04 June 2012

Club Approval at May Board Meeting

The USU Board acknowledges the current debate about the recent approval of the LifeChoice Society and would like to provide you with further information behind the decision, which was governed by the USU’s Constitution, Regulations and the Clubs & Societies (C&S) application process. We would also like to take you through the next steps planned by the USU Board Directors to facilitate an objective USU policy process.

The C&S Application Process
Each month the C&S Committee considers applications for new clubs and advises the Board in the form of recommendations. These recommendations are considered by the Board and are seldom rejected.

On Friday, the recommendation of the C&S Committee “That the New Club Application of LifeChoice Society be rejected on the grounds of item 3.a(i) of the USU C&S Regulations” was discussed at the request of a Board Director under agenda item 5.1 “Resolutions of Committee”. (N.B. 3.a(i) refers to the Objects of the C&S Programs under the C&S Regulations, specifically, that the Objects of the Program shall be to (i) Enrich the student experience at the University).

The Board Directors read the minutes of the C&S Committee Discussion and considered the Committee’s reasons for rejecting the society. The Board Meeting moved into formal debate on the motion “That the Board reject the recommendation of the C&S Committee and approve the LifeChoice Society and Ukelele Society.” Members of the LifeChoice Society attended the meeting as all USU members are welcome to and allowed to speak under agenda item 2.2 “Open Question Time.”

It’s important to note that USU Board Directors are elected to make decisions based on the Constitution and Regulations of the University of Sydney Union. Therefore, under the objects in the Constitution, the Board must “work at all times towards creating an environment free from all forms of discrimination and harassment” and “promote the personal, intellectual, cultural and social development of its Members by activities and debates whereby Members and the University community may meet and share talents, interests and ideas.”

As per the Constitution, discrimination based on ideology is not tolerated by the USU and we facilitate a wide variety of clubs under the C&S Program.

LifeChoice Society Aims
The aims and activities of the LifeChoice Society were discussed on Friday and are outlined below:

The aims of the Society shall be to:
i. Promote the dignity of human life from conception till natural death
ii. To foster discussion on the issues of abortion and euthanasia
iii. To provide information about alternatives to abortion and euthanasia

The Society will undertake the following activities to achieve its aims:
i. Regular small group discussion on life issues aimed at group members
ii. The holding of public forums on issues related to our aims aimed at the university community at large

C&S Regulations
Each of the USU’s clubs are governed by strict regulations including 4.d(ii) which states that “Clubs & Societies shall not use freedom of speech to defame, vilify or incite violence against individual or groups.” Clubs are also governed by the University’s Harrassment and Discrimination Prevention Policy. As such, the publishing of offensive material or harassment will most likely result in immediate removal from the C&S Program.

All clubs on campus are given the right to freedom of expression, association, and speech however, they are also given a very high threshold of responsibility and are constantly monitored by the C&S Office, C&S Committee and the Board.

The USU Board is not a moral arbiter and is obliged to comply with the USU’s governing documents. Therefore, based on the USU’s regulations and constitution, the society was approved after a vote of 5-5 and the casting vote made by the Chair. This was in no way a vote to endorse a particular ideology or stance and the USU remains a non-partisan organisation.

Two further motions were passed unanimously at the meeting, including “That a policy on special interest ideological clubs be developed to guide the C&S Committee” and “That an appeals procedure for clubs and societies be developed.”

Next Steps
The USU Board recognises the fact that we are a membership organisation and invite all members to share their opinions and thoughts in advising the Board.

We will be holding a Policy Forum this Wednesday to provide a safe space for debate on the topic.

Details are:
Policy Forum: The USU and Ideological Clubs
1-2pm, Common Room, Holme Building
Wednesday, 6th June 2012

The Board has also decided to call a General Meeting of the USU to consider motions that may arise from the Policy Forum. As the USU’s Constitution requires 14 days notice for a General Meeting, (note: the General Meeting date is TBA. Watch out for an announcement on www.usuonline.com).

We invite you to come along to both events in the spirit of respect and open debate. The USU began as Debating Society after all.

Yours sincerely,

Board of Directors
University of Sydney Union


  1. A question PURELY from an organisational standpoint. The board unanimously passed two motions in the meeting that, had they already been in place, would have undoubtedly affected whether or not LifeChoice was approved.

    Given the controversial nature of the club I'm sure was apparent at the meeting (due to the polarizing effect its primary views would have on the community), is there a reason why the decision about LifeChoice wasn't delayed until such a time as these systems were in place?

    1. Because that would have been unfair to those appealing who had every right to do so under the old process. You cannot simply say- "we think you are too controversial for the rules at the moment, please wait til we have a new system to deal with people like you"

      It isn't really ethical.

    2. Wouldn't it be unfair to everyone who will apply afterwards who falls under the new system? What if a similarly controversial club applies and the board now points to this system? The new club would then point out that LifeChoice is similar in scope and polarization to them, only to be told "bad luck, they got in before we were making judgement calls based on this criteria". It this not also unfair?

    3. The new system is merely a better appeal system- something LifeChoice did not have to wait for as they were already using the current appealing method. Later clubs will hopefully have the benefit of a clear appealing process.

    4. One of the systems will be a clear appeals process. The other motion was for a special procedure to be developed for idealogical clubs. The introduction of this red tape, as it were, would introduce conditions for ideology-based clubs and thus make it more difficult to get approved.

      It bothers me that this pro-life club would cause the Board to consider introducing a stricter policy for clubs of its ilk, and yet not wait until that stricter policy is in place to approve it.

      The most obvious case of disparity is that LifeChoice causes the need for this policy, but is never held to it, and then when a pro-choice club tries to get approved the Board turns around and says "sorry, under this new policy, your club cannot be approved." And while I'm sure a board director will happily say that in this anecdotal case a pro-choice club would be approved, it's an example, not a genuine concern. My concern is using a club to establish a precedent and then not holding said club to that precedent.

    5. I heard it was suggested to the Board Director that brought this issue to board to move a motion to assess the society under the new ideology-based clubs rules but that he didn't want to. Sounds a bit like there was an ideological push from him for it.

  2. As the president of LifeChoice Sydney I welcome this action of the members of the Board as a means to clear the air in order that students of the university can come to a greater understanding of LifeChoice Sydney and in order that we can properly understand their concerns. It is necessary that the disagreements that have arisen over our approval be properly addressed and I am grateful to the Union Board of Directors for arranging a forum in which this can take place.
    -Rebecca Elias LifeChoice Sydney

  3. I guess it is then left to see if "LifeChoice" can resist the urge to breach the operating conditions as a C&S affiliate...

  4. is the first day of the examination period really an appropriate time to have a general meeting? I'm just thinking that most people will be to engaged with studying to attend or in an actual exam during that time

  5. I would definitely like to attend the meeting but have an exam that afternoon. Could this be rescheduled for next semester? That seems a lot fairer.

  6. Does the USU constitution even allow holding a GM during exams?

  7. Absolute cop out. This doesn't even mention the fact that the board was split 6-5 on this.

  8. Could someone please post any links to their information? The petition says they promote anti-women hate speech, but their aims quoted above seem faily reasonable. Aly literature that they cite or recomend would also be appreciated.

    1. A look at their facebook page (which has to my knowledge since been taken down) reveals that a) they condone the picketing of abortion clinics and b) they actively encourage members to campaign against abortion. Being a student at Sydney University, I have already been assailed by the group's supporters heralding placards with pictures of aborted fetuses at passers by in an attempt to shock them into reconsidering their moral intuitions. We shouldn't wait until these things begin to manifest themselves with more and more frequency; we have an active duty to nip their group and these kinds of groups in the bud. Additionally, it becomes pretty obvious just through considering the nature of their group that they don't really intend to 'facilitate for discussion' on these issues, since the group is actively pro-life. If that were truly their position, the group would simply be an arena for discussion without an agenda. Moreover, the entire pro-life stance is actively anti-abortionist, since a pro-abortion stance is pluralist in its intention; it campaigns for the existence of an alternative to having a child. Actively campaigning in favour of having children doesn't mean that it's okay to have a choice, it means that that choice should be to have the child and not to abort it. It's not like pro-abortionists argue that you /should/ abort a child.

    2. They have a website you can check that out http://www.lifechoice.net.au/ And the Facebook page has not been removed and it reveals no such thing Andrew-

  9. If I were to react to this emotionally, I'd say the ProLife Club promotes oppression and discrimination. Whilst I feel that there are places to discuss debates about abortion/euthanasia (I am actually open to having my opinion changed), it is not through a group that many students on campus will find intimidating and threatening.

    If this is an extension of the EU, perhaps it is best to keep it to the EU. Let's not mix politics and religion.
    If it is something else, would we consider a 'sanctity of marriage' club that 'promotes the dignity of heterosexual marriage' and 'raises other alternatives to being a heathen'. Not really? It's backwards. As is this ProLife club. The ideas are valid topics for discussion, but the creation of a club, is not.

    Furthermore, whilst I'm objecting quite passively to this, I fear that the creation of this club will be a risky move on campus, and I do worry about unnecessary backlash from the hard left.

    Please sign the petition guys!

  10. I seem to recall a similar situation on campus a few years ago with the Equal Love Campaign attempting to get club status. They are group supporting gay marriage, they were denied under the rules. Does this mean they an be retroactively accepted?

  11. Why shouldn't this group have a say? People need to know all the options so they can form their own conclusions and make an informed decision. This is a free country and free speech makes it so.

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_by_country#Australia

  12. Hi, i was made aware that one of the board members is also an executive of the society. Was she exempted from the vote?

    1. Gee, none of the board members are in the executive of LifeChoice