SUPRA AGM Gets Spicy
WORDS BY EDEN FAITHFULL
The Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) is the lesser known student association on campus, scoring second place in the student political body popularity competition to the Student Representative Council’s (SRC) first place. It may fly under the radar, but SUPRA can get just as heated as its younger political counterpart. Pulp is here to shed some light on what’s going on inside the University’s least scrutinised representative council by student media.
Last night, SUPRA held their Annual General Meeting (AGM), a second attempt after last week’s meeting lost quorum and was adjourned. Naturally, there was the expected tedious recitation of financial statements and annual reports of the association. For these parts there was pizza, so it was fairly painless (ping: USYD SRC, something to think about for your next council meeting?) The rest of the night focused on a long-fought and considerably spicier war over the SUPRA Constitution. This will need some backgrounding.
Earlier last month, just before the campus was inundated with the campaigns of the USU Board candidates, SUPRA held their elections. There were three tickets that took place in this election: Impact and Change (both Independents and working together), Postgrad Action (left wing) and Team Health (literally just a group of Med students, informally working with Postgrad Action).
Without going into the nitty-gritty details of the campaign, Change won the election. This means that the councilors elected from both Change and Impact, plus equity officers, are now the largest bloc to be elected, which in turn means that the next elected executive will be supported by this bloc of student representatives. In response to this, Rural and Regional Officer Elizabeth Millar announced that they would be holding an equity election at the first AGM scheduled for the year.
However, the Regional and Rural Officer position now no longer exists. The reasoning to abolish the position and established a Satellite Campus position were made by the Equity Officer, Elizabeth Millar, and they were voted on by Members of the Association in the EGM during April this year, which is why no election was held for it during election period. With that in mind, there is now technically no equity position that can be filled on the 2017-18 Council. And so the question stands: how can a Rural and Regional Officer who will not be part of the current Council, vote in the Reps Elect? How can there be 29 votes when there's currently only 28 seats?
Nic Avery, of PostGrad Action and Councilor-elect, clarified this for Pulp.
“Once the new constitution was approved by the Senate, June 1 2017, the R&R equity position was removed and the Satellite Campus position was established. So there is currently an unfilled Satellite Campus Equity Officer for the 2017-2018 Council term,” he said.
“Constitutional amendments are not in effect immediately, but they must be approved by the University Senate. Until the Senate writes back in approval of constitutional amendments, SUPRA works under the un-amended constitution, the current one in force.
“For all of April and May, we had not heard word back from the Senate. Considering the changes sought in the constitution were extensive, it is reasonable to assume that many councilors were unsure as to when the Senate would approve the changes. So, to be clear, until the Senate approved the new constitution, there was a Rural and Regional Officer vacancy.”
Members of Change, Mariam Mohammed and Kiriti Mortha, contacted Pulp with allegations that the movement, on top of being impractical, was also that “the election is not in the best interest of the Association and in direct contradiction of the current executive's own decision making at April's EGM.”
“All equity elections should be wrapped up by the 30th of April where possible. There were no extraordinary circumstances under which the Rural and Regional election could not be held during election period. Therefore, it is not beyond reasonable doubt that the election could have been held in a timely manner, if the welfare of the Association was actually the intention behind it.
“On these grounds, we asked the Presidents (Ahmed Bin Suhaib and Lily Matchett) and the current Equity Officer (Elizabeth Millar) to recall the election. We explained why and that action will be taken if the misuse of power continues.”
“The people who are spending time thinking of ways to stack elections are being a paid a stipend funded by students. On many different levels, this does not look good for the University.”
Avery responded to this comment.
“I would remind the person who made this comment that SUPRA Councilors represent USyd postgrad students, not the University. Furthermore, the reputation of SUPRA itself is being damaged by baseless allegations of misconduct being made,” he said.
And so we return to tonight’s meeting. Last week, the council voted down the constitutional amendments due to the fact that one of their specifications was deemed ‘undemocratic’. More specifically, the amendments included a point ruling that once a Councilor had been previously removed from council, they may no longer run for General Election. This was interpreted as an undemocratic position, and was subsequently voted down. But now that they’re back on the table, how will the elected representatives vote today?
Immediately at the opening of the AGM, member of Postgrad Action and SUPRA Councilor Nic Avery moved for the Constitutional amendments to be voted upon by the General Meeting, and despite Mohammed’s dispute that these matters had already been discussed, the move to reopen was accepted but all amendments, save for the establishment of an HDR equity officer, were voted down again. Because all’s fair in love and student representative councils.