‘Prohibited content’: Student union accused of gag order on rebrand

The rebranded Adelaide University Union has come under fire for ordering student election candidates not to criticise its controversial makeover, warning “any breaches will result in sanctions”.

Candidates for the university Student Representative Council and student union board election told InDaily that on August 16 they attended a presentation and were told there were rules about how they must discuss the former AOU being renamed YouX earlier this year.

A slide of the presentation seen by InDaily stated: “All election candidates (YouX Board & SRC) cannot speak about the rebranding of AAU to YouX other than in support.”

It stated that any breaches would result in unspecified “sanctions” being applied to candidates.

The presentation said examples of breaches under the new rules including wearing AAU branded T-shirts or making comments like “the rebrand is bad” or “I will change the brand back if I am elected”.

The candidates briefing slide shown on 16th of August.

It comes after YouX refused a student’s Freedom of Information request for the cost and rationale of the rebrand, with the state Ombudsman stating after inquiries that the union should provide the information but it had rejected his request.

One candidate for the YouX board who did not wish to be named told InDaily that the presentation and restrictions around debating the rebrand were “appalling”.

“It’s political censorship; given it’s a student election, we can’t talk on a political issue as divisive as the rebrand?” they said.

“We know why that amendment was passed and the intention of it – to suppress any criticism and to stop people campaigning on that issue.”

On August 18, the SRC passed a motion condemning the restrictions.

“Students need to know about the undemocratic processes of the student body that’s meant to be representing them,” one candidate said.

A spokesperson for YouX told InDaily there was “miscommunication” around the right to critique the rebrand, which had since been addressed.

“Student elections follow best practice free and fair democratic principles and that candidates may critique or criticise any actions of YouX and its affiliates, including the recent rebrand,” they said.

“Miscommunication around the right to critique the rebrand was addressed by the Returning Officer before the commencement of elections, every election candidate was contacted and advised of their right to speak freely on this issue.

“The only stipulation relating to the new brand is the requirement for candidates to use and refer to the new brand correctly in all communications.”

A University of Adelaide spokesman said the institution was committed to upholding the principle of freedom of speech and supported democratic principles underpinning free and fair elections.

“The University understands that the attached slide was an incorrect inclusion in a candidate briefing and was later corrected,” the spokesperson said.

Polls for student elections close today.

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