Newcastle uni did not discuss fee allocation

Student association says they were not consulted about the allocation of compulsory fees. By Antonia Maiolo
A student association at the University of Newcastle Ourimbah Campus has condemned university management for failing to consult with them over the allocation of hundreds of thousands of dollars under the compulsory student services and amenities fees.
Campus Central has accused the University of Newcastle of breaching its administrative guidelines and legislation relating to the SSAF funding, saying it is using the money as a means to control and disengage independent student associations.
Legislation for the Student Services and Amenities Act was passed in 2011 allowing universities and other higher education providers to charge a compulsory fee to students. A proportion of the funds were to be allocated to student unions to spend on services, following voluntary student unionism (VSU) that was introduced by the Coalition in 2006.
But after missing out on the funding this year, the independent student association which has provided student services for 20 years is demanding to know where the cash is being spent.
Michael Maas, CEO of Campus Central said he has asked the university to clarify where SSAF is being distributed, while repeated requests by the group to discuss the funds have gone unanswered.
“Unfortunately, SSAF at the University of Newcastle has almost been like a covert operation,” Maas said.
“To our knowledge there have been no consultations with representatives from major student organisation regarding where 2013 SSAF is being spent.”
Mass said the University is not being transparent about where the $900,000 of student money for Ourimbah campus is being allocated. He also alleges that the university is attempting to destroy the group’s revenue base by supporting a duplicate association – the university controlled entity, UoN services – through the additional SSAF funding.
For the past two decades Campus Central have secured long-term on-campus leases for their commercial retail, foods and beverage operations that employ up to 40 full-time, part-time and casual staff.
As it is a non-for-profit organisation any earnings are invested back into the company to refurbish facilities, provide subsidised services for its members and students, including independent representation and advocacy, Maas said.
Maas said he fears the group will no longer be able to keep prices low and keep outlets operational during all hours during the day, with the university allowing UoN to take over services operated by Campus Central.
“They are using predatory tactics here, to use their own controlled entity to provide services that we used to do, that’s replicating something that already exists. That’s a waste.”
He added that job cuts can be expected and commercial leases and remaining surplus to come under the control of the university.
“The university’s motives have to be questioned when we stand to lose, to the university, our long-term leases and any surplus funds,” Maas said.
A spokesperson for the University of Newcastle confirmed that the university has not provided any SSAF funding in 2013 to Campus Central to deliver services, but said services are being delivered “by other means”.
According to the university, SSAF funding for activities have actually been increased from past years, with more money being provided for activities including orientation, health and welfare services, sports and recreation (including clubs), careers and employment, arts, library and media activities.
“With specific reference to Campus Central, the university has not provided any SSAF funding in 2013 for Campus Central to deliver services.
“The university has indicated on several occasion to Campus Central a willingness to meet to work through the issues of concern it has, and which informed its decision to use other services delivery mechanisms in this instance,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said that the University decided not to fund other student led organisation for certain SSAF services in 2012 and again in 2013 but that it has since worked through “issues” with one organisation to a “satisfactory” conclusion, adding “there is no reason why this approach cannot succeed in other instances”.

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