EDITORIAL: AUU Board proving to be a disaster for independent student media

On Dit Editorial

After Thursday night’s AUU Board meeting, it has become apparent to On Dit that President Brodie Scott is no friend of Adelaide Uni Student Media. Within the space of twenty minutes, Scott along with Jack Newton, Ansar Rana, and Jeffrey Yang passed three motions pertaining to the rules concerning student media.

From passing the motions, it becomes evident that none of the aforementioned have familiarized themselves at all with the rules concerning student media. To explain why, we’ll go through the amendments one by one from most cooked to least cooked

MOST COOKED AMENDMENT (AMENDMENT #2)

The second amendment passed by Scott and his drone of minions was an amendment to section 11 of the rules, namely that:

“If Student Radio Directors wish to remove any or all volunteers, advice must be sought, prior to removal, from an independent committee consisting of the AUU President, the AUU General Manager and the AUU Marketing/Communications Manager”

Further clauses were provided that, in the case of a conflict, the President would step aside to make way for the vice-president and so on until they find someone on the Board who doesn’t hold an interest in the matter.

So why is this motion so disastrous in the first place? First, let’s provide some context to the motion. Back in March, Student Radio had a program called the Campus University News Team — which is also quite a lame base level acronym. The idea behind this show was that it would be a program focusing on student politics as well as campus life in general. The two presenters behind the show were also the two people behind an independent podcast/alternative news source known as The Strainer. Among other things, they were known to those in Stupol circles to be somewhat antagonistic towards student politicians. They had a fairly decent working relationship with Brodie Scott — On Dit spotted Scott and the duo together at Skullduggery (where we were deejaying lmao). When the Campus University News Team were announced as one of the program teams for 2017 student radio, stupol hacks were interested to see what would happen and, more importantly, if they were going to be name-dropped.

In the interest of transparency we feel the need to note the following things:

  • Our tense relationship with The Campus University News Team/The Strainer

Amongst one of the hacks who was inevitably name-dropped was a certain Board Director. In the very first episode of their show, the two presented a bizarre segment presented in the style of a phone-sex ad whereby that director’s name was used. The director felt attacked by the segment and told the Board on Thursday night that they were upset over the way they had been “demeaned and sexualised by the programming”.

Within the next fortnight, the Campus University News Team had been kicked off air. Student Radio director Tim Whiffen noted at the time that while he didn’t feel that “it was the morally/emotionally correct decision, it was the rational one [so we can focus more on other teams]”.

So, back to the motion. The amendment now means that if this were to happen again, Student Radio would have to seek the advice of not only Radio Adelaide management but also an AUU committee which is comprised of at least one member of the Board — an inherently politicized institution. Keep in mind that President Brodie Scott and the Campus University News Team were quite chummy at the time.

Clause 12.1 of the Rules Concerning Student Media states that “Except where required by law or sanctioned by this Rule, the AUU shall not interfere with the editorial independence of [student media]”. While the Student Radio directors do not feel that this motion infringes upon their editorial independence, we cannot imagine a scenario whereby this wouldn’t be an indirect infringement. The main functions of student radio directors are to appoint volunteers to programming and to oversee the administration/direction of said programming. The amendment was not made pursuant to Clause 12.1 either.

Because current and future student directors now cannot remove any volunteers without seeking advice from the AUU, the capacity for radio directors to exercise their editorial duties has now been severely restrained. What’s more important to note is that student radio directors don’t need to seek advice when appointing volunteers, only when removing them. Why have one without the other? The inconsistency here speaks volumes. Simply put, this amendment is a major blow to the editorial independence of student media and to the inherent separation of student media from the AUU Board.

In our view, the appointment of certain volunteers is an editorial decision as it drives the overall direction of programming, so it stands to reason that the removal of certain volunteers is as equally — if not more so — an editorial decision. Because of this, we believe that the motion severely infringes upon editorial independence.

SECOND MOST COOKED AMENDMENT (AMENDMENT 3)

Amendment three provides an additional clause to section 6 of the Rules Concerning Student Media. The additional clause reads that Student Radio Directors must “ensure the editorial independence of all volunteers appointed to positions of content creation”.

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

Editorial independence from what? The AUU or the Student Radio Directors themselves? Student Radio Directors run in elections because they have a certain editorial vision that they wish to enact on the station. If this amendment is followed the way in which we believe it was intended to be followed, the role of student radio director will be reduced to nothing more than selecting who will be presenting/producing content for the next year.

Consider this hypothetical: a radio program presents a show which begins to present content which is completely different to the content that was pitched to the directors at the beginning of the year. In fact, they are presenting content which is contrary to the editorial vision that the directors had in mind when they selected the team. Whereas before the directors were free to give feedback or, in more drastic circumstances, remove the program, directors now will need to think twice before doing so lest they wish to contravene the rule passed in this amendment.

It is our opinion that content creators should be allowed some degree of freedom and independence in their programming, but ‘editorial independence’ is something which ought to be reserved for student media directors. This would be similar if, for argument’s sake, On Dit were required to collaborate all editorial decisions with our contributors. It just wouldn’t be feasible and would remove the necessity for having people in charge of editorial direction in the first place.

Bad policy, Brodie. Very bad indeed.

LEAST COOKED AMENDMENT (AMENDMENT 1)

The first amendment passed pertaining to student media rules on Thursday directly concerned On Dit. The amendment stated that On Dit must provide an electronic copy of each issue to the General Manager (or their nominee) 48 hours prior to print and that we were not allowed to print unless we had the written approval of the GM or their nominee.

Look, to be honest this isn’t the worst thing they could have done to us, but we can kind of guess why this was even considered in the first place. Issue 3 of On Dit this year did not contain a submission from Brodie Scott for his regular column, State of the Union. This occurred despite deadlines for submissions being readily available on our Facebook page.

Former GM Dianne Janes expressing her disapproval of the motion

When we responded to Brodie’s initial proposal via email, we layed out the production process of On Dit and why providing an electronic copy 48 hours prior to print was just ridiculous. His response? This comes down as a ‘time-management issue’. A bit rich coming from someone who was unable to provide a fairly short article to On Dit. While he did attempt to understand the processes behind production of On Dit, we do not believe that enough effort was put into this. Let’s be clear: Brodie Scott is first and foremost a political actor; he is not a student media director. For this reason alone, he does not possess the expertise to be making judgements on the efficiency of our operation even if he is the President of the AUU.

As an aside, if Brodie Scott can’t find the time to provide a short column to On Dit, it may suggest a few things. One being that he may not take our publication seriously, and another being that he may not take our student union seriously. Perhaps we are reading too far into a missed deadline, but his silence in issue 3 was absolutely deafening. Given the timing of this motion, it leads us to believe that this was passed in retaliation for us printing a blank page where his State of the Union column would have otherwise been.

Brodie Scott failed to provide a short statement for his column in issue 85.3

What worries us about this motion is the precedent it sets. If On Dit piss off those in positions of power, those people are free to make whatever unnecessarily bureaucratic changes they want as long as they have the numbers. While this motion is merely an annoyance for us, it doesn’t distract from the possibility of the Board making further decisions which could potentially infringe upon our editorial independence.

The AUU Board is an inherently politicized institution and we are one of the primary means of holding it to account. This is a particularly dangerous position to be in when the institution we hold to account is also the institution which decides our funding, our honoraria, and the rules by which we are made to comply with. Those who value the importance of independent student media should be very concerned at the knee jerk reaction of the Board to pass these motions based on personal gripes and relationships. We would not be surprised if the Board continues to pass motions which infringe upon the editorial independence of student media in the coming year.

Final Thoughts

This year’s AUU Board proved on Thursday night that they don’t really care about student media at Adelaide Uni. Brodie Scott and the right-wing bloc of the board proved through their motions that they either lack any understanding of the processes behind student media or they lack respect for the editorial independence of these institutions which go back to 1932. We must mention that those representing the left that night (Olivia Savvas, Jack Crawford, and Iacovos Digenis) all voted AGAINST these amendments. While we thank them for their support, we must stress to the readers that this doesn’t mean we are now beholden to them or their factions.

While we aim to remain neutral on political matters on campus, it is our editorial opinion that conservatives have proven themselves to be poor leaders as far as student media is concerned.