The University of Wollongong can expect ‘’an almighty and continuing fight on their hands’’ if Chloe Rafferty is not reinstated president of the Wollongong Undergraduate Students’ Association (WUSA).
So said Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge, who will join student protestors on December 18 at a rally to protect student democracy at UOW.
Rafferty was the student body’s clear choice as president at the recent elections but was disqualified for ‘’contravening the Election Code of Conduct by campaigning in classrooms before and during the election period and after being warned by the Returning Officer not to do so’’.
‘’We are seeking urgent legal advice on the legality of the decision to disqualify Chloe and we will continue to stand with her until she takes up the position of president,’’ Mr Shoebridge said.
‘’We are calling on the university to respect the wishes of the students, to respect the vote and to install Chloe as president.
‘’If they aren't willing to do that they are going to have an all mighty and continuing fight on their hands.’’
A UOW spokesperson has previously stated that ‘’the WUSA Appeals Panel, not University management, determined that Chloe Rafferty could not be duly elected because of her conduct’’.
But Mr Shoebridge said it was ‘’next to impossible to see given the rules how they decided to disqualify Chloe’’.
‘’I read the pre-election rules and there is nothing in them that Chloe has broken,’’ he said.
‘’What she did on the face of it wasn't prohibited by the rules, and given the very right-wing history of the University of Wollongong politics to date, is another reason to question the legitimacy of the decision.
‘’Students have a democratic right to elect people to positions of influence at their universities and not have those elections squashed for undemocratic reasons.
‘’The University of Wollongong has played some pretty dirty tactics to date in excluding Chloe and we are sure the community will turn out to support her at the rally.’’
Mr Shoebridge’s comments come hot on the heels of Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon’s similar calls to UOW management to restore student democracy.
To which a UOW spokesperson replied; ‘’the university strongly supports and defends student democracy. That is why the integrity of the process must be upheld, however unpopular that action may appear’’.
Ms Rafferty, the presidential candidate for the progressive Save Our Union group, said student activists would continue to take a stand on university decisions such as the refusal to fly the rainbow flag and ‘’the appalling rates of staff casualisation on campus’’.
‘’We’re not going to shut up, we’re going to fight for student democracy at UOW,’’ she said.