University of Newcastle denies student right to representation
The University of Newcastle has challenged a student’s right to representation by informing them in writing that the University’s policies prevent the lodge of an appeal by a third party.
Newcastle University Students’ Association (NUSA), the peak representative body for students studying at the University of Newcastle, sent an appeal document on behalf of a student to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Caroline McMillen.
The student received a response from a University Official in the Vice-Chancellor’s office stating:
The University recognises the important role that organisations such as NUSA play in assisting and advising students in their communications with the University. Please note, though, that the University’s policies and procedures do not permit an appeal to be made from a third party (such as NUSA) on behalf of a student.
“This is outrageous behaviour of the University and is quite simply not true. There is no policy stating that students have no right to representation. It is clear to us that this is an attempt to isolate the student from their representative support,” said Heather Richards, NUSA President.
“If the University received a communication from a lawyer on behalf of a student, are they seriously going to turn around and say, “No, our policy forbids you from representing students at this University?” said Veronica Meneses, NUSA Grievance Officer.
Ms Richards continued, “This shows a complete double standard. University staff are entitled to representation, yet students must fight their cases entirely on their own. NUSA is able to lodge complaints and appeals on behalf of students with landlords, real-state agents, health insurance companies, car insurance firms, NSW Fair Trading, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Ombudsman, the Australian Human Rights Commission, etc. yet not apparently, the University of Newcastle. Who does the Vice-Chancellor think she is?”
NUSA was surprised that the student received a response at all from the Vice-Chancellor’s office. Over the past year, NUSA has not received any response from the Vice-Chancellor to cases sent to her.
“It is absurd, we have submitted documents in which we have identified what we believe to be breaches in laws, policies and codes – yet have received no acknowledgement of our correspondence. If the Vice-Chancellor, the president of the University, will not take responsibility for being informed of potential breaches – who will? Is the University allowed to act in whatever manner it sees fit, outside its own policies and Australian laws without repercussions?” questioned Ms Richards.
“The Vice-Chancellor is essentially the last door to knock on for students who are trying to resolve their matter. However, it appears clear to us that this door is closed for business,” said Ms Meneses.
The lack of response from the University has resulted in NUSA referring two cases to the Ombudsman and Australian Human Rights Commission over the past month. NUSA is aware of a third case in which the Australian Human Rights Commission was unable to complete a conciliation process and which NUSA understands is now en route to the Federal Court. In that case, the University has attempted to have the student’s visa revoked whilst the processes are being completed.
“Students are in an inherently vulnerable position. Behaviour like this not only breaches the University’s Code of Conduct, but shows an utter lack of respect for students as human beings. Is this how the public and international students want their money spent?” finished Ms Richards.