Next week, members of the Farrago editorial team will be observing the political push-and-pull that is the National Union of Students’ (NUS) national conference at Monash University’s Clayton campus. However, while Farrago has the privilege of viewing what goes on inside the rooms, fee-paying students nationwide will not.
Recent events regarding the transparency and accountability of student organisations have concerned Farrago. Past NUS conferences have prevented student media publications from filming or photographing proceedings. Farrago will be joining our mates at Honi Soit in requesting that the NUS national conference permit student media groups to live broadcast or otherwise record the dialogue surrounding policy which dictates the path of students’ university experiences nationwide.
The Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) was recently in contention following a failed parliamentary motion to implement a yearly vote on its continuation. Policy this year will certainly reflect this and discussion surrounding the Union’s Pro-SSAF campaign plans will undoubtedly be a focus of the conference.
Without the SSAF, student publications such as Farrago could not exist. The SSAF funds countless student initiatives and through a yearly mandatory union contribution, the NUS itself. To inhibit students from accessing live, unrehearsed and unedited information regarding an organisation they financially support is undemocratic and dishonest.
Transparency should be the defining principle of all student organisations funded by the SSAF; a principle that should not exclude any authorities within these organisations. Farrago was disappointed to hear of proposed regulatory changes at Flinders University’s Student Association (FUSA) to prevent publication of content that criticises members of the FUSA Students’ Council in Empire Times Magazine. Subsequently, Farrago also calls on the FUSA Students’ Council to consider how these proceedings could be detrimental to the free exchange of information within the Flinders University student body.
Many student politicians – including those who hold influential positions within the NUS – go on to pursue careers in Parliament. The NUS’ history of censoring reporters and disallowing free observation of the policymaking process is disturbing and unacceptable. To the NUS, to FUSA and to anyone in favour of these counter-transparency measures: you are accountable to the students who fund you, let them see why they should.
Danielle Bagnato, Sebastian Dodds, Baya Ou Yang and Caleb Triscari.
The 2016 Farrago Editorial Team.