Students’ Council liveblog — Wed 7th Dec, 2016
7 December 2016
The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) peak governing body, Students’ Council, met today to consider its 2017 budget.
Welcome to our liveblog of UMSU Students’ Council. Today, the UMSU 2017 budget is on the agenda and it’s going to set the direction for the organisation next year, if it passes.
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The room’s starting to fill up now. Your intrepid reporter has regrettably not yet memorised everyone’s face, so we’ll just be guessing who people are.
We have sighted UMSU General Manager Justin Baré with a few boxes of what we can only assume are budget papers.
Word on the street is that the meeting will be chaired by 2016 UMSU Education (Academic Affairs) Officer Tom Crowley (who, this year, is serving on the Creative Arts Committee). We’ll see!
We’ve started, at 2.14pm.
Going through a list of apologies and proxies, nothing exciting to report yet.
Leave has been approved for Women’s Officer Anjana Abeyratne and (I think) VCA Coordinator Nicholas Lam for seven weeks (didn’t quite hear the last one so apologies if it’s for the wrong person).
(The only power points I was able to find — for my poor, electricity-deprived laptop — is at maximum distance from the Chair. All errors, therefore, I claim are caused by the acoustics of the august Private Dining Room the meeting is in. 🙂 )
Now considering the 2016 Activities Budget (that’s this year) — it’s apparently possible to spend it up until the end of the month (even though the new terms have started). (Unfortunately your reporter hasn’t got an up-to-date copy of the agenda so has missed out on the detail of the spending.)
That’s passed, and now the meeting is discussing a motion to condemn the neo-Nazi posters that have been found on campus. As well as general condemnation, the motion calls for the Union to get counter posters “professionally printed” in A0 (1 square metre) size and posted around campus. Discussion ongoing.
Discussions continue, with some key points:
- There aren’t many students on campus right now
- Whether the counter-posters should be framed as opposing the posters, or whether it should be a more ‘positive’ campaign
- Which budget line should the printing come from? (2016 whole of union is the consensus)
The discussion is continuing, and we have about six people left on the speaking list, which has now been closed.
(For those not up on the jargon, when people want to speak in Council, they catch the attention of the meeting’s Chair who adds them to a list (the speaking list), [roughly] in order. When the speaking list is closed, no-one not on the list can speak, and once everyone on the list has had their say, the motion will be voted on.)
Speaking list over, but two last minute amendments: one that the content of the posters be done by the People of Colour Department (presumably the Officebearers) and the deadline is 20th Dec.
The motion carries comfortably (I think without any dissent).
Next up is the Operations Sub-committee. It’s unopposed, due to a late withdrawal, and includes, subject to poor hearing: Alice Smith, Daniel Beratis, Rachael Davies and two names I definitely couldn’t hear.
We’re now up to Officebearer Reports — Chair Tom Crowley has asked both reports and questions to be kept short (although we should ‘feel free to ask them’).
Crowley is smiling as we move very efficiently through reports.
The Environment Department report has called on UMSU to oppose the plan to reduce the size of the System Garden by (about) 10 per cent. Since it’s a recommendation, Council will consider whether to approve or reject the recommendation.
(Apparently the liveblog isn’t auto-updating. Sorry about that, just hit refresh every minute or so. We’ll get the tech people to have a look, but the tech person is probably me so it won’t get fixed until this evening.)
All reports accepted, including the Enviro Department’s recommendation.
We’re at the big one, the budget. Crowley shushes everyone and then talks process.
The budget papers look like they’re shrinkwrapped. We don’t believe there’s a specific line-item in the budget that paid for that.
Crowley is explaining how the UMSU General Manager has been developing the budget since August, and will shortly ask said General Manager to speak.
General Manager Baré is now discussing the budget process, after reminding the media of the sensitivities around reporting changes to staffing funding allocations. These sensitivities apparently include Parkville Station not receiving an actual copy of the budget at this stage (although we note that Farrago are pawing through it).
Crowley welcomes amendments but is encouraging Councillors not to debate the detail of the document: “Council’s job is not to formulate a budget […] the reason we have a General Manager is to get the level of detail we have in this document”.
In a show of solidarity from the top, President Yan Zhuang and General Secretary Yasmine Luu are moving and seconding the motion.
The budget, being sold as “evidence based”, is based on submissions from Officebearers and (staff) managers for the first time. “Hopefully Councillors will agree this way is more transparent.” Councillors may well agree, but we haven’t seen the budget yet.
(That quote was from President Zhuang, although everyone’s been saying ‘evidence based’.)
Crowley is now taking amendments on non-staff matters.
First out of the blocks is the allocation to the National Union of Students, proposed in the budget to be (according to the speaker) $30,000. (It was around $75k last year). The suggestion is that the $30k figure is far too low; currently doing a run-down of NUS protests this year.
Crowley is looking for a speaker to defend the NUS allocation. No takers so far…
Here’s our official summary description of the UMSU 2017 Budget: A4, spiral bound, maybe 180 pages long, and has the UMSU logo on the front cover.
After three speakers discussing the good NUS does, Zhuang takes up the challenge and discusses issues with NUS internally, and the effectiveness (or, she contends, lack of effectiveness) of their campaigns.
Shout-out to student media (or any media) being banned from filming the NUS’s National Conference.
Discussion is continuing, and I’m not quite fast enough to fairly get summaries of all of the points being made into the liveblog. No-one, so far, has proposed a specific alternative dollar-figure allocation.
Procedural motion to limit speaking time to two minutes per person, passes comfortably.
OK, we have a proposed amendment that would see an extra $40,000 to National Union of Students affiliation fee, taking it to $70,000 total.
The money will come from:
- $10,000 from Whole of Union (which will be reduced to $80,000)
- $30,000 from Students’ Council Campaigns line (which will also be reduced but not sure what to)
(“Turn to page 16 … for those playing at home”, according to Crowley — we’d post a copy of page 16 but it’s still under wraps, so if you’re playing at home, just guess what the numbers are.)
Speaking list now closed, so we might actually see an outcome after sevenish(?) more speakers.
The discussion’s continuing; distressingly, your intrepid reporter might have to leave in the next little while for a prior commitment.
Procedural to skip the rest of the speaking list and move to a vote. Twelve for, five opposed; vote shortly.
The NUS amendment has failed; so the budget survives as stated. NUS affiliation is going to remain $30,000. (We assume, anyway; we don’t have the magic booklet that has the number in it.)
Discussion about whether UMSU has some money in reserve (it does).
Order is leaving the room, Crowley raises his voice to get order.
A speaker makes the point that Councillors have had only 44 hours to read the budget before being asked to vote on it. (We, of course, still don’t have it.)
Speaking time has also been slimmed down a bit more, to a minute and a half.
They’re discussing kicking reporters (well, all non-Counicllors) out of the room. We may or may not be back (probably not, unless this is very quick).
Students’ Council is now discussing certain matters in camera (i.e., confidentially) so don’t expect any updates for a while. (In fact, as I have to leave shortly, perhaps no more updates for the rest of the day.)
Attempts to snare a copy of the budget were unsuccessful.
The door’s re-opened, I’m taking that as an invitation.
Discussion in detail is happening regarding the Clubs & Societies department budget.
President Yan Zhuang is proposing an amendment regarding the VCE Summer School (VCESS), allocating an extra $20,000 to VCESS (from the Whole of Union line).
(If the numbers bandied about earlier were right, this will reduce WoU from $90k to $70k.)
One speaker describes the last-minute request as ‘poor management’ on the part of the VCE Summer School directors.
The VCESS motion is ongoing, impassioned speakers on both sides.
(We’re are the two-hour mark, which in principle requires a compulsory break according to the Standing Orders.)
Discussion is going on now about whether the money could be provided on an ‘underwriting’ basis, on the hope that VCESS will be able to recover the money through sponsorship. Unfortunately neither VCESS nor a representative from the Communications Division is around to tell us if that’s feasible.
The motion has been amended in some way along the lines of the underwriting alluded to below, but it’s too hot and complicated to figure out what’s actually happened.
Next up: support for students who are effectively off campus, such as medical students (seconded to hospitals) and education students (to schools).
The proposal is to sequester $10,000 of Whole of Union for those students.
Discussion is ongoing, but I’ve got to run, so expect further updates to be sporadic to non-existent.
(This probably guarantees the budget is voted on the moment I leave.)
We’re back, but Council is long since over.
Spies tell us that, after a bit more discussion, the budget eventually passed. We’ll endeavour to get you the full document when UMSU releases it, as well as the high standard of news and analysis you’ve come to expect from Parkville Station.
Following the budget, there were a few other motions passed, which we’ll get the details on in due course.