Disclaimer: Honi Editors Pranay Jha, Nell O’Grady, and Liam Thorne are not involved in the 2019 USU Board Election coverage.
10 students are vying for six coveted positions on the student-led board of the University of Sydney Union (USU), an organisation which returned $29 million dollars in gross income in 2018.
Here are the candidates: Zizheng (Oscar) Bai, Caitlin Brown, Christina Lee, Nick Forbutt, Yinfeng (Benny) Shen, Ruolin (Irene) Ma, Tom Manousaridis, Ellie Stephenson, Eve Wang, and Prudence Wilkins-Wheat.
Postgraduate student Zizheng (Oscar) Bai (orange) is running as an independent. His campaign is managed by Jiashan Zhang. Although early rumours abounded that Bai was one of two candidates running for Chinese international student grouping Panda, Bai denied this, telling Honi that he has never been involved in a Panda campaign or the Panda-aligned China Development Society.
Caitlin Brown (light blue) is running as an independent managed by Sydney Arts Students Society (SASS) Secretary Nick Rigby. Both Brown and Rigby have been involved in Moderate Liberal Politics: Rigby campaigned for unsuccessful Mod-Lib candidate Jack Abadee in the 2018 St Ives Ward election and Brown, a resident of Wesley College, identifies as a “Moderate Liberal outside of Uni” and managed the “Colleges for SRC” ticket in the 2018 SRC elections. That same ticket endorsed Patrick Hendy—son of former federal Liberal MP Peter Hendy—for Senate last year.
Christina Lee (red) is running as an independent candidate, managed by 2019 Welcome Week Coordinator and former President of the Science Society, Sarah Cutter-Russell. Lee, a member of the Faculty of Science Board, also ran in last year’s SRC elections on the Baekho for SRC ticket. Baekho for SRC supported the campaign for international student concession cards and backed ultimately successful Panda candidate, Jacky He, for President.
Nick Forbutt (black) is running as the Labor Left/National Labor Students (NLS) candidate, managed by James Newbold (NLS). Forbutt is the current Vice President (External) of SASS after successive SASS AGMs were ruled invalid in 2018. Forbutt is also an Executive of the Mental Awareness and Health Society (MAHSOC). Elected as an SRC councillor in 2018, Forbutt joined the majority Panda-Reboot-Shake Up bloc at RepsElect 2 in a deal which assured NLS the salaried Education Officer position.
Eve Wang (pink), a second year Commerce/Law student, is running as a candidate for Panda. Wang’s campaign is managed by Panda-aligned councillor and current SRC Sexual Harassment Officer Sonia Gao.
Yinfeng (Benny) Shen (royal blue) is running as an independent candidate, managed by Jessie Ye. Shen, a current Resident Assistant at the University of Sydney’s Queen Mary Building, has connections to Advance after he campaigned for Alex Yang’s unsuccessful run for SRC president in 2018. Shen is one of four 2019 SRC student housing officers and previously served as the Public Relations Director of the Sydney University Chinese Students Association (SUCSA). SUCSA was entangled in a membership controversy before the USU intervened in its 2016 AGM although Shen was not involved in the association at the time.
Ellie Stephenson (yellow), one of four 2019 SRC welfare officers and prominent USU debater, is running as one of two Switch candidates in spite of her usual affiliations with Grassroots. A senior source within Grassroots told Honi that it would be establishing a “non-hierarchical, committee-based approach to campaign management.”
Irene Ma (light yellow) is running as a candidate for the broad international student grouping, Advance. Ma, like Shen, is also a 2019 SRC student housing officer. Ma’s campaign will be managed by current Advance councillor and Vice President of the Toastmasters Society, Daniel Hu.
Tom Manousaridis (purple) is running as the Labor Right/Unity candidate, managed by Liam Thomas (Unity). Manousaridis is the current Queer Officer of Sydney University Law Society and a USU Campus Activity Coordinator. He was formerly an SRC general executive in 2018.
Prudence Wilkins-Wheat (lime green) is also in the running as a candidate for Switch. She currently serves as a councillor and general executive on the SRC as well as being a member of the Wom*n’s Collective and Enviro Collective. Despite Wilkins-Wheat’s experience in student activism and environmentalism, she remains beholden to the University through her employment as a transition student ambassador. Documents recently obtained by Fossil Free USyd reveal the University has invested 22.4 million in fossil fuel companies like Woodside petroleum, BHP Billiton, Royal Dutch Shell, AGL and Whitehaven Coal.
Each candidate’s slogans are set to be officially announced tonight.
As in 2018, candidates will have a spending cap of $700. They will also be required to weigh down A-frames with 20kg sandbags as a safety precaution.
Elected directors will serve until 2021, and receive an annual honorarium of $4,416 along with a daily $11 allowance for meals at USU outlets on campus.
Founded in 1874, the USU Board alumni include former Justice of the High Court Michael Kirby and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
For these candidates, the USU election is often their first thrust into the public spotlight, but not the last.
Voting takes place on campus between 13 and 15 May and is open to all students.
More to come.