The University of Sydney Union (USU) has a new executive: Courtney Thompson as president, Esther Shim as vice-president, Yifan Kong as treasurer, and Grace Franki as secretary. It appears to be the first time that the USU has had an all-female executive. As a result of deals that Honi has covered extensively, no incoming executive members were opposed. Thompson, Shim and Kong outlined themselves as a continuation of the outgoing executive under immediate past president Michael Rees. Franki, who had originally sought to be president, was graceful in defeat, donning a panel cap emblazoned with “I <3 the USU” in place of her regular cap. No board director nominated for the position of USU environment portfolio holder, a fact which reflects the priorities of the most right-leaning board in at least a decade.
By contrast, all other committee and portfolio-holder positions were filled and most were contested. Claudia Gulbransen-Diaz, who was elected wom*n’s portfolio holder, justified her candidacy saying that “I’ve come from all female institutions, so feminism is embedded in me … As a college student I’ve experienced a real revival of my passion to do something for this particular group.”
Zhixian Wang and Hengjie Sun ran for international student portfolio-holder. Sun argued he deserved the position because he received more votes than any other candidate at the International Student Lounge during the recent Board election, prompting muffled laughter from Kong. Wang was subsequently elected.
The position of electoral committee member, an impartial position which determines the rules of USU elections, was contested three ways. Wang, who was excluded during the her board campaign, cited a desire to make regulations more “culturally sensitive”. Moderate Liberal director Jacob Masina and Labor right director Vanessa song ran on their experience as hacks — akin to Peter Dutton claiming he was qualified to run the Australian Electoral Commission. After a three way tie, Vanessa’s name was drawn out of a hat.
Similarly, the election for the position of remuneration committee member was tied between Liliana Tai and Adam Torres; Tai won in a coin toss. Masina and Wang were elected directors of student publications, a role that most prominently entails oversight of Pulp, the USU’s online media outlet. Tai was also elected ethnocultural portfolio holder, while Torres was elected queer portfolio holder.
Adding some life to the meeting, at about 6:40PM USU CEO Andrew Woodward announced that after the meeting, participants were to leave immediately without any “jumping around” due to “structural damage” to the Cellar Theatre, above which the election was held. Honi understands the theatre floor and ceiling were sagging.
In all, the election represented the gap in experience between the returning board members, who had negotiated to secure the executive most desired, and incoming directors, who in many cases had not even determined what positions they wanted or prepared speeches articulating their case.
It seems for some of these directors, getting elected came before determining how they could best serve the student community.