SRC President candidate interview: Chia-Shuo (Alex) Yang

The full transcript of Honi's interview with 2018 SRC President candidate, Chia-Shuo (Alex) Yang

1PREZALEX

Independent | Arts IV | Quiz Score: 24%
Interviewed by Janek Drevikovsky and Alison Xiao


HS: Well do you want to start us off with telling us your name, degree and what year you’re in?

AY: Yeah, sure. So my name is Chia-shuo Alexander Yang and I’m a fourth year student who’s doing a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Political Economy and Sociology.

HS: And also the name of your campaign and what colour you’re running on?

AY: We’re running the colour of orange and our team name is ‘Advance’.

HS: Are you in a political faction?

AY: No, we’re not.

HS: Are you a member of any political club on campus?

AY: No.

HS: …Political party outside of university?

AY: No.

HS: Talking in terms of your politics then, how would you describe your political beliefs?

AY: Political beliefs, so I would say personally, all our team, we support internationalism. And some of the ideologies I would say are similar with Grassroots, and we were kind of working very closely with Grassroots as well, such as we did a lot of events together, we did the international Opal card concessions, and also the Radical Sex Education Week, we joined different kind of things, and also we agreed what they believe, some sort of stance, yeah.

HS: So when you say ‘similar to Grassroots’, do you mean in terms of activism, do you mean in terms of policies they support?

AY: Some of the policies they support such as kick out the Ramsay Centre, for sure, we have to.

HS: So will you be working with Lara at all, in any capacity, during this campaign?

AY: Yes. So personally I think SRC should be a collaborative organisation, and also active. So we definitely work with an amount of people from different factions. It will be easier for us to work with them as well because what we believe it’s good for students, I think they might agree as well. For example, fighting against racism, discrimination and prejudice.

HS: So will you have a preference deal with Grassroots or with Switch?

AY: Oh we have preference deals, yeah.

HS: So what are the details of the preference deal?

AY: So right at the moment we signed number 2 with Lara.

HS: Speaking a bit more on your political views, would you say you have a political hero?

AY: Political hero? So I would say Martin Luther King, to a large extent. And in Australia, I would say Jenny Leong, she’s a NSW Parliament member, she helped us to do the Opal concession, she submitted the petition—she submitted the petition, some people they claim they submitted it, especially SRC office bearers?

HS: Which SRC office bearers?

AY: Which SRC office bearers? Yuxuan [Yang], actually.

HS: What has Yuxuan said?

AY: So basically he posted something on WeChat, in that he kind of collaborated with left and right together to submit the petition but that wasn’t true at all because we were there.

HS: Right, so, as far as Yuxuan goes, he’s not somebody you’re working with, I presume?

AY: So, as far as my concern, Yuxuan didn’t participate that much meetings for the SRC and even the most important thing, the SRC final budget, he didn’t say anything about it at all. And he didn’t help Nina [Dillon Britton]—both of them are General Secretary but he’s not doing the work, which the work is on Nina’s back, so I think that’s very unfair.

HS: So if you were SRC President and one of your office bearers behaved similarly to how you have alleged Yuxuan has behaved, how would you deal with the situation?

AY:…I would let the most people who are willing to do it and who the capability are more higher than him, I would let the person to take his place, because I want to make sure this organisation is functioning well, and I might, you know, exclude him out of…maybe we will have some penalties.

HS: How will you achieve that as president, with the powers of the president?

AY: With the power of president, I would talk to him personally first, you know, as a person you have to consult with a lot of people regarding what happened in the councils. I would talk to him first and if he still did not contribute that much effort or time, we might exclude him, I guess.

HS: But do you have those powers as President?

AY: Um, no, I don’t.

HS: So in terms of Yuxuan, how do you think he has affected representation for international students? Because obviously his platform would have been somewhat similar to yours, in terms of running to represent a lot of international students, but you allege that he hasn’t really done his job properly?

AY: Sorry, sorry for interrupting, so regarding the question you just asked, I want to make another extra point…I wouldn’t use the pressure of president to ask him to leave but I would talk to him and then think of the best for SRC, the best interests for SRC, and then we would find another person to replace him, a better candidate.

HS: OK.

AY: Sorry about that.

HS: That’s okay. So in terms of international student representation on SRC council, how do you think international students have performed on council, once elected?

AY: Well, I would say they participate in few of the council meetings and the turn-out rate wasn’t that great. Even the turn-out, I think they are like responding to the motions, it’s like they’re sitting there but they’re not actually engaging. For my team, for all of the candidates in my team, I would ask them to be more involved, because I want them to be aware of what’s happening, and then they could engage as much as they can.

HS: Are you yourself an international student?

AY: No, I’m a domestic student. But I consider myself… I’m kind of more related with international students because of my background—I was born in Taiwan but I came to Australia when I was three, and I stayed until nine year old, and later on moved back to Australia again. So I kind of experienced both of the cultural things.

HS: So international student engagement with the SRC council, for instance, is an issue. What are you going to do to improve that engagement?

AY: So what we did so far is to tell all of our members that doing SRC is like a commitment thing, and them I want them to check out all those collective groups first and then to see if they are interested in SRC. And then I’d tell them what happened about Panda Warriors—I want them to be aware so it won’t happen again. So it’s like a commitment, starting from day election… That’s the thing I will say, yeah.

HS: So speaking more broadly about your campaign then, why are you running for SRC president?

AY:…Starting from last year, since Panda Warrior appears, I started to realise how important the international student is, and at the same time, I was also focusing on different kind of issues around campus such as the university topic on learning stuff, such as advocating for leadership all kind of stuff… The reason I want to do it is because I care about a lot of issues on campus because I was working as a resident assistant for university. My job was kind of to form a bridge between international students and university. Starting from that point, I realised, it’s very important.

HS: You’ve mentioned the rise of Panda Warriors. How would you differentiate yourself and your movement from their movement? What are the differences between Advance and Panda?

AY:…Our team members does know what’s going on at SRC. We create a lot of groups to share a lot of information, no matter SRC or USU, both organisations, sometimes even SUPRA. They are really engaging a lot, actually, so basically we will meet up every week and we will have a discussion, what’s going on on campus, so they can talk to their supporters or their friends, to kind of raise this awareness.

HS: So are you saying that Panda is less engaged?

AY: I would say Panda is less engaged because they don’t want to be that active. They’re kind of avoiding political issues but sometimes as international students, you have to stand up.

HS: So what do you see as the most important role for the SRC as an organisation?

AY: The most important role?

HS: Yep.

AY: Of course, just as our team name, ‘Advance for students interests and rights’…

HS: But how so?

AY: How so? So basically, of course we will do protests as well, and we will have to work with different organisations, so for example, USU, SUPRA and all the kind of other organisations. I think you have to all kind of build into a common ground where we can share mutual understandings and we can share things together. The communication between organisations must work together so I might focus on working with different organisations, especially student body organisations, on campus.

HS: What about the services side of the SRC? Do you have any thoughts about how that?

AY: Oh yeah, so the services of the SRC, I think the solicitors… Because SRC last year, compared with this year, they got 1.8 percentage of increase of the fundings, so solicitors was working from four days right now to five days per week, and then I think it is very important to increase the legal services because the demand is apparently is getting larger and larger because more people is aware what sort of services can SRC provide.

HS: So what would that increase look like if elected? Give us the details of how you will increase the legal service.

AY: So basically, I was informed by one of the Pump presidents, the radio, that they might have a bigger office, and so the Honi Soit, they can move to that office with them as well. And so I was thinking with this space, right now, currently, we can hire another case worker to help out the large demand of the workload.

HS: Right, but it’s not about the space in the office, it’s about where you’re going to find the salary to pay for that extra case worker, right?

AY: So basically doing the salaries we have to compete with USU and other student organisations. I would say we won’t reduce that amount but I want to increase that but so far we definitely have to talk with the student leaders of that organisation.

HS: So are you referring to SSAF?

AY: Yeah.

HS: So in the past few years, SSAF has kind of stalled and the negotiations have kind of changed. So if you are in a position where you receive the same amount of SSAF funding next year and you want to pay for an extra case worker, where are you going to find the funds to pay the salary of that case worker?

AY: Mmmm, where am I going to find the funds… So pretty much, so far, I don’t have any idea about how to collect more funds because that is going to be conflict with other student organisations, of course. But I will do my best to increase, to make sure that amount is significant enough to maintain the SRC functions.

HS: So how can you promise things like you’re going to add new caseworkers if you have no idea where you’re going to get the money from? Can voters really trust this?

AY: There’s something, of course, I have to get involved first. If you sit on that position, as the president, and then you will start to know how to work things more efficiently.

HS: Well I don’t know if that’s right. You can see the published budget document from this year, so you’ve seen how much money the different collective get, how much money each different office bearer gets, what the salaries are in total. You can probably see where you might cut money.

AY: Oh you mean cut money? I will make sure I’m not cutting money from any collective or staff. But maybe, maybe, I might consider NUS delegates travelling.

HS: So you’d cut their travel subsidies?

AY: Yeah.

HS: Would you cut the affiliation fee?

AY: Yes, I might cut the affiliation fee.

HS: To zero?

AY: No, not to zero. But if I want to hire another case worker I will definitely cut it from there.

HS: So earlier, when we were talking about the role and function of the SRC, you mentioned working with other organisations such as USU or SUPRA. Can you just elaborate a little bit more about that and what you want to achieve by working with those organisations.

AY: Sure, sure. So basically, I think ODay and OWeek is significantly important to a lot of students, and this is my fourth year so I have been to a lot of OWeek and ODays, and I think it’s important for SRC to work with the USU and SUPRA. So together they might do some events together, so they might make it more interesting, so people will come. And while they are having fun also they are being educated about what sort of support they can receive, such as Centrelink for the domestic students—if they have any issues with Centrelink they can come over to SRC—and no matter international students or domestic students, if they need emergency loans, SRC can provide $50 for that.

HS: Sure, these are all services that exist currently, but the SRC at the moment has a presence at OWeek—it has a stall there, which people can go and attend and they learn what the different services are. What are you going to do differently?

AY: Basically I am thinking about to work with different societies, for sure, cause I think it is also important for the President to get engaged with club members or society members. Once we let the president know what sort of SRC has, what we offer, they will pass along to those communities, and once the community knows, they will let more people learn about it.

HS: So can you give us an example of how for example you would negotiate or liase with the French society to make the SRC’s services more well-known?

AY: I join different societies so I have a lot of friends, they are now executives of their societies. So I would ask them, it’s not asking them… It’s like as a friend, of course we can come together or I could go to their events to see what is going on, or something like that. Of course I can’t force them to come to have a meeting, for everyone to come to meeting, but I can attend some of their events or even during ODays or OWeek.

HS: So as SRC president you want to visit more USU club and society events to spread the word of the SRC?

AY: Yes, I will be willing to do that.

HS: What would you say are the biggest problems the SRC has at the moment with its operation, and how would you fix them?

AY: I would say the quorum.

HS: The council quorum? OK. So how would you fix that, where councillors don’t show up to meetings?

AY: When councillors don’t show up to meetings, I would say contact them first to see what’s going on and then further actions I would take is, besides that, there’s no much further actions I can do, but I would reach out to them as much as I can because the president position is a full-time position, so that includes a lot of things…

HS: What do you think is the greatest achievement the SRC has done in the past five years?

AY: The greatest achievement?

HS: Yes.

AY: I would say for SRC is there is a lot of issues there… I will mainly focus on supporting the free education, these kind of ideas… SRC are active on campus including like campaigning a lot of different topics such as Ramsay Centre. There’s also some societies that want to raise their voice for their own countries. For instance, there was an international student who got beaten, and SRC, they kind of do like a protest. I think that’s very important for us to maintain that too.

HS: What protests have you personally been a part of, other than the international student Opal card campaign?

AY: Ramsay Centre, what else…

HS: So did you help organise that or did you attend that?

AY: We attend that and then we were trying to get more involved. So pretty much we have the WeChat platform, and that WeChat platform is called Nunk …What’s written on Honi Soit we translate that into Chinese, to let people more aware of what is going on on campus. I also joined the NTEU strike. And also the, what was the name of that NTEU strike… …the LGBT movements.

HS: Do you actually have organisational experience with any of those protests or were you just a participant?

AY: So I participate. I think for us, for now, it’s participate, and then later on, once we become the office bearers, we will start to have more power to initialise operations.

HS: You will have to learn a lot in a very short amount of time. Do you really think that you will be able to continue the kind of active campaigns that the SRC has prosecuted this year?

AY: Yes, yes. This is what I learn, everything, as well. I learn from people. So SRC, we will have to be friends with a lot people and then they will pass along a lot of skills, what they learn…I don’t know, it’s hard to explain, but it’s like you learn from them, and then you be nicely to people, and that’s how people pass on those knowledge and everything to you.

HS: But if we look at the field of candidates for this year, it seems like both you are Lara are offering activist presidencies—both of you are willing to involve yourself in campaigns. Lara has a lot of experience as an activist. I mean as Education Officer, even this year, her Ramsay Centre campaigns and Disarm USyd campaigns are pretty big. So if we are choosing between two activist candidates for president, and they are both offering a very similar view of the presidency, but Lara has much more experience than you at bringing that view into reality, why should we choose you instead?

AY: Because, for instance, we are not affiliate with any parties.

HS: But you said you had very similar values to Grassroots.

AY: We share similar values but we are not are affiliated with them, which means, because as a faction there are some restrictions that you can do or not do, especially working along with different Liberal parties or Labor parties.

HS:  I don’t think there are any suggestions that Grassroots are working with the Liberal Party or the Labor Party.

AY: I mean, there are some event they can’t work with them, or something like that. There are some restrictions they won’t touch on. But for us we only stand for students, so we will do things that only help students, and we will do it no matter what sort of party they are from.

HS: So as independents, even though you identify as left-wing, you would still negotiate with Liberals and with any other party?

AY: No, no, no, not negotiating. Some of them will be office bearers. Somehow you have to maintain… I do believe they have some good values of policies as well, it’s good for students, yeah.

HS: So in terms of your experience, we touched on that before, but what kind of experience do you have that makes you experienced to lead the peak university student union?

AY: So based on my personal experience, I am more of a team player, and I always love to take challenges. I am not afraid of failures. I think on my resume I did military service before in Taiwan, and I learnt how to organise people and to guide things as a squad leader. I also worked in companies before. I did an internship with Microsoft before, so I learned how to become more like a team player, to come in the same mutual ground with people, to work together, to make things done.

HS: So if your background is in the corporate sphere, does that mean we can expect an SRC that is more corporate under your leadership?

AY: No, no.

HS: Why not?

AY: Maybe in terms of like functioning, maybe we will use some Google handy technologies to help us to organise meetings or something.

HS: Let’s talk about some of the things you might have to do if you are elected president. One of the president’s roles is to approve every edition of Honi Soit. So last week, you might have been aware, Honi Soit published an article by Jay Tharappel, in which he was perceived to have come out in favour of North Korea. That article was really controversial and got a lot of backlash. This year’s president, Imogen Grant, allowed that article to go to print. If you had been president when that article came across your desk, would you have allowed it to be published?

AY: Yes, I will.

HS: Why do you say that?

AY: I feel like it is kind of the right things to let students know.

HS: Students know about…?

AY: What’s going on, especially for Honi Soit.

HS: We might move to some of your policies. Your policy statement didn’t provide that much detail, in terms of what you are going to actually do other than campaign. When you say you want for a campaign to be rooted in a pragmatic base, what does that mean?

AY: In terms of policy, we are fighting against racism, right? And by that I would say we would have workshops: ‘How to identify what is racist’. For the caseworkers, they are also helping the students who experience discrimination and racism, we will focusing on that. I want them to record what sort of incident happened before and later on maybe we can pass along to either the university and also the Australian Human Rights Commission.

HS: So when you say you’d focus on caseworker who themselves had experienced discrimination, does that mean you’d hire more caseworkers who come from intersectionality-oppressed backgrounds?

AY: If we can find those candidates, I think I will, I will be looking for those caseworkers of different backgrounds.

HS: So would you change the composition of the caseworkers here? Would you fire some caseworkers and hire new ones?

AY: No, no, no. Not saying that. If maybe we can hire additional one, and if we can find a person who can speak maybe multiple languages, yeah.

HS: So a lot of students would come into the SRC for issues about discrimination and racism but what about all those students who come in for very different reasons, like academic progress or that kind of thing. Do you have any policies that cater to them?

AY: So for academic appeal, right?

HS: Yeah or anything other than anti-discrimination.

AY: For those kind of stuff, I think SRC been putting some sort of informations on the Facebook group, saying you can phone this number, but I think there’s not much followers of the SRC Facebook group.

HS: So how are you going to build the following of the SRC Facebook group?

AY: I can take it back to why I joined different kind of events and societies. Even my councillors, they can go to different kind of events and meetings too. I want them to kind of like the group and share the group.

HS: The policies you are offering as president are pretty much: more publicity. Otherwise you are pretty much content to get on board campaigns which already exist, like the international students Opal card concession campaign, and then on top of that it’s just about more Facebook groups, greater presence at club and society events to spruik the SRC. Is that a fair characterisation of your campaign?

AY: It’s not just about publicity, actually, it’s more about, I think it’s quite important too, you have to be active…

HS: What does that mean, to be ‘active’?

AY: Sitting down and negotiating and approve what events are happening on campus. It’s like spending more time and putting in more time and effort and trying to reach out your best capability.

HS: Do you envision that ‘reaching out’ will just encompass your own personal networks and the networks of your councillors?

AY: No, but also other collective groups, the SRC as a whole.

HS: But you can only control what you do, you can’t necessarily tell the members of your collective, ‘Hey, post this on your Facebook page…’

AY: I won’t kind of like force them but it’s good for student, right, so why would we not do that if we can just click? It’s like a small favour to ask, which will benefit students at all?

HS: Is this really so different from what the SRC does currently? It seems like Imogen Grant, in her term as president, has opened up the SRC Facebook page, right through the year advertising SRC services. What are you actually offering that is new, that is going to improve the SRC?

AY: To improve SRC apparently there is a lot of different ways, I think the main thing is focusing on engagement, and to let the members to be active. To let the different groups to launch different campaigns on campus—that’s what I mean, to be active.

HS: That’s what collective groups have been doing since collective groups began to exist.

AY: But there are many things to do, maybe we could do that, additionally.

HS: In terms of going to USU club and society events…what kind of societies would you be going to visit?

AY: I would say any single society…All of the societies are great, they help students in certain ways, and I would try and reach out as much as I can.

HS: You mentioned before, in terms of organising activities, that you wanted to do workshops to help students identify what is racist. Is that correct?

AY: Yes.

HS: Would you be running these workshops?

AY: Oh, I won’t. Maybe I would let the autonomous racism group do that.

HS: So this idea you’re pitching is an ACAR event, as part of your policy?

AY: Yeah.

HS: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

AY: Yeah, I think that’s it.

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