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July 17, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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Constitution Under Review

VUWSA is in the middle of a review process, aiming to bring its constitution up to date and remove sections that are no longer relevant.

VUWSA President Rory Lenihan-Ikin described the constitution as “the document which underpins all the services that VUWSA offers and the way in which it operates.” 

“VUWSA is constantly changing and growing and we need to have a constitution that is growing with us.”

The last review was conducted in 2015. Upon realising this, Association Secretary Joseph Habgood and Treasurer Secretary Tom Rackley went through the constitution with a fine-tooth comb, identifying irregularities.

For example, Section 3(5) of Part III grants the Executive the power to interpret the Constitution in accordance with “Section 9 of Part IX,” which does not exist. Despite searching archived versions of previous constitutions and policy, Rackley said he could not find the section it referenced.

“This is a material issue we need to address.”

The Representative Groups in Schedule 6 also need to be updated so as to reflect, for example, the recent name change of the Women’s Group to the Victoria University Feminist Organisation.

Further, VUWSA now refers to its ‘General Manager’ as a CEO, a change yet to be included in the constitution.

Substantive changes may occur in Part V regarding elections, particularly to Section 9, which determines the rules about how VUWSA election candidates can campaign.

“There is no mention of social media in the constitution,” Rackley said, highlighting the need for Part V to be updated.

He suggested that the rules around campaign conduct might be better placed in a schedule to the constitution, or an internal policy, so as “not to crowd the constitution.” This would allow for them to be more dynamic, since changes to the constitution itself have to be formally passed at an Initial General Meeting or an Annual General Meeting (AGM) following a vote.

Lars Thompson, the Editor of Rostra Victoria, also pointed to the need to review electoral procedure. In particular, he said that it needs to be made “absolutely clear” what happens “if a person runs uncontested, and how to reopen nominations.”

“Currently there is no definition of No Confidence required on the ballot, nor a definition of No Confidence at all. I know some who see voting No Confidence as a ‘fuck you’ to a candidate, and there’s nothing to say otherwise.”

Other areas identified for review include the financial supervision of Salient, and the ability of the Executive to budget for a deficit.

Students had a two-week period to make submissions, which formally closed on July 1. A public meeting was held on July 3 where students and members of the VUWSA Executive discussed areas of the constitution for possible review.

Rackley said the meeting was “productive” and “good for fueling us forward.”

When asked of his thoughts on the review process, Thompson, who attended the meeting, said “the Executive has been putting a lot of thought into what they want to see change,” but added, “I think they’ve struggled to find time to properly engage students and get feedback…. In fact the timing was terrible.”

Rackley admitted the timing of the review, over the exam period, was not ideal. However, he said the Executive had little choice; the time-frame is “tighter” because the AGM will be held earlier this year due to the general election.

Following the meeting on July 1, VUWSA allowed for further student submissions as it entered the re-drafting process. Of the total number received, Rackley said “I got more than expected.”

Thompson iterated the importance of students engaging with the constitution, saying “the constitution is a fundamental safeguard that ensures [the Executive] remain accountable and dependable.”

With areas having been identified and discussed, the wording of possible changes is being finalised and will undergo external legal review in the coming weeks.

The draft changes will then be made public at least ten days before being presented by Rackley and Lenihan-Ikin at the AGM which will be held in the first half of trimester two.

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