In a beautiful end to this editor’s administration, the University has today announced in an all-student email that a review of the governance of the Student Services and Amenities Fee is due to be conducted this December.
We have previously reported on the University’s failure to comply with legislation that requires regular consultation with the student union. Also, in 2019, the University also spent money on a prohibited expense, being a Student Learning Centre in the Hawken Engineering Building.
However, the calling of the review is not all upsides. The University has appointed exactly two (2) people to conduct the review, which will look at one of the most sensitive funding issues in the entire University. One member of the panel is external appointee, Jenny Robertson, from an organisation called ‘Board Matters’ (we will leave jokes about the appropriateness of a professional board member as an exercise for the reader).
The second is a student representative. Normally, this would be an out-and-out positive, however, it was discovered soon after the student’s appointment that they are a current paid employee of Student Affairs, the major recipient of the SSAF (receiving two times as much as the UQ Union).
How is the Union responding?
UQ Union President Ethan Van Roo Douglas said the University’s decision to appoint one of their own employees was deeply uncool.
“The UQ Union believes that having a single student representative is inadequate, and the fact that the student is a UQ Life employee simply makes the committee problematic,” UQ Union President Ethan Van Roo Douglas said.
“This was made all the more insulting because I actually recused myself from the appointment process when it became clear that a friend of mine had made it to the final shortlist.
“Despite these inadequacies, the Union nonetheless encourages students to let the University know that they need to comply with the legislation and properly fund student events.”
Immediate Past President Georgia Millroy said that in 2019, it was discovered that the University had employed one of the students on the SSAF Sub-Committee to Student Affairs.
“The University has been pulling this kind of slick operation regarding SSAF for years, and it’s sad to see that this once-in-five-years review is no exception,” Ms Millroy said.
“No changes have been made in SSAF funding allocation after continued responses by students indicating that they want more given to UQU.
“Year on year students ask and don’t receive. The question is why?
“What does the University have against UQU, to the extent that it punishes worthy beneficiaries like Clubs & Societies and students seeking visa support by refusing to allocate that additional funding?” Ms Millroy said.
“It would be nice to live in a world where students, and the Student Union, were treated with respect and honourable conduct, but in the absence of such a world, we must make our voices heard as loudly as possible,” she said.
What does the University say for itself?
We put it to the Director of Student Affairs, Andrew Lee, that the panel selected was known to be a current Student Affairs employee who did not put the fact on his resume.
“The SSAF Review Student Member selection panel was provided with information on candidates’ ongoing connections with areas of UQ and UQU, including those involving remuneration,” Mr Lee said.
“As you would expect, UQ seeks to offer employment opportunities to UQ students where possible and appropriate – a significant number of students are involved.
“The University has established procedures and means to manage Conflicts of Interest, should any arise,” he said.
Semper notes that none of this denies that the student is a current employee of the primary University-run SSAF beneficiary.
UPDATE: Upon reading Mr Lee’s comment that the selection panel was provided with remuneration information, Union President Ethan Van Roo Douglas told Semper “You can quote me as saying that’s a lie. I was on the f***ing panel.”
UPDATE 2: President Van Roo Douglas then proceeded with the following: “The university does indeed have procedures to manage conflicts of interest, but the problem is that they didn’t follow them here. When it comes to SSAF, they rarely do.”
“Prior to the appointment of the student member, the panel agreed that any student currently employed by a stakeholder organisation should be excluded from consideration.
“It begs the question as to why this student made no mention of his connection to UQ Life, nor why it wasn’t raised by one of his supervisors, who was a member of the panel,” he said.
UPDATE 3: President Van Roo Douglas has further clarified: “C*** I did not mean you could quote that first update.”
How to make your views heard
Go to this form (if the link breaks, check your student email). Tell the review panel you think the current funding model is stacked in favour of Student Affairs, whose employees sit on the SSAF Sub-Committee and share an office with the secretariat of the SSAF Sub-Committee. Tell them you want SSAF to be distributed according to the legislation which clearly calls for a University’s student union to be the first point of contact for SSAF decisions. Remind them that every SSAF survey indicates that the Union should be receiving more money, but the University has never actioned this attitude.