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Collectives strengthened, services expanded, NUS buoyed: Budget

Justin Pen reports on the second-most important budget of the year.

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The University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council (SRC) revealed a modest budget surplus last Wednesday, with broad funding increases to the SRC’s collectives, casework and legal services, and the National Union of Students.

The SRC received approximately $1,510,000 from the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF), an increase from the $1,420,000 it received in 2013. This difference is commensurate with the overall rise in SSAF funds, with the SRC securing just under 12 per cent of SSAF money in 2013 and 2014.

SRC General Secretaries Mariana Podestá-Diverio and James Leeder asserted the budget was equitable and geared towards supporting on-campus activism.

“I think the budget this year was generous, fair and oriented towards keeping collectives strong,” Podestá-Diverio told Honi.

“We did this to support the higher levels of activism in some departments this year, such as Indigenous, Ethnic Affairs, and Education. This activity increase is due in part to the current political climate, which calls for higher levels of activities in certain campaigns.”

Funding to the Indigenous Students Department tripled to $6,000. “This new budget puts us almost level with the funds that have been allocated to O-Week,” said Indigenous Office Bearer Madison McIvor. “The increase should definitely be celebrated and is much appreciated.”

The Autonomous Collective against Racism (ACAR), formed last year, received $2,000. Ethnic Affairs/ACAR Office Bearer Oscar Monaghan said he was “happy” with the allocated funding.

The collective aims use this money for launch events relating to the People of Colour Honi, a People of Colour art and exhibition night at Verge, and other projects, Monaghan said.

$7,000 was allocated to the Education Department’s activities and campaigns budget, an increase of $1,000 from last year. The Education Department has helped orchestrate several recent protests on campus.

Education Officers Eleanor Morley and Ridah Hassan reported to Council on Wednesday they would be attending the National Union of Students (NUS) Education Conference in July, with another National Day of Action slated for August 20.

“We will continue to protest Liberal MPs if they come to Sydney University, or other campuses in Sydney,” they said.

The budget also saw increased expenditure on NUS affiliation fees, which rose to $72,000 this year, up from $62,000 in 2013.

“After the horror that was the federal budget we have seen a strong response from NUS that has helped mobilise students,” Leeder said. “It made sense in the context where we have more capacity to pay… that we increase our affiliation part of the way back to where it was in order to ensure NUS can carry out its campaigns.”

“Although I support the [National] Union [of Students] in principle, I would like to see significant reform in the way it operates and its undemocratic, opaque factional culture before I could ever justify the direction of tens of thousands of dollars to the organisation”, Podestá-Diverio said.

The SRC’s casework and legal services has also received greater funding, with allotted expenditure for “legal expenses” amounting $5,400, up from $500 last year.

“The strikes last year placed a greater burden onto the SRC Legal Service than we’ve experienced before, particularly in the length and duration of many of the cases,” Leeder noted. “We’ve increased those legal expenses because that’s the cost of hiring barristers and getting advice for many of the cases we’ve been conducting.”

“We also felt that our legal service should be open for more students, particularly international students, so we’ve increased the hours of our multi-lingual solicitor.”

Research and casework expenditure also rose to $368,500 from $297,000 in 2013 and will provide for a new, satellite campus caseworker. Caseworkers research university policy and provide advice on academic and housing issues.

Budget savings of $30,000 were made by cutting staff hours. “We made a strategic decision regarding the bookshop, at the advice of the current manager, to close on Fridays which reduced our staff costs,” Leeder said.

Peruse the full budget here.