An AUSA Instagram post endorsing incoming President Alan Shaker for University Council Student Rep saw mixed reactions.
The University Council, the University’s highest decision-making body, has one student representative elected by their peers annually. The AUSA President previously sat on the Council, but they lost this seat in 2019 due to legislation changes. This means that currently, any student can run for and sit on the University Council, and they do not have to be affiliated with AUSA or any other student representative body.
Current AUSA President Alofa So’olefai told Craccum that they have been fighting to get this seat back ever since.
“AUSA is here to make sure that students are being heard. I admit that it hadn’t been all that great in the past, but over the last few years, we have made significant moves to formalise processes and systems that enable AUSA to be held accountable by the students.”
So’olefai argues that because the AUSA president sits on multiple student committees, they are in the best position to help make efficient and effective decisions that benefit students.
“It’s nothing against other candidates, and I do apologise if it seemed that way.”
“Regardless of who sits on Council, I would hope that the Student Council Rep taps into the resources that AUSA has as this hasn’t been utilised much in the past.”
The original post on AUSA’s Instagram stated, “Did you know AUSA’s current Education VP and 2023 President, Alan Shaker is a candidate? Cast your vote now.”
The student association also posted four Instagram stories promoting Shaker.
One of Shaker’s competitors commented, “I find it absurd as to why AUSA has sought to endorse one candidate. AUSA should only promote the election and let the campaigning be done by the candidates.”
Fifth-year student Jono commented, “Why is AUSA endorsing and campaigning for a candidate? Shouldn’t they be neutral to whoever the students want most in the role?”
AUSA later removed their initial statement, responding to commenters’ concerns.
“Those who have commented are correct, the students should decide for themselves who they want to vote for. We are not saying you have to vote for a particular person, but we believe that the AUSA President (regardless of who it is) has the connections and support to ensure that students’ issues will be heard.”
“Despite AUSA’s position, we hope the student body will vote for whoever they think is the best candidate.”
Jono later told Craccum, “I appreciate they changed the caption to be more honest, but I’m still concerned that this is their position.”
“It just feels like a rigged election if it’s the AUSA President versus four other random students who don’t have the clout and outreach that Alan does because he has access to the AUSA social media. Seems a bit unfair.”
Shaker told Craccum that he had no input in the decision-making process behind AUSA’s campaign.
“I was removed from all discussions that considered this.”
Some students have supported AUSA’s push for the student association President to sit on Council.
Albany Students Association President Jake Law shared with Craccum that he commented in support because it has been difficult having a student rep on their University Council that is not associated with any Massey association.
“This has meant that all the representation and consultation work the associations do isn’t linked through to the university council. We also don’t get feedback from our uni council rep on what they are advocating for.”
“This disconnect affects students negatively as it limits our ability and access to Council to advocate for improvements to students in wellbeing, academic and diversity representation areas.”