Not sufficiently informed to have a stance on Ramsay Centre?
Words by Madeline Ward
Greetings from outside the doors of the Sutherland Room, where the USU board have been in camera for around 20 minutes. Your faithful Pulp reporter is joined by a small gaggle of SRC representatives, namely the President, Education and Women’s Officers, as well as an Honi editor. We are bored, and we have eaten all their pastries.
The meeting thus far has been largely uneventful, with the exception of the exciting news that the Queer space is being moved from the Holme building to Manning, where it will join the Women’s and Ethnocultural spaces. In some respect this is a marked improvement, in that the current Queer space is in essence a small concrete basement, but this is also a severe let down for those who enjoy the close proximity to the University of Sydney’s best piece of illicit smoking area real estate.
The spice of the meeting arrived in the form of a question from SRC Education Officer Lara Sonnenschein, in regard to the Ramsay Centre. Sonnenschein explained that she had been in communication with the board’s Maya Eswaran about the potential for the USU to take a public stance on the Ramsay Centre, and the potential for either the President to issue a statement or for a motion to be debated and voted on by the board was suggested. It was raised that neither of these things had happened, and that the lack of open discussion of the motion was undemocratic.
President Liliana Tai responded by explaining that the Board had considered moving a motion, but that in an informal meeting of the directors it was decided that board directors were not sufficiently well informed to vote on a motion in relation to Ramsay. Jacob Masina expressed that whilst he wasn’t at the meeting, he personally doesn’t see the value in the USU taking an official position on the Ramsay Centre, as such a political decision in his mind falls within the purview of the SRC.
Sonnenschein responded by explaining that the USU regularly takes stances on matters outside the realm of student life and campus activity, and that it is an issue that should be discussed in an open forum, rather than behind closed doors. This sentiment was echoed by Maya Eswaran, who noted that a lot of issues don’t make it to board meetings because of such closed-door decisions. The matter was concluded with the input of immediate past president Courtney Thompson, who reiterated Tai’s initial statement that the matter was not necessarily off the table, despite not being discussed today.
The fact that multiple motions have not made it to monthly board meetings as a result of informal meetings of the student directors seems to represent a concerning breakdown of the democratic processes within the USU. It is also interesting that, despite its consistent discussion in both the campus and national news cycle this year, and the breadth of information available relating to the Ramsay Centre, the student board directors consider themselves too ill-informed to vote and debate on a motion pertaining to Ramsay. The olive branch that was extended in the form of the potential for a motion at a later board meeting is at this point pretty obsolete: the issue of the Ramsay Centre is time sensitive, with the memorandum of understanding up for debate in the University Senate on the 31st of this month.