Words || Yehuda Aharon
In early April, News Editor of Grapeshot Magazine and member of the Student Representative Council, Anna Glen proposed two motions to radically improve the relationship the SRC holds with Grapeshot and the wider student body.
As Grapeshot’s publisher is a member of Macquarie staff, the first motion related to the publisher’s editorial powers over Grapeshot. Having previously pulled articles alleging that the content was defamatory, the Grapeshot editorial team maintains that the university withdraws articles that are merely unfavourable to Macquarie as a brand, with no regard for how important the information may be to the student body.
A resolution was sought by Grapeshot, as these withdrawals continue to occur well beyond editors deadline, proving to be a great burden on the quality of the magazine.
More complications arose due to the problems the lack of collaboration between the Editorial Review Board and the publisher. The SRC resolved to explore solutions in later meetings.
The second motion put forward argued that a Grapeshot observer would be allowed to attend SRC meetings and report on proceedings to the student body.
Glen said she “[I] put forward what I thought was a fairly uncontroversial motion to have a reporter from Grapeshot sit in on SRC meetings. This was done because the public minutes of SRC meetings are not uploaded in a timely manner and they also do not give any insights on the deliberations of the meetings.”
For the minutes to be released they have to be ratified at the following meeting. Such meetings occur approximately every two months. This means reporting of the minutes can be severely delayed. For instance, the meeting held on April 4 is unable to be reported on until May 31 – almost two months after the original meeting.
Keeping in mind that the SRC advises how Student Services Amenities Fees (SSAF’s) are used, and also represents student interests to the university, this rejection becomes problematic. For Grapeshot, it is crucial that students are given frank and up-to-date news on how this money is spent and how our elected representatives choose to carry out their role.
Formerly known as the Student Advisory Board, the SRC is in the current process of reworking its constitution to provide a greater medium between the chancellery and students. According to SRC Treasurer Lachlan McGrath, the SRC is still in a formative state and is therefore not yet ready to allow members of Grapeshot to witness deliberations.
McGrath said “I love the idea of a more transparent SRC but I also know that the SRC needs to work with the University in order to get things done and this motion would have pissed off parts of the University that would have made doing our job significantly more difficult. This is a small compromise that we have to deal with so that we can get some of our projects off the ground and do things that actually benefit students.”
This is not to say that the SRC has not achieved a great deal this year: they’ve brought students a $3 breakfast bar (now scrapped), ran a successful O-week and continue to stand up for diversity. However there remains a lack of communication between officials and the student body.
Glen said the decision to maintain closed meetings did not receive support from the entire SRC, with many members abstaining or voting against the motion. She said “certain members did not want a Grapeshot member in the meeting to report the deliberation of minutes due to the potential for negative coverage. The consequence is that SRC does not want students to know what they are doing because of fear of their own incompetency… It is the norm across universities nationwide for SRC’s to hold open meetings.”
Kieren Ash, who is a member of the SRC and also sits on the University Council, voted in favour of the motion and told Grapeshot “this initiative was an important piece of reform for the SRC. Transparency and accountability are crucial for healthy student democracy, and this sort of scrutiny is common to many universities. If we want students to take us seriously, we need to take them seriously too. That means we trust them to understand what we are doing, that we are looking after their interests”
Without knowing exactly what issues are deliberated upon during SRC meetings, within a time frame in which topics stay relevant, how are students supposed to engage with those that claim to represent them?