USU Board candidate interview: Hengjie Sun

The full transcript of Honi's interview with 2017 Union Board candidate, Hengjie Sun.

Independent | Economics II | Quiz Score: 47%
Interviewed by Siobhan Ryan and Ann Ding

HS: Could you tell us your name, degree and any political affiliation you may have?

Hengjie Sun (HJ*): I’m Hengjie Sun, I’m doing a Bachelor of Economics majoring in Economics and Finance, and I don’t have any political affiliations. 

HS: In that case, how would your describe your political views?

HJ: Which direction? I’m from China, so I’m not an Australian citizen. I’m very neutral on Australian politics, and I do not support either Liberal or Labor. But I like to get some good ideas from both parties. I met Prime Minister Tony Abbott and John Howard before, and I’ve also met Bob Carr from Labor Party. He was the guest for our society.

HS: Which society was that?

HJ: The China Development Society. It’s not under the USU, but we have good relationship with the Chinese Studies Centre, so they provide a lot of help and we invited Bob Carr and the professor from our school and UTS to discuss the relationship between China, U.S., and Australia. So I am more focussed on the relationship between 2 countries, and China-Australian relations. 

HS: Who is managing your campaign?

HJ: Victoria Xu (Sijia Xu).

HS: Is she someone you knew through societies?

HJ: We had formed one society last year called PANDA. PANDA was the participant in the AGM of SUCSA, and was the Vice-President of PANDA. We had good trust and good relationships.

HS: Why are you running for USU Board?

HS: It can be simple or complex. Simple is that I have good policies I want to implement under the USU platforms; for example, I want to provide language-helping programs when I get elected and I want to hire tutors or working staff at the uni and provide free services for international students using their mother language to plan their course and plan their studies, and provide job consulting for opportunities to international students. For the internal part of the USU, I want to ask committees/departments to offer positions to international students, and also contact clubs and societies to ask them about job opportunities. I will ask USU international alumni, ask them to go back to uni, and provide job consulting. I have many policies, in fact.

HS: On that note, you’ve spoken a bit about international students. You’ve spoken a lot about international students — is your campaign entirely focussed on international student representation?

HJ: I think it’s not just improving international students, I also have other policies for local students. I want more local students to join international clubs and societies and exchange ideas from both sides to build bridges between 2 countries. I want to improve food qualities around campus, benefiting both local and international students.

HS: There have been a lot of candidates in the past about wanting to do similar things re: food, and they have not been able to achieve those things on board. How do you think you’ll be able to make a change? 

HJ: Koko is a good model. She brought Chinese food to ABS, and I’m not too sure about how to change it but my plan is to change some restaurants in Wentworth Building. The rating of restaurants in the building is very low, and people don’t really like it. If I can change restaurants in Wentworth Building, I will offer surveys to students online to discuss. 

HS: Given that, are you aware that there are some potential plans for the Wentworth Building to actually be demolished?

HJ: Not too sure.

HS: Would you be seeking to improve the restaurants before that happened?

HJ: Yeah, it depends I think on both financial costs and other aspects.

HS: What do you believe is the most important program the USU currently runs?

HJ: I think WeChat platform will be very useful for me as I can get a lot of new information from WeChat and a lot of my Chinese friends really know what USU is and events around school.

HS: Have you found the WeChat platform has been useful to you currently?

HJ: Of course, like library booking systems they published. They also published the USU board election news to all Chinese students. I think it’s useful to significantly increase the participation rate of all Chinese students in the uni and I also want to build talk online for other countries’ students. 

HS: Who would you say are your top 3 candidates running, and who, if any, are your least favourite? 

HJ: I think they are all very good, but from my perspective I know Zhixian well and she is a capable candidate, and we share similar ideas. I think I incorporated with her. I know Jacob Masina is also very responsible and smart. Then maybe Liliana Tai.

HS: And will that preference of candidates be reflected on HTVs?

HJ: Not too sure yet.

HS: Are you in preference talks at the moment?

HJ: Yeah. 

HS: Can you reveal any of those preferences?

HJ: Still under negotiation.

HS: Who has been in your opinion the most effective board candidate over the past few years or what is the most important board policy that’s been passed?

HJ: I think Michael Rees and Koko Kong. Michael Rees really cares about international communities and he’s been involved in the AGM of the Chinese clubs and societies and built better regulations. Of course Koko is my good friend, she did a lot like the Abercrombie Chinese food, WeChat platform, and she really cares about our benefit. She is very effective.

HS: In that same vein, you’ve talked about wanting to encourage more local students to get involved in international student based clubs and societies? What sort of connections were you envisaged would be involved in making that happen?

HJ: I have my own society, the CDS, and we see 50 tickets on Facebook and 75 tickets on WeChat, and we invite both sides to a lecture about recent issues happening in China and the Asia Pacific, and we invite a lot of experts to come and speak English to them so both sides can understand and have communication. And I also came to a lot of events held by local societies and clubs, like a lot of UN and Liberal stuff.

HS: Is that where you met Tony Abbott and John Howard?

HJ: John Howard debating cup! Tony Abbott I met 2 weeks ago. But I’m not a Liberal.

HS: If you were elected, who would you be supporting for the President of the USU?

HJ: Grace Franki, I think.

HS: Why is that?

HJ: She offered help to us, and I hear a lot of good things about her from Koko and others. 

HS: Would you continue to support affirmative action of board elections?

HJ: Not too sure about this policy, sorry. I will do more research if I get elected.

HS: To explain that policy, it’s basically that in any election for board candidates at least 2 out of 5 or 3 out of 6 elected must be wom*n. Would you continue to support that?

HJ: No. Because I think it’s more about people’s abilities to undertake this job and it doesn’t really matter if you are man or woman. I don’t know why they said 3. I think it’s not scientific. If you say 3 for women, should the USU say 3 for men as well? I care more about the abilities of the candidates rather than their gender?

HS: Alex Shu has indicated a desire to have affirmative action for international students. Would that be something that you support or would it more be for abilities of candidates? 

HJ: I think that more international students know what the USU is and how it’s run but I don’t really support affirmative action. Or we could offer some voting advantage for international students, like they only have to get 50 votes less than the domestic students to get in. Because for example a lot of good idea in China: people from disadvantaged areas in China don’t have to get the same cut-off mark as the people from big cities. Same in Australia, same in HSC, bonus points.

HS: Do you think that differs in a marked way from having affirmative action?

HJ: I think it’s different because they still need voting base and support base to be on board. Just easier, because the participation rate of international students is lower than local.

HS: Recently the USU stopped a film called The Red Pill from being screened on campus by taking away its funding. Would you have supported that?

HJ: I need more context.

HS: The Red Pill is a film about the Men’s Rights Activist movement. It’s been banned in quite a lot of places and women’s groups objected to it being screened with USU resources so the USU pulled funding. There are objections to the film because a lot of people feels that it portrays violently negative opinions towards women.

HJ: I think I have to watch the film first.

HS: You’ve said that you want to enact a policy where the USU would provide internship policies. Were you suggesting that the USU would create internships within its organisation or publicise other internships, or both?

HJ: Firstly I think the easiest way will be to provide internal internships for students, like offer 2 positions in the IT or Marketing departments for IT and marketing students. Furthermore the USU has good relationships with Tsingtao beer and Lenovo, USU sponsors. We can try to get positions from those companies which are also realistic. We should build closer relations with the clubs and societies to get places for students.

HS: Do you mean clubs and societies like the Business Society should have a relationship with the USU, like the USU helps them find business internships?

HJ: The China Development Society had good relationships with China Matters, Renmin [People’s Daily] newspaper, and a lot of social media, and they like to offer positions to us, which we can transfer to the USU or find some way to co-operate.

HS: With the internships internal to the USU, would you like to see them be paid or unpaid internships?

HJ: I think they should be similar standard to other companies outside of the uni. We can have further discussions with the heads of departments and committees to implement it.

HS: A lot of companies do offer unpaid internships, but a lot of people criticise them. Would you insist they would be paid or would you see that there’s still a benefit if they were unpaid?

HJ: I prefer paid, but it really depends on our financial cost and the situations.

HS: What would you say has been your most rewarding experience in the union?

HJ: I think ‘most’ is a hard question because I have a lot of experience. Like I have joined the Chinese debating club, and they offer a lot of debating techniques, and I’ve also met a lot of friends who share similar ideas. Furthermore I joined the China Student Associations with the team PANDA and we became very good friends. We formed our new society, like the China Development Society. So maybe meet some new friend, and enjoy the uni life, and the China Student Association AGM is the first election I have ever experienced. It was a good experience.

HS: Further to that point, drawing on your experiences having been involved in these clubs and societies, are there ways you can imagine that starting a club or society can be improved?

HJ: Of course. Because we have to offer more help to new students to teach them how to join new societies and create their own societies. I think it’s very crucial to uni innovations and ideas so they should offer more help.

HS: Is there a reason that the China Development Society isn’t a society? Have you applied to be a society?

HJ: No. I’ve had experiences of my societies being rejected; I tried to create a Chinese chess club and it was rejected by the USU. I think it’s not quite right a decision because Chinese chess can reflect Chinese culture and a lot of aspects but they rejected it for no reason. They said it’s similar to the Go Club and other Chess Club, but I think it’s totally different. It’s different culture, different logic, different techniques.

HS: Based on that experience, do you think there are ways for the USU to accept more societies or be more consultative with the societies they’re planning to reject?

HJ: I think the USU should offer consulting to new students and people who want to start new societies so people can better co-operate and connect. 

HS: Similarly, you’ve said that you’d like to construct a system where board members support new students and international students to discover clubs and societies in their field of interest and assist in the creation of their own clubs and societies. How would you envision this happening?

HJ: Through WeChat platforms and maybe during OWeek we should have information sessions and a lot of ways.

HJ: Because I only got 200 word limit on policies, I got a lot of new ideas and policies.

HS: Would you like to mention a few of those then?

HJ: I would definition operate language-helping programs. I think that’s the most useful programme especially for Masters students from other countries who don’t have good English techniques and skills so we should offer mother language to teach their subjects and plan their subjects. For example before the term starts we should ask some tutors who speak their mother language to plan their course, e.g. in BUSS5000 300 people failed in this course 2 years ago. So I think we should offer more help.

HS: In terms of both that policy and also a policy of helping students find work experience to improve their CV, why do you think it’s the USU’s place to do this rather than the university or clubs and societies that are specific to that degree?

HJ: The USU is just a platform, and the USU can provide internal internships and also has good connections with other clubs and societies and companies like Lenovo, which is very good and very popular company and very famous company. USU is one of the platforms, it’s not the only platform. 

HS: Just specifically, why would you seek to support students with their studies through an organisation like the USU which tends to market itself as the ‘fun’ side of university life, providing parties and food?

HJ: I just get this idea from last one month, because as a candidate I have to really ask people what they want, and I have asked a lot of my Masters friends. Their needs are not clubs and societies and festivals: they need study helping.

HS: But don’t you think this is something that would be better addressed by establishing better pastoral care from the university?

HJ: The PASS program is all in English, and they don’t offer any other languages. The USU is the platform to study and relax. The tutors and the working staff can meet their students and build better relationships and help their study. It’s not just about teaching the knowledge, it’s just about teaching them how to learn and study techniques. 

HS: What are some values you think a board candidate should have?

HJ: Fighting for students’ benefit because we represent all students at the university so we have to hear the students and what they want and what they need, so we just transfer their ideas to the USU.

HS: To what extent do you see the USU board as an activist organisation over a corporate organisation?

HJ: I think both of them are very important. Food quality is also very important to students and their lives. We should provide both.

HS: So you think the union should broaden its focus currently even though there are organisations like the SRC that are there solely for advocacy and to help with academics and appeals? 

HJ: I think the USU should provide both because the SRC doesn’t really provide any helping programs. They help with appeals and students to know their legal rights but the USU should provide the platforms for people to know each other and communicate each other about their academics and about their entertainment. It’s a bigger platform than the SRC.

HS: Do you believe the board should be able to discuss certain matters in camera?

HJ: I’m neutral on this question.

HS: Sometimes board members are entrusted with confidential information that they’re not allowed to tell anyone else, e.g. about board finances. In the past there have been board members who have leaked that information even though that’s breaching their duties to the board. Would you breach your duties to the board if you thought it would be beneficial to students?

HJ: No, of course not. We have to change our constitution first. If I would like to do some good things to students, we have to change our constitution and obey the regulations. It’s also the duty of every board, I think.

HS: You’ve also said you want to encourage the formation of international student alumni clubs. What do you mean by encourage? How would you see this working?

HJ: The USU got local alumnus but too many international students participate in this alumnus, so I’d just like to form international alumnus.

HS: What local alumnus does the USU have right now?

HJ: I think the international alumnus will need to be more different. Because the Chinese students care more about their life and their work and their jobs in Australia so we want to invite graduate to come and communicate with them.

HS: Were you saying that the USU currently does this with local students?

HJ: I think it does this with local students.

HS: Can you provide an example of that?

HJ: I think I saw some information from the USU page. Not too sure about it though. 

HS: Do you have any other backing for your campaign other than your manager and yourself?

HJ: Of course.

HS: What other backing do you have?

HJ: I got my team and my supporters. I just spent one month to ask people what they want and what they need, and people who support my ideas will help me.

HS: How did you go about doing that?

HJ: I just found some of my friends in Masters/post-graduates. I also sent emails to the coordinators of the PHD to ask what PHD students need. 

HS: Do you have a focus on post-graduate students then?

HJ: Both. I know the view of under-graduate students. I’m not too sure about post-graduates so I have to spend one month to know them and get connection.

Note: this is a full transcript a Honi Soit candidate interview. Some words have been edited for clarity.

*name has been shortened to HJ rather than HS to avoid initial confusion with the other HS, Honi Soit