The Quenda Files: Fireworks and Racism

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Troy and Roland ramble on about yesterday’s news including the Fremantle firework ban, systemic racism, staff strikes and fossil fuel divestment. Practice makes perfect as most of last week’s technical blips are ironed out and the volume tends to be more even too! We even wrote a few notes down to plan what were going to say but quickly lost them.

What do you want us to talk about? Do you want to come on the show and tell us we’re wrong? Leave a comment below.

Show Notes

Guild Elections: Action Policy Analysis

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Disclaimer: Roland ran under the ACTION ticket in 2014.

Here we go for round two of policy analysis, rules are the same as before, judging policy on how realist they are in my experience with student politics at Murdoch.

I am familiar with most of the Action candidates, I met their executive team of Troy, Brodie and Gavin in 2014 as Guild President as they were all active students in various clubs and Troy and Brodie ran for election as part of the same ticket with me last year. I met Lauren this year volunteering for WSEN, which she co-ordinated and have met Claudia and Rachel who have been very active getting Student for Refugees off the ground this year. Also David, their School Board nominee contacted The Guild this year to begin the petition about services at the library.

I would’ve liked to have written this earlier but Action took awhile to get their policy out there. Maybe something worth considering when you vote. I did find a flyer though today, so I’ll type the dot points in here and give my appraisal. The flyer has greater detail so if I talk about something not inferred in the bullet point, I’m referring to detail provided in their flyer.

Engagement

  • Get involved week
  • Kick start Education Council
  • Supporting Clubs and Societies
  • Encouraging student led initiatives

Get involved week is the showpiece here, seems to involve week long activities and promotions to engage with new students. Sounds promising. Sounds like a  lot of work but it’s just a bunch of forms for Room Bookings to deal with.

Kick starting Education Council is also something promised by TMNT. Action claim it hasn’t operated in 4 years but the truth is it’s probably been defunct for much longer. Education Council has a better chance of getting up next year no matter who wins though because there is finally a substantial number of students running for school board positions which is encouraging to see.

It was interesting that supporting clubs to obtain external commercial sponsorship came from the more leftwing of the two tickets. I really expected TMNT, with its card carrying Liberals, to come up with that idea but they’re pushing their voucher system instead. Anyway, bringing external sponsors on board would greatly assist a lot of clubs, finding appropriate sponsors is the hard bit. For example MESS (Murdoch Engineering Student Society) probably have a lot more opportunities to make industry links than say the Quidditch team. With some focus though, Action should be able to deliver this idea and it won’t require re-write of Guild procedures.

Encouraging student led initiatives sounds promising and inclusive. A cynic might say that such a statement could read as “we have no ideas” but I’ll take Action at face value and assume they will be open and helpful to students who want to start exciting things on campus. There are caveats though, a big one being that often students don’t have any good ideas. For example a student approached us this year about holding a 4th of July party for American Independence. This is a bad idea because the vast majority of American students are exchange students and only here during semester. They also came to us with their idea on the 2nd of July. That said, The Guild sometimes receives great ideas and I believe that truly engaging activities happen because they have groundswell and drive from the student body. That requires a self motivated and engaged campus atmosphere and that is the harder task.

Standing up for student rights

  • No cuts, no fees, no corporate universities
  • Cross subsidy of research and teaching

The first point is almost redundant now with deregulation off the agenda but it is nice to see a ticket come out and state their position on federal education policy. The second point is more interesting. It’s an open secret that almost all universities in Australia supplement their research budgets with the tuition fees of students. Convincing the university to open its books and show exactly how they redistribute money is a very big task. I think the students at ANU made some progress to this, but it’s a very big task and I doubt Murdoch will be comfortable with this. It may be as straightforward as the Senate and Academic Council asking which documents they can release to the public but even that doesn’t show the whole story.

Accountability

  • Truth
  • Transparency

Not much to say, Actions accountability policies are simple and achievable. No need to redraft Statute 17.

Sustainability

  • Divestment
  • Support Sustainability

Divestment from fossil fuels is an interesting issue. Right now the Guild holds no shares but we do deal with plenty of companies that could be seen as evil. Where do you draw the line? Is having a bank account with a bank that has in the past helped finance mining operations too evil to deal with? Action might say it is. The Guild has changed banks twice in the past two years though so it’s not difficult, it will keep the Finance Manager distracted for a few weeks though. As for making the university divest, see my above comments on cross subsidy of fees and university transparency. I spent a year on Senate and I’m not actually sure if Murdoch has any shares, fossils fuel or otherwise. Again ANU announced a partial divestment last year but I suspect all of Murdoch’s money is tied up in the St Ive’s retirement village.

Social Justice

  • Assist student activism and awareness clubs on campus
  • Collective rights

Much like TMNT, many of Action’s policies lack the procedural detail that outline exactly how they take shape. “Supporting the student activist clubs on campus” could look like funding the Free Syrian Army or it could look like getting the Students for Refugees in the same room as Oaktree and FossilFreeMurdoch. I expect Action will do the latter, which is fine.

Better Study Facilities

  • Library and IT Services

The Action team includes two students, Brodie and David, who were heavily involved in petitioning the Library this year. Their policy statement seems to outline that they will continue to engage with the university on these issues and that’s good because I do know the university is slowly working on them.

In my opinion, Actions policies are more firmly grounded in reality than TMNT’s, although Dean Wicken might prefer the language “less ambitious”. I thought Action might’ve bragged more about Troy and Lauren organising an international sustainability conference on campus this year, but like their policy they seem more down to Earth. A few areas could probably do with greater detail and clarity. The lack of event ideas is also a notable omission but I can almost predict their replies will be along the lines of fostering and promoting club led events.

There you have it. If there is demand, I’ll try to scape together some thoughts on the independent candidates. The comments are open.

Guild Elections: TMNT Policy Analysis

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Disclaimer: Roland ran under the ACTION ticket in 2014.

Welcome to the first installment of election policy analysis, where I will dissect and evaluate the policies of the major tickets contesting the 2015 Murdoch Student Elections. As a paid staffer of the Guild in 2012, Guild President in 2014 and Education Vice President this year, I feel suitably qualified to pass judgement on how achievable policies are, with an occasional comment thrown in. Candidates have the right to leave a comment below.

First up, Teenage Mutant Ni The Murdoch Now Team, or TMNT for short. I have had less interaction with TMNT than Action but their squad isn’t unknown to me. I have been friends with Presidential candidate Leonar Guy McDonald for several years, first meeting him through my partner, and I approached him to be General Secretary on Guild Council this year. I have worked with Bianca Talbot on Council in the past and have a lot of respect for her. I have also met Andy Hunter and had a number of polite conversations with him. The other candidates are unknown to me but I did find Tay Alers on my friends list on Facebook. I’m not sure when I added him.

Let’s go through their ten point plan and break down each point.

campus

These are admirable goals but I’m afraid to say these are not new ideas. Since opening in 2007 there have been endless attempts at getting food into the Tavern. According to 2006 Guild President Reece Harley, the University constructed the venue without a kitchen to appease lease holders in the Refectory, scared of the competition. The Tavern is a victim of the Guild not having control over any commercial leases on campus other than their own.

They can explore options but The Guild has no control over the former Bankwest lease and a suggestion to put METIOR offices there was already flatly refused. The whole area, including senate, bookshop and refectory is earmarked for redevelopment but I expect plans will be stalled and delayed. Murdoch has a terrible track record of consulting with students over common spaces and I have only seen a reduction in common spaces since I enrolled.events

These all sound like pretty fun events. Except for the Colour Run, that can get fucked. Anyone who finds excitement over corn starch shot at them after completing a 4km jog all while supporting a for-profit company that masquerades as a charity needs to get out more. Anyway, otherwise, yeah cool, events but execution is the key and I haven’t seen or heard of TMNT’s event’s officer delivering any great events before. Not like the MUEnSA or MVSA events, which go off.
tresure

Alright wow. So this is a big one and what I’m guessing will be a main point of differentiation between the main tickets. This is possible, however it is such a huge task for such minimal gain that I don’t know why they’d bother. To install a paid Treasurer onto the Guild Executive they’ll need to rewrite the Guild Regulations, the Guild Election Regulations and Statute 17 of the University Act. All three of these require approval by two-thirds of Guild Council (hard enough to two-thirds attendance to meetings) scrutinised by the University’s Legal and Governance Department, approved by the University Senate and then the Statute then has to go to the WA State Parliament for approval. This isn’t impossible, but it is an enormous, year-long task. All this, and the Guild has a professional Finance Manager. I really have to question whether this will actually offer better governance.

It is also worth pointing out that currently financial oversight responsibilities are shared between the President and the General Secretary. At the beginning of the year it was moved to the Gen Sec entirely due to the President’s study commitments. If TMNT are hinting that The Guild has issues around financial transparency, then is it the current Gen Sec, their own Presidential candidate Guy McDonald, who is responsible.

library

I think these are great policies, and I’d really like to congratulate Action’s Brodie Skalko and David Giang for their leadership on these issues. David initially wrote to the Guild and began circulating his petition to increase library opening hours and the size of the Library, with Brodie facilitating from the Guild side all the way. Eventually Guy and myself sat down with the interim Library Director who had heard the call and was already planning to expand Library services. Frustratingly, many of the changes will take some time to implement, due to logistical and security reasons, but the Library has already extended its hours on weekends this semester compared to last. Putting a coffee machine and microwave in the 24 Common Area could happen, but it took about 3 years for the Guild to get microwaves in the refectory.

clubs

Adjustments to club funding are all well within the remit of The Guild. Promises to double expenditure sound exciting but it’s worth remembering that the clubs themselves actually need to spend the money and this year we’ve had less funding requests from clubs than last year.

TMNT are going to have to provide more detail on their club voucher policy. I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of supplying normie students with vouchers that they can donate to a registered club who can exchange that for cash from the Guild. It could be a great idea but it might raise a few eyebrows legally as club funding comes from SSAF. There will need guidelines around who gets vouchers, how they’re redeemed, what they’re worth etc.

publication

I confess, I am suspicious of these policies. They don’t explicitly mention METIOR, The Guild supported publication since time immemorial which is deemed so historically important that the State Library archives it. Considering that The Student Canon has effectively endorsed TMNT it feels like an attempt to supplant METIOR with its rebel cousin. I would also argue that METIOR has flourished since moving online, receiving over 100 hits a day despite being just two months old. Also, if TMNT had a few media arts students on their ticket they might know that bookable student space is available with all the facilities to produce media content.

Editors Note: An interview with TMNT notes this policy plans to involve The Student Canon, METIOR and Radio Murdoch under an umbrella of print, web and radio. 

account

These transparency measures are all reasonable. I particularly like number 4. However, it’s worth pointing out that Guild Council meetings are now open to the public and minutes are (usually) posted on Facebook where they go largely ignored. The writing and circulation of minutes for approval is the responsibility of the General Secretary, so if TMNT are suggesting minutes aren’t published in a timely manner well…loud

These ideas all sound decent at first but a few things need to be considered. Lecture bashes are not an effective way of communicating with students. Many students don’t show up to lectures and those who do are often late or asleep most of the time. If a councillor lecture bashed say, 5 lectures, from 8:30 to 12:30, they might reach 600 students if they’re lucky but they’ve spent half the day doing it and are relying on students to remember with their brains what was said before they sat through a 1 to 3 hour lecture on something they’re actually interested in. As a comparison, the last post on the Guild Facebook page right now has been viewed 763 times in 5 hours and we can measure the engagement it has had. Alternatively we can mail out G-News to 12,000 students (of whom 10,000 will no doubt ignore it, but you get the idea.) I won’t deny that the Guild has an engagement and outreach problem but 20th century ideas are unlikely to solve them.welfare

So far we’ve seen some achievable policies, often already being implemented, and some very difficult to achieve ideas. However, installing a Guild Treasurer whose duties include cooking food at the Tavern would pale in comparison to getting puppies and kittens on campus. Murdoch’s animal ethics policies are among the strictest in the country, tirelessly enforced by the vigilant Animal Ethics Committee (AEC). The AEC and vet College would flip at this. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but yeah it’s pretty much impossible. Last year I wanted to have a puppy parade on Bush Court as part of a ‘dogs against deregulation’ media stunt. I was presented with a five point plan for why it couldn’t happen. It didn’t happen.

The other three points sound fine, although I’m not sure halal microwaves are a thing. Are they a thing? The counselling and welfare map is already in progress.1styear

First year engagement is important. As written, these policies feel like an overreach with The Guild telling clubs and societies how to run themselves. From my experience I would advise they don’t do this or at least provide more detail.

Orientation is a mess and seems to be getting worse. However, it hasn’t been Guild space since 2006 and at the moment the Guild is merely offered 5 minutes of presentation to some schools and the right to host a few activities on Bush Court. I really hope whatever candidates get elected can push improvements to orientation hard but expect resistance from the University.

Overall I think TMNT have a fairly uncontroversial suite of policies but a number of them are extremely difficult to achieve or are underway already. That isn’t unusual coming from an outsider ticket but TMNT have the current General Secretary and former Women’s Officer on board, which reeks of blatant populism. There is also a severe shortcoming in education policy. The Guild’s Education officer is elevated to the rank of Vice President, higher than sustainability or Indigenous or events, because education is absolute core of the Guild’s purpose. What is EVP candidate Dean Wicken’s position on breadth units? What does he think about the Liberal party’s proposed deregulation of fees? What about the cross subsidy of research and teaching? What about the availability of lecture recordings, of the flipped classroom, MOOCs etc. They don’t need positions on all these but TMNT need more education policy than “we will reboot Education Council.”

But then again, at least theirs is out. I look forward to TMNT elaborations on policy and Action to release theirs outside the broadsheet.

No quendas running for 2016 Guild Council

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By Madura McCormack

Murdoch student election nominations are in, with two official tickets and what is slated to be a three-way fight for Guild President.

After running mostly unopposed in the last election, the ‘Action’ ticket is back for another political season, this time with outgoing Sustainability officer Troy Treeby at the helm.

‘Action’ faces some actual competition this year, in the form of the ‘TMNT’ or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ‘The Murdoch Now Team’ ticket, fronted by outgoing General Secretary Guy McDonald.

There appears to be a few students running independently, with current MISA [Murdoch International Student Assoc] President Ferhan Siddiqi taking a stab at the Guild President role and relative unknown Adrian Gallo running for four different positions.

This election season will see 38 per cent of positions being filled unopposed, a massive swing from 2014, where 73 per cent of student leaders ran without a fight.

Unfortunately, there are no quendas or other marsupials running in this year’s election, a blow to the critters that are actually on campus.

The 'Action' Team. Source: Supplied

The ‘Action’ Team. Source: Supplied

The main promises

The ‘Action’ ticket includes outgoing Clubs Officer Brodie Skalko as EVP hopeful, with the team looking to re-launch ‘Education Council’ which has been inactive for four years.

Running alongside Guy McDonald will be Andy Hunter for General Secretary and Dean Wicken for EVP.

The ‘TMNT’ ticket intends to install a ‘Guild Treasurer’, who will be in-charge of publishing the yearly budget. There is also talk by TMNT to bring puppies and kittens on campus for Stamp Out Stress Day.

Guy McDonald from TMNT. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Guy McDonald from TMNT. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Both tickets are promising to extend library hours during exam time.

In other positive news, there are actual people running for the School Boards seats, with 9 out of 16 positions having at least one candidate. This is up from the 4 positions filled in 2014.

Check out the full broadsheets here and stay tuned to METIOR for election updates.

Voting opens October 5 and closes October 8.

 

 

 

 

Guildsplainer: The un-official guide to who does what in Murdoch Student Politics.

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There’s less than a week to go until nominations close and #MUpol kicks into high gear. Which means campaigning and sledging and all that fun politics stuff. Onions anyone?

Unlike our brethren in UWA, Curtin and everyone else who actually rank in some chart somewhere, Murdoch tends to not give a shit. Last year, 73 per cent of student representatives were elected unopposed. That is a Distinction for the unit of zero fucks given.

But what is stopping Murkids from being MurPollies and running for office? Probably because no one knows it’s bloody happening and what the positions entail.

So here’s a breakdown of who does what, and where they stand in the hierarchy of things.

The Big 4

There are four major divisions in the Murdoch StuPol [Student Politics] world; Academic Council, Senate, Guild Council and the Murdoch Uni Post Graduate Student Association [MUPSA].

In total there are 46 positions that need to be filled this year [including student reps on School Boards], and like a game of chess, certain people will wield more power than others.

One kickass Venn diagram explaining the MUpol universe, made by MS Word whiz kid Madura McCormack

One kickass Venn diagram explaining the MUpol universe, made by MS Word whiz kid Madura McCormack

Senate

“If the University were a company, the Senate would be its board,” says Returning Officer, Trudi McGlade.

Basically the Senate is the Big Boss, the Supreme Overlord of decision-making that takes advice from Academic Council.

Two students are elected to this role, and their main task is to make sure shit doesn’t hit the fan when people with power make all encompassing decisions.

When asked what Senate members achieved last year, outgoing Education Vice President and 2014 Senate rep Roland Belford says, “Uhhh… we sacked the VC?”

Damn straight. Senate members are involved in the appointment and performance management of the Vice-Chancellor. Murdoch is currently looking for one after the last guy was reported to the Corruption and Crime Commission.

catvoteAcademic Council

The Senate governs, but the Academic Council is where all the action is. These guys deal with academic matters, which in a University, is basically what makes it function.

Kind of like the butter on Vegemite toast, student representation is spread thick on Academic Council because it’s needed.

Apart from the one undergrad and one regional student that is elected straight into Academic Council, Murkids can get on it by being:

  • Guild President
  • Education Vice President
  • General Secretary
  • MUPSA Pres
  • MUPSA Vice Pres 1
  • MUPSA Vice Pres 2

Which brings us to the next lot in the mob, who juggle the never-ending list of students needs and 50 per cent of the entire SSAF budget. [Note: The Guild has a whole fleet of permanent staffers who deal with those touchy corporate things, Student Politicians don’t actually move money around, they allocate.]

Guild Council

Within Guild Council live its slightly more powerful head-honchos called the Guild Executive.

By and large these positions are the most sought after and are arguably the most visible MurPollies on campus. Fun fact: Federal MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt was Murdoch Guild President in 1994.

The Guild President, Education Vice President and General Secretary are the only 3 paid positions in the whole Murdoch StuPol universe.

Belford, who was Guild President in 2014, says the pay rate is equivalent to the “people cleaning toilets in Parliament House”.

Student positions in The Guild. Graphics: Made in Inforgram by Madura McCormack

Students who are elected into these positions need not do any units, but that’s not a rule or anything. Basically it’s hard work that takes up a lot of time outside of the maximum hours you can actually get paid for each week.

METIOR understands there is no such thing as a ‘Guild Executive Pension’.

Joining them is a motley crew of student representatives and officers, each with their own portfolio.

There’s the Guild Officers;

  • Social Justice
  • Events
  • Clubs and Societies
  • Sports
  • Sustainability

Together, they form SECSS. But don’t forget the Reps;

  • Queer
  • Disability
  • Indigenous
  • Women’s
  • Rural, Remote and Interstate
  • External

BUT WAIT, there’s more. The Murdoch International Students Association President, currently Ferhan Siddiqi, also sits on Guild Council. As does the MUPSA President we previously met on Academic Council and their not-at-South Street friends Rockingham Student Association President and Mandurah Student Association President.

Due to the dwindling student numbers at Rockingham Campus — student Population: 7– there is talk of removing the position altogether.

How do I nomz- (1)Good lord, are we done?

No. Sit down and be still. There are also 16 positions to be filled on the 8 School Boards.

These are the positions that go unfilled year after year after year. Apart from the School of Law, who actually has its shit together, no one nominates themselves for the 1 undergrad, 1 postgrad position.

School Board Student Representatives, or SchoBoStuReps as they are now called, are the ones responsible for recommending units and courses to be offered within the School and have academic oversight of the units.

They are the ones who can actually do something about the shithouse unit that has three essays with no actual direction and a lecture at 8:30am.

Damn son, I better do something

Hells yeah you should. Nominations close 4pm September 23 and campaigning will begin at 10am the same day.

To nominate yourself, grab the forms online or in person and hand them in with a 400 word bio and a snazzy headshot of your gorgeous face.

If being in a leadership position does not sound enticing at all, remember that voting is still muy bueno.

Source: University Secretary's Office. www.murdoch.edu.au

Source: University Secretary’s Office. http://www.murdoch.edu.au

In order to vote or nominate, you must be a Murdoch University student and cannot be an employee of the University. Anyone going for a spot on Guild Council must be a Guild member.

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