Defend free speech at Curtin University

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In a serious threat to freedom of speech on university campuses, our Socialist Alternative Curtin club is facing potential disaffiliation over our political views and public criticism of the Guild.

It has been less than a week since members our club began to publicly criticize the current Guild administration's proposed changes to the Guild's constitution. These changes include undermining student control of student affairs and reducing political plurality in the Guild through the introduction of two year terms for Guild Councillors, reducing the role of Guild Council to a rubber stamp unable to discuss issues of representation, equity and education (thereby shutting out opposition parties and independents), and the removal of the Western Australian Electoral Commission from the running of the elections.

Now we are facing the possibility of our club's disaffiliation from the Guild. The timing couldn't make their motivations clearer: silencing dissent and any scrutiny of their own underhanded behaviour. What's worse, this comes from supposedly progressive members of the Greens and ALP.

At the Guild Annual General Meeting on 23 May 2018, a motion was passed recommending disaffiliation of the Socialist Alternative club to the Guild Council. The motion to disaffiliate our club was published less than two days before the meeting. No one from our club was notified that our affiliation to the Guild was about to be discussed. When we attempted to find out what was going on, we were refused the right to speak to any student representatives at the Guild. 

The meeting itself was a total farce. The Guild and its representatives had done the bare minimum at the last minute to advertise it to the wider student community.  Unsurprisingly attendance was very small with only about 100 students or 0.1% of the total student body. It was clear that the Guild representatives had prioritised personally inviting their mates by offering them a free drink. This approach was in keeping with their obvious desire to avoid scrutiny and criticism from students. 

The motion to disaffiliate our club was put before our motion challenging the constitution changes. What should have been an opportunity for ordinary students to ask questions of their elected representatives turned into a shameless pillorying of our club by the Guild representatives and their mates. We were allotted just 20 minutes of discussion on the matter. Only two of our members were able to speak to defend us, with three speakers arguing for disaffiliation. The crimes alleged against us can be summarised as a barrage of unsubstantiated slander and mud slinging about our club's supposed bad behaviour, claims which not one person in the meeting could specify, and which were never raised with us once before this meeting. 

The Guild representatives chairing the meeting deliberately set out to intimidate us and anyone who supported us. This unseemly hostility was clear to everyone who came along. It was an example of appalling bullying by those in positions of authority against those who dared to criticise them. 

The result of this kangaroo court was a secret ballot with majority in favour of our disaffiliation. The total lack of any natural justice towards us has been further illustrated through the immediate suspension of our club privileges, before the guild council meeting in June in which our affiliation will be decided. Not only are we being treated as guilty until proven innocent, but no specific allegation has even been made nor a fair trial taken place. We no longer have the right to put on public meetings or book information stalls to share our ideas and upcoming protests and events.

We are calling on every supporter of freedom of speech to oppose our club's disaffiliation from the Curtin Guild. 

We are clearly in disagreement with the current Guild administration yet this should not be an offence punishable by effective exile from the Guild and the loss of our rights to organise on the campus. If our club is disaffiliated this sets an incredibly dangerous precedent for other political groups and organisations across the country. 

Freedom of speech must be preserved and defended in every sphere of society no matter what political views you hold. We, the undersigned, therefore call on the Curtin Guild to maintain the Socialist Alternative Curtin club's affiliation.



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