New candidate for Guild Events Officer revealed

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Madura McCormack

Elected to the position during the Guild elections in October 2015, Rachael Davidson has stepped down as Events Officer for this year.

One of the three members of the ACTION ticket to be elected to the 40th Guild, Davidson was elected unopposed after a last-minute disqualification of the TMNT nominee.

“I felt that the attitude of the guild board was one of negativity amongst members

I did not want to actively put myself in that environment and so have withdrawn,” says Davidson.

The spot may not remain empty however, with third-year student Ruebendraa Kantahrao vying for the position.

MUEnSA President and Guild hopeful Ruebendraa Kantahrao. Photo: Supplied

MUEnSA President and Guild hopeful Ruebendraa Kantahrao. Photo: Supplied

The current President of Murdoch University’s Environmental Science Associations (MUEnSA), Kantahrao must garner 25 student signatures to endorse him for the role.

He has received 24 signatures at time of writing.

An Environmental Science and Biological Sciences double major, Kantahrao (better known as Rueben) says his previous experience holding MUEnSA events will help him succeed in the role.

“I believe that I will be able to bring a similar increase in student activity to future Guild events as Events officer,” he says.

“I have a list of events that I have planned, all of which will be revealed when I am voted in.”

Major changes made at final Guild Council meeting

Madura McCormack

The final Guild meeting for the year has yielded some major changes for Murdoch students, with the axing of some Guild positions, changes to the Clubs Room and tough financial decisions.

The outgoing guard, helmed by Raeesah Khan, have removed a number of Guild Council positions, including the Rural Regional and Interstate representative and closed the Rockingham Student Association (RSA).

The RSA was considered obsolete in a campus that has less than a dozen students.

No RRI representative had been elected in the recent elections, a position last held by Alex Knoop.

In a move that has been floated for several months, the five Guild Councillor positions of Sports, Clubs and Socs, Events, Sustainability, and Social Justice have been axed to make way for seven ‘Ordinary Guild Councillors’.Screenshot 2015-12-04 14.25.18Screenshot 2015-12-04 14.19.14

These positions, according to the agenda, will be ‘voted by quota to council’, similar to voting in the Australian Senate.

Students seeking election as an Ordinary Guild Councillor will need to attain 12.5 per cent of the vote after preferences, with portfolios allocated to them by Guild Council.

“It means duties can be flexible with the changing times,” says outgoing Education Vice President Roland Belford.

“In 20 years who knows what the important values to the student body will be.”

Guild President Guy McDonald says the changes will need to go through Senate, and will affect the election scheduled for late 2016.

Room swap

A unanimous motion was passed to reallocate the Clubs Room to the Indigenous Collective.

Outgoing Clubs and Socs officer Brodie Skalko says the Guild wants to build up the Indigenous Collective, who before this did not have a room.

“The Indigenous Collective have a hierarchy structure that they can use to ensure the room is looked after,” she says.

Located in the Amenities block, the Queer and Women’s Collectives will also swap rooms, giving the Queer Collective three square metres more room and wheelchair accessibility.

“We’ve got a large number of active members and until now have had a space that was far too small, so it’s great that we’ve finally been able to expand a little,” says outgoing Queer Representative Ash Spring.

Bookshop to stay open

At the meeting held on November 30, the council opted to keep the loss-making Guild Bookshop open after heavy discussion on cost-cutting measures.

Although the closing of the bookshop would have saved almost $50,000 in SSAF money, the risk of losing vital services such as the sale of second-hand books, Guild sticker distribution and Student SmartRiders proved too high.

In order to keep the bookshop open, the positions of Guild Shop manager and assistant manager have been made redundant, while the Tavern assisting manager will be made a casual position.

The operating expenses for the bookshop is budgeted at $230,000 for 2016 but revenue should offset a bulk of the cost.

The Clubs and Socs Room now for the Indigenous Collective. Photo by: Madura McCormack

The Clubs and Socs Room now for the Indigenous Collective.
Photo by: Madura McCormack

Student Hub

Council has also offered guidance to the architects of the planned student hub.

In what is described as an ‘ambitious’ plan, the Student Hub is expected to take over much of the Refectory side of Bush Court and is slated for 2017.

The Guild passed a motion to endorse a dedicated spaces for Indigenous students close to Kulbardi, queer-identifying students and women.

Murdoch’s student representative body also wants “the entire student hub project to utilise best practice in accessible building design” for inclusion of students with disability.

METIOR Policy

In collaboration with the current editor, outgoing Education Vice President Roland Belford wrote a new METIOR policy to reflect the publication’s move to online.

Changes were made to the selection process of future editors; with the new policy ensuring the next person “shall be appointed from among the Murdoch student body by the Guild President and outgoing Editor”.

In the old policy, it was “recommended” that the METIOR editor be a current or previous student of the university.

The magazine is in the process of securing at least one print run, with the edition out by February 22, 2016.

Cowabunga! TMNT takes majority of Guild Council

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By Madura McCormack

The Murdoch Now Team, headed by Guy McDonald, has emerged as the overall winners of the 2015 Murdoch student elections.

This year marks the largest voter turnout since 2011, with 4113 votes across 15 ballots.

The new Guild Executive, which will take office from 1 December, will be headed by Guy McDonald as President and Andy Hunter as General Secretary.

“We ran with a positive policy platform for making university life here more engaging, fun and vibrant and I look forward to working to continue the great work of previous Presidents like Raeesah Khan and Roland Belford,” says McDonald, paying homage to his predecessors.

“Between our two active campaigns we’ve more than quadrupled the number of votes cast in the student elections. I think that’s a huge win in and of itself.”

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Guild President Guy McDonald. Source: Supplied

Brodie Skalko, from ACTION, will be the new Education Vice President. She won the position by 30 votes to oust Dean Wicken.

“She bucked the trend and won an executive spot despite her ticket not taking out the election majority. She is obviously hugely deserving and I look forward to working with her on council next year,” says Wicken, who will join council as External Representative.

Skalko says she is ‘gutted’ that Troy Treeby from ACTION has not been elected, calling him an ‘inspirational influence on council’ this year.

“I endeavour next year to fulfil my personal promise, which was also a priority of TMNT; to reboot Education Council,” she says.

Other elected members of the ACTION ticket are Sustainability Officer Lauren Hodson and Events Officer Rachel Davidson.

TMNT’s candidate for Events Officer was disqualified when polls opened because he is not a registered member of the Guild.

“Congratulations to the incoming council, regardless of the political differences I would hope that everyone can work together to do the right thing by students,” says Troy Treeby, who has been elected together with Guy McDonald as student representatives on Senate.

Out of the 9 ballots contested for Guild Council, 6 have been filled by TMNT candidates.

Independent presidential candidate Ferhan Siddiqi retains his president of the Murdoch International Student Association.

The positions of MUPSA, Mandurah Student Association and Rockingham Student Association President remain vacant.

“Thanks to the students of Murdoch for putting up with us campaigning this last week. Big thanks to those who engaged with us and voted. Bigger thanks still to those who are voted even though they’re about to leave Murdoch- people voting entirely for others than themselves was actually quite touching,” says McDonald.

Position Elected Ticket Stupol Experience
Guild President Guy McDonald TMNT 2012: Sustainability Officer

2015: General Secretary

Education VP Brodie Skalko Action 2015: Clubs Officer
General Secretary Andy Hunter TMNT 2015: President of Murdoch Student Law Society
Murdoch Post Grad Student Association [MUPSA] President Vacant    
MUPSA VP Undergrad Samuel Edge (unopposed) Independent
MUPSA VP Postgrad Vacant    
MISA President Ferhan Siddiqi (unopposed) Independent 2015: MISA President
Clubs Officer Darian Whyte TMNT  
Events Officer Rachel Davidson Action  
Social Justice Officer Carmel Hooshmand TMNT  
Sports Officer Bianca Talbot TMNT 2015: Women’s Representative
Sustainability Officer Lauren Hodson Action  
External Representative Dean Wicken TMNT  
Disability Representative Megan Browne

(unopposed)

  2014 & 2015: Disability Representative
Queer Representative Jacintha Kenny

(unopposed)

Action  
Indigenous Representative Ashleigh Lindsay

(unopposed)

  2015: Indigenous Representative
Women’s Representative Claire Brodie

(unopposed)

TMNT  
Rural Remote and Interstate Rep Vacant    

Majority elected without a fight at last election

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Almost three quarters of Murdoch University’s student politicians were elected unopposed last year, while the total vote count dwindled to just 720, according to data provided by the Returning Officer.

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19 out of 26 filled positions went uncontested in 2014, the highest since 2011. This includes all 5 Guild Council Officers; Clubs Officer Brodie Skalko, Events Officer Alyssa Chow, Social Justice Officer Rhys Marjoram, Sports Officer Daniel McLerie and Sustainability Officer Troy Treeby.

METIOR understands that while Guild Council Representatives and the MISA [Murdoch International Student Association] position also went uncontested, their respective collectives normally hold closed-door elections and have been chosen by the group they represent before reaching the polls.

Vote count at four-year low

The total number of votes for 2014 was just 720, an 85% drop from the count of the hotly contested 2011 elections where Bec Thompson won the Guild Presidency.

It is important to note that this does not mean 720 students voted in 2014, as one student may vote in more than one ballot. For example, a student could have voted in the Guild President, Education Vice President and General Secretary ballots, amassing 3 total votes.

“A student could be eligible to vote across all ballots, or someone could only want to vote for Guild President. We have no idea,” Returning Officer at the University Registrar’s Office Trudi McGlade says.

According to her, actual voter turnout remains confidential and is hard to identify because of the nature of the online voting system.

“It’s all anonymous… it’s all calculated in the background of the system,” McGlade says.

Empty spots

After the elections process, 20 of the 46 available positions remained vacant in 2014, a pattern similar to previous years.

Murdoch University restructuring in 2012 slimmed down the number of slots from 65 to 32, and this has stabilised to 46. There are 25 spots within the Guild and 21 in the University Committees.

From the data, spots on University Committees are most likely to remain vacant, especially within school boards. Students who sit on school boards have influence over the unit and course structure of their respective school among other responsibilities.

Except in 2012 when the position was not available, the undergraduate representative for the School of Law board has been contested and filled.

Student election nominations open today, August 31, and will close in 2 weeks on September 14.

Guild Council votes for free sausages

As part of a new series, METIOR will be attending every Guild Council meeting, pre-digesting what your student politicians discuss, then filling you in. 

Think of Murdoch Guild Council Meetings like a sitting of parliament; just a bunch of democratically elected politicians discussing stuff in an attempt to get things done. This is what they talked about in August.

Voicing out

Held on Wednesday, August 12, the council meeting opened with Guild President Raeesah Khan mentioning that she ‘didn’t expect so much sexism this semester’, presumably directed at her.

Whether the sexism she is experiencing comes from other members of Guild Council or the general student population remains unclear.

Khan also mentioned the ongoing ‘Save Our Voice’ campaign.

The movement aims to ‘stop the WA Liberal Government from changing the laws to do with WA universities in a way that will silence the voice of staff and students’, according to the campaign’s website.

Posters have been put around campus with details of the campaign and how you can join in.

Education Vice President, Roland Belford, reminded Council about the upcoming ‘National Day of Action’ that was held Wednesday, August 19.

Save Our Voice campaign posters are up around Uni. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Save Our Voice campaign posters are up around Uni. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Guild Council Retreat

The idea of a ‘Guild Retreat’ on campus was introduced, with Khan suggesting it would bring members of Guild Council together.

UPDATE: The Guild Retreat is ‘not as a bonding exercise but to discuss the direction of the organisation’, Khan says.

In an email to the editor, Clubs and Societies Officer Brodie Skalko clarified that this event is far from a ‘fun day out’ and is intended to provide a platform for deep discussion and improvement within the Guild council.

Brodie Skalko proposed that $250 from the SSAF (Student Service and Amenities Fees) be used to fund food and drink at the retreat.

Sports Officer, Daniel McLerie, stepped in to oppose the idea, suggesting instead that everyone bring in their own food to save budget money.

Mystery man in the Clubs Room

The Clubs and Socs Room. Mystery man not pictured. Photo by: Madura McCormack

The Clubs and Socs Room. Mystery man not pictured.
Photo by: Madura McCormack

After much discussion, a motion was passed to lock the Clubs Room after 4pm after Clubs and Society’s officer Brodie Skalko reported that an unknown man has allegedly been using the recently renovated room as a place to live, with shavers and old jeans rumoured to have been found in the drawers.

She also reported that the room was constantly messy and trashed, despite the Guild having spent $1000 per annum refurbishing the room over the past four years.

Skalko also spoke of getting rid of certain ads on noticeboards around campus including those for cars and accommodation.

She reasoned that the boards were always cluttered and she was tired of having to clean them up.

Cluttered noticeboards, the ire of Brodie Skalko. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Cluttered noticeboards, the ire of Brodie Skalko. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Free barbeque

On a more edible note, the Guild Council passed a motion to have a free sausage sizzle for all students on campus every Wednesday for the next 15 weeks.

Khan said that this would cost about $2625, with the funds coming from the SSAF budget. This figure came from the approximate price of $100 a week for the food and $75 for staffing from the Tavern.

It was decided that staff from the Tavern would run the event while Guild Council members would help out if available in order to try and increase student engagement with the Guild and its members.

Cylindrical mystery meats being grilled during MarketDaze. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Cylindrical mystery meats being grilled during MarketDaze.           Photo by: Madura McCormack

Political changes

In political news, a motion was passed to propose a change in Guild election rules, which General Secretary Guy McDonald described as ‘draconian’.

This proposal will ask the University, who controls election guidelines, to allow political materials such as posters to be placed in all outdoor areas on campus and not just on the walls of Bush Court.

The draft motion included allowing potential Council members to campaign in lecture rooms and classrooms, however there was concern of ‘lecture-bashing’ amongst the Council where excess campaigning could turn students off from voting.

Mandurah campus improvements

More SSAF money will potentially be dedicated to improve Mandurah campus’ food and drink facilities after the Guild President received a petition with over 300 signatures demanding better amenities for students.

Guild Ball discount

A motion put forward by Khan proposed giving all Guild Council members up to 30 per cent off the price of Guild Ball tickets.

This will bring the price of a ticket down to around $84 for Guild Council members with all other students paying $120.

This motion was largely uncontested but no definitive action has been taken yet.

Some really expensive Guild event with alcohol and stuff

Some really expensive Guild event with alcohol and stuff                                         Source: The Guild

Collective Shout controversy

One of the last items discussed was the Collective Shout controversy that occurred recently.

To recap, the Guild planned for a speaker from Collective Shout, an controversial organisation, to speak at an event for SHAG Week [Sexual Health Awareness Guidance Week].

The speaker, Caitlin Roper, had reportedly already been paid, but this was found to be false.

The event was cancelled after student uproar regarding Collective Shout’s largely conservative views include the anti-abortion stance of its founder.

It was suggested that this classified as using SSAF fees as a political donation which is strongly discouraged and possibly illegal under the Higher Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Act.

With numerous statements being made by previous Women’s Representative Rebecca Leighton on the Women’s Collective Facebook page, it was suggested during the meeting that all Guild-affiliated Facebook pages should have someone from Guild Council as co-admin.

No definitive action has been taken yet but this does stoke fears of censorship and the ability for Guild Council members to remove posts.

The meeting then started to get heated, as Skalko demanded an official statement on what exactly had happened.

McLerie then asked what other things the Guild Executive had voted on without consulting the other Council members, as the decision to cancel the event was done by Khan, Belford and McDonald without the other members’ knowledge.

On the agenda for the September meeting is the upcoming student elections as well as feedback from the Guild Retreat.

Your Murdoch Guild General Secretary, Guy McDonald. What a guy. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Your Murdoch Guild General Secretary, Guy McDonald. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Murdoch Women’s Collective in leadership meltdown

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New women’s representative quits 5 days after by-election

By Madura McCormack

Timeline

  • July 8: Women’s Representative Bianca Talbot quits in a Facebook post
  • July 21: Guild Council receives two nominations for new Women’s Rep
  • August 3: Rebecca Leighton wins by- election by one vote.
  • August 5: Leighton releases statement regarding her opposition to the invitation of a speaker for SHAG Week which was proposed by her predecessor and approved by the Guild
  • August 7: Rebecca Leighton resigns after disagreement with Guild members

It has been a tumultuous month for the Murdoch Women’s Collective, with incumbent representative Rebecca Leighton quitting after just 5 days in the post.

The final year law student won a tight by-election that was held to replace predecessor Bianca Talbot, who vacated her post in July.

Announcing her new role on August 3, Leighton quit soon after a public disagreement with the Guild over a decision that was made before she took office.

Fight over use of student funds

The former women’s representative, Bianca Talbot, had planned for a member of national feminist group Collective Shout to speak during the upcoming Guild sponsored SHAG Week [Sexual Health Awareness Guidance Week].

It was alleged that $600 had been paid to Caitlin Roper from Collective Shout following Guild approval to speak at the event, which will be about the objectification of women in the media.

The Guild has confirmed that the sum has not been paid, and are currently discussing whether the event should be cancelled.

UPDATE: The Guild has cancelled the event.

Leighton opposes the idea of having Collective Shout speak at the event, releasing a statement to voice her disapproval over what they advocate, and claims the speaker has no relevant credentials and is ‘just an activist’.

“I simply demanded accountability for the misuse of student funds and an opportunity to ensure all views were heard if these people were to speak at a Guild-sponsored event,” Leighton says.

Education Vice President Roland Belford says that while the funds would have come from the Student Services and Amenities Fee [SSAF], no guidelines were broken.

The SSAF is a compulsory fee paid by all students, with the amount depending on whether the student is external, internal, part-time or full-time. The amount is then split equally between the University and the Guild.

Belford says going ahead with the event would promote a dialogue across campus on intersectional feminism.

Guild President Raeesah Khan, who supports Leighton, says the event should be cancelled.

“Collective Shout is pro-life, victim blames and is transphobic… morally as the Guild that’s not what we want,” Khan says.

Women's Rep for 5 days and Education Vice President in 2011, Rebecca Leighton. Source: supplied

Women’s Rep for 5 days and Education Vice President in 2011, Rebecca Leighton.
Source: supplied

Previous drama

This episode follows on from the sudden resignation of Bianca Talbot on July 8, after a spat with Guild President Raeesah Khan on the Women’s Collective closed Facebook group.

Talbot, who has been in Switzerland for a human rights law course, left due to opposing political ideologies and ‘poor leadership’ by the Guild President, Khan says.

Update: Talbot denies this, stating that she resigned because she was “not allowed to represent those that are considered to be ‘conservative’ on campus“.

A by-election was then held within the Murdoch Women’s Collective, who like the Murdoch Queer Collective, enjoy autonomous voting.

This means the representative is elected by students in the collective and not by Guild Council.

9 out of approximately 100 members of the collective voted.

Due to recent events, the Guild has decided to switch back to the status quo. The next women’s representative must obtain 25 signatures of support from female-identifying students, after which the Guild will decide whether to accept the application, reject it, or leave the position vacant.

“I think it’s important because gender inequality still exists,” Khan says, on the relevance of the Women’s Collective.

“It’s important that women have an avenue to discuss the inequalities they face and to provide perspective to the governing body [Guild Council].”

The Murdoch Women’s Collective is part of the Student Guild and is ‘comprised of Female identifying Murdoch students who meet to discuss women’s specific issues on campus’, according to the Guild website.

Dear Tony

Dear Tony,

I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but you know that first budget of yours, well it’s a massive fail mate.

In a way though you really ought to be congratulated, because you have managed to do something positive for progressive forces in this country, uniting and firing up the left in a way that hasn’t been seen in a long time.

Surely you must have a fair indication of the disdain towards this budget, when even, former high profile Liberals come out publicly saying that you’ve taken things too far.

If you wouldn’t mind Mr Abbott, I have a couple of questions I would like you to think about carefully and answer truthfully.

Why are you attacking the aged, the poor, the sick and downtrodden in our society, when you expressly promised before the election that there would be no cuts to education, healthcare, pensions, or the ABC and SBS?

Don’t you find it somewhat hypocritical to ask us to pay even more for our university education when you got your degree courtesy of the taxpayer?

It’s all well and good to argue that the “age of entitlement” is over, and that everyone has to do their “fair share” but it smacks of insincerity when stacked against the massive corporate welfare handed out to mining companies and big business.

A majority of those I’ve spoken to are appalled by the unravelling of the very fabric of society and the drive towards an uncaring user-pays world, where all that matters is the size of your wallet.

For me personally, what is most concerning is the underlying neoliberal agenda implicit in this budget which promotes a world where the ‘market’ and the ‘economy’ are put before people and the environment which sustains us all.

Tony, I would also like to share with you some of my fellow students concerns about your freshman budget.

Engineering student James is very concerned about your plans to deregulate university education:

“The government argues that university education will still be accessible, but I say that it will widen the gap between those who can afford to pay and those who can’t.

“I find it surprising that the so-called ‘infrastructure Prime Minister’ is funding the construction of roads, which are really only a Band-Aid solution to our traffic congestion problems.

“For instance in WA, the looming threat of having the Beeliar Wetlands bulldozed as part of the Roe Highway extension will come at a societal and an environmental cost – that has been largely ignored, all done under the mantra of ‘progress’,” James said.

Courtney a psychology and criminology student is also troubled about the changes to university education and wonders how she is going to pay for her degree and the impact of the new Medicare co-payments to see the doctor.

“I just don’t understand why the government wants to make it harder for people to get an education,” Courtney said.

“I have friends with young children and I’m worried about how they are going to afford the new Medicare co-payment. Seven dollars might not be a lot to Joe Hockey, but to a single mum raising two kids that’s a significant amount each visit to the doctor.”

It’s not only people you’re hurting Tony, but it’s the environment as well and in particular your decision to handball environmental responsibility to the states is laughable.

Recent university graduate Carmen is most worried about the changes to environmental protection laws and the denigration of our World Heritage listed areas.

“I don’t trust the states to be independent enough when assessing projects, especially when they are the proponent in some cases, I think it will just mean open slather for development,” she said.

So you see, Tony you have miscalculated with this budget, and I would urge you to go back to the drawing board and redesign your budget with people, not numbers in mind.

We want to see politicians who are genuine and have the best interests of the people and this country at heart.

Next time you are at the dispatch box or on a doorstop, just remember that, and know that you don’t speak for me or a lot of other people in the community.

Yours sincerely,

Troy Treeby

A disappointed citizen