Ombudsman supports FOI request on controversial university rebrand

The State Ombudsman has ruled in favour of a student activist’s FOI request into the controversial decision to rebadge the Adelaide University Union as YouX.

Jan 25, 2023, updated Jan 25, 2023
Students at Adelaide University. Photo: Jason Katsaras/InDaily

Students at Adelaide University. Photo: Jason Katsaras/InDaily

YouX, which argued it was not an agency subject to the FOI Act, has until February 22 to appeal the State Ombudsman’s decision to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, or else release the 101 documents identified.

Save for a successful appeal, YouX will have to release in-camera Adelaide University Union (AUU) board minutes, executive meeting minutes and the contract of employment of the AUU Executive Officer.

The public rebrand of the Adelaide University Union to ‘YouX’ attracted the ire of many students, with some pointing to the name’s similarity with a pornography website.

The University of Adelaide also confirmed to the Ombudsman in a submission last October that the union pushed ahead with rebrand against advice.

YouX HQ. Photo: Jason Katsaras/InDaily.

YouX HQ. Photo: Jason Katsaras/InDaily.

Edward Satchell, the student who submitted the FOI request in May last year, said he was concerned by the amount of money the union could be spending on legal counsel.

“[YouX] has already spent a significant amount of money including representation by special counsel lawyers during this process,“ Satchell said.

“The Ombudsman’s decision is very compelling. I understand there is an AUU board meeting on Wednesday, so I assume they will discuss the FOI decision then.”

In his decision, State Ombudsman Wayne Lines noted that the union sent letters stating that it does not meet the definition of ‘agency’ for the purpose of the FOI Act, “because it does not continue for a public purpose”.

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“Whilst I accept that the agency primarily benefits its members, any member of the public would be entitled to enjoy those benefits if they enrolled at the University of Adelaide,” Lines said.

“I would argue that the community at large does in fact obtain a benefit from the agency’s existence, being that the interests of students can be promoted and advocated for in the wider community in a clear and concise manner.”

In October, the state Ombudsman ruled in Satchell’s favour in another application directed to the University of Adelaide,  to release documents about the student union’s controversial rebrand.

The now public documents from this request showed that in an internal survey of 904 students, 93 per cent of those interviewed found the term ‘union’ was positive or neutral, only seven per cent had a negative view of this term and 37 per cent had a strongly positive view of this term.

Other documents showed alternative names being considered for the union included Click, Amplify and AUU.

A spokesperson for YouX said the advice provided by the Ombudsman is “currently under consideration”.

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