UQ’s famous Market Day has delivered all of its usual fun this week: freebies, ear-splitting basslines from the main stage, and student politics drama spilling onto the Great Court.
UQ’s Labor Left Club have petitioned the UQ Union President to disband a new committee that investigates clubs for misbehaviour after the committee banned the Labor Left Club from holding a stall at Market Day.
The committee asked the Labor Left Club and a number of other societies to submit paperwork for review, as they hadn’t complied with Union rules.
Market Day attracts many new members to Clubs and Societies, and the Union allocates funding based on the number of members a club or society attracts.
The Labor Left Club ignored the Committee’s ban and attended Market Day anyway, taking a vacant stall.
The UQ Union Vice President of Campus Culture Paige Howard said that the Club ignored a number of warnings to leave on the day.
“I don’t have any political affiliations, but I was involved in warning Labor Left to leave Market Day,” Ms Howard said.
“They told me they would pack down, and then they didn’t. Later, their members roamed more than ten metres away from their stall, which is against the rule for all clubs and societies — but plenty of other clubs and societies do that as well.
“Eventually, I was receiving messages from other Union execs asking everyone to come down and help asking them to leave,” she said.
The Labor Left stall stayed open until the official end of Market Day at 2pm.
In a statement released today, the Labor Left Club has called on the UQU President to disband the Review Commitee.
“The UQ Labor Left Club understands that we are not the only club to have had issues with [UQU President] Jeremy Lwin and Focus,” the Labor Left Club said.
“A petition calling on Jeremy Lwin to disband the sham C&S committee and to reinstate the privileges of affected clubs has signatures from executive members of 43 clubs and societies on campus.
“The UQ Labor Left Club calls on UQU President Jeremy Lwin to disband this sham committee and to restore the privileges of all clubs affected by this farce process,” they said.
Semper was unable to independently verify the executive status of the signatories to the petition, but a separate appeal of the decision also collected signatures of fifty students and one Councillor from students the night before Market Day.
“The Review Committee has no power to do anything unless a club fails to produce documents,” a member of the Review Committee said.
“If the club had submitted the documents we asked for, we would have had no power to take any action. Two clubs submitted documents after being barred from Market Day and were given stalls. It probably would have been easier to submit those documents than to gather fifty signatures,” they said.
The Leader of the Opposition in Council, Duncan Hart, condemned the ban.
“This was a clear overreach by the right wing incumbents in control of the student union, who hoped to prevent their political opponents from holding a market day stall. Student Action supports the right of political expression for all students,” Cr Hart said.
“I’m glad to be taking part in an appeal of this decision, which has been made without any claim by Focus that the clubs in question were guilty of any actual misdemeanour.
“That appeal will be heard at Union Council and I hope in the light of public scrutiny that body will not decide to go down the same route as previous right wing unions have before them, of attacking their political opponents,” he said.
What is the Review Committee?
The UQ Union Council created the Independent Clubs and Societies Review Committee (or ‘Review Committee’) at a meeting on the 24th of January.
UQ Union Governance Officer Zachary Thomas moved for the Committee to be created.
“There has never been a comprehensive review of existing Clubs and Societies,” Mr Thomas told Semper.
“Clubs and Societies takes over a quarter of a million dollars of student money. That’s being increased to over half a million this year.
“It seems pretty reasonable to make sure that the clubs getting half a million dollars are buying things that are worth the money,” he said.
In the three weeks between the Council meeting that created the Review Committee and Market Day, the Review Committee flagged for review just under 25 clubs that submitted late audit forms and Annual General Meeting minutes.
The UQ Union regulations require that all AGMs for Clubs and Societies must be held in October, and their minutes must be submitted a week later.
Mr Thomas said the Review Committee has so far only reviewed those clubs that submitted their minutes or audits after the 1st of January, and sent an enforcement notice requesting the documents
“The Whitlam Club [now known as Labor Left] was among a group of 22 clubs that were given seven days notice to produce documents or be barred from Market Day.
“During this seven day period we received no contact from the Whitlam Club.
“After being barred from Market Day, the Whitlam Club only contacted us to assert that we must have made an administrative error,” he said.
The Labor Left Club maintain that they played by the rules, and was told by the Clubs Administrator (who is separate from the Review Committee) that a hard copy of the audit submitted in October was sufficient.
However, the Review Committee has requested a new submission for the purposes of this review.
“The UQ Labor Left Club is disgusted by this attempt by Jeremy Lwin and Focus to bully our club off campus.
“Students and student clubs should be supported by their elected representatives, not harassed and intimidated into an exit from student life,” they said.
But Mr Thomas said the Review Committee needed enforcement powers to be taken seriously.
“The committee has been constructed to do its job in six months. If clubs don’t send us documents early, we won’t have time to write a proper, comprehensive review,” Mr Thomas said.
“We have been given enforcement powers so that clubs will actually comply with our requests for documents. Otherwise, clubs could just ignore us for six months until the committee winds up,” he said.
Labor Left’s petition calls for action from UQU President Jeremy Lwin, but Mr Lwin said that the situation is out of his control.
“The committee was created by Union Council, and it exists independently of the executive. I have no power to disband or direct the committee, even if I wanted to,” he said.
“I think it’s important that we check if all clubs are being compliant with the rules. As a past Club President, I know firsthand a lot of clubs misuse Union money.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to weigh in in favour of either side,” he said.
The next meeting of Union Council is on the 27th of February, and President Lwin, Cr Hart, Mr Thomas, and representatives of Labor Left will likely debate the issue that night.