Editor’s Comment: Over the last three weeks, rather than putting their time to productive use, your elected representatives on the OUSA executive have been preoccupied with petty bullshit, infights and arguing.
President Caitlin Barlow-Groome made a minor mistake. She apologised. The apology was accepted. The matter should have been dealt with. But some sore losers from last year’s elections and some sitting members of the executive who are close to said sore losers decided to use it as an opportunity to make vindictive and blatantly personal attacks for the benefit of nobody but themselves.
They’re wasting the student services fee that you paid, and, frankly, embarrassing themselves. If the OUSA Exec wishes to maintain some credence of authority and respect, they ought to pull their heads out of their own arses and get some fucking perspective.
Charlie O’Mannin has the full story
In 2017 (that’s right, last year) the OUSA Executive passed a motion to endorse Monique Mulholland for the position of National Women’s Rights Officer at NZUSA (the national student union that OUSA is a part of).
Then, in late 2017 NZUSA held their annual conference in Wellington, where 2018 OUSA President Caitlin Barlow-Groome voted for the Women’s Officer position on behalf of OUSA. After hearing both Monique and Nikita Skipper (the other candidate running for the position) speak, Caitlin decided to split her votes and give two to each party based on the strength of Nikita’s candidacy (she had been president of the Massey student association for two years). Monique subsequently lost by a count of 30-2.
Skip forward to January 2018. Caitlin formally apologised at an OUSA exec meeting for not voting entirely for Monique and thus going against the endorsement of the 2017 exec. Caitlin stated in a later meeting that she had been “demanded” to make this apology. Abigail Clark, 2018 Welfare Officer, said that the apology was “not sufficient” and that she wanted Caitin to give a general written apology, a personal apology to Monique, and a personal apology to the 2017 exec. Abigail said she was concerned that because she was “the only woman who voted against Monique” for the NZUSA position that Monique might think that Abigail had been lobbying Caitlin not to vote for her.
Regardless, the exec passed a motion to accept Caitlin’s apology, which passed 2-1 with 3 abstentions, Abigail being the sole person to vote against the motion. “Hopefully this is the end of this issue,” said Sam Smith, 2018 Finance Officer. If only Sam, if only.
Over the next week a letter of formal complaint was sent to the current exec from four of the 2017 exec, Bryn Jenkins, Cody Kirby, Danielle Pope and Max Chan. They will be henceforward referred to as the Constitutional Four. The letter called Caitlin’s vote-splitting “a huge breach of trust,” and “a serious breach of the OUSA Constitution” and implied that her pay should be cut as punishment. It then goes on to say that the 2018 exec have also broken the constitution by accepting Caitlin’s apology. A lawyer later confirmed that there had been no constitutional breach.
In order to discuss documents in exec meetings they need to be tabled, which makes them public. The letter from the Constitutional Four was sent out just before the next exec meeting and was thus unable to be tabled. Regardless of the fact that some exec members had not received or read the letter, Abigail tried to force the issue at the meeting, noting that at the next meeting “Monique and Sinead will be here, which might be difficult”. Abigail and Kirio Birks, 2018 Postgraduate Officer, then argued that the motion accepting Caitlin’s apology should be rescinded to safeguard against the second breach claimed by the Constitutional Four.
What followed was the worst waste of students’ money since the University decided to sponsor the Highlanders. The exec discussed for 40 minutes whether or not to discuss the issue, deciding ultimately to put it off until the relevant documents could be tabled. As Josh Smith, 2018 Recreation Officer, noted, “This is silly, we have better ways of using our time”.
Over the next week Abigail sent in a letter of her own supporting the Constitutional Four, Caitlin wrote a letter defending her actions, and other members of the 2017 exec, including Hugh Baird, 2017 OUSA President, sent in their own letters opposing the Constitutional Four. Hugh argues that, “You are flogging a dead horse with this argument and wasting precious time”. Hugh also told Critic that “I think the individual complaining should dry their eyes and get on with their job. To be honest I'm more disappointed that Caitlin apologised.”
The defining feature of this ‘scandal’ was incompetence. For all the intricate detail of the OUSA constitution thrown around, many of the parties seemed ignorant of basic OUSA procedure. A misunderstanding of the rules meant that a letter in which Abigail referred to Monique as “volatile” and accused her of slander was made public and given to Monique to read during a meeting, which was super awkward.
Monique was not contacted by either Abigail or the Constitutional Four at any point. When it was discussed at the next exec meeting, which Monique was present at for unrelated reasons, she was surprised it was being discussed. “Caitlin and I talked about it on the day,” she said, “I figured it was just done after talking to Caitlin.”
The curtain was raised on the climactic exec meeting. OUSA Secretary Donna Jones stated that the association had confirmed with a lawyer that there was “no constitutional breach”. It turns out that ‘endorse’ does not mean ‘vote for’. Abigail went into a monologue where she talked about how she “was portrayed as the enemy, the villain,” and was tired of dealing with “the comments and lies from within my own exec”. She said she was backing down from the issue as “I need to either give up on this issue or resign,” before reiterating that “I have been painted so strongly as the enemy”. After her speech Josh noted that, as far as he is concerned, “No one has ever painted you, or commented on you, in that light”. Kirio noted that the whole issue was a “really bloody stupid thing,” before going on to apologise for his part, “It’s as much on me as on anyone else”.
The consensus of the room was to stick with the earlier motion accepting Caitlin’s apology, apart from Roger Yan, 2018 Campaigns Officer, who still wanted Caitlin to “atone for what she’s done”.
Kirio noted that “a lot of people have got hurt in this,” and that, “There are personal relationships that should be dealt with in a personal way,” as opposed to in an exec meeting. “This is explicitly an emotional issue,” said Josh.
To close there was a straw poll of the room to make sure everyone was happy going forward. Abigail was silent when the chair called her name.