Duck, duck, Grassroots
This year’s Students Representative Council presidential election is set to be a two-horse race. At first glance, it seems like a repeat of last year, with one Grassroots candidate — Imogen Grant — and one Labor — Bella Pytka. However, the factions behind the scenes have changed completely. While last year’s (successful) Labor candidate, Isabella Brook, ran with the support of two of USyd’s three Labor factions and the moderate Liberals, Pytka has done away with the Liberals and will be supported by a united front of all three Labor factions — National Labor Students, Sydney Labor Students (her faction) and Student Unity. Grant will run with Grassroots and broad left support, unlike her predecessor, Georgia Mantle, who rallied the support of SLS on top of Grassroots. Like Mantle, she’ll be running on green. Both have experience working in the SRC, with Grant having served as co-Wom*n’s Officer and Pytka as co-General Secretary this year.
Rumoured Liberal candidate Brendan Ma has confirmed to Honi that he will not be running for President, but will be managing a group of SRC tickets on white. Ma would have needed Unity’s support for a realistic shot at the presidency; with the Labor factions unified, the Liberals will have to settle for councillor and potentially executive positions.
Pytka’s nomination for the presidency and broad Labor support base attest to generational change in the Young Labor movement at USyd. In 2013, several Labor students at Sydney split from the national NLS organisation to form SLS and detailed several grievances against their former group including “the absence of a meaningful preselection process”. The split was followed by fraught negotiations for SRC positions in 2015 and 2016. With former head kickers from NLS, Unity and SLS now graduated to staffer-land, enmities between the factions seem to have cooled marginally.
Since this article was first published, the Liberal candidate Brandan Ma entered the race. More here.
Heat v Mint
Two tickets are set to set to contest the Honi race this year: Heat hopes to run on red, while a collection of “incredibly diverse” people managed by Unity figure Dominic McDonald do not yet have a name or colour (Ed’s note: at least not when Honi went to print. An article published yesterday in Pulp by Joshua Wooller, who Honi understands was asked to manage Heat, but declined, revealed Mint’s name).
Heat, using a name this year’s editors considered and rejected, was constructed by Cam Gooley who ran unsuccessfully last year with Time, Lamya Rahman (NLS) and Andrew Rickert (Sydney University Radio Group). Joining Gooley, Rahman and Rickert are prolific Honi reporters Zoe Stojanovic-Hill and Elijah Abraham, Honi videographer and comedian Nick Harriott, and reporters Bianca Davino and Alison Xiao. Rounding out the ticket are Janek Drevikovsky and Lena Wang, who have not contributed to Honi this year.
Despite the presence of several Labor faction members, Heat told Honi that they “don’t have any factional backing” but are “happy to walk and talk with SRC campaigners”. Heat’s two managers are thoroughly enmeshed in campus politics. Michael Sun is a former member of Grassroots and current Honi editor (Note: Michael has consequently conflicted off all SRC and Honi coverage) while Adam Torres is a University of Sydney Union Board Director with NLS, and unsuccessfully managed Sin in last year’s Honi election.
The ticket opposing Heat, who we’ll dub Sweet (Ed’s note: fine, Mint — this copy was written for the paper) for convenience, have significantly less student media experience. True to McDonald’s description of the ticket as “representing a wide array of differing voices and backgrounds”, Sweetmint’s members hail from several different voter groups on campus. Ticket members Iman Farrar, Michelle Picone and Alan Zheng are from NLS, SLS and Unity respectively. Pat Hendy is Liberal aligned. Angie Lu, Haydn Hickson, Abbey Lenton, Liangyu Sun and Georgette Bechara do not have obvious political affiliations, though Bechara is active in the Sydney University Catholic Society. Based on a quick Facebook stalk, Liangyu Sun appears to be an international student.
Peppermint’s ideological diversity will be an advantage at the polling booth, but also provides something of a contrast to Honi editorial teams of the last several years: Spearmint’s members are on average more conservative and more heavily involved in student politics (refreshing, ala mint itself). Nonetheless, McDonald clarified to Honi that the ticket is “not seeking factional backing”.
The Honi landscape makes times tough for Grant’s presidential campaign. There will be plenty of Labor-aligned Honi campaigners for Pytka’s people to walk-and-talk with (the practice of walking side by side with a voter so as to physically body block opposing campaigners from getting a word in), but precious few Grassroots folk about. Given Grant’s left wing ideology, her campaigners are highly unlikely to cooperate with Liberals.
After failing to elect a USU Board candidate for the first time in several years, Grassroots now face an uphill battle for the SRC.
We knew the university was medieval, but …
There appears to be a “moat” around the Old Darlington School building, located on Cadigal Greens. We’re not sure why. More to come next week.
Correction: this article originally reported that Joshua Wooller was asked to manage Mint for Honi. That was incorrect. Wooller was asked to manage Heat for Honi, but declined in order to report for Pulp. Honi apologises for this error.