Macquarie University sues for control of student union

Macquarie University has taken seven students to court in an attempt to wind down the postgraduate student union and claim its finances.

The Macquarie University Postgraduate Representative Association (MUPRA) has faced a long campaign of lies from the university, but the dispute escalated recently when the university issued proceedings against current and former members of the MUPRA committee. The university is seeking to take control of the $600,000 in MUPRA’s bank account, and it also wants student activists to pay its legal costs for doing so.

Its case was put on hold at its first appearance in the NSW Supreme Court on 7 May, when the court directed both parties to attempt mediation. If Macquarie University’s history of hostility to student democracy is a guide, the parties are unlikely to find common ground.

Macquarie University has waged a fight against independent student bodies for years. In 2007, it jumped on revelations about Liberal Party member and student politician Victor Ma’s corrupt practices in order to shut down the student council.

In 2012, it dismantled the undergraduate student organisation MUSRA (Macquarie University Students Representative Association). It brazenly denounced students who warned of its plans as scaremongers until the very day it confirmed the student association’s demise. At the time, the university claimed that students would be better served if it ran student services rather than a student-controlled organisation.

The same undemocratic vision today informs its move against MUPRA. The agenda has become even clearer as the legal case has unfolded. Doug Williamson, current MUPRA president, told Red Flag: “The issue of not having to answer to anyone, especially students, on how $6.2 million per annum of levied Student Services and Amenities Fee is spent would appear to be a major factor in this campaign.”

He described MUPRA as “a functional, financial and completely independent student organisation of integrity within the corrupt Australian university system.

“The uni has formed the mind-set that independence of thought has no place in a centre of higher learning, and their idea of student consultation is: ‘We told you what was going to happen, we have consulted with you’”, he said.