The University of Sydney Student Representative Council (SRC) has unveiled an extremely well received budget for 2015, with funding increases to the SRC casework, legal services and collectives, as well as a cut to the affiliation fee paid to the National Union of Students (NUS).
SRC General Secretaries Chiara Angeloni and Max Hall asserted that this budget was the most significant improvement to the SRC’s support for students in years. Hall hailed it as “a bucket list budget”.
These increases were possible because of two things.
First, the SRC negotiated an unprecedented 9.4 per cent increase its allocation of the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF), from $1,510,000 in 2014 to $1,651,750. Such a increase is unlikely to be repeated, and was due in large part to a change in the way that the SSAF was allocated. Traditionally the allocation is decided by student organisations themselves (including the SRC and University of Sydney Union, along with SUSF and the Cumberland Student Guild); this year they were unable to reach agreement so it was up to the University to allocate funds.
Angeloni asserted that these changes to SSAF allocation has “set an uncertain foundation for future SSAF allocation given it was the first time the University decided the allocation, instead of student organisations themselves. We prefer that students decide where students’ money goes, but will push for a more transparent and collaborative process should the University decide the allocation again in the future.”
Secondly, the SRC found extra funds in a 12.5% decrease in the amount allocated to NUS affiliation fees, amounting to $63,000, down from $72,000 in 2014.
Speaking on this move away from the NUS, Hall said “the need to increase funding to our own activism and services outweighed any inclination I had to fund an organisation that many people—myself and those who elected me included—consider to be unsafe, inaccessible and frequently ineffective in its representation of students”.
Much of this extra funding went towards SRC services.
The SRC legal service has received funding for one extra day of work from a solicitor a fortnight. At the moment each solicitor works four days a week. With this new budget, on alternate fortnights, each solicitor will work a five-day week. This will help solicitors meet the high demand for their services, which rose 23% from 2013 to 2014.
The caseworkers have also done well. They will receive $4000 for a new caseworker database to replace their old one, increasing their efficiency. The department has also been granted funding to cover ten weeks worth of caseworker wage while a caseworker is away being trained to offer financial advice to students. This will in turn allow the SRC to train an additional caseworker. Their total expenditure rose to $400,485 from $368, 500 in 2014.
To top it off, SRC collectives did well across the board.
Funding to the Indigenous Students Department increased by 33 per cent to $8000, up from $6,000 in 2014. Indigenous Officer Georgia Mantle said that the increase “reflects the growing understanding that the indigenous student body is an important part of the greater student body at USyd”. These extra funds will go towards increasing the University’s/SRC’s involvement in events like the Indigenous Games and the NUS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Conference. Mantle added that this extra funding would help facilitate more events for the collective, more support for social justice and activism ventures and continuing support of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
The Ethnic Affairs department, which includes the Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR) and the Campus Refugee Collective, was allocated $6554.
ACAR’s funding more than doubled this year, receiving $4,732 up from just $2000 last year.
ACAR officer Lamisse Hamouda said that this money was welcome, “we’ve got plans to run an ACAR revue, an educational campus campaign on identity and it allows us to support initiatives like the Critical Race Discussion Group”.
This budget also created a new Shared Resources Pool for collectives, allocating $3000 to items that could be loaned out to office bearers when they need them. This saves portfolios spending money on things that other collectives may already have or also need, like megaphones, data projectors and microphones.
Meanwhile, we at Honi did very well for ourselves. Unlike the stipends that other office bearers receive, the stipend that Honi’s editors receive does not increase with inflation or the federal minimum wage. In 2011 the stipend was set at $40,000 and this year was increased to $44,000 ($4400 per editor).
Hall said that the increase would have been higher, but would have incurred superannuation obligations which would have cost an additional $4,000 that was not in the budget.
*In the printed version of this story we did not acknwledge SRC General Secretary Chiara Angeloni, Honi apologises for the oversight.