Forty-four years of offering independent student advocacy, careers and counselling services to Gippsland’s higher education students came to an end on Thursday.
The Monash University Gippsland Student Union voluntarily entered liquidation after it became clear the union’s future was unsustainable.
“It’s 44 years of student independent rights, it’s an absolutely devastating blow to the university students and the previous students, life members, stakeholders,” MUGSU community representative Lisa Dourley said.
“It’s the end of an era… I feel numb.”
The Monash University Gippsland campus was officially transferred to be part of Federation University Australia in 2014, with a planned teach-out of Monash undergraduates put in place.
MUGSU president Keshav Rajcoomar said the union tried to form an independent union that involved FedUni students, so the model could remain beyond the teach-out period.
But he said the university only supported a senate model, and due to decreasing Monash student numbers and an inability to fill board positions in future, the MUGSU system was not viable.
FedUni student engagement manager Ryan Hsu acknowledged it would have been a difficult day for those involved in the transition.
“I do have strong empathy and sympathy for what’s happening,” Mr Hsu said.
“In terms of the FedUni students and the majority of the student population, I think come tomorrow or even next week, I don’t think they will necessarily see a lapse in service or the gap, because those students have already started to work with FedUni staff members on numerous things.”
Mr Hsu said activities, clubs, societies and events would continue beyond MUGSU’s life.
When asked why the university did not support an independent student union, Mr Hsu said the senate model was chosen to guarantee “genuine consultation and engagement with students”.
“If we look at the external model, in terms of the student union, whatever the motion passed within the board has no direct effect on the university,” he said.
“Whereas the senate model was done in genuine good will with a lot of consultation and we really wanted something, not just to pay lip service, but something that really can make changes.”
Mr Hsu said the senate model involved about 25 FedUni students from across all campuses and faculties, who were “given a say across many different facets”.
He said staff were happy to chat with students who felt services were not there or representation was lacking and encouraged conversations with senate members to learn more about that model.
After Thursday’s meeting, FedUni student Sonya Mentha began taking expressions of interest for those who wanted to see an independent student union form.
Ms Mentha said she would continue seeking student interest during orientation week and the start of semester next year before presenting the numbers to the university.
“I know students need a voice that’s independent from the university, in case there are things they disagree with,” Ms Mentha said.
“I think it’s just a matter of getting the students passionate about being involved in university and not just turning up to class.”
MUGSU has directed its liquidators to distribute any remaining assets to an independent state trustee, to provide bursaries and scholarships to Gippsland students seeking tertiary education.
It has referred Monash University Gippsland students to email firstname.lastname@example.org for student support before they receive an email direct from Monash University.
Federation University Gippsland students can contact student advisers at all campuses via email@example.com or 5327 6105.
FedUni students can email firstname.lastname@example.org to express their interest in forming an independent student union.