Deep Tea Diving: Week 13

Here's the goss from the last week of Semester.

Artwork by Jess Zlotnick

The kids are after our jobs

Two tickets have entered the ring ahead of this year’s Honi Soit elections. In April, this little mermaid gave the low-down on a grouping led by Pranay Jha, Joe Verity and Jamie Weiss. That ticket is still in play, however Weiss is no longer involved. In his place, Jessica Syed and Alan Zheng have now come on board as ticket members, rounding the confirmed pool to four, while Deepa Alam, Liam Thorne, Tanushri Saha, and Annie Zhang are all but confirmed. All eight are current Honi reporters; Saha was editor-in-chief of this year’s ACAR Honi, with Jha and Zhang serving as editors. Syed is 2018 SRC Wom*n’s Officer and, in that role, was editor-in-chief of this year’s Wom*n’s Honi. Zheng and Alam both ran with Mint last year, before that ticket informally ‘withdrew’ from the race, though it formally remained on the ballot.

Whether or not we can expect such hijinks this year, it’s clear the Verity-Jha ticket is a real political hotbed. Zheng is a member of Labor right faction Centre Unity, and Syed, Thorne and Jha are all members of left-wing faction Grassroots. This means that if elected, the four would need to decide whether to leave their factions, ‘conflict off’ stupol coverage, or report on politics anyway and risk the perception of bias, which Mint proposed they would.

And now, from the latecomers’ corner, emerges a ticket led by Sam Chu and Erin Jordan. The other two confirmed members are Rhea Cai and Katherine O’Chee. All four are Honi reporters. Cai is 2018 Hermes editor and also briefly served as SULS’ 2018 publications manager before dropping law and accidentally disqualifying herself from the position. Earlier this year, Cai was commissioned by this editorial team to assist with design, but she has no ongoing art direction role.

In the first spat between the two tickets, Chu and Jordan made an unsuccessful play for Alan Zheng before he crossed over into the other camp. Allegedly, Chu and Zheng held talks, in which Zheng suggested that the two tickets should merge. Chu rejected the suggestion, and Zheng is said to have taken his idea straight to Jha. It looks like nothing’s come of it for now, and Zheng has ended up working with the Jha-Verity grouping. That said, he says he’s still “keen” on a merger.

Swan Song

Vanessa Song has missed at least three USU Board meetings by our count: November 2017, February 2018 and May 2018. Because of this absenteeism, the Board has “taken disciplinary action with her”, according to President Courtney Thompson. Under section 3.2.3 of the USU regulations, disciplinary action is defined as including “a formal warning, suspension of remuneration and/or privileges or censure”. When pressed, Thompson refused to provide further details of the action against Song.

“We’ve spoken to Vanessa on a number of occasions about her attendance,” said Thompson. “At each point, she assured us that she wanted to remain a Board Director and would make a more concerted effort to improve.”

At the latest Board meeting, Song sent in her apologies after the meeting had started. Her apologies were not accepted by the Board, with 11 votes against and 0 votes for. When approached by Honi, Song did not wish to provide comment regarding her absences. Honi understands her lack of attendance has been due to family and health reasons, while the excuse she reportedly offered for her May absence was a delay while travelling back from out of town.

Section 1.6.2 of the regulations states that a Board director who “fails to attend two consecutive meetings without an apology or valid excuse” may be in danger of being replaced. Though Song missed the consecutive meetings of November and February, her final official Board meeting will be this Thursday’s Executive Election. USU Board directors are remunerated for their role, receiving a stipend of $4,416 per year. Song is also the Wom*n’s Portfolio Director, and it is unclear the number of meetings she has missed separate to the monthly Board meetings.

Looking for Yuxuan

Over in SRC land, one of the stars of the office-bearing galaxy has gone missing. Co-General Secretary Yuxuan Yang hasn’t appeared at any executive or council meetings for two months now. In early April, Yang told a number of SRC insiders—including Honi—that he was going home to China for a “few weeks”. That’s basically the last that’s been heard, so the story goes.

The SRC General Secretary is responsible for coordinating different staff and student wings of the SRC, controlling access to its resources, and preparing the SRC’s annual budget. This year, the role is split between Yuxuan Yang, a member of Chinese international student grouping Panda, and Nina Dillon-Britton, a big player in Groots. Though the exact figure for 2018 hasn’t been released, it’s known that the role is generously remunerated, and Yang will take home at least $13,000 plus super over the year. Worryingly, the General Secretaries are required to jointly sign certain contracts on the SRC’s behalf— which might be a problem if Yang is 9000 km away.

There are no built-in regulations within the SRC for an office bearer to be censured or lose their role if they don’t come to a certain number of meetings, and there is no precedent in recent memory of someone in a paid position who has been out of the country; in 2016, Daniel Ergas left midway through his term as co-Vice President to be a staffer for Bernie Sanders, however the vice-presidency role is not paid.