As a former member of the Charles Sturt University Council, who was honoured for my perceived contribution to the university, I am reluctant to comment on the actions of the the present administration. However, I believe that I must support the comments of Founding Vice-Chancellor Professor Clif Blake in the Daily Advertiser on January 9 and at the same time comment on the structure of the current council, which I believe is responsible for much of the present controversy.
The Vice Chancellor manages the day-to-day activities of the university with the assistance of a management team and reports to the University Council. The council is the equivalent of the board of management of a public company and is headed by the Chancellor. It is responsible for developing and overseeing university policy.
There are fifteen members of the CSU Council; Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, President of the Academic Senate, an academic staff representative, a general staff representative, a student representative, three members appointed by the Minister of Education, two members appointed by the council and four graduates of the university or from the predecessor Colleges, Mitchell, Wagga Teachers and Wagga Agricultural Colleges.
It is the external members who have the potential to influence policy without any risk of retribution that may affect their career.
When I retired from the council at the end of 2005, there were two external members residing in the Wagga area, one at Albury, one at Dubbo and and two at Bathurst. These members were in frequent contact with staff and students at their local campuses and were made aware of any issues that might be a concern to the university. Council meetings were held at the various campuses in rotation, so that council members had an opportunity to become familiar with the different campuses.
At the end of 2018, as far as I can ascertain, there was one external members in the Bathurst/Orange area and all other external members resided east of the Dividing Range, mainly in Sydney, but one member was resident in Adelaide and another in Victoria. The majority of council meetings were held in Canberra, although two of the five meetings were held in Wagga.
Whether the university administration believes that people in western NSW lack the management acumen to serve on the council, I do not know. If so, they do not appreciate the depth of talent that is managing major companies or are involved in the community across the region.
The first two Chancellors resided in the Wagga and Canberra regions, respectively, and while semi-retired, were still members of major company boards. Both Chancellors presided at the majority of graduations and at other events such as commencement ceremonies. The current Chancellor resides in Melbourne and is apparently still heavily engaged in company board duties.
I think this demonstrates that the administration of the university is out of touch with students, staff and the communities that they are supposed to serve. Until this is remedied, ludicrous decisions such as the foreshadowed name change will continue. The change must start at the top.
John Mahon, Oura
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