Prove your humanity

Curtin Student Guild held their Annual General Meeting at the Tav yesterday, where tension was high. Toward the end of the meeting there was substantial heckling, and several attendees were given warnings.

On the agenda were discussions about the Annual Report, questions from Guild members, and several motions regarding Guild regulation changes.

Arguably, the most intense debate of the AGM was over a motion recommending the Guild deregister the Socialist Alternative Club (SA) “for consistently abusive behaviour toward students and activists”.

This motion was moved by Dylan Botica.

Addressing the attendees of the meeting while introducing the motion, Botica said that the club is a “political cult” that doesn’t “come under the umbrella of what students actually want” and that its members “engage in hostile and abusive behaviour towards students”.

“I think they have done more than enough damage to this community,” he said, “I believe that they are not accountable; they don’t listen to what other people have to say.

“I, as a student not a part of any group, have decided to raise this motion because I personally feel victimised by this group.”

Erin Russell of SA took to the podium in opposition of this motion, and began by calling it “ridiculous”.

“I think the whole point of all of this is to sling mud at us,” she continued. “I think saying that we abuse people is a very serious charge to make.

“I also think that if it weren’t for the fact that we spent the past week campaigning against some of the things the Guild’s been doing, this wouldn’t be a motion we’re discussing right now. It’s no coincidence that this has come before our motion that we’re passing criticising the Guild.

“You guys are obviously just trying to turn a meeting that should be about students asking questions about what the Guild’s been doing into just throwing mud at us and hoping that some of it will stick”.

She also expressed that the passing of this motion would “undermine freedom of expression”.

Amid this debate, SA members and supporters began staging a walk-out of the AGM to pull quorum—which is the minimum number of members required for the AGM to be held, and business conducted. Immediately afterwards, there was a call for a re-count of attendees to check whether quorum was still met.

The count reached 106 without them present. So, with enough members, the debate continued. Eventually, SA returned.

Botica spoke again, and concluded by clarifying his position:

“I think they’re annoying,” he said, “I think they have no place on campus. And until they can demonstrate that they won’t continually act in ways that go against the values of Curtin University students and don’t put people like me in places where they feel fearful of this organisation, I think that they shouldn’t have the approval of the Guild.

“This doesn’t mean that they can’t exist as an entire group, we’re just saying that we think that SALT (sic) have no place in getting money from the Guild.”

A procedural motion was carried to vote on the recommendation of the deregistration of SA by secret ballot—safety concerns were cited as the reason. All ballots were cast.

After a few more walk-outs, the AGM was closed early because of repeated calls for quorum counts.

This meant that there wasn’t enough time for a debate on the last motion on the agenda—item 6.4 to oppose “the Guild Regulations amendments passed in Guild council”, which was moved by SA members.

Shortly after the AGM, the Guild posted the results of the ballot on their Facebook event.

With a total of 118 votes, there were 86 in favour of the motion, 27 against, while five abstained.

So, what will happen to SA? The motion was a recommendation of removal after all.

Guild President Liam O’Neill said that this isn’t being taken lightly:

“This is serious matter, while the Guild has had problems with the behaviour of the Socialist Alternative Club in the past, we have processes to handle club deregistration for misbehaviour in the Guild Regulations.

“I will be consulting with my colleagues on the Guild Executive and our club support staff about this issue and intend to bring forward my recommendation as to what to do with the General Meeting resolution at the June Guild Council meeting.

“In the interim the clubs’ registration with the Guild is suspended.”

Caitlin EB, SA President, echoed Ms Russell’s comments, stating that this motion is “a serious threat against freedom of speech on campus,” and that it “sets a horrendous precedent that, if you disagree with someone’s politics, you can just ban them from campus.”

Responding to the comments made by the mover of the motion about harassment and abuse, she said that “no formal complaint has been made against us,” and that the case “consisted of the deranged view the mover has of socialist politics combined with unsubstantiated slander.”

When asked what their next move will be, she said that SA will be campaigning for free speech on campus, “calling on members of the Guild and other political groupings and clubs to stand with us”.

Video taken by David Blayney.


Keep an eye out for Grok’s full coverage of the AGM, and other student politics issues as they unfold.