When Will it End?

Published: Thu 8 Apr 2004 06:08 PM
When Will it End?
As if it wasn't enough that the OUSA (Otago University Students Association) executive spent $750,000 on the UBS (University Book Store) deal without telling their members let alone asking them.
As if it wasn't enough that they have arguably acted unconstitutionally in doing this.
Now they have been caught with their pants down, blabbing about the amount of the purchase in direct violation of a confidentiality clause in their contract with Whitcoulls to members without taking the precaution of requiring these members to sign confidentiality agreements or even cautioning them to not disclose the amount to non members before telling them.
Not surprisingly a case of chinese whispers is now sweeping accross the Otago campus. While the student association may have only told a handful of members that they spent the best part of a million dollars of their money on a bookstore without asking them, those students have told other students, who have told other students and so on and so on, til inevitably, which should have been obvious, non-members heard about it and now its in the papers.
At about this point, one would think, that the right course of action might be to step up to the plate and admit they stuffed up, that OUSA had no right to spend $750,000 on UBS shares without consulting their members and acted arguably against their own Constitution - at the very least this action smacks of inaccountability at the worst it was illegal. One would think, that the fact this amount got into the media as result of the President telling students without having the foresight to have their confidentiality assured would mean he would come forth and take the flak for this negligence, it would be the honourable thing to do.
But no, the President is now emailing the poor students he spilled the beans too, after the fact, and threatening them with legal action in an attempt to gag dissidents.
A student we spoke to, Matthew Flannagan, shared the contents of one of these emails from the President:
"As OUSA potentially incurs a liability for disclosing to non-students, it may be interpreted that that liability also extends to any member that does not respect the confidentiality clause of the agreement.
Please - keep this to yourselves. If this goes out into the media, then OUSA will investigate whether that liability is in fact held by the individual who disclosed."
This threat came despite Mr Flannagan stating to the President, when asked why he wanted to know the amount, "because other people have asked me what it was and I want to be able to give an accurate informed answer to them." The President deemed this response appropriate and proceeded to tell this student the amount, then had the cheek to send the above threat.
Mr Flannagan also added "the President said to me that the UBS agreement allowed him [the President] to tell individual members, and that now that he had begun to do so, he expected that the figure would get out."
So the Executive makes an ill advised purchase and blows student money unconstitutionally. The President tells students the amount of the said purchase but fails to adequately protect the association by not having them sign confidentiality agreements and not even cautioning them to not divulge the information and admitting he knew that the figure would get leaked and now, after realising his mistake, he is going to try to pin his negligence on the poor students, whose money he spent without asking them on a contract he broke the terms of, if they refuse to remain silent.
Student Choice would like to point out that it does not necessarily follow that the fact we are in posession of the President's email seeking the silencing of the members he spoke to, the fact we have statements from some of these students means that any of these students were the source of the leak who told us the figure of $750,000. We will not reveal who the members are who brought this amount to our attention as we will not assist OUSA in their construction of a scapegoat to take the rap for what they have done.
If the President did not want this amount to get into the media there were prudent steps that he could have taken to protect the association and he did not take them. It is not the fault of his constituents that he has breached the confidentiality of the contract he signed ultra vires.

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