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Postgraduate students go to the polls in SUPRA elections

Subeta Vimalarajah and Tom Joyner report

Subeta Vimalarajah and Tom Joyner report

Elections for the council of the University of Sydney’s postgraduate representative association, SUPRA, kick off this week, with two major tickets vying for 23 available seats as polls open today and tomorrow on campus.

With 30 candidates contesting this year’s election, two major tickets have emerged, Lush and Postgrad Action, both featuring prominent members of Grassroots and past SRC and USU student representatives. The remaining candidates are independents or members of Labor factions.

All executive positions, including those of President and Vice-President, are elected by members of council, meaning today and tomorrow’s votes will determine who is to control the organisation as a whole.

SUPRA typically attracts a large slice of the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) pie. In the 2015 round, it received $1.2 million in funding, but saw one of the lowest voter turnouts at election time. Last year, several hundred postgraduate students went to the polls out of roughly 20,000 enrolled at the University.

The president of SUPRA is the highest paid student representative on campus, with an annual salary in 2015-16 of $47,742 split between two co-presidents in 2015.

SUPRA’s incumbent Vice-President, Tom Greenwell (Postgrad Action), is rumoured to be contesting the presidential ballot, however would not confirm this when approached.

Environmental activist Lily Matchett (Postgrad Action) has indicated her interest in contesting the vice-presidential ballot. “I’d happily split the position with somebody else who had progressive politics,” she said.

Former SRC Education Officer Blythe Worthy (Lush) and current USU Honorary Treasurer Edward McMahon (Lush) also intend on running for executive positions that would “best suit [their] experience”, Worthy told Honi.

The only positions not elected by the Council are equity positions, which have already been elected. These include Queer Officer, which went to Rachel Evans, and Disabilities Officer to Gareth Charles.

The election of the Women’s Officer was marred by controversy amid claims that the winning candidate, Melanie Stevenson, was illegitimately elected in breach of regulations.

“Whilst some would say [my election] was marred in controversy, I am looking forward to either representing our postgraduate women or going to another election,” she told Honi.

Lush and Postgrad Action are both branded as progressive tickets. Worthy, who is on Lush, differentiates her ticket as being “feminist”, citing policies such as the creation of a postgraduate women’s collective and 24-hour accessible room for people with disabilities.

“Postgrad Action is a staunch bunch of mixed gendered feminists. We’re leading the protest against the recently revealed misogynistic behaviour at Wesley College and also lobbying the University to change their academic promotional criteria,” Matchett said in response.

A majority of candidates on Lush is female, in contrast to the six men of ten candidates on Postgrad Action.

Postgrad Action stands against Spence’s corporate restructure, and for fully funded, free higher education. We stand for an eco-friendly campus that divests from fossil fuels. We want a campus free from discrimination,” said Rachel Evans of Postgrad Action.

Members of Postgrad Action and Lush are senior members of Grassroots. No ticket members were willing to confirm whether both tickets would work together if elected. “We’d like to keep progressives in and conservatives out, so this will be the most likely outcome,” said Worthy.