Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Postgraduate Students and Guild Elections

Postgraduate Students and Guild Elections

All UWA students (this includes postgrads!) are automatically members of the Student Guild. It doesn't cost you anything, but you do need to activate your membership. You can do this by going to the Guild Reception (ground floor of the Guild Village) and showing them your student card.  

The Guild is the primary body for student representation on campus, and student representatives from the Guild sit on almost all of the University Committees, form the Senate down. Guild Council is the Guild’s governing body and is made up of 20 voting Councillors, who are actively involved in all aspects of managing the organisation and setting Guild policy. Guild Departments are represented, but as non-voting members.

Among the benefits of Guild Membership, you get to have a say in who represents you on the Student Guild (The Postgraduate Students’ Association, as a Guild Department, has a non-voting position on Guild Council. Who represents you and what their interests are has an impact on how effectively the PSA can work for you). The Council is an elected organisation, chosen from the University student body. Guild elections are held annually and this year’s Guild elections will be held from Monday September 23rd to Thursday September 26th at a variety of locations across campus. Information about Guild Elections, including booth location, dates and times, can be found here: http://www.guild.uwa.edu.au/welcome/representation/elections

Nominations for positions on Guild Council closed in August, but you can find out more about the various candidates and read their statements in the UWA Student Guild 2013 Election Broadsheet (You can find the Broadsheet on the elections page listed above). Be warned: it’s a 70 page document and some of the candidates don’t seem to take themselves very seriously. It’ll certainly give you a sense of how well (or not!) postgraduate issues are being tackled, and allows you to vote for the people that you think represents your interests the best!

And there’s some food for thought for next year: if you don’t think that postgraduate concerns are being adequately addressed or represented, consider nominating for Guild Council. PSA has a voice on Council, but not a vote. As an elected Guild Councillor, you could put some political weight behind that voice.

Friday, September 13, 2013

PSA Conference Travel Award Report

PSA Conference Travel Report
Randika Anjalie Jayasinghe (20828908)
School of Environmental Systems Engineering

The PSA conference travel award was used to attend the ninth annual Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace Conference, held at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, from the 14th to 16th August 2013.
Attending this conference provided a professionally rewarding experience. It gave me an opportunity to network with researchers from other universities who are working in diverse research areas within the engineering and social justice space. My paper titled “The assumptions, diverse realities and promises: Understanding the power relations in waste management in Sri Lanka” received valuable feedback and comments from the participants. In addition, I got the opportunity to listen to other presentations and to converse with researchers. Most importantly, presenters can also publish their conference papers in the Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace.
My research is focused on developing poverty reducing solutions for marginalised people working in waste management in Sri Lanka. Hence, this conference was a good learning experience and improved my understanding of how I can use social justice dialogues in the Sri Lankan context. I was able to develop networks with many of the international experts and scholars in the social justice field. There was opportunity to contribute to discussions and brainstorm ideas on new topics such as social justice, ethics, diversity, and sustainability, which added great value to my research experience.
The conference included presentations by international experts in the field, workshops, panel discussions, and a theatre performance providing an opportunity to engage in actual activities with other participants and sharing their input. The discussions enabled to share the social justice related research carried out at UWA and to learn new socially just community development concepts used in other parts of the world. The knowledge obtained through the conference and group-led discussions around concepts of engineering and development will add to conversations with UWA engineering students.
I thank the PSA for awarding this travel grant to cover part of my travel expenses to attend this important conference. I will acknowledge this contribution in my journal publication.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What Are We Changing at the SGM and Why?

What Are We Changing and Why?

The proposed Election Regulations and changes to the Constitution have been created in order to facilitate the changes that the PSA is aiming to achieve in terms of better representation for postgraduates by the PSA itself as well as through the Guild.

Election Regulations:

The proposed election regulations have been crafted based on Blackstone’s (The Law Faculty Society) election regulations, while incorporating what rules already existed in the Constitution. The election regulations have formalised the way in which nominees can promote themselves to the wider postgraduate committee (meaning no mean political campaigning or lecture bashing). They have also formalised an electronic version of in-absentee voting for external students, postgraduates that can’t make it to the main campus, or people that are unable to attend on the day of the AGM. The election regulations also state more clearly what the role of the returning officer is, and how the votes will be dealt with. All of these rules are intended to make our elections more transparent, fair and equitable for all postgraduate students - so that you can vote where ever you are, as all students can promote themselves equally before the election. Please go to our website here: http://www.psa.guild.uwa.edu.au/notices_for_postgrads to see a full version of the proposed election regulations.

By having a more transparent election process the Guild is more open to altering their Regulations to allow the PSA President to have a vote on Guild Council, and to participate in the Finance and Planning Committee.

The Constitution:

The changes to our constitution are in response to the wider changes in the University, as well as altering the PSA internally so that we are more equipped to represent all postgraduates. Some of the Constitution has been reformatted, the grammar fixed, sentences reworded to be simpler but to have the same meaning. As this was an ongoing project tracking changes, was tracking the changes on the changes, on the changes made to the Constitution. This overall made for a very messy document. In light of that the main changes have been highlighted in the documents.

The main changes to the constitution are as follows:

Additional Objects have been included- On the recommendation of the Guild’s Statutes Committee additional objects of the PSA have been included to position the PSA appropriately if we ever wish to apply for tax exemption status or to be considered a not for profit organisation.

The Calling of Annual General Meetings - Here we have included a mention of ‘relevant social media’ to include the advertisement of these events on Facebook, Twitter, the PSA Blog or any other media that arises in the future that the PSA will utilise.

Special General Meetings- We have also altered the amount of ordinary members required to request a Special General Meeting from 7 to 10 to be in line with the Guild Regulations. We have also included a minimum notice requirement for a Special General Meeting of 7 days as there previously was none.

The creation of a VP Coursework and VP Research- In our current Constitution we have one Vice-President- who can be either a Coursework or Research Postgraduate and the position of Coursework Officer. We have removed the position of Coursework Officer to combine this with a Vice-President Position, and created a research specific Vice-President. With the introduction of New Courses 2012, and the subsequent discussion at the 2012 AGM where it was decided that the PSA wanted to remain the peak body for both research and coursework students the PSA has restructured to have an equal focus on both Coursework and Research Postgraduates. Placing these positions within the executive of the PSA also highlights and ensures a strong focus on educational representation within the PSA.

Require the Treasurer to provide a monthly report to the Committee- The Committee should be aware of the ongoing finances of the PSA. Placing a requirement on the Treasurer places greater accountability on the Executive to how they are spending the PSA budget.

Added being an Editor of Postscript to the Secretary’s Portfolio- Currently only the Media Officer has to take responsibility for the creation of Postscript. We are required to produce Postscript as per the Service Level Agreement that the University has with the Guild.  Giving an Executive Committee member some responsibility over the creation of the Magazine will ensure that it is produced to a consistently high standard.

Creation of an Off-Campus Officer- There are many postgraduates at UWA who do not study on the main campus. Some of these students are external students, while others are situated in Centres and Schools that are located in Nedlands, Albany and other areas. At the moment there is no one person within the PSA that has a responsibility for ensuring that these students are represented by the PSA. By creating the Off-Campus Officer, these students will have a set point of contact and hopefully be better catered for in the future.

Creation of an Events Officer- The current responsibility for the organisation of events lies with the President or another committee volunteer. This position has been created In order to free up the President to focus on national, Guild and University educational and advocacy issues. The Events Officer would be in charge of ensuring the organisation, of events such as the Quiz Night, Family Day Picnic, the Cocktail Party and any other events that arise.

Changed the Name of the Indigenous Officer to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer- NIPAAC, the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association have stated that ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ is their preferred term of reference.

The Creation of an Executive Sub-Committee- Every year the PSA’s Executive has worked differently and had different relationships with each other. However, the Executive of the PSA is ultimately responsible for the finances and actions of the committee and for the success of the PSA in that particular year. To increase communication and co-operation of the Executive they are now considered a ‘Sub-Committee’ within the Constitution that is required to meet regularly.

Creation of the Awards and Grants Sub-Committee- The PSA gives out several different kinds of awards and grants over three rounds through-out the year. Each year the PSA has organised how they assess these awards, who is eligible, and their own ethical practices anew with the new committee. In order to make the practice in relation to the distribution of money as equitable, consistent, and transparent as possible, we have created this Sub-committee and some rules surrounding the practices of this Sub-committee.

Changes to Faculty Representatives- This year we have been trying to facilitate a greater level of co-operation and collaboration between PSA Faculty representatives, the Guild, and Faculty Societies so that they can work together on educational issues. The PSA is currently working with the Guild Statutes Committee to change the Guild regulations so that PSA Faculty representatives are full members of Education Council. At the moment changes are occurring so that they will be standing invitees in the meantime. Being a part of the Education Council will give PSA Faculty Representatives greater support on education issues.  These changes have occurred to reduce the burden of committee requirement on the Faculty Representatives so that they have more time to focus on their specialised role as education representatives.

Inviting Guild Councillors to PSA Committee Meeting- Again to further collaboration and communication between the Guild Council and the PSA Committee we have stated that any Guild Councillor who is a postgraduate can attend PSA Committee meetings as an ex-offico member.

Changed Quorum for a PSA Committee Meeting- We have changes quorum of a PSA Committee meeting from 5 Committee Members to 2 Members of the Executive and 3 other Committee Members. With the introduction of a second Vice-President there are now 5 Executive members of the PSA. This change has been made to ensure that general Committee members as well as the Executive must be present at PSA Committee Meetings.

Changes to how Finances can be drawn upon- Previously two members of the executive with one of them being either the President or the Treasurer had to sign off on invoices, receipts etc. This has resulted in the delay of payment of some invoices, due to the busy schedule of the executive. Now the President can sign off on invoices on their own. The Treasurer will still be aware of these transactions due to his monthly reports.

Election Requirements- The Constitution has been altered to referred to the now written Election Regulations.

Changes to the Constitution- Notice has been changes to be in line with the calling of an AGM or SGM. We have also added that the Constitution needs to be passed by a two thirds majority rather than a simple majority to make sure that the changes have adequate support. We have also altered objections so that 7 people must object during a notice period, as opposed to one so that it is in line with the number of Ordinary Members that can call a Special General Meeting.

The Upcoming PSA SGM- What is it, why are we having it, how does it work, and should I care?

The Upcoming PSA SGM- What is it, why are we having it, how does it work, and should I care?

When: 11am, Monday 16th September
Where: Sue Boyd Room (see map below)
Who: All members of the PSA are entitled to attend, speak, and vote (i.e. all enrolled Postgrads).

I just thought I would take the time to explain the Special General Meeting, why we are having it and how it will work for you all. I understand that for many of you this may seem a little out of the blue, but this is something the Committee has  been working on for a large chunk of the year!

At the beginning of the year the PSA reviewed our current constitution in order to ascertain whether it was arranged so that the PSA Committee could represent postgraduates to the best of their ability. We also reviewed how the PSA sat within the Guild, and whether the Guild was adequately representing postgraduates. What we found was that there was room for improvement.

A Little Bit of Context for the Year.

At the end of last year the PSA’s budget for this year was approved at $100, 000 which would have been back to the level it was at in 2005 before the introduction of VSU. Due to changes in the proportion of SSAF that the Guild receives at the beginning of this year from the University, the Guild Finance and Planning Committee then reviewed this figure and told the PSA that they would be receiving $70, 000, and insisted on the PSA justifying all of our budget items, from the money we spent on awards and grants, to our Connects and professional development sessions. We were also asked why we did not at least break even, or turn a profit at events and workshops by charging Postgraduates.   After negotiations which took some time, we were required to cut the amount of money that we spent on social events where alcohol was served. The biggest event that had its funding reduced was the Cocktail party. Our budget was confirmed at $70, 000 with another $10,000 mid-year.

As some of you may know the PSA is currently considered a department of the Guild. As Department the PSA President is a standing invitee to Guild Council and Education Council. This means that we are allowed to propose issues and speak on issues at these meetings- but we are not allowed to vote. In the past the PSA has tried to gain a vote on Guild Council; however they have been rejected to a variety of reasons ranging from out lack of formal election regulations, to the fact that we are considered a ‘minority group’.  This year the Guild has been more open to the idea of the PSA gaining a vote on Council as well as having wider representation on more Guild Committees.

Throughout the course of the year, the PSA has endeavoured to continue to improve our relationship with the Guild so that they can better understand Postgraduates position, and hopefully end up fairly representing  all students. This year the PSA has asked for the PSA President to have a vote on Guild Council, for the PSA President to be on the Guild Finance and Planning Committee, for our Faculty Reps to have at least standing invitee status (and ideally a vote) on Education Council, and ideally for the PSA to no longer be considered a Department within the Guild, but to be an Association affiliated with the Guild.

What is a SGM and how does it work?

An SGM is a Special General Meeting. They are called and held when the PSA Committee has some urgent business that needs to be approved. In this case we need general members of the PSA (aka all enrolled postgraduates) to vote on our proposed changes to the Constitution and the proposed Election Regulations. We could not put this to you at the AGM as we need them to be approved before the AGM for these to apply to the election of next year’s committee. 

Every enrolled postgraduate is a voting member of the PSA at General Meetings. On the day we will have a list of enrolled postgraduates. What we ask of you is to bring your student card as ID and that we can mark you off as a voting member of the PSA. Each member of the PSA will have one vote on the issue. Unless a secret ballot is requested and the motion passed by the majority of attendees, voting will take place by a show of hands. Observers to the meeting are welcome (ie staff, undergraduates, post-docs, etc.) however they do not have speaking rights unless granted by a vote at the General Meeting. Motions are passed by a simple majority. This means that we need half of those attending, plus one, to pass a motion.

At the meeting the President of the PSA (i.e me) is the Chair of the meeting. This means that I will present each agenda item to the meeting, ask for votes on the agenda items, and if need be tell people off if they are getting rowdy/rude/discriminatory. The Chair also has the power to eject people from the meeting for unacceptable behaviour or breeching meeting rules.

The meeting is a place to have a conversation about the proposed changes, let everyone know the committee thinking, get feedback from the general postgrad population on our hard work. It is not a venue for people to get angry or accusatory (however we will have cake, I doubt anyone can get angry while eating cake). The PSA Secretary will also be there taking minutes of the meeting that we can display on the website a few days after the meeting letting people know what happened and what the outcome of the meeting will be.

I will be asking attendees to flag the changes that they wish to discuss at the beginning of the meeting so that we can talk through the changes is an ordered manner.

At this meeting we will be voting on two items: Whether we are accepting the changes to the Constitution , and whether we are accepting the proposed Election Regulations.  The changes to the Constitution will be considered as one motion (i.e. we will vote once to accept all of the changes, or to reject all of the changes). The election regulations will also be considered in their entirety.