The RMIT University Student Union’s Welfare Officer has resigned due to taking part in a four-month international exchange program.
Michael Kean announced he would step down from his role in late January, about a month after he arrived in America.
In an email to student representatives announcing his resignation, Kean said he considered running events through an on-campus convener but could see how student engagement might be affected by his absence.
Kean said he told RUSU’s President and General Secretary he was going overseas about a week before the 16 January council meeting, but most other councillors were unaware he had already left the country. Because of his absence, councillors rejected Kean’s welfare report and moved a motion to withhold his pay for a fortnight.
In an email sent to student representatives after he left Australia, Kean wrote: “I did not inform many members of the SUC [Student Union Council] of my temporary physical absence as I wanted to avoid the spread of misinformation.
“It was my intention to inform you all at this month’s SUC, however I did not receive a response from James [Michelmore] on the day of the SUC to organise my attendance.”
Kean told Catalyst he wanted to attend the meeting via telephone or Skype to present a list of conditions he would adhere to while overseas, including promptly responding to union-related emails. However under RUSU’s constitution, representatives must attend SUC meetings in person.
In a statement to Catalyst, RUSU President James Michelmore said to the best of his knowledge a request to attend the SUC meeting via Skype was not put to the General Secretary before his departure.
“I understand that Michael made a request after his departure,” he said. “It was explained that it was not possible to attend via phone or Skype. We do not currently have this capability in our meeting room, nor do we have regulation or policy providing for it.”
Kean applied to study film and television at
San Diego University in July last year, but then decided against going overseas after running in the 2014 student elections for the position of Welfare Officer—a role which was unchallenged.
In late November, about a month after the election results were declared, Kean received a $5000 scholarship for overseas study. While Kean said he was “completely committed” to his new role, the scholarship provided a “too great of an opportunity to not pursue”.
By Sam Cucchiara