"(The SSAF) contains the stipulation that funds raised from the fee cannot be used to support political parties or the candidacy of a person for any political office."
"Now, for the first time at any university in Australia, University of Newcastle Clubs and Societies is re-interpreting the SSAF to justify proscribing political activities that have been carried out on campuses for decades." (emphasis added)
"On February 17, Rowena Grant, the Clubs and Societies Coordinator for UoN Services Limited*, the public company that provides student services at University of Newcastle campuses, sent an email to political student clubs,
"In the email, UoN Services Limited* asserts:
- Due to the political nature of your student club, we thought it imperative to inform you of the rules for O Week 2014 on bringing any political members—be they members of federal or state parliament, or candidates for political parties—on campus.
- If political members are found to be present at the Expo, they will be asked to leave and your student club runs the risk of losing their booking at the Expo…
- This is due to the Student Services and Amenities Fee legislation, which specifies that SSAF funds may not be used to support a political party.
- Our interpretation of the SSAF legislation is that bringing a political member to the Expo is supporting a political party….”
"UoN Services* is implementing a profoundly discriminatory policy. Non-political student clubs can invite whoever they like to take part in their O-Week and other activities, as is their democratic right. Religious clubs, for example, have the unquestioned right to invite non-student members of their faith to talk with students and participate in services. And no-one would dream of opposing the right of sporting clubs to invite non-student athletes to encourage students to take up their particular sport."
It is utterly absurd to allege that the presence of members of parliament or election candidates on campus means SSAF funds are being donated to a political party.
"..the positions of UoN Services* are an affront to the intellectual and cultural traditions of universities. It used to be commonplace for student unions and clubs to organise political events where politicians debated the issues of the day. And student-organised candidate forums were once a feature of federal and state election campaigns, with representatives of political parties invited to face student audiences to outline their policies.
"Whether UoN Services is conscious of it or not, it is establishing a profoundly reactionary and anti-democratic precedent."
What is happening to "the democratic right of students to engage, without management interference, in political activity on campus"?
This action is in line with the silencing of whistleblowers, gagging clauses on ex-staff and denying freedom of speech which many of us have already experienced at UoN.
* UoNS is now a public company limited by guarantee, a controlled entity of the University of Newcastle, and is governed by a Board of Directors which includes student representatives, University appointees and independent directors with expertise from various business sectors.