An open letter to the 2008-9 executive, 2am ramblings

“My friends, we are standing on the promontory of the ages!”

From your Chancellor of the Exchequer, Danny Kennedy

Dear 2008-9 SCASS executive, welcome. We are incredibly excited and honoured to have you on the SCASS team.

You all probably have different expectations and knowledge of what SCASS is and does, and what being part of the driving force begind it might entail. Let me shine some light on this situation right here and now.

SCASS is not an old bureaucracy, that you come to with starched shirt and downcast look. SCASS is an entirely new organisation, a Faculty club of the University of Sydney Union that has existed since October last year. You are not treading well-worn paths. You are pioneers. This is unknown territory, and there are not many maps. We are going to have to draw the maps of this territory together, this year.

Our old, entirely independent student association, SASCA, was forced to close last year due to the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism legislation in 2006. No one had to pay fees any more, and our income dropped to the extent that we had to let our only employee, Gregory, go. Our structure has changed somewhat since then.

But this is not a time to dwell on what has passed away! We can’t imagine ourselves merely as a replacement for SASCA. We are a new body, with a new dynamic, and new energy. This time the students are going it alone at SCA, with help from the main campus union but no-one to look over our shoulder at SCA.

As such, please don’t expect to be told what to do! Some positions (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer) have specific roles assigned to them by the Union. As for everyone else, there is no guide book for your role. Some people, like the Gallery directors, can draw directly on the experience of those who have previously held the position. Others are holding roles that are entirely new this year, or have not been hed for a long time. Expect that the slightly more experienced members of the executive can give you lots of advice, and lots of support. What we are not here to do is direct your every action! As of this week, even the most experienced SCASS executive have been involved with the student association for a year or less.

What we are looking for is initiative. For you to come up with things, ideas, energy. This is no hierarchical bureaucracy! If you only do what may or may not be suggested for you to do at meetings, we will go nowhere at all. Don’t worry – there are no precedents to follow, no shoes to fill! So ask the older members of SCASS lots of questions – myself, Adam Adelpour and Clara Chow, and when they are available, the outgoing executive members Andrew Newman, Sach Catts and Lisa Farrell. But don’t wait for them to ask YOU to do things – in the words of an ancient greek goddess, Nike, “Just do it”.

There are some rules when dealing with financial matters. I’ll go through them with you, and you’ve all gotten the “Treasurer’s Rules” pamphlet I wrote up. If you haven’t got them, download them here. And some rules for clubs and societies laid down by the Union and our constitution. We even have some meeting protocol. And  we have the help of the very skilled and dedicated Clubs and Societies Office on main campus. So don’t fear, we’re not going to descend into anarchy any time soon.

And I’d like to think we’ve got some basic principles.

Community. We’re here to create a student community at SCA. Sometimes a tangible sausage or succulent vegetable patty, but most often an intangible connectedness and feeling of belonging that could easily be lost without a student organisation. Regular events. Music and sport at lunch. Art, art, and more student art and cheap grog at our student galleries. It’s the vibe we’re after. Mabo and the vibe. An atmosphere at SCA that something’s happening.

Communication. A student paper, meetings with the Dean, weekly meetings, a Facebook group, an email list, a website, etc, we believe that communication and collaboration are keys not only to a student community, but vital to having a strong student voice on our campus. As well as:

Democracy, transparency and accessibility. SCASS is not a cult. SCASS is not a clique. SCASS is not a secret society. All meetings are open to all members of SCA and the wider community, SCASS members or not. Our doors will be open as long as we can manage. Our website will show the minutes of all our meetings. SCASS operates on democratic principles, and a majority of members at any one meeting can do an awful lot. Our newsletter SCAR will communicate to all of SCA via email and good ‘ol wood fibres mushed together and bleached.

Continuity and change. As a wholly student operated society, with minimum bureaucracy and a new executive elected each year, we can be one of the most flexible student societies around. We should adapt continually, always have new ideas. SCASS is in no danger of ossifying. We’re like David with his slingshot, nimble and quick on our feet. At the same time, with no permanent members or employees, we do run the risk of re-inventing the wheel. Not just now in the aftermath of SASCA, but every year. So we all have to be aware of learning from the past, from the experience of past members and from the dusty documents filed away in our SCASS lounge and on our computers.

Dare I say it – we need to be responsible, too. And last but not least, scasssquatches, have oodles of fun (cue wholesome smile:-) ) A student society that’s no fun isn’t going to run for long at all – so let’s build that into the new group we’re making here.

And after all, this is going to be one of the great learning experiences of our uni lives. Artists need to be able to do more than make art, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here. The more we put in, the more skills we learn. Hey, it’s for you CV too. Let’s not pretend most of us won’t write it in at least once;) But more than that, it’s the people you meet via SCASS that will make it a rewarding experience.

Before I sign off, I’d especially like to welcome our new el Presidente and President of Vice team, Peter Dixon and Adam Varnhed. I may be a writing-manifestoes-at-2am Radio National listener with more than a smattering or dork, but these guys are men-of-the-people (excuse gendered language, they are men), party animal, cool dude machines (!) who are going to be an amazing face for SCASS, on top of their Dead Space roles. But equally, a warm warm welcome to all new SCASS executives. I’m serious when I say we all have an equal role in steering this beautiful flaming Duchamp-urinal emblazoned ship.

On that note, dear friends, it’s 2am. Why am I writing this now? Where did all that writing just come from? I must have felt just a little bit excited. That must have been it.


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