Uni SA students to vote in snap referendum

August 24, 2012

Students will vote on proposed amendments to the University of South Australia's (UniSA) UniLife constitution from August 27 to September 3. UniLife provides various amenities to UniSA students and is run by an elected student board.

Over the past nine months, the board has redrafted constitutional amendments 14 times. But the drafts were withheld from the wider student body until the board called a snap referendum on the amendments with a weeks’ notice.

Returning officer Jason Bilberry was responsible for the drafting process, and told Green Left Weekly the “proposed constitution improves student democracy by guaranteeing that an undergraduate, postgraduate and international student will be represented on the UniLife Board”, adding an extra rep and removing UniLife fees.

But some aspects of the board’s proposed changes have proved controversial.

Under the proposed amended constitution, the elected student board will make minutes of their meetings available to students only “if the Board so directs and in the manner it directs”.

The board already has a policy to admit observers to board meetings only if the board approves it. The new change would mean UniSA students are in effect blocked from knowing anything about the board’s activities, unless, of course, the board allows it.

The proposal also restricts the complaints process and removes of the right of students to make anonymous submissions.

Many of the other changes proposed include correcting spelling and grammatical errors, unnumbered clauses and other layout issues.

Former UniLife Director Stephen McCallum has pushed for details of the amendments for several months, but says he is not happy with what was finally released.

McCallum told GLW: “There are a number of issues with the content of the proposed changes, but improper process is most concerning. The constitution was drafted without student consultation for a number of months and was released seven days before the referendum is set to begin.”

However, UniLife General Manager Keith Rudkin said the “addition of one more elected rep specifically for international students” would enhance student democracy.

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