Little progress made and security called at latest meeting between UTSSA and UTS Collectives

By Rodger Liang and Joseph Chalita

The two-hour meeting invited more chaos than resolution, leaving both parties exhausted and frustrated.

Conflict took centre stage as UTS Collectives and the UTS Students’ Association (UTSSA) clashed during the most recent UTSSA student council meeting, with security being called in at one point.

Within the first five minutes of the meeting, two students interrupted UTSSA President Aidan O’Rourke to inquire further on the President’s report, describing him as a “dictator” and unable to handle scrutiny upon his refusal to answer.

Shortly after, O’Rourke issued three successive warnings in quick succession to both students as they continued to speak, with O’Rourke suspending the meeting and contacting UTS Security services.

Upon the arrival of security, collective members attending the meeting briefly formed a blockade in response, as both UTSSA Council members and UTS Collectives proceeded to talk to security to discuss an appropriate response to the situation.

Security left shortly afterwards, with the two students remaining in the meeting.

In a follow-up comment on the situation at the meeting, O’Rourke and UTSSA General Secretary Erin Dalton described the initial response and overall handling of the situation as a “bad idea” in the “way that it was done”.

“The communication of what security was there to do was lacklustre, and that is my responsibility to share,” said O’Rourke.

O’Rourke clarified that UTS Security services would not be able to forcibly remove students from the meeting space, and would only be allowed to request students to leave.

An anonymous source informed Vertigo that the act of calling security was a harmful act with equally problematic implications due to membership of the collectives being primarily made up of activists and minorities.

Neither the UTSSA nor O’Rourke intends to issue an official apology at the time of writing, stating the concerns behind the arrival of security had “nothing to do with student safety”, and instead of that security was called in the first place. 

He stated, “If I credibly felt that what I did was harmful, and people [were] genuinely unsafe, I would absolutely apologise, but no one has raised that with me. So far, the issues have been, much more that security was called as the issue, rather than because security was called.”

Enviro Collective Member Anna Thieben is planning to return to the next UTSSA meeting despite the security incident.

“I attended the last few meetings to represent the Enviro Collective, as issues concerning our autonomy and how we are ‘allowed’ to function were being discussed.”

“So, for anyone to actually represent our opinion on by-law changes that directly affect our collective, unfortunately, I do have to attend those spicy meetings.”

The UTSSA Council meeting was later suspended again, pausing the meeting for a total duration of 25 minutes.

The incident has contributed to the heightened hostilities between the two entities due to recent sanctions and restrictions made by the UTSSA against the Women’s, Enviro Ethnocultural and Queer Collectives.