TUU Election: The Policies and the Priorities

As the Tasmanian University Union (TUU) Election polling draws closer, it is time to examine the promises that have been ceaselessly spruiked to us over the last week.

The two tickets,Voice and Empower Your TUU, have made a number of promises to the student body during the campaign, and independent candidate Emma Field released her own platform on Facebook on Thursday 8th of September.

If you’re seeing pink everywhere, it’s likely the Voice team. They have five key policy points, as listed below.

  1. Build community: By working co-operatively with clubs, societies and student groups to ensure better events and activities year round, with quality free food.
  2. Stand up for your rights at uni: We will continue to fight for your education rights, including cheaper textbooks and representation on university committees.
  3. Deliver more student spaces: Places to meet, eat, relax and study. Including in the Library, with more chairs, larger desks and plugs for charging devices.
  4. Provide better transport options: More regular bus services, and always fight against higher parking fees.
  5. Support disadvantaged students: Including expanded support through financial aid and academic advocacy.

Out of the five points, numbers three and five are most achievable for Voice if they are elected. State President candidate for Voice, Clark Cooley, has successfully implemented a range of new facilities at the UTas Newnham campus in the past, making this one more likely. Point five can be implemented with existing TUU funding. It’s just a question of how much groundwork has already been laid by the 2015/2016 TUU.

Those that are least likely to be achieved are points two and four. Point two is difficult because firstly, the price of textbooks is set by the nation-wide Co-Op bookstore, not the university and secondly, as seen by last year’s TUU, getting all positions filled and working together is easier said than done. Effective representation from the TUU requires an effective team of student representation, something that has been historically missing from SRC’s and State Council.

Point four is problematic on a number of fronts. Bus services are run and controlled by Metro Buses, giving the TUU little practical say over bus stops and bus routes, however while the TUU will have the ability to lobby Metro, inside sources say that these talks may have already begun. Parking fees are set by the university, and historically speaking, the Union has not succeeded in managing the price of fees. In 2013, a TUU change.org petition to prevent a price increase failed to achieve it’s goals, and though it’s a strong example of advocacy, it doesn’t necessarily produce results. Finally, parking fines are set and implemented by the Hobart City Council, hence the TUU has no influence over the price of parking fines.

Next, the Empower Your TUU platform is a lengthy four-paragraph spiel under the ‘long description’ section of their Facebook page. You can find more information by clicking here.

The first emphasis for Empower Your TUU is on transparency. Their first line reads, “Empower want to bring you a TUU that is active, accessible, inclusive, progressive and transparent.” This is obviously feasible, but the actions ofEmpowers state president candidate Isaac Ball would not suggest this. In his current capacity as secretary of the Education Council, there have been no published minutes from their meetings for three months.

Empower Your TUU wants to implement weeks of inclusion, such as a LGBTI+ week, a women’s week and an international students week. This promise is comparatively easy to deliver on, it’s just a question of their organisational skill. This is part of a broader agenda of inclusion, as they “will also fight sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia on campus..”. Some would argue this is already being done, but it’s doable either way.

The less likely promises of the Empower Your TUU campaign include wanting to restructure the Union, which would a.) require a change to the TUU constitution, a large-scale and time consuming effort or b.) have them find they don’t have any control over some of the bodies they wish to change, which depending on how they envisage the restructure, is entirely possible. Furthermore, they want to “ensure that reps are always around to help you out”. This is unlikely as reps are students too, with their own study and their own lives. Even if they did introduce a roster of some sort, it would be difficult to police.

In regards to Empower’s promise to “fight against HECS increases”. They can indeed continue to work with the National Union of Students (NUS) participating in national days of action. However the TUU alone has very little ability to lobby the government for HECS changes.

Finally, Emma Field’s platform provides a similar approach to equity and emphasis on transparency as Empower Your TUU, but her major point of difference is her ‘Accountability’ platform. Field demands written apologies and explanations from TUU reps to students if goals weren’t met. While relatively easy to implement and with no cost, it remains to be seen if it would encourage better representatives and if the student body would perceive any apology as sincere, especially as it would be forced. She also calls for “no-confidence motions for reps found to be failing the student body.” No-confidence motions already exist within the TUU framework, and are rarely utilised. This is mostly because it gives the Union a very bad look, and this is unlikely to change.

Though this analysis is by no means exhaustive, hopefully it gives you a better insight into just how realistic all the promises are. You can find the Voice, Empower Your TUU and Emma Field’s policies by clicking on the pages below.

The Voice

Empower Your TUU

Emma Field

Image: tuu.com.au

This piece was written for the University of Tasmania’s student magazine, Togatus, in my capacity as Election correspondent. It’s part of a series of coverage of the Tasmanian University Union (TUU) 2016 elections. You can view it here: http://www.togatus.com.au/tuu-election-the-policies-and-the-priorities/ 

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