SUPRA Annual General Meeting Confirms Demand for Enquiry
WORDS BY SANDRA BUOL
Last night’s AGM hasn’t lost quorum – something that’s worth mentioning considering last year’s meeting had to be adjourned because it couldn’t sustain an attendance of 25 or more SUPRA members. This in turn led to incomplete minutes of last year’s meeting(s) – a fact that might have caused this term’s secretary quite a headache when they had to prepare for this year’s AGM.
Quorum was not something to worry about this time. Around 50 members attended the meeting – a number that has never been that high in the last years according to the current Co-Presidents Mariam Mohammed and Kiriti Mortha and something that they’re quite proud of. While some members were late, others left early and some left in protest, the meeting never lost the necessary numbers. “It’s noteworthy that this is the first AGM of SUPRA that hasn’t lost quorum and had a record number of people turn up. So the decisions taken are well represented”, says Mortha.
The first half of the meeting ran more or less smoothly. The Presidents, some Office Bearers and some Equity Officers commented on their reports. Co-President Mariam Mohammed specifically thanked part of the Council and part of the staff for their engagement and their performance. This raised some criticism by a staff member who said they were disappointed that the thank you was not extended to all staff members. The rift that goes through Council and staff and that caused much of the recent debate about SUPRA was very much palpable at the AGM.
Disclosure: I had to leave the AGM at 7.30 pm for personal reasons. Information about what happened under the agenda’s last point “Other Business” was given to me by Co-Presidents Mariam Mohammed and Kiriti Mortha as well as Education Officer Rachel Evans.
Mariam Mohammed: “The AGM passed a motion that roughly read, ‘The AGM recommends an independent review into SUPRA’s governance structure, a comprehensive report that outlines our shortcomings and a list of recommendations to rectify those issues.’. This motion reaffirms the general constituency's demands. This is what postgraduates want. We want our union back. That's what our membership has voted on.
[Note by the author: While the demand for an enquiry into SUPRA’s governance structure has been known for quite some time (read here), no motion so far had properly spelled out the specific course of action.]
Kiriti Mortha: “50 people attended throughout the night. And only about 6–10 of these attendees were against this move. It’s important to remember the proportions of the two sides. In this case, it is clearly a 80:20 case.”
Rachel Evans: “Dean Lovett, Vice President of SUPRA, put a motion 10 minutes before the close of the AGM calling on an investigation into SUPRA’s governance practices. Mariam Mohammed clarified that this call was on University management to give up to $150’000 for such an investigation. This is a dangerous call for SUPRA and its staff and postgraduate students because Sydney University management’s corporate interests are counter-posed to student and staff interests. Students organisations need to be as independent as they can from management, so we can advocate for students, their rights and better education in an increasingly cut throat, anti-pedagogical environment. Moreover, it was completely underhanded to introduce this 10 minutes before the end of the meeting. There were no evidence or papers presented to AGM attendees as to why SUPRA needed such an investigation. There was no chance to properly examine the proposal. There was no prior warning, no consultation with students, no written documents provided. What we have from the current leadership is reckless endangering of the independence of SUPRA. Myself and others from the progressive Postgraduate Action ticket walked out to try and stop the meeting from having to vote on such an issue without information properly presented. We did not succeed in pulling quorum but were informed that there was a lot of hesitancy and abstentions from the floor. The motion, however, was passed.”