Correspondent George Brown interviews UWA Guild President Matthew Mckenzie on a range of student issues.
Question #1: Both of the last two Guild Council meetings have gone for in excess of five and a half hours each, and the Budget meeting before that (20th December 2011) lasted four and half hours. Considering the apparent lack of timely progress on motions, to use last night’s meeting as a particular example, do you consider this to be excessive?
I absolutely do, and I find it very frustrating, because I’d like Guild to come to practical, pragmatic solutions that are in the best interests of students, and I am frustrated by a small number of Councillors who are affiliated together, who continue to be ideological, despite their ideology being rebuffed at the last election. I was a little bit annoyed last night – STAR Counsellor Laura Smith moved an amendment to the key performance indicators motion*, and I can’t understand why she didn’t come and speak to me about this beforehand, because if she had of done, I could have explained to her that her KPI’s were frivolous and irrelevant, and as I said last night, I am happy to get her the data on market share, I’m happy to get her the data on sales growth, but those should not be used as KPI’s as to whether the trial is successful. Brent, the manager of Rocketfuel, might use those kinds of KPI’s to work out what sort of rent he wants to pay or what-have-you, but they should not be used by us to work out if the trial is successful. If Rocketfuel sells 50% of the coffee on campus, but its sales growth happens to be 0.1% for the next five months, I would still say it’s been a very successful trial.
You need to have key performance indicators that are indisputable and simple, and you can present as much information to go with that as you want. I think, to be honest with you, STAR tried to embarrass me by making out that my KPI’s weren’t good enough, but in the end, I think they just embarrassed themselves.
Question #2: You’ve previously gone to great pains to explain in Council, and elsewhere, that the Guild Council is more akin to a board of directors than a parliament. However, given that all of the students on Council were elected on political party platforms, would you say that the use of tactics similar to parliamentary procedural tactics is a legitimate action?
I think students find it frustrating to have the Guild Council descend into parliamentary in-fighting. I just want consensus solutions to the problems we face; I want everybody on board, and it is very difficult to get everybody on board when some people want to be ideological and I just want to get practical pragmatic solutions, and not ideology.
Question #3: Following on from that point, wouldn’t you say that quite a bit of your platform was actually influenced by ideology? For instance, Liberty’s position on NUS funding?
Good question George, and I’m glad you asked it. I would actually argue that our platform was influenced by practicality, and I’m sure there’d be people out there who would complain that we weren’t ideological enough.
On the NUS funding thing, more than anything, it’s a practical issue. We’re running a big [budget] deficit and I don’t want to waste $60,000; every dollar of students’ money I spend is not my money, and so I want to make sure…I want to be very careful to make sure it is spent appropriately. NUS is not an ideological debate for me; it is a debate about practicality.
Question #4: Continuing with the questions on ideology, you’ve always been open and honest about the fact that you are a member of the Liberal Party. Given the fact that in terms of both ideology and policy, the Liberal Party has historically opposed such subjects/topics as Gender Studies being included in curriculums, how do you reconcile these ‘issues’ (for lack of a better term) with your supporting the Guild Council’s resolution at last night’s meeting regarding Gender Studies?
I’m really glad you asked that question, George. This is an administrative debate, not an ideological one. 8 units from the same disciplinary field, in sequence, constitute a major (under New Courses). The units are already there, so there is no reason why one disciplinary field is more or less relevant as a major than any other.
On the ideological question – if there is a demand for those units and the University can supply that demand, that’s nobody’s business but the University’s.
Personally, I’d question whether there is a demand, but that’s really irrelevant.
Question #5: In yesterday’s press conference, and later during the Council meeting itself, you suggested that some former members of the Guild Council may have acted with some sort of impropriety in relation to the use of mailing lists subsequent to leaving office. Could you please elaborate further on your statements?
The Guild had intellectual property relating to Human v Zombies – the mailing lists. What has happened is that this mailing list has disappeared when the handover took place
(I use that term very loosely, because none took place), and has reappeared in the hands of the person who was previously running the event. He used it to send an email. There are duties that Councillors have as Directors of the Guild’s Board, involving lots of big legal words, and this contravenes those duties.
The real issue here is the lack of handover that many of my office bearers received.
Question #6: Final question – in relation to Motion 7.3, regarding the Statutes Committee conducting a full review of the Guild’s Policy and Regulations in preparation for UWA’s centenary next year, can you give any indication of what the main focus of the review will be?
Everything is on the table this year. A lot of the policies are poor, irrelevant or old, and I’m surprised that no one has bothered to review them in the past twenty years. Areas to be focused on will mainly include changes that coincide with changes to the University’s Act.