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Adelaide Uni admits failure to consult students on RCC Fringe

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The University of Adelaide has conceded it failed to adequately consult students before signing a deal to let the RCC Fringe occupy large sections of its campus during the opening weeks of the academic year.

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The Adelaide University Union says it will incur additional costs for student-run club activities during orientation week on the North Terrace campus, and that prime space for O-week activities was going to be “commercialised” by the RCC Fringe.

University management admits it could have consulted students – via the union – better before agreeing to let the Adelaide Fringe venue on campus, and has offered to pay for the union’s increased costs – approximately $20,000 – using funds from the university’s operating budget. It has also offered to facilitate a second week of student orientation activities following O-week, branded Freshers Fest.

President of the university’s Student Representative Council Ali Amin told InDaily “there was no consultation at all before … the announcement and the deal had been signed”.

He said a committee set up within the university to ensure that students are consulted before management makes important decisions was not informed of the plans.

Amin said about half of the space usually used for O-week activities was to be occupied by the RCC.

“The space taken away is actually the main area that O-week occurs,” he said.

Update: an Adelaide University spokesperson told InDaily this afternoon that the AUU was offered slightly more space at this year’s O-week than last year.

National Union of Students delegate, president of the Adelaide University Pride Club and Adelaide University Geography and Development Society committee member David Elliott said the RCC event meant some clubs were having to consider holding start-of-year events off-campus.

“It’s operating to the exclusion of students accessing their own spaces and being able to run their own events,” he told InDaily.

University chief operating officer Bruce Lines told InDaily: “We could have engaged with the Adelaide University Union better up front.

“(But) the reaction from some elements has been disappointing.

“We think it’s going to be good for the university community … there’s quite a buzz about it.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to see some really great outcomes.”

RCC creative director Stuart Duckworth said the event would only enhance the “university community experience”.

“We want RCC Fringe to form part of the DNA of university campus life that forms an exciting launch to the official start of the teaching calendar whilst not impeding the standard use of the campus,” he said in a statement.

“From the very first discussion, it was made clear by the university management that RCC Fringe cannot impede on any ‘standard’ university operations and it must fit within the normal use and operating hours of the space.

“O-week was highlighted as a critical event and vital component of the university calendar and as such, the university coordinated a working group to meet regularly with RCC Fringe management over the past six months to orchestrate the various logistics of the events.”

Revellers at the Big River Motel event at the Royal Croquet Club last year.

He said RCC Fringe had re-designed its site layout “to allow for the standard O-week operations to occur whilst incorporating as many of the creative design elements such as the RCC main stage to enhance the student’s experience of O-week”.

Duckworth added that all Univerity of Adelaide students and staff are eligible for the “RCC x University of Adelaide Membership Program”, which offers them discounts, and that the RCC had developed an internship program to “provide employment pathways for current and recent students”.

“Getting experience working on an arts festival of this scale gives graduates a competitive advantage when they enter the job market,” said Duckworth.

“We also have casual work opportunities that we promote to and through the University of Adelaide.

“RCC Fringe at the University of Adelaide is an endeavour created to open the campus to the general public whilst enhancing the university community experience.”

Lines said about 800 students had signed up for the membership program and that number was expected to jump sharply when semester begins.

Amin conceded that the RCC Fringe “probably will be the best event you can attend on campus” and insisted the union was not arguing against the RCC itself, but with its use of student space.

“I love the Adelaide Fringe,” said Amin.

“This isn’t an argument against the Fringe or the RCC … it’s (about) the RCC being on campus.”

He also conceded it was not clear what students felt about the RCC on campus, because the academic year had yet to start and so the union had not had an opportunity to consult them.

“There’s no one on campus at the moment,” he said.

“There are not really that many students to talk to.”

Nonetheless, he argued the RCC “doesn’t actually benefit students or the learning experience at all”.

“Students have to share this campus with thousands of other non-students (including) rowdy drunk people.

“(It is happening at) an inconvenient time for everyone.”

Amin added that the AUU had, in previous years, advocated for Fringe performances to be held on campus – something he said the university had resisted – but in spaces not allocated for O- week, such as Elder Hall and Bonython Hall.

The RCC Fringe is a reincarnation of Adelaide Fringe venue the Royal Croquet Club – which occupied Victoria Square during festival season for some years before moving to Pinky Flat on the banks of the River Torrens.

The Royal Croquet Club fell into voluntary administration after a disastrous venture in China in 2017 before being bought last year and rebranded RCC Fringe by 1835 Capital managing director Jason Di Iulio and Cibo Espresso co-founder Roberto Cardone.

Clarification: A previous version of this story said RCC Fringe would be on campus for much of the first semester of the year. A university spokesperson clarified the event will be on campus during the Fringe, which lasts from 15 February to 17 March, with some set-up time beforehand. The semester concludes 21 June.

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