Student whistle blower wins against attempted dismissal

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Tom Raue and USU board director Bebe D'Souza. Photo: Pip Hinman

A motion to dismiss the vice president of the University of Sydney Union (USU), Tom Raue, failed to pass at a board meeting on April 17.

Raue's supporters erupted with delight when the motion, moved by the USU president, did not get the required two thirds majority.

Raue was first threatened with dismissal from the USU last September over an alleged “breach of confidentiality”. He was accused of “serious misconduct” when he leaked a statement to the university newspaper Honi Soit concerning the university administration's collaboration with NSW police in dispersing industrial action last year.

Xiaoran Shi reported in Honi Soit: “During protest action taken at Open Day August 31, a police officer advised a USU staff member that police were 'not in a position to do anything but follow them [the protesters], unless instructed otherwise by the Uni'. The University continued to insist in this article that 'the University does not influence or guide police operations'.”

During the industrial campaign last year, many students joined the picket lines set up by the National Tertiary Education Union in support of their enterprise agreement campaign. On several occasions, the NSW police and riot squad attacked students on the picket lines. Some ended up in hospital, with severe bruising and suspected fractures.

Sydney University vice-chancellor Michael Spence refused to neither confirm nor deny that he or the university management had invited the police onto the campus during the industrial dispute.

The special resolution to remove Raue was first proposed last September, but was delayed following a Supreme Court order. The USU successfully got the Supreme Court to lift the injunction on the dismissal in March.

This action does raise important issues concerning who the USU should be accountable to. The motion to sack Raue was supported by people who do not believe the USU should be more than a corporate service-providing organisation. The failure of the motion is good news for student councils and other student bodies, which should be acting in interests of students.

A counter-campaign of petitioning and campaigning brought in a lot of support for Raue and alerted a broader audience to the corporatised nature of the USU.

Raue told Green Left Weekly the result “sets a good precedent for democracy in student organisations.

"The amount of support I received from students shows that people respect whistleblowers, and won't put up with university management using police to break strikes and lying to students,” he said.

Raue was elected as USU vice president on a platform of building an environmentally friendly, transparent and student-run student union. This is a victory for him and his supporters.

[Christian Goopy is a Resistance-Young Socialist Alliance member at the University of Technology, Sydney.]

From GLW issue 1005