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April 7, 2022

Students pass motion of no confidence in University of Adelaide leadership

University of Adelaide students passed a motion of no confidence in university leadership and Vice-Chancellor Peter Høj in the first Student General Meeting in seven years.

  • Words: Emelia Haskey
  • Pictures: Johnny von Einem

Students at the University of Adelaide Student General Meeting (SGM) voted on 24 March to pass a motion opposing the staff cuts and faculty mergers announced by the university last year.

They also passed a motion of no confidence in the University Council and Vice-Chancellor Peter Høj, and a demand for the Student Representative Council (SRC) to be directly funded by the university.

The motions, now a part of SRC’s official policy, passed at the SGM organised by the No Adelaide University Cuts Campaign alongside the SRC, a group supportive of the campaign. More than 150 students showed up in person and online.

Some of the funding cuts and mergers have already taken effect, with the new faculty mergers in operation as of 28 March.

PhD student and environment officer for the SRC Nix (Nicolas) Herriot attended the Student General Meeting as a representative of the council, but also as a concerned student.

“The aim was to bring student politics out of just the SRC meetings and have it in a much more inclusive, democratic forum,” he said.

“It was a historic turnout. It’s bringing student activism back to the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, where Student General Meetings were a regular occurrence.”

President of the Adelaide University Union (AUU) Oscar Zi Shao Ong expressed no opposition to the meeting.

“The AUU fully supports the right of the SRC to pass motions and engage directly with the university on the issues it deems important,” he said.

Although the Student General Meeting has no binding effect on the union or university management, Herriot said he was pleased the motions were accepted as SRC policy.

“The SRC has to abide by the decisions of the Student General Meetings…[they] are political demands raised by students, and the meeting gives authority to the No Cuts campaign,” Herriot said.

“Though university management have not responded to the issues raised in the meeting, I think they’ve been following the campaign closely, and it’s a threat to them because they want to push through the cuts and mergers with token student-and-staff consultations.”

Staff cuts would not impact the quality of education, a University of Adelaide spokesperson told CityMag in a statement.

“The reduction in staff numbers has affected professional staff, not academic staff, and the quality of education provided to students at the university has not been impacted,” the spokesperson said.

“The University of Adelaide supports students’ rights to freedom of speech and respects the breadth of views among our community.”

The meeting comes after the No Cuts campaign organised pushback to the defunding of the Maths Learning Centre and its staff, who provided on-campus support to students for assignments or general learning. The cuts were announced in October last year but were withdrawn after a petition opposing the move garnered a thousand signatures.

The SRC has not had its funding reinstated since it was suspended by the AUU last month for breaching an agreement between the entities.

Ong said efforts were made to resolve the stand-off between the Union and the SRC.

“The AUU has sought discussions with the current SRC president to resolve existing funding concerns. To date the SRC president has failed to attend the requested meetings,” he said.

Herriot believes the SRC and students opposing the cuts must continue to put pressure on the university.

“We have to keep on campaigning and keep on kicking up a fuss, because it really works,” he said.

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