USU Board candidate interview: Sally Yang

The full transcript of Honi's interview with 2017 Union Board candidate, Sally Yang


Independent | Commerce/Law III | Quiz Score: 14%
Interviewed by Natassia Chrysanthos and Maani Truu

HS: Can you please state your name, degree and political affiliation?

SY: My name is Sally Di Yang, I’m currently third year of a commerce and law degree majoring in economics at the moment, and there’s no political affiliation as such.

HS: So if you’re not officially affiliated, how would you describe your political leanings?

SY: I’m not politically affiliated with any so… it just really depends on the policies a politician might give.

HS: So why are you running for board, and not because you love the union?

SY: I came to Australia when I was 8 or 9 years old and obviously I see the bridge between the international students and the domestic students and how there’s kind of like a gap between such, like maybe communication barriers or like social and it’s just, for me personally, I want to just close the gap a little bit more and be as a bridging path between the international and domestic students. This is because I feel like there are a lot of international students who might be keen to get into the social lives of some of us local students but they might not have the confidence or the resources to do so, and I’m just like pushing for more of those resources and more of those opportunities for them to be a bigger part of the campus life.

HS: Leading on from that, a lot of the policy statements this year do focus on international students’ rights and their engagement a lot. Particularly there are three international students running, which is a pretty new thing for the USU board. So what it is about you and yourself and your policies that make you better placed to provide for international students as opposed to the international students running themselves?

SY: Well obviously international students know international students better. But I believe that I know both international students and also local students, and engage with them more than just one part of the demographic. This is kind of like, I can understand where both demographics come from and that’s an advantage I believe I have.

HS: What do you think is the most important USU program?

SY: Um the most important USU program… This is kind of really far away from the international students but I like food. Yeah, so basically just how food outlets on campus get discounts at the moment. That’s it. But obviously, as part of one of my policies I’d kind of… because there are some remote parts of campus — say out near the med library or even near ABS, even though there’s a café that does provide food — it would be good if it’s, like, there’s a better variety of them and such.

HS: So when you do say better variety, what specifically do you think we don’t have currently that you’d like to add to the mix?

SY: There’s not a lot of healthy food. Cause just juice, and Top Juice or something general. Because I feel like most of us studying are quite stressed and we love to binge on junk food and all that. But it’s not actually good for the brain, so it would be good if there were more, like, smoothies provided or more options of smoothies provided, so that we can actually have something that’s good for our brain as well and good for our concentration.

HS: Who are you favourite three candidates? Or if you were a student voting, who would you vote for?

SY: Oh, tough question. For international student candidates I would go with, at the moment, just on the count at the moment, maybe Alex Shu. And then for local, Liliana Tai is one of my law kind of students. And also… can I not say the third one cause I haven’t decided?

HS: Can you maybe just expand upon about why those two are your picks? Is it just because you happen to know them, or because you really like their policies, you identify with them I guess politically… So why are those the ones you’d want to work with the most?

SY: Well, mainly because Alex, I know him from before and he’s very passionate about providing for international students in general and he’s one himself. And he’s very involved in a lot of like, campus social activities and has a lot of experience in maybe like the SRC as well. So, he’s one of the candidates that would be quite capable. Liliana, she has been involved in a lot of, obviously, society events and campus stuff. And also because she’s also a law student and there’s a lot of things, like, if you see from the perspective of not just local, but also international students, some of us we don’t really know our rights when maybe some situation occurs on campus. And it would be good to have someone who is able to enforce those kind of rights so that every student knows their standing.

HS: On that note, to what extent do you think that informing students of their rights and legal rights is the purpose of the USU rather than the SRC?

SY: The SRC is obviously the main source of the thing, but on occasions there are like… obviously SRC is the main source of informing people’s rights on campus. But it would be good if the USU had more of a role in directing those enquiries to the SRC rather than… — like, a more active involvement in encouraging everyone to seek help from the SRC rather than what’s current.

HS: So how would you envision that? Like, in terms of making that a broader type of policy or action, how do you see that playing out?

SY: Like maybe even… obviously the SRC isn’t the first source of things that students look for when they’re in trouble. Like, most of the time, don’t quote me on that. But it would be good if there were multiple kind of platforms that could direct people towards help, towards people who need help, to the SRC. And this maybe comes from creating even a web enquiry on the USU website, just to be like, if you are in need of any questions or any support, and then they would direct those enquiries to the SRC or such. As well as maybe advertising about the SRC on the Facebook and also the other language platforms such as WeChat and stuff that we have currently going and running for the USU so that people are generally just more aware that the SRC is the source of the place to go to when they need that help.

HS: Just to stay on this for one more second then I promise we’ll stop asking about it. So if, like, your policy around this, I guess you’re saying it would be mostly like a publicity kind of role. (SY: mmm). So it’s increasing awareness (SY: mmm). Do you not think it would just be better to improve the SRC in that case, in their publicity around their own programs as opposed to setting up like a two-tier kind of thing, where the USU increases the awareness to then go to the SRC?

SY: Well the SRC does have its own members, and yes it would be a good thing, but that just really depends on whether the SRC agrees to do that.

HS: Sure. So another policy point of yours is one of the ways you want to help encourage international student rights is through, I guess, getting concession opal cards which I know is a thing that’s been talked about for many years. But I guess my question is how would the USU be able to achieve this? How would you as a board director be able to achieve that seeing as it’s a state government issue?

SY: Yep. So definitely just, on the USU point, we would have to be… obviously it’s not like we can make the government change anything. But maybe just raising more awareness of such issues through, like, the influences that the USU has. Obviously just more campaigning and raising more awareness of that so that even more students are aware of the fact that you know, international students don’t really have as much rights as local students have, and that would kind of get imprinted in people’s minds.

HS: And how would you go about awareness raising and campaigning for that?

SY: That would kind of be just like… (laughs)…. It’s kind of like…. Maybe just…. By doing petitions or something, I’m not sure.

HS: I guess on that, that kind of leads to… Is the USU a political organisation? And how far should advocacy go? I know traditionally the USU tends to take a step back a bit from advocacy where the SRC fills that role. Do you see the USU as a political organisation that should be doing petitions and campaigning? Well obviously, because you’ve said it, but why? Why do you take that view?

SY: Well, students obviously…. The USU is the USU and the SRC is the SRC. Whilst it might not be, like, political… I don’t believe that it’s kind of just advocating for the students who it represents as being political as being in a way that’s just, kind of life, representing the students that it should represent.

HS: I guess something that we didn’t mention earlier, when you identified the two candidates that you would support the most, would you consider doing any preference deals with them, or have you been in talks about any preference deals?

SY: That is actually coming up today, so I’m talking to Alex about it.

HS: And in terms of candidates, who would be your least favourite candidate also running? Or who would you put last, and why?

SY: Do we actually need to disclose this?

HS: I mean, I think it’s an important question in terms of figuring out where you lie, who you’d work with, who you wouldn’t want to work with, why.

SY: Um, probably still one of the international students. The other male… what’s his name?

HS: Hengjie? Do you have any reasons why?

SY: Because he hasn’t really… he doesn’t exemplify what a USU board leader would obviously be doing. He doesn’t have that leader characteristic.

HS: And if you were to describe a few qualities… what qualities should a USU board candidate have if Hengjie doesn’t have them? What should they be?

SY: They should obviously be passionate about the students that they represent, and kind of just, clear-headed and focused on their goals. And, yeah, that’s about it.

HS: And, sorry, just one more on that. So based on those characteristics that you think are very important, who in your opinion has been the most effective board director of the last few years?

SY: Probably… I think Michael.

HS: Sure. And is there any reason why?

SY: I mean, he stands for his own grounds, and he keeps to them, and I think that’s admirable in my point of view.

HS: And if you happened to be elected, who would you support for president?

SY: Who would I support for president?

HS:  A bit of context if you’re not aware, from Honi’s understanding it’s looking like it’ll be between Grace and Courtney. So I guess between those two.

SY: Grace.

HS: Why?

SY: It might be a little bit personal, but she used to go to John’s.

HS: Sure, so you’re friends?

SY: Yep.

HS: Cool. Ok, hypothetically then, if you were elected, would you breach your duty to the board if it was in the interest of students?

SY: It would depend on the situation and whether I think it’s fair to do so or not. Obviously, if an event comes up I would always have to consider it carefully.

HS: So in what kind of situations do you think it would be fair?

SY: Well obviously if it’s a violation of students’ rights or something. But only if it’s a very heavy violation.

HS: Ok. Another kind of hypothetical or circumstantial question — would you have allowed the Red Pill to be shown on campus?

SY: What is the Red Pill?

HS: So there was a controversy earlier this semester where one of the societies wanted to show a screening of the Red Pill, which is a documentary which some people have perceived to be kind of ‘men’s rights activists’ and  disparaging to women, and the USU board decided to prevent the society from screening the film.

The basis of the argument was that it was offensive to women and it glorified rape. Tthe people who speak against that decision say that it’s pushing down free speech and pushing a political agenda.

SY: Obviously… it would be kind of…. Depending on the purpose of why they’re showing such a film. If it’s for educational purposes.

HS: Which is I guess from the point of organisers, they believe it would be for educational purposes.

SY: Then I guess it’s kind of ok for me personally. But if it’s an advocating purpose, or advocating against the rights of women, then no.

HS: Do you think that the board should be allowed to hold meeting to discuss certain meetings in camera, and in camera means in private — no minutes taken, no decisions recorded, so completely private.

SY: Well in the cases of… it depends what kind of matters are being discussed, if it’s very sensitive and concerns a particular student then perhaps that would be best. However, if it’s something that should be kind of publicised to the media than maybe it shouldn’t.

HS: OK another ideology/political question, at the moment there’s AA. I’m sure you’re aware, 50 per cent of people elected to board have to be non-male identifying. So is this something that you agree with, and would you want to see it continue, and more so, would you be in favour of implementing any extra AA conditions?

SY: I agree with it, but at the same time I feel like a candidate who’s a male and stronger than the female candidate then he should get the equal amount of treatment and have a fairer chance to get his position elected.

HS: Well I guess on that merit, you would probably say that you don’t support AA?

SY: Um… it depends on who the candidates are.

HS: But it’s a thing that exists no matter who the candidates are, like in the last election five women were elected and it still exists.

SY: Well I feel like definitely we should keep, like, a ratio of men and women on board, because obviously it would be good for, like, representing purposes. But at the same time, if there was a year where the women weren’t particularly better than the male candidates or like more outstanding, then I don’t see a particular reason why.

HS: So you wouldn’t support keeping AA in that case? I guess what I’m trying to say is if AA exists, and there happens to be five really strong men, and for whatever reason a few weaker women, what it means is the women will get up over the men. Like, regardless of how bad they are.

SY: But then we still have three males who are still elected.

HS: Sure. Yep. But you’d also still have — in the hypothetical situation, some men who may be better for the job wouldn’t get it.

SY: Yep. Then I still, like, look at the representation and there are still three males on board so that’s probably like….

HS: Sure. So what has been your experience with the board and the union so far? What experience have had that makes you qualified to be running a multimillion dollar organisation?

SY: Just involvement with the board?

HS: Yep.

SY: To be frank, basically just the society approvals and stuff. So I probably just got a snapshot of how the board works and not the whole picture. So it would be an experience to be elected and see how the whole thing runs. But other than that…

HS: What do you think has been the most important new policy that the board has brought in over the last year or two?

SY: I’m… not sure.

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

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