Adelaide University Union Board refuses to back the Marriage Equality #VoteYES campaign

Words by Tom Haskell, Jenny Nguyen, and Jesse Davidson

Full room tonight!

To much controversy, the AUU Board have decided not to back a motion which would see the AUU endorse the “yes” vote for the upcoming marriage equality postal survey.

The board was presented with two motions which were moved by Jack Crawford of Socialist Alternative. These motions were:

That the Adelaide University Union release via its Facebook page, a statement calling for a “Yes” vote in the upcoming marriage equality postal survey
That the Adelaide University Union endorse the rally for marriage equality being held outside at South Australia’s Parliament House on Saturday the 16th of September, and share the rally’s event page via Facebook

Both of these motions were voted down on a margin of 5 to 4. Those in favour of the motions were Jack Crawford (Left Action/Socialist Alternative), Sarah Tynan & Iacovos Digenis (Activate/National Labor Students), & Olivia Savvas (Unite/Student Unity). The sea of Socialist Alternative members in the room also showed their support by raising their hands when the vote was called. Those who voted against the motions were Jack Newton & Ansar Rana (Adelaide University Liberal Club), and Brodie Scott, Jeffrey Yang, and Jennifer Li (Progress).

This makes the Adelaide University Union board the only student run organisation in the state — and one of the few nation wide — to refrain from taking an active position.

In contrast, Flinders University Student Association (FUSA) and University of South Australia Student Association (USASA) have both confirmed their public support for Marriage Equality through the distribution of how-to-vote information via their social media channels.

USASA’s website with instructions on How to Vote in the postal survey
Speaking to his motions, AUU Board Director Jack Crawford spoke on the responsibility of a student union to support non-hetero students’ right to equality, stating that “by not supporting the yes campaign, we are sending a message to students that we do not support marriage equality”.

Board members Savvas, Digenis, and Tynan mirrored this sentiment by enforcing that the issue was not a political one, rather an ‘issue of civil rights’.

Crawford also outlined a long list of AUU affiliated clubs which had endorsed his motion in the days leading up to this meeting.

The list of 22 clubs that had endorsed the motions being moved

Crawford remarked that “It is heartening to see student unions and clubs around the country spearheading the yes campaign”

He further added that voting down his motions may put the union on the wrong side of history. “If you want to be on the right side of history, you’ll vote this motion up and join us on Saturday on the steps of parliament house”

The left-bloc argued in favour of the motion bringing up the fact that 81% of 18–24 year olds are in favour of marriage equality. This argument wasn’t convincing for President Brodie Scott, however, who stated that “19% of our membership represents roughly 600 students. That is a significant portion to disenfranchise”. This was received with much bemusement from the left bloc and those attending with Jack Crawford rebutting that “we’re all for disenfranchising homophobes”

The main argument presented in the dissent was that the Union’s primary functions do not include taking on activist roles; rather they are about providing services to students, furthering the welfare of members, being the main social, cultural, and support centre for students, and representing the interests of students individually and as a whole.

This response drew much criticism from the left with Digenis arguing that “our role in providing services doesn’t mean we can’t take stances on issues that strike the core of how we value certain people”.

Despite their efforts to argue for the motion, the numbers on board meant the motion was defeated before it was even raised. The overwhelming amount of observers signalling their intention to speak on the motion signalled an intention to perhaps filibusta the meeting for this very reason.

There were also many passionate students present, notably from Socialist Alternative, who spoke on the importance of passing these motions for the wellbeing and welfare of Adelaide University students.

The discussion reached a fever pitch with an argument between members of Socialist Alternative, notably Grace Hill, and Brodie Scott and director Jack Newton. Hill reiterated BeyondBlue’s statistics that there has been “an increase in LGBTQIA+ youths calling for help”, further stating that “all the board can do is try to protect homophobes”.

Scott however maintained that “the student experience is for everybody” and that the board should be inclusive of both NO and YES views. Newton and Scott inevitably threatened to bring security in to escort out board observers for their disruptive behaviour.

On Dit has also received information that a member of the AUU Board has been censured for a breach of fiduciary duty. We will post more details as soon as they are known.

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