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QUT Guild proposing major constitutional rewrite, disagreements within council

By July 24, 2019 August 13th, 2019 No Comments

In an email to all students this morning, The QUT Guild detailed their proposed changes to the constitution, a major topic of last year’s student guild elections.

For students unaware, the QUT Guild constitution is the base document that outlines how the organisation is run, how the Guild can be held accountable, and what the Guild does for students.

The 2018 QUT Guild elections was a catalyst for this constitutional reform.

Last year, the incumbent group EPIC won their eighth QUT Guild election by default after they ran unopposed.

An electoral tribunal ruled their win was “not fair nor democratic” due to poor advertisement of candidate nominations and called a new election.

EPIC subsequently lost the second election after new candidates emerged and the ballot was won by opposition group Reach.

In the proposal sent out today, the most significant item is the implementation of a Board of Directors.

This Board would oversee the governance of the Guild and consist of a majority of six elected students and four other stakeholders – The Guild’s Managing Director, a member of the QUT alumni community, a representative appointed by QUT’s Vice-Chancellor and a business, community or educational representative.

The changes also propose a Student Representative Committee (SRC) comprised of students elected to represent various areas of the university and minority groups of students, such as queer, international, disabilities and Indigenous.

This committee somewhat mimics the current Guild Council, though currently the members of council have complete control over the QUT Guild, its staffing, services and funding.

QUT Guild President Vinnie Batten said that the intent of the proposal is to separate the long-term governance decisions of the QUT Guild from the on-the-ground representation.

“The whole point is decentralisation of power so that a majority political group having control of the SRC doesn’t result in them having full control of the Guild,” Mr Batten said.

“The SRC is charged with representing views of students and endorsing campaigns, which would rarely overlap with the tasks of the board,” Mr Batten added.

Science and Engineering Faculty Councillor and QUT Socialist Alternative Club member Declan Kerr urged all members of Guild Council in an email this morning to vote against the proposed changes.

“[The proposed constitution] would see our Guild cease to be a democratic, accountable and independent body that represents students if adopted in its current form,” Mr Kerr said in his email.

According to Mr Batten, a suggestion added “to give the SRC more assurance in their weight,” could be a rule stating that the board would not be able to vote down a decision of the SRC unless a special majority was reached, currently drafted at eight votes out of ten, and that the decision was also deemed a “risk to the organisation.”

Mr Kerr said that as the consultation was done in July, the process was “rushed and doesn’t consider student opinions as the priority.”

The QUT Guild held a consultation event on the 15th of July for all students to attend and to provide feedback on the changes, and another consultation session is planned for the 29th of July according to members of the Guild executive.

“It’s important that all students have an opportunity to have input before Guild Council considers [the constitution],” Mr Batten said.

“I firmly believe that any political group having a majority hold over the entire workings of the guild is inherently not representative of the student body,” Mr Batten said.

“It’s important to take on any feedback that political groups provide us regarding these documents, but it is important to remember that they are incentivised in different ways than the average student, because it is their prerogative…to have overarching majority say and to have their viewpoint as the majority in the student guild.”

The QUT Guild said they would formally respond to Mr Kerr’s comments after considering all of his criticisms.

More details as they come.

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