Yet Another Fran-Said-Dan-Said

Yet Another Fran-Said-Dan-Said

The OUSA Representation and Governance Review is now underway, with a Working Party appointed over the break. The Working Party will hear student submissions and make recommendations on changes to OUSA’s governance structure and constitution.

The Working Party is comprised of 11 members, including four members of the OUSA Executive, three Otago students, and four external figures. The appointees represent a diversity of viewpoints and collectively boast a wealth of experience.

The review comes in the wake of last semester’s referendum, proposed by former Executive member Dan Stride, which aimed to significantly alter OUSA’s governance structure. The referendum gained 50.93 per cent support, but failed to reach quorum after attracting only 856 votes.

Stride seemed pleasantly surprised by the composition of the Working Party, describing it as having “an interesting political makeup,” though he predicted that the group would have difficulties arriving at a consensus. “[Hernandez] has basically locked a bunch of very different people in a room and asked them to come up with an idea that satisfies everybody.”

Stride himself had decided not to apply for one of the student positions on the Working Party, having been “utterly put off” by Hernandez’s conduct during the referendum process.

Stride believes Hernandez had “destabilised” the referendum by running a “No” campaign. “The way OUSA referendums are conducted, they’re not decided through the merits of your arguments, they’re decided by how many Facebook friends you have, and how widely you can project your views on campus,” Stride said. “When a student president goes in to bat on this issue, they have a much larger microphone than any individual on campus, and they can project their views in a way that I can’t.”

Hernandez denied that he had abused his position, and pointed to articles 10.10. and 10.11. of OUSA’s referendum policy, which allow Executive members to state their own opinion on matters before referenda so long as they clearly state that the opinion is their own and not those of the Executive as a whole. The policy does not show up on a search of OUSA’s website, and the copy Hernandez provided to Critic did not state when it was ratified.

Prior to the referendum, Hernandez was the host of a Facebook event entitled “Vote NO for a more inclusive and effective OUSA,” of which Execeutive officers Pippa Benson (Colleges), Rachael Davidson (Campaigns), Lucy Gaudin (Finance), Gianna Leoni (Maori), Keir Russell (Postgraduate), Kamil Saifuddin (International), and Ruby Sycamore-Smith (Welfare) had clicked “attending.” The only Executive members who were not “attending” were Zac Gawn (Administrative Vice-President), Blake Luff (Recreation), and Jordan Taylor (Education), though nor had these Execcies “declined.”

Stride claimed that the current Executive is not motivated to seek change, and doubted Hernandez’s ability to lead. Hernandez is understood to have supported governance change when he took over as President, but has met with sustained opposition from his Executive, particularly Gawn and Gaudin. “It’s quite clear that Fran has lost control of his Exec in this respect,” Stride commented, referring to the Executive meeting of 4 June at which Hernandez threatened to resign when the Executive opposed his timeframe for the Working Party. Hernandez later backed down from the threat.

Stride believes that Hernandez had “left it too late” to achieve any meaningful governance change. “If Fran had wanted to do this he should have done it the second he set foot in office. Realistically, this should have been done in the first semester.” He predicted that any recommendations that the Working Party made would have to be deferred until 2015. This would give next year’s Executive the ability to reverse any changes made this year before they came into effect.

Hernandez disagreed that the governance review process had been neglected. “At the end of the day, I felt like securing funding from the Ministry of Social Development to run campaigns against violence against women and putting student poverty first was more important than a governance review … but just because you leave something until last, doesn’t mean it’s unimportant.”

The OUSA Representation and Governance Review Working Party

Francisco Hernandez (President)
Zac Gawn (Administrative Vice-President)
Lucy Gaudin (Finance Officer)
Gianna Leoni (Maori Officer)
Liam Kernaghan (current student)
Lisa Pohatu (current student)
Emily Sutton (current student)
Mark Baxter (OUSA life member)
Fiona Bowker (OUSA life member)
Pete Hodkinson (NZUSA President)
John Philipson (Exec member 2009-2010)
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2013.
Posted 6:05pm Sunday 7th July 2013 by Sam McChesney.