New Pres, Endorsement of Disability Room, Enviro Officer named & walkout: April Guild Council

Welcome back to the Glass coverage of the Guild Student Representative Council (SRC) Meetings of 2023. This is our coverage of the April Council meeting held on Thursday 27th April 2023 at B201, Kelvin Grove Campus.   

We will be bringing students coverage of these meetings throughout the year, so you have insight into all the goings-on in your Student Representative Council (SRC). These meetings include the motions that Guild Executives and other students put forward for the SRC to vote on, and which will directly impact your university experience.    

All current students can attend SRC meetings. If you want to see change on campus, we encourage you to put forward a motion to the SRC.   

COUNCIL MEETING MINUTES    

You can find the minutes of the meeting here once published.    

You can also access the meeting agenda and documents associated with motions raised at the meeting in this folder. 

AND WE’RE OFF! 

The meeting was opened by the Chair Curtis Wenzel just at 5:40pm and began with an Acknowledgement of Country.     

The Chair noted the following apologies for the meeting: Dylan Barrett (Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice Councillor, Grow). 

No leaves of absence were noted.  

The Chair asked for the minutes from the previous meeting to be taken as read. The motion was seconded and passed. 

Aamna Asif spoke briefly about the resignation of the previous President Zoe Davidson and said she had taken the position as interim president until the vacancy was filled. There were no questions from Executives or other students.  

QUEER COLLECTIVE REPORT  

The Queer Collective report was delivered by Convenor Julian Trueman via Zoom.   

The Collective has 183 registered members, which is an increase of 16 members since the last Council meeting. Trueman said its normal for registrations to plateau around this time of year, once Welcome Week is over and there are fewer students on campus.  

The Collective held their most recent meeting on 21 April and 16 students attended. The engagement was high and students were interested in finding out more about their rights as Collective members.  

The casual vacancy of Engagement Officer was filled by Michael Pendergast.  

Trueman stated the Collective has had some issues accessing their funding, which means they have not been able to hold as many events as they would like. In response to a query about what the access issue is from Ciaran Greig (Glass Editor-in-Chief) he explained that the log in information for the AusPost card the Collective had been using to access their funds had been lost and they were in the process of fixing this issue. 

The Collective hosted a board games night, which was successful, and had planned a Lesbian Visibility Day movie night. 

In other news, the Collective and the Guild had nominated to host the Queer Collaborations Conference. NUS added some requirements at the last minute, which resulted in the QUT Student Guild and the Queer Collective withdrawing their nominations. You can read the full report here.  

DISABILITY COLLECTIVE REPORT  

The Disability Collective report was delivered by Convenor Michael Pendergast. 

The Collective has 48 registered members, which is an increase of 3 members since the last Council meeting. Pendergast also stated that new membership usually slows down after the busy Welcome Week period. 

The casual vacancy of Events Officer was filled by Sharon Juma. 

The casual vacancy of Secretary was filled by Gabrielle Edwards 

The Collective held their most recent meeting on 24 April and 6 students attended, which met quorum.  

A motion was put forward to create a designated space for the Collective on campus, where students can bring food and drink, they can host meetings and events. At this stage the Collective has no designated space on campus which had caused attendance issues for events in the past. The Collective is campaigning for a disability space on campus. 

The Collective has also been campaigning for improvements to the Disability Support Pension. You can read more about this issue here

You can read the full report from the Disability Collective here

FILLING (ALMOST) ALL OF THE CASUAL VACANCIES 

There was a brief discussion between the Chair, Isabella Foley (Environment Officer, SAlt) and other executives about the correct order of business and whether the meeting would include question time. Due the large number of casual vacancies, the Chair clarified the order of business would run slightly differently to R4. 

Queer Officer 

There were two expressions of interest for the Queer Officer role – Eli Spencer and Troy Wise. 

Eli Spencer presented first. 

Spencer began his speech with a presentation that detailed the results he collected from a survey he conducted within the QUT community. He received 116 responses from students and staff. 

The survey asked respondents about queer issues, their experience with the University, whether they were aware of support systems available to them, and whether they were aware that the Student Guild had a Queer Officer (majority of respondents said no). You can view all the results from the survey here. 

One of the major concerns to come out of Spencer’s survey was people experiencing deadnaming and misgendering, which is one of the main issues Spencer plans on targeting if he is elected as Queer Officer. He also plans to create regular ‘office hours’ so that students come and see him to express their concerns. 

Spencer also said he would like to hold students and staff accountable for discrimination, deadnaming and misgendering. He plans on working with faculty and the University to run workshops to educate staff members and students on transgender, queer and non-binary people. The training would specifically be about educating people on “the whole alphabet” including non-binary and trans issues and correct use of pro-nouns.  Spencer acknowledged that workshops are not always effective, and hopes to implement other measures, like mandatory “queer studies”, in the future. The training would also be primarily focused on health degrees, like bio-med, nursing or paramedics. 

“QUT promotes they are queer friendly, and the feedback I’ve gotten is amazing but appalling. I’m very, very sad to hear that a lot of queer people at QUT, and staff members, are saying this kind of stuff [experiencing discrimination, deadnaming and misgendering], when QUT promotes how amazing they are.” 

Harley Manley (Disability Officer, Grow) made a point of information stating he is meeting with the “Teaching Collective” about making equity training mandatory for staff. 

Lauren Cuthbert (Deputy Convenor, Queer Collective) said the Queer Collective has also been working with a working party at QUT on these issues. 

Spencer said he feels strongly about working closely with the Queer Collective, and was unsure why the roles were so separated.  

Trueman said while he would also like to see more collaboration between the Collective and the Guild, indicated that the issue is more complicated than it may seem.  

In response to other questions from students: 

  • Spencer explained how he shared the survey with different groups of people within the community he knew, who then shared it with other groups, including Glass and Scratch That
  • He said he has a lot of experience working with different groups of people, include children as a disability worker, volunteering with young queer people and homeless people. He said he has worked with Stephen Bates to advocate for trans-health issues. 
  • He worked as a QUT ambassador visiting high schools. 

As is normal procedure, candidates are asked about their political affiliations. Spencer said he is a Greens supporter but is aware that the party also has its issues. Spencer disclosed post-meeting that he is also a member of the Greens. 

Troy Wise presented. 

Wise said he had a lot of experience which would make him a good Queer Officer. He said he is very involved with the QUT community, as a student, volunteer and clubs officer. He is currently the vice-president of the Movement and Nutrition Sciences Club. He works in the Student Engagement office at QUT, where he is involved in managing events and working directly with students and the Guild.  

As a volunteer, he has worked in the Early Birds program, which works with high school students to give them an idea of what university is like. He has also worked with the Kickstart program, which is similar to Early Birds but not exclusive to high school students.  

“When I’ve been talking to a lot of students, they’ve said ‘I didn’t know there were people like me at university’, and I would like [the Queer Officer role] to be someone who you can come and talk to. Someone who is present at a lot of events, and someone who you can see and just have a chat with.” 

He said he is very passionate about queer rights and would make sure to make himself available to students as much as possible. He also believes in the importance of working closely with the Queer Collective.  

In response to questions from students: 

  • When asked how he would handle the workload, Wise said while he does a lot and is busy, he is very good at scheduling and has a fairly flexible schedule. 
  • He said he would make his main priority making himself available and making sure students know there is a Queer Officer at the University. 
  • He acknowledged that he doesn’t know the inner workings of the Queer Collective at this stage, but would plan to meet with the members and work together to see what they can achieve. 
  • The unit he has found most challenging so far is HLB110 due to the first assignment, which was very contested. He was able to get the assessment changed after getting feedback from students and taking it to the University.  

Wise said he has no political affiliations.  

All non-SRC members were asked to leave the room while voting took place.  

The Chair took a vote; the votes were tied.   

The motion was voted on again after all the expression of interests were completed later in the meeting, due to the time it took to collect and tally the votes, and to minimise disruptions as non-SRC members need to leave the room each time a vote takes place. For clarity in this article, all votes will be included after the relevant presentation for each role.  

After the second vote, Eli Spencer was voted in as Queer Officer. 

First Nations Officer 

The only candidate for this position was Shanell Saunders, who was present at the beginning of the meeting but was not present when the casual vacancy was discussed. 

The Chair took a vote about whether to elect candidate, but the position remained vacant after the vote. 

President  

There were two expressions of interest for the President role – Siddharth Uniyal and interim President, Aamna Asif. 

Siddharth Uniyal was present at the beginning of the meeting but was not present at the time the casual vacancy was discussed. 

Aamna Asif spoke. 

Asif said one of the reasons she would be a great fit for the role is her experience of working at the Guild for the past 18 months. This has allowed her to have an understanding of the internal structures and operations of the Guild. She said that working as the Secretary has given her a deep understanding of the importance of the governing documents and an appreciation for what goes into advocating for student rights.  

“I believe that I have the experience and the skills to make a strong candidate for President, as I know how challenging it can be. I’ve worked with the past two Presidents, so I can understand the dedication and hard work the position takes.” 

Asif said she has been focusing on keeping continuity in the Guild during this transitional time and believes keeping continuity in the organisation means the executives can focus on “…actually advocating for students, which is what the union should be doing.” 

Asif disclosed that she is a member of the Labor party. 

In response to questions from students: 

  • When asked whether she will use her position to speak out against the Labor party when they make moves against the best interest of students, Asif said she is happy to listen to students, and “100%” willing to represent them and advocate for them. 
  • Specific strategies she plans to implement and continue are listening to student voices and holding regular conversations with the University to hold them accountable. 
  • She plans to continue pushing for student rights by going to NUS conferences and advocating at a Federal level. “Up until now, the Guild hasn’t really had a proper political platform. We’ve never even gone to NUS conferences or anything on a Federal level,” she said. 
  • She plans on continue working on some of the campaign ideas she originally had as Secretary, like improving governing documents and policies. “I think those things are so crucial and they will go beyond my time at the Guild, so that’s definitely still important and front of mind.” 

The Chair took a vote; 15 voted for Asif, none against, none abstained. Asif was elected President.  
 
Engagement Officer 

There were two expressions of interest for the Engagement Officer role – Deepika Sharma and Zara Vaz. 

Deepika Sharma was not present at the beginning of the meeting and not present at the time the casual vacancy was discussed. 

Zara Vaz presented.  

Vaz is a first-year student, studying a Bachelor of Science with plans to major in Earth Sciences. She acknowledged that she is “only a first year”, but she has a lot of experience working with students and planning initiatives as she resided over two clubs in high school. As part of her duties, she planned events, did fundraising projects and worked with around 1,000 students over Years 10, 11 and 12. She also works as a media manager and has experience creating social media campaigns and interacting and communicating with people through socials.  

In response to questions from students: 

  • As part of her work with clubs, she has planned art exhibitions and many other events. 
  • She is an international student and has experience working with and interacting with students from various backgrounds and countries.  
  • She also went to Washington and participated in an international model UN conference, where she engaged with many students from all over the world. 
  • A specific initiative she is proud of is a project which helped educate people on their carbon footprint. Students would complete an online form, which gave them information about their carbon footprint and how they could reduce it. 
  • She said she would not let any political affiliations affect her work, and that she believes student voice and opinion are more important.  
  • When asked about how she would manage her workload, Vaz said she knows how to manage her time and she thinks she is ready to take on this role. “I’m prepared and I’m ready to take on the stress.” 

The Chair took a vote and Zara Vaz was voted in as Engagement Officer. 

Engineering Faculty Councillor 

There were two expressions of interest for the Engineering Faculty role – Judah Adams and Gaurav Vithalani. 

Judah Adams presented over Zoom.

Adams is a sixth year Electrical Engineering and Mathemetics student. He is very involved in the student community, and is currently the President of the Anime and Manga Club and secretary of the Electrical Engineering Student Society. He currently works as electronics engineer. He is also on the Clubs and Societies Committee as an elected member. He applied for this role as a way to give back to other engineering students and help students as they are going through their studies.  

In response to a question about managing his time, Adams said his work is very flexible and he is only doing two subjects per semester. He has developed very rigid planning and time management skills, so believes he would be able to take on this extra role.  

Madison Shepherd (Clubs and Societies Officer, Grow) spoke in support of Adams, and said her experience of working with him has been positive – he has shown he can manage his time well and he is always willing to help out and take on more work.  

Adams has no political affiliation.  
 

Gaurav Vithalani presented.  

Vithalani is a second year PHD student. He is also involved in the Higher Degree Research program, representing students from science and health. He applied for this role because he thinks there is a disjoin between different governing bodies at the University, and (if elected) he would like to bring ideas from different areas of the University together.  

He works as a sessional academic, which means he works directly with students. He also works with student engagement. He believes that his connections and experience working with different areas of QUT and different governing bodies would make him a good candidate for this role. He is also the event manager, events coordinator and health and safety officer with the Science and Engineering Faculty HDR student committee and a committee for the industry body, ACN. 

Moin Rahman (International Student Officer, Grow) spoke in support of Gaurav. He said he was worked with him before, and he can vouch to his passion. 

In response to questions from students: 

  • In response to questions about his capacity to take on this role, he said he is a workaholic and adding one more commitment to his schedule doesn’t bother him. “I basically live on campus.” 
  • One of the main issues he plans to work on in this role is addressing the cost-of-living crisis. 
  • He explained that he believes the role of Engineering Faculty Councillor is as a liaison between the Guild and QUT faculty, bringing initiatives and student concerns to different parts of the university.  

Vithalani has no political affiliation. 

Aaron Bui (Postgraduate Officer) also spoke in support of Vithalani. He said he has been working closely with him on cost-of-living issues and other projects affecting HDR students. Bui said their conversations are always productive and Vithalani is always willing to make himself available for a chat. 

The Chair took a vote; Gaurav was voted in as the Engineering Faculty Counsellor.  

Business and Law Faculty Councillor  

The only candidate for the role was Anisha Balalle, who was not present at the meeting. 

The Chair took a vote and the casual vacancy was not filled. 

MEANWHILE, THERE WAS DISCUSSION ABOUT A SECRET BALLOT… 

Before voting began, Manley raised the motion to make the voting for the casual vacancies a secret ballot. John Longwill (Welfare Officer, Grow) seconded the motion. The motion was carried.  

Before the votes were counted, Greig reminded the SCR that the Chair is the only person who is meant to count the votes. This took a long time.  

And finally, after the non-SRC students had been standing outside in the cold for 45 minutes, the votes were released!!! The results are stated with each casual vacancy above. 

Now, moving on to the rest of the motions for the night. 

“DISABLED QUT STUDENTS DESERVE A SPACE ON CAMPUS! QUT AND THE QUT STUDENT GUILD MUST MAKE IT HAPPEN.” 

Michael Pendergast (Convenor, QUT Guild Disability Collective) moved for the QUT Student Guild to support and take actionable steps towards the creation of a designated space for disabled students on campus. The motion was seconded by student Ethan Johnston. 

Pendergast said throughout the Disability Collective’s lifespan, they have been fighting to secure a space on campus for disabled students to rest and socialise. After nearly four years and there is still no designated space.  

Pendergast said that there are many groups on campus that deserve to have a room, including queer students and women; however, disabled students are arguably have the highest need for a dedicated space. A space that allows them to rest and recover on campus, and a social space for them to interact with their disabled peers that is guaranteed to be accessible. 

You can read the complete motion and action points here.  

Board member Juval Stephens spoke over Zoom and asked for clarity as to how many bathrooms on campus have electric doors. Pendergast and Manley said the university only have one bathroom with an electric door in each library. Stephens said it cost around $300 to make a door electric, which was not a big price to pay for students to be able to access bathrooms. 

Stephens asked for the motion to be amended to include this point. The motion was carried.  

Several students spoke for the motion. They said they were surprised there was not already a designated space for disabled students on campus, and it was important for a space like this to exist so that students could gather and interact in person. Several students spoke about the importance of enabling disabled students to attend university, to have a space to store their medication, and rest after or before traveling to class. 

The Chair took a vote; the vote was unanimous, and the motion was carried.  

PUBLIC TRANSPORT SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS 

Gaurav Vithalani moved a motion for the Guild to endorse the subsidisation of Odin Pass by the University and for the Guild to advocate for the University to implement this service for students. The motion was seconded by Aaron Bui. 

Odin Pass is a subscription service that allows students to pay a fixed monthly fee and access unlimited public transport services. The University would sign up for the service, costing around $1 million per year, and students can then sign up for around $65 per month. 

The motion was tabled until the Executives were able to access more detailed information about the cost and how the services functions. Vithalani agreed to provide the executives with more information. 

ACTIVIST T-SHIRTS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT OFFICER 

Isabella Foley moved a motion that the QUT Guild provide funding to print activist t-shirts for the Environment Officer to distribute among QUT students, and that the Guild supports the Environment Officer having the right to choose their own political slogans for merchandise and social media. The motion was seconded by Georgie Dobbs 

Foley said the shirts would be distributed for free to climate activists on campus who come to protests, meetings, craft days, etc. Merchandise like slogan t-shirts are common across student unions nationally and proves to be a great way of getting visibility for student unions and promoting activism around the environment. She also said that political slogans like “eat the rich” are relevant and engaging to young people. She also said that the autonomy of officer bearers should be supported. 

You can read the complete motion and action points here

While Foley was speaking, the Chair interrupted her and asked her to stand in front of the camera, so that students joining online would be able to see her speak.  

Foley asked to be allowed to finish speaking, and said she didn’t think it was important for students online to see her as they had the motion up on the screen as well. After some back and forth, Foley remained where she was standing and finished her presentation.  

Dobbs spoke for the motion and said this was a great way for students to connect, and to get more students involved in activism. She reiterated that slogan t-shirts are not uncommon at other universities, and they can have cool designs. She also spoke to the importance of maintaining the autonomy of office bearers. 

Longwill also spoke for the motion. He said that most Executives probably relate to feeling “powerless”. He spoke about the anti-political state the student union is currently in, and how union busting has negatively affected the organisation.  

“It’s almost saddening to see how much union busting there has been, especially within student unions in Australia. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t vote for things like this, and shouldn’t take stances on things like this.” He said there is no problem in the Regulations with one officer making a political statement about their portfolio within the Guild.  

“All political change can usually be linked back to higher education.” 

He also said he would probably be disappointed if people didn’t support the motion. 

Declan Kerr (Science Councillor, SAlt) also spoke for the motion. He said the autonomy of office bearers is a really important principle in student unions, and is actually the very basis by which our student union should be run. He said that not allowing office bearers autonomy over their portfolio is undemocratic.  

“This union should be throwing itself into every struggle for environmental justice and every struggle for justice in general. But we don’t see enough of it. We see our student union just acting like a business.” 

Shepherd spoke against the motion. She said she is not against office bearers promoting messages that they support but she is concerned about t-shirts as a mechanism to deliver this message. She said she is concerned about the sustainability of t-shirts due to the environmental impact of producing them. She also said that as Clubs and Societies Officer, she turned down numerous requests from clubs for funding for t-shirts purely due to the environmental impact of producing large quantities of textiles. She said that allowing executives to produce shirts when the Clubs and Societies Committee denied requests from clubs for the same thing would be rude. 

“I don’t think that we as a student union should be endorsing something that is potentially harmful to the environment.” 

Celeste Muller (Glass Editor) asked if Shepherd will also be taking a stance against the thousands of paper products and other merchandise the Guild produces every year as promotional materials.  

Shepherd said she was not aware of any office bearers being involved in discussions around this type of merchandise, but she is personally against the diaries and notebooks produced by the Guild and would be happy to speak against this. 

Foley was upset by what Shepherd said and interrupted her while she was speaking. The Chair asked Foley to stop and let Shepherd finish.  

The Chair tried to conduct the debate in accordance with R7.3 of the Guild Regulations. Foley asked to reply before the second speaker against the motion spoke. Foley and the Chair argued about this for approximately two minutes.  

The Chair named Foley three times, and said her vote would no longer count for any motions on the night.  

Pendergast also spoke against the motion. He said the motion was hypocritical and that Foley was “ableist” by not allowing the people online to see her when she was speaking.  

“You’re saying we should invest more in student activism but you have been blatantly ableist by not allowing the students who are attending online to see the person speaking. Why are you devaluing their presence at this meeting? They are as much a part of this meeting as anyone in this room.” 

Foley disagreed with Pendergast’s statement and responded to other questions that there is no individual budget for each office bearer.  

Emme Muggleton (Education Officer, Grow) reminded the Chair that according R6.6 if the Chair names a person three times, that person shall remove themselves from the meeting and may no longer participate in the meeting. She said that Foley had disregarded the regulations and behaved in a disruptive manner in previous meetings as well.  

The Chair asked Foley to leave the room several times. She refused and said she would “follow the rules” from then on. 

Stephens said that if Foley does not leave the room, that lead to a vote of no confidence in the Chair.  

There was back and forth between the Chair, Foley and the members of SAlt for several minutes as Foley refused to leave the room. 

Tegan O’Connor (Health Faculty Councillor, Grow) spoke over Zoom and she felt frightened and uncomfortable with the fighting and yelling happening in the room. She said that Foley has said she would behave in previous meetings, and she has not.  

The Chair said if Foley did not leave the room, the meeting would have to be adjourned and the SRC would not vote on the motion.  

The Chair gave Foley the options of: 

  1. Leaving the room so the meeting could go ahead;  
  1. Being escorted out of the meeting by security; or 
  1. The meeting being adjourned.  

Foley left the room and Kerr took over moving the motion. 

The Chair took a vote; 3 voted for, 7 voted against, 0 abstained. The motion was not carried.   

After discussion amongst themselves, all members of SAlt chose to leave the room. The following motions are on the agenda but were not moved on the night as the movers and seconders left the room.  

  • What the HECS is Indexation? 
  • The QUT Guild Demands Action on the Housing Crisis 

SUPPORT INCREASED STIPEND FOR PHD STUDENTS 

A PHD student, Julia, moved a motion that the Guild support an increased stipend for PHD students and to advocate to Parliament on this issue by endorsing a letter of support about living wage for HDR students. The motion was seconded by Aaron Bui. 

She said that some students currently received a stipend of $32,500 per year, and some students only receive $30,000. Both payments fall under minimum wage. 

Bui spoke for the motion and said that this was not a liveable wage.  

The motion was tabled until the Executives were able to access a copy of the letter and more information. Juliette agreed to provide the executives with more information so that the motion could be voted on at the next meeting. 

RAISE SCHOLARSHIPS FOR HDR STUDENTS  

Aaron Bui moved a motion for the Guild to endorse raising the scholarships of HDR students to $32,500 and to advocate to the University to increase scholarships for those on the lower rate. Shepherd seconded the motion.  

The Chair took a vote; the vote was unanimous, but the motion was not carried as the meeting had lost quorum.  

The Chair closed the meeting at 9:33pm.   

Celeste Muller
Celeste Muller

Celeste (she/her) is a Meanjin/Brisbane based writer and Editor at Glass Media. She has a Bachelor's degree in Design (Interior Design) and is currently studying Journalism and Economics at QUT.

Articles: 39

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