From MUSRA To SAB

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By Mia Kwok & Sarah Basford

Student representation is an important means to voice the interests and concerns of the general university student body – and we show how more can be involved. 

Like the student BBQ, where you’re hovering but never quite sure if it’s free, student politics remains ambiguous to even the most engaged student. For us, the difference is that now the acronym is two letters shorter.

Democracy eh? We’re all sick of hearing about it. When “student” is added before it the groans become louder. Why do we keep hearing this word over and over in the student context? It’s not like the university will be overrun by an evil dictator and we will all be thrust into the abyss of slavery. Well here at Macquarie University, and most liberal universities around the world, we have a student representative system and that system is now being changed. So I guess we should let you in on what we’ve uncovered about the new system.

“I spent the first three years at Macquarie not even knowing that we had an SRC,” said one student. “It wasn’t until seeing the vivacious flurry of campaigners at USYD one year that I even realised there was such a thing as ‘student politics’. I think for many people, election time at Macquarie consisted of maybe an email, some junk mail in the post and the occasional friend of a friend who was wandering through Central Courtyard and saw ‘something happening’.” 

There has been debate back and forth about the changes to our student representation, now called the SAB (Student Advisory Board) instead of MUSRA (Macquarie University Student Representative’s Association). The new board will consist of both elected and appointed student representatives and will be the primary student consultation board for the University Council. While all these names may seem overwhelming, or dare I say boring, they show an obvious devotion to diversity with the Student Advisory Board, which is promising to be the most varied board yet. Executive Officer to the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Students and Registrar Meagan Myles says that the aim of the new board is to “lift student representation up to a much more strategic level of engagement with the university”, and that is hopefully what is going to happen.

Yet some have expressed their outrage, quite publicly, on how the University is being paternalistic in changing the system. It has been suggested that the University’s involvement in our politics implies that students are incapable of managing themselves. In particular, there has been significant commentary on the fact that the Equity and Diversity roles are no longer chosen by students. For example, the Indigenous representative would now be appointed by a selection panel, instead of being elected by the students he/she represents. “We had feedback from students in Equity and Diversity groups that they often don’t feel comfortable being out there campaigning” says Executive Officer Meagan Myles. “It is a trial for 2013, we’re going to see if it works, see if it doesn’t work and then review it and make adjustments as required”.

There is a quiet elephant in the room who gently reminds us that with only a 6% voter turnout – who exactly is complaining?

Another great outcry is that of money – isn’t it always? With the introduction of the Student Services and Amenities Fee, or SSAF (if you don’t know what this is, you might want to find out, because you’ll be paying for it regardless), the university changed the role of our representative council. It’s position has more of an advisory role, rather than the previously more active responsibilities with the budget. Now, with the approximate $4 million that the University receives from SSAF, the Student Advisory Board may exert their ‘influence’ on the people who decide where the funding goes. The obvious retaliation has been to question the strength of the SAB’s influence. Will they be able to work alongside to the true decision-makers – the business behind academia? Only time will tell.

“I would put it back on students to ensure that [the system] is fair and transparent,” says Ms Myles, something which Grapeshot thoroughly supports. It comes down to you, as a student to express your opinions, your complaints and your desires through the student representatives. If they’re just not doing enough then use other outlets: your student publication (Hey! That’s us!) or Macquarie staff – there is always another option.

 

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The Board will comprise of:

  • 3 elected general undergraduate representatives
  • 1 elected postgraduate representative
  • 1 elected overseas student representative
  • 1 elected undergraduate and 1 elected postgraduate for each faculty
  • 16 appointed representatives for Equity, Diversity, Clubs and Societies.
  1. Indigenous
  2. Womens
  3. Disability
  4. Queer
  5. English as a Second Language
  6. Distance (Correspondence)
  7. Rural
  8. Professional/Faculty
  9. Sport
  10. Culture
  11. Political
  12. Humanitarian,
  13. Performance / Arts
  14. Religion
  15. Cocurricular
  16. Social

Voting is open 27 March to 11 April online. Check your student email to access the voting webpage.

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