If you can’t win a vote, send in the lawyers. That is what the La Trobe Student Association (LTSA) board are doing to prevent a student general meeting going ahead that could see the management-controlled “student association” dissolved and force it to hand back its funds to the student-controlled union.
Using student money, the LTSA board have spent an estimated $20,000 hiring law firm Moores Legal to fight the student-led campaign. In an email to LTSA members, the association’s lawyers argued that while the special resolution calling for the student general meeting satisfied the number of students required for the meeting to be called, “the signatures appear to have been scanned and then copied and pasted onto the second page”, which means the resolution is “invalid”. They also argued that if the vote to dissolve the LTSA were to be successful, the demand to transfer to the LTSA’s assets and funds back into the hands of the student-controlled union would be “unconstitutional”.
All this highlight the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the LTSA. It was set up by the administration to displace the student-controlled union which might have offered some resistance to the university’s restructures. The LTSA has so far backed all the administration’s plans to reduce staff and cut back courses. Defeating the campaign against the LTSA is also about weakening student resistance to the university’s restructure plans.
In response, the student-led campaign is continuing to mobilise students and pushing for the student general meeting. Along with regular actions, the LTSA Bundoora Student Council meeting on 27 August was transformed into an open forum on why students should vote to dissolve the LTSA.
Unlike the LTSA board and the university administration, students do not have the necessary financial resources to engage in a complex legal dispute. What students do have though is power in numbers and their ability to protest the decisions of the administration. While students may not be able to protest in person due to the pandemic, online demonstrations help cohere student anger and draw attention to the anti-democratic practices of the LTSA board and the university administration. It’s this democratic power that has the potential to force the LTSA board to accede to students’ demands and allow the vote they are clearly so scared of losing.