In response to the article published in Farrago Magazine titled, “The GSA is Rushing Through Structural Changes that Would Crush Student Democracy” I would like to address the following false and misleading statements designed to spark outrage rather than invite constructive feedback from our membership to support the Board to make an informed decision. My views have been published in the following article: https://farragomagazine.com/article/farrago/Addressing-the-Opinion-Piece-The-GSA-is-Rushing-Through-Structural-Changes/ and are also included below.

The GSA has published a memo inviting membership feedback on proposed changes to the Representative and Faculty Councils ahead of the 2022 election and AGM, as required by the current Constitutional guidelines. This memo has also been sent out to all members in a direct email, published on our website and promoted through our Facebook and Instagram channels. This is to ensure that students are aware of and have the chance to have their voices heard in regard to these initial ideas proposed.

A forum has also been organised on Tuesday 15th February to ensure this proposal can be presented to membership.

No decisions have yet been made because the Board wants to consult with and hear from the membership first. This proposal does not result in constitutional change. It only allows the Board to determine the Representative roles required to best represent the various cohorts and issues to support our ongoing advocacy.

Following the consultation process, the feedback from our membership will be collated and discussed at our Board Meeting to determine the following (as per the current constitution):

  1. the roles of the representative council as is the Board’s duty as described in the Electoral Regulations (6.2).
  2. to determine any set qualifications and/or eligibility requirements for Representative Councillor’s representing particular constituencies as described in the Constitution (9.7(b)).

Constitutional Change

GSA’s membership approved a new constitution in 2020 with an alternative structure to the single council responsible for governance and representation. In 2021, this structure was brought in for the first time with the elected representative body increasing from 15 to up to 40. This included having a Board, a Representative Council, and a Faculty Council. Ongoing criticism of GSA has been a lack of faculty-specific representation. For multiple reasons the Faculty Council was not able to reach its intended membership level, with only 5 positions of a possible 20 being filled despite months of ongoing advertising.

To address this concern, after months of discussion and consultation we proposed that the number of Faculty Council members be reduced from 20 to 10, with those 10 being paid an honorarium (as opposed to a sitting fee) and given additional resources to access members of their faculty and advocate for their needs. The need to reduce the Faculty council members could have been avoided if GSA was not faced with a decrease in our funding in 2022 of nearly $500,000. The Proposed change to Faculty Council will support further advocacy work in relation to course work to be undertaken at each faculty level and increase student advocacy. This is currently in a proposal phase to be taken to the membership for approval for consultation and final approval at the AGM to be held in June 2022.

In the current structure, the Education Coursework Officer does not have the capacity to work at different faculty levels, so it was suggested by few members that the proposed changes would only increase the capacity of advocacy work at faculty level.

The current Education Coursework Officer has been involved in multiple important pieces of work for student representation, but more needs to be done beyond what can be achieved by one person to address the significant and diverse range of issues students face. Unlike what has been stated in the article, a potential proposed change in name to ‘Research Officer’ instead of ‘Education Research Officer’ has only been done to avoid confusion. No changes to the Education Research portfolio have been proposed. The current Representative Office Bearers have not been heavily consulted in this process until now due to their substantial conflict of interest and connection to their roles.

GSA continues to encourage those elected to the Representative Council, Faculty Council, and Board to be heavily involved in activism, advocacy and decision-making because we value democratic processes so highly. The proposed changes have the only goal of increasing student representation and involvement for the strengthening of what we can all achieve as GSA for students’ benefits.

I strongly encourage all graduate students to attend the student forum on Tuesday 15th February 2022 at 4pm (not 5th Feb, as stated in the article). I also encourage anyone to send written feedback on any and all parts of the proposal to myself, Lily Day, General Secretary of GSA at gensec@gsa.unimelb.edu.au by Tuesday 22nd February, 2022. We are open to receiving all opinions and will use those submitted to us to inform our decision making as a Board. This is the initial part of understanding student views on the proposal before the election and before decisions are made.

Lily Day,

General Secretary – GSA