The AUSA Executive wants to change the AUSA Constitution. George Barton, AUSA’s Education Vice-President writes for Craccum about the changes:
Craccum Disclaimer: This article is written by a current member of the AUSA executive. Craccum does not endorse or oppose any of these claims however have reviewed this article to make sure it does not misrepresent the constitutional changes. Craccum encourages all students to read the proposed new constitution – available online via AUSA – and make their own opinion. A Special General Meeting will be held on Friday 12th April on the new constitution. Details are available via AUSA.
In the first edition of this magazine, your Craccum Editor, Bailley Verry, opened her editorial with a bold statement: we have no culture. Bailley didn’t mean we as in Craccum, or we as in Auckland (though that argument could certainly be made) but we as the students of the University of Auckland. Bailley told us that we, collectively, had no student culture. Now you might be thinking: why begin an article about changes to the AUSA Constitution with such a tangent? Is this some form of weird, Trumpian political spin? In fact, pushing back against what Bailley said is the essential reason for why your AUSA Executive for 2019 are proposing a complete repeal and replacement of the current Constitution.
However, before I delve into the details of the proposed new Constitution, let’s test Bailley’s statement. Could you say that the Engineers, with their well-attended steins and annual Round the Bays chariot, have no culture? Or perhaps the most obnoxious of us all, the Law Students, with Law Camp and Law Revue? What about Med School and all the antics that go on there – do they lack culture? Music students – surely they don’t have any culture with all the choirs, orchestras and bands they have. Science – our largest cohort – they don’t have time for “culture” while they’re receiving drinks and snacks from SCISA in this University’s best open plan study space? Or Commerce, with their dozen management consulting type clubs wanting to make a difference? For the most part, Bailley is right – at the University of Auckland there isn’t a single “student culture”. But the reality is, in fact, that there are many. The student community at the University of Auckland isn’t like Otago’s or Vic’s with its fewer faculties, and fewer students. Instead, the student community at Auckland is a collection of many different communities, split across faculties, shared interests and common bonds. And while its completely right to say that the University of Auckland often feels like a place with no culture, it’s wrong to say that it is a place without it. I mean heck, even Arts students – in between confronting the reality that there is no freewill or other existential questions – have time for a Beer Pong tournament and an exceptional Harry Potter pub quiz. If that’s no old-fashioned student culture then I don’t know what is.
So, now that the argument’s been made – that Auckland is a community of many, with many cultures – how does that relate to changing the current AUSA constitution? The answer is that if we’re going to reimagine a new AUSA that caters to these many different student communities by working with, and not against, our Faculty Associations and clubs in diversified – student community specific ways, as opposed to trying to engage with all students by just holding events in the Quad (a place inhabitated by a small proportion of students) then we have to start with its most important document: the AUSA Constitution.
The biggest change that the proposed new AUSA Constitution makes is it takes the three roles of the AUSA Executive – that of being student representatives, officers of a million-dollar organisation, and deliverers of student services – and it separates those roles across two other new “bodies” of AUSA – the Student Council and the Advisory Board. So, what are they and why are they needed?
The Student Council is our way of ensuring that AUSA’s representations on behalf of all students are as accurate as possible and is a more concrete way of holding AUSA and the AUSA Executive accountable for their actions and their promises. As we’ve realised, the University of Auckland is not one homogenous student community – it is a diverse community of many. By having the Student Council, which is comprised of the Presidents of our Faculty Associations (and, where a Faculty has no Faculty Associations, the relevant School Associations, for example, FMHS and NICAI) and Representative Groups, AUSA is hoping to be able to capture the views of our different student communities and use that in the submissions and representations that we make on the University’s highest decision-making bodies. In addition to this, having the Student Council means that, perhaps for the first time in a long time, we’re able to unite the student voice in faculties with the student voice on the University’s highest committees. The Student Council is a new type of organisation that’s never been done before, but it is an attempt by us to finally have a coherent, united student voice on issues that matter to all of us: getting a high quality education, having the resources and support to make that happen and having a social environment to make it enjoyable. In essence, making sure that there aren’t decisions about students without students at this University. The Student Council is created by Part VI of the proposed new Constitution.
The Advisory Board, by contrast, is there to make sure that the decisions your Executive makes in regard to AUSA’s long term finances and operations – in effect, the governance of the Association – are proper and robust. The Advisory Board will be made up of experts with knowledge in governance, strategy, finances, law and, directorship. By having the Advisory Board, the AUSA Executive is able to receive the advice it needs on important issues, and it should enable our students to feel confident that their Executive are making the right decisions with the best advice. The Advisory Board is created by Part VII of the proposed new Constitution.
What all of this is designed to do, is to help AUSA cater to all our different student communities in the different ways in which they need AUSA. The two new bodies relieve some of the burdens on the AUSA Executive and allows the Executive to focus more on doing what’s so important: serving students. This, essentially, is the big transformational change that the proposed new Constitution will bring to AUSA.
Now I know what you’re thinking: do you really need to repeal the whole Constitution just to do this? The answer is that we’re also changing a whole lot more. The proposed new Constitution doesn’t just create a Student Council and Advisory Board, it also:
These changes are just the biggest ones but as it’s a whole new Constitution that we’re proposing, there are more. I encourage you to read the whole document if you want to get a sense of every change.
All of these changes – from the change to General Meetings to the creation of the Student Council – are important but the main importance of them is that they give your Executive and AUSA the ability to simply get on with doing what they should be: serving students as students at the University want, and need, to be served. Making these reforms, in our opinion, move us one big step further to making a new, more democratic and representative AUSA, and creating a student culture that combines our diverse student cultures and reflects our many student communities. We just have to change the Constitution first.
Please email George at email@example.com or visit AUSA House if you have any queries in relation to the proposed new Constitution.