The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) club at the University of Melbourne sent the following letter to the union body responsible for student activities on campus, the Clubs and Societies (C&S) Committee, on August 7.

The letter is in opposition to the anti-democratic decision by the C&S Committee to enforce Annual General Meeting (AGM) requirements on clubs during the coronavirus crisis and amid lockdowns in Melbourne. The IYSSE is calling for all students and clubs to oppose the requirements and demand their suspension during the pandemic, warning that they serve only to compund “the destructive impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on cultural and political life on campus.”

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To the Clubs and Societies (C&S) Committee,

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) opposes your decision to require that clubs hold Annual General Meetings this semester under conditions of the worst global pandemic since 1918. Necessary social-distancing measures amid COVID-19 have meant, for the safety of club members and the general student population, clubs have been unable to hold physical campaigns and other critical contact work all year to build their membership base. A significant number of our members who are international students have also been forced to return to their homes abroad. The Victorian government has called a state of disaster including a 9 hour curfew at night. The situation facing many families of University of Melbourne students has been thrown into chaos due to the health situation and unemployment, plunging many into poverty. Significant numbers of the student cohort are unable to work and many are deemed ineligible for government benefits.

Despite this, the C&S committee has, without consultation, decided that clubs must conduct online AGMs with 15 student members in attendance and that “those that do not complete reaffiliation (by holding an AGM) may be disaffiliated.” The C&S Committee informed clubs of this decision one week before the start of semester 2 and without providing minutes for the C&S Committee meetings at which the decision was arrived. In fact,  the Clubs and Societies website shows no evidence of C&S Committee meetings since September 2019 [the C&S website has since been updated]. As an elected student body, it is the responsibility of the C&S Committee to transparently arrive at decisions that concern clubs and societies.

This constitutes clear procedural unfairness as well as an intrusion on basic democratic rights. The arbitrary decision to push ahead with online AGMs will only serve to disaffiliate clubs which have in previous years demonstrated continued support and interest among students, further compounding the destructive impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on cultural and political life on campus.

For these reasons, we demand that the requirement that clubs hold online AGMs in order to retain their affiliation be overturned.

Evrim Yazgin
President of the IYSSE at the University of Melbourne

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