Monash student elections 2017: What are you actually voting for?

The MSA ran a snow party during Winterfest. Picture: from a pineaperture album posted on MSA’s Facebook page.

By SIMON KUPERMAN

With student union elections just over three weeks away, Mojo has put together a team to cover both the MSA Clayton and MONSU Caulfield elections.

To kick things off we have been investigating one simple question – what are you actually voting for?

In the most basic terms, it’s control over the money you pay each year – the SSAF (Student Services and Amenities Fee).

It’s an extra fee the government allows universities to charge students in order to fund all the student services and amenities that are considered to be of a “non-academic nature”.

Most of us defer it on to our HECS and forget about it, but it’s crucial to the student union system.

And this isn’t just a small amount. The MSA and MONSU are both multi-million dollar organisations; at the elections, you get the chance to vote for who you think should be in charge of those millions.

Where your money went in 2016

Individual student fees combine to create a large pool of funds:

SSAF fee for the average domestic student (3-4 subjects a semester) – $290 
Total SSAF funds collected  –  $9,602,756
Amount allocated to the six student associations – $6,447,083 

The amount allocated to each student union is largely dependent on the number of student at the campus. *The Gippsland Campus was sold to Federation University in 2013, but Monash students are still there finishing their degree

The MSA, according to their 2016 audited financial statement, reported revenue of almost $5.3 million (which includes interest and money from selling services) and  assets worth more $8 million. Over the past two years combined they reported a loss of more than $700,000. 

Similarly MONSU, according to their 2016 financial statement, have assets worth almost $2 million, and while they bring in much less revenue than their Clayton counterparts, over the last two years combined they reported a profit more than $750,000. 

What are they spending this on?

According to their public finances, both the MSA and MONSU spend a majority of their money on staff and on stipends for the students elected to run the union.

In 2016, the MSA spent more than 72 per cent ($3.8 million) of their budget on staff – an increase of almost $450.000 from 2015.

Similarly, MONSU spent almost 62 per cent ($619,000) of their budget on staff.

The remaining money is spent on clubs funding, free food events, welfare, large parties, representation for student minorities, and other items.

Some details of specific amounts can be found in the minutes of their meetings – MSA and MONSU.

The MSA controls millions of dollars in student fees.

Your vote makes a difference

These unions have the resources to make tangible differences to life on campus.

MONSU’s logo

In the past few years the Queer/LGBTQIA+ department at in MONSU had trouble gaining traction with the politics of the student council. However, with the appointment of two new officers last year and the move to a new larger Queer Lounge, student engagement is quickly growing. Mojo did a feature piece on the group this month (see it here.)

The MSA has multiple departments dedicated to catering for specific students on campus with a People of Colour Department, Indigenous Department, Disabilities and Carers Department and, as with MONSU, a Queer and Welfare Department. They run specific events to support those students.

If you want to find out more about student union spending and their SSAF funding, most of their finances can be found online.

Monash University Student Services and Amenities Fee – 2016 Annual Report:
http://www.monash.edu/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/748969/2016-annual-report-ssaf.pdf
MSA 2016 Audited Financial Statement:   
https://msa.monash.edu/app/uploads/2017/08/2016-MSA-Audited-Financial-Statement-External.pdf
MONSU 2016 Audited Financial Statement:   
https://www.monsu.org/pageassets/business/documents/MONSUC_Audited_Financial_Statements_2016.pdf