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Fresh Perspective on AUTSA’s Board

Fresh Perspective on AUTSA’s Governance Board

AUTSA’s governance board has decided not to invite back an independent director who was coming to the end of a three-year term.

In a meeting in April, the board informed the director, John Berridge, that his term, which was to end in June, would be his last.

The board consists of the AUTSA President and Vice-President, two members of the Student Representative Council (SRC) and three independent directors with governance experience.

Acting board spokesperson, Kurt Schmidt, told Debate that whilst Berridge had been an active contributor to the board it was time for “fresh blood”.

“This is a standard procedure and it's rare for an independent director to get a second term,” he said.

“John was close to achieving this second term but his slightly dominating personality swayed the board into thinking that going to market could give us a needed change.”

Berridge told Debate he likes to see things being done well.

“Because I’ve been in senior management, I can be pushy because if I see things that aren’t happening the way I think they could or should then I’ll want to know why.”

Whilst disagreeing somewhat with Berridge’s style of governance, Schmidt told Debate Berridge had offered valuable resources and knowledge during his time on the board.

“I wouldn’t say we have no confidence [in John], but we have more confidence in going to market.”

In conversation with Debate, Berridge said he had helped to turn AUTSA’s relationship with AUT into a “much greater collaborative working relationship.”

“There’s a lot that has gone on in terms of internal culture and a lot more in terms of process and policies and procedures,” he said.

Shake-ups for AUTSA’s governance board come at a time where Schmidt says the board has been making “classic mistakes” and certain board members are acting as “bystanders.”

Berridge has been readily involved in the recruitment process for his own replacement and Schmidt said Berridge was the only director that actually offered to help with the shortlisting of candidates.

“They [the independent directors] need to get involved more because they’re not putting their hands up and they’re not doing work that they should be doing.”

The timing of the recruitment also appears to have complicated matters further.

Schmidt said the board should not have been attempting to hire a replacement for Berridge during exam season when student board members were experiencing “periods of high work intensity.”

Whilst he said some of this responsibility falls on the student members of the board, the board as a whole should have realised the timing was wrong and deferred the recruitment process.

“I feel like they need to be more proactive in understanding our organisational structure.

“They [the independent directors] need to get involved more because they’re not putting their hands up and they’re not doing work that they should be doing.”

“We really need to be hand-held [by the independent directors] through the technical side of it,” he said.

Berridge was also involved in the training of the SRC earlier in the year and despite the board’s decision to replace Berridge, Schmidt stands by Berridge as being the right person to have helped guide the incoming reps.

“I think the training he did was adequate and putting this as diplomatically as possible, I think we might have gone into too much detail and the SRC really just needed the basics.”

Schmidt said the SRC has “no clue” about the Incorporated Societies Act (AUTSA is an incorporated society,) despite being trained on it.

When it comes to Berridge’s replacement on the board, Schmidt said he is hoping for someone with Berridge’s level of proactivity and someone who can help guide AUTSA effectively.

He said a good understanding of the AUTSA constitution will be important.

“I’m hoping that they will be proactive in reading our constitution and learning it because I feel there is a lack of attention from all of us…us being the governance board.”

AUTSA’s governance board acts to oversee whether the association is meeting the terms of its Service Level Agreement with AUT which provides funding for the association.

The board also helps to manage the association’s money, investments, and sees that Key Performance Indicators and objectives are being met.

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