs (Ordinary Guild Councillors), not Councillors in general. Viknash proposes an amendment to point 14.3.5, in order to correct this. (Friendly).

Geemal Jayawickrama wants to know whether the EAN (Education Action Network) will be a part of this campaign. Will Sean Cheung make a post about the issue?

Someone asks where the funding will come from. It will come from the EAN’s budget.

 Kaelin Abrahams proposes an amendment to point 14.3.3 and 14.3.4. Under this amendment the Guild would only commit to matching the promotional material sent by the NUS, and remove the requirement to mobilise staff. (Friendly).

Kaelin speaks in favour of the motion. Kaelin “loves it” when the NUS actually does something to support student wellbeing. The NUS welfare representative has never reached out to him or Kaelin’s volunteers. This is despite these NUS representatives being paid. If the NUS really wants to run a national campaign they actually need to proactively engage with WA.

Kaelin is a little fed up about the lack of action from the NUS.

Cooper Mason votes against the motion. Motion passes.

14.4 The 110th Guild Council:

    1. Recognises and acknowledges the purpose, necessity, and significance of national student bodies, especially during this period characterised by multiple reviews of tertiary institutions on a federal and state level,
    2. Recognises that representation on a national level is an essential right for all students at tertiary institutions, and it is the responsibility of the Guild to uphold and bolster that right,
    3. Directs respective Guild office bearers to work with their national counterparts in these national bodies, to increase engagement with NUS and other unions going forward, and yield better outcomes for students.
    4. Directs the 110th Guild Council to organise a briefing explaining the role, function, and processes of NUS, as well as facilitating discussion regarding the interests of UWA students, for all incoming 2024 UWA NUS delegates prior to the commencement of the 111th Guild Council term.

Proposed: India Creed

Seconded: Viknash VM

India Creed speaks in favour of the motion. It’s important to affirm the right to national student representation. It’s useful to have the information ready for future NUS (National Union of Students) delegates.

 Viknash VM speaks in favour of the motion. The NUS has “massive respect” for the UWA Guild and it’s important for student Guild’s to work together in one body. Though, Viknash hasn’t received much communication from his national counterparts.

Cooper Mason speaks against the motion. Cooper reminds the council of the bad reputation of the NUS and suggests the NUS has not been doing a good enough job.

Alevine Magila speaks in favour of the motion. The main argument for the NUS is student unionism. A strong commitment to national student unionism is important: the NUS isn’t just the office bearers, but the students they represent. The Guild shouldn’t break away for parochial issues or just because there’s been a lack of communication from the NUS. Alevine repeats his concerns from the April Council meeting about using Key Performance Indicators to potentially justify disengagement with the NUS.

Cooper says we should care about whether the NUS is actually delivering for students, not abstract ideals.

Kaelin Abrahams says he works for the CFMEU, a labour union. Union members pay the union to do its job and successfully represent workers. Kaelin agrees we should have a national body to represent students, but the NUS is failing to do so and is captured by eastern elites who disregard WA. The NUS takes the Guild’s money but delegates from UWA are abused by the NUS. Speaking passionately, Kaelin says “what is NUS? It is a hive of factional politicking, it is rotten!” Kaelin proposes an amendment to remove 14.4.3. (Seconded by Cooper) (non-friendly.)

India speaks, saying the Guild should “take a breath.” India stresses that 14.4.3 doesn’t put any onus on the Guild to overly engage with the NUS, it instead encourages collaboration where possible.

Kaelin proposes an amendment to remove point 14.4.3. (Non-friendly.)

Kaelin says he is not angry, just passionate. The NUS needs a deep clean. The NUS will only improve if pressure is there for reform. UWA should take a stand; Kaelin’s fed up and wants the NUS to act like a national union that meaningfully advances student interests.

Taleah Ugle says there are often differences in opinion between WA and eastern states, especially on social issues. Taleah reinforces what Kaelin said; NUS office bearers are paid while the UWA Guild councillors are (mostly) volunteers.

Cooper says he never thought he’d agree with someone wearing a CFMEU shirt (Kaelin). Cooper agrees that the fundamental issue is whether the NUS is performing for students, not abstract concerns about whether a national union should exist.

Alevine speaks against the amendment. The issue is not the factional or political nature of the NUS, but that the Union is dominated by right-wing members. We should not ditch the NUS, but fight for left-wing positions (as Left Action does). Alevine thinks it is dumb to talk about the performance value of an organisation. The Union is valuable for the membership, not leadership.

 Amendment fails.

India Creed says that the Guild should maintain its engagement with the NUS, even if the NUS has real problems. We have to engage to make the NUS better.

Cooper votes against the motion. Motion passes.

14.5 The 110th Guild Council accepts the resignation of Kaelin Abrahams as Wellbeing Officer.

Moved by Geemal Jayawickrama

Seconded by Rutvi Timbadia

Geemal Jayawickrama says that this is a really sad motion to move. Kaelin Abrahams is starting a full time role with a labour union (CFMEU) and Geemal is happy for Kaelin. It’s important to share the valuable work Kaelin has achieved this year. Geemal is definitely going to miss Kaelin.

Rutvi Timbadia says that Kaelin has done really well as the Wellbeing Officer.

Alevine Magila is pleased that Kaelin is working for a labour union and Alevine hopes Kaelin will lead strikes.

 Taleah Ugle says she has known Kaelin since highschool and she was inspired to join the Guild Council because Kaelin did so. This meant a lot to her, as they are both Indigenous.

India Creed praises Kaelin for his passion, principles, and for his willingness to listen. Kaelin has built a really strong committee. “We will all miss you.”

Cooper Mason says he often disagreed with Kaelin, but respects Kaelin’s willingness to speak his mind. Kaelin has been a “terrific servant” of this Council. 

Kaelin says he would like to share some fond memories. Kaelin has apparently made out with a Guild Councillor both this year and last year. Kaelin was one of the protesters who broke into Amit Chakma’s office in 2021. Kaelin praises the Pride, Access,  and Residential Students departments. Kaelin has made great memories and friendships during his time as Wellbeing Officer. “Don’t be a stranger.” 

Motion passes.

14.6 The 110th Guild Council invites the nomination of Erin Williams as the interim 2023 Wellbeing Officer until the end of Kaelin’s term and accepts her nomination.

Moved by Geemal Jayawickrama

Seconded by Rutvi Timbadia

Geemal Jayawickrama says he is happy to accept Erin Williams to the team.

 Motion passes.

 Erin says hello to the Council and says Kaelin has left a “wonderful” legacy. Erin looks forward to working with everyone and improving student wellbeing.

16.0 GENERAL BUSINESS 

Geemal Jayawickrama thanks Tony Goodman (Managing Director) for ten years of service.

 16.1 Uni Accords

Viknash VM starts a discussion about the Interim Report of the Australian Universities Accord. Viknash is happy to report that a rule restricting student loan assistance (HECS-HELP) to only those students passing half of their units will be axed. It’s important to raise the PhD compensation to at least minimum wage. Viknash strongly opposes a plan to levy a tax on international students, which will make it even more expensive for international students to study in Australia. Lorenzo Iannuzzi and Charlotte Kennedy are concerned about that too.

Alevine Magila thinks the Guild is too ‘soft’ on the Accords. The Accords review still preserves the fundamental issues of higher education; high fees, lack of research funding. The university system is built around serving industry, not students. The Guild should reconsider its involvement with the process. 

Finn Penter is not surprised about the levy on international students. The Accord process simply reinforces the way the education sector treats international students as ‘cash cows’. The Guild should not ‘rubber stamp’ the process by being involved with it.

 Lorenzo Iannuzzi says the Guild should coordinate with the National Tertiary Education Union about this issue.

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