Six new Board Directors have been elected to the 2019 University of Sydney Union (USU) Board. They are: Yinfeng Benny Shen (Independent), Zizheng Oscar Bai (Independent), Nick Forbutt (NLS), Di Eve Wang (Panda), Ruolin (Irene) Ma (Independent), and Cady Brown (Mod Lib).
The newly-elected Directors will join current board directors Maya Eswaran (Switch), Lachlan Finch (Mod Lib), Decheng Sun (Advance), Connor Wherrett (Labor Right/Unity), and Zimeng Ye (Panda).
Shen and Bai were both elected in the first count after breaking the quota of 923 votes. Shen received 984 first preferences and Bai received 950. Christina Lee (Independent) was excluded after having polled the least at 139 votes. Her preferences combined with Shen’s pushed Cady Brown to sixth place over Stephenson, who was then also excluded.
Forbutt and Wang were both elected in count five after preferences were redistributed. In the same round, Manousaridis was excluded by the USU’s Affirmative Action policy, which requires at least three wom*n-identifying candidates to be elected in odd-numbered years.
The two remaining spots then went to Ma and Brown.
A record number of students voted in this year’s USU Board Elections, almost double the turnouts of 2018 and 2017. 6454 votes were cast over a three-day polling period, compared to 3555 votes cast in 2018, and 3454 in 2017. 2017 was also the lowest turnout in seven years.
This year’s high turnout coincided with the rollout of universal Access membership, a fact which may have encouraged more voters to turn out, despite the fact that Access was not a prerequisite to voting in previous years. The presence of three international student-oriented candidates may have also contributed to the spike in voter participation given the historically high number of votes received by international student candidates.
The introduction of a new polling booth at the Abercrombie Business School (ABS) proved beneficial for international student candidates. Shen won the booth with 365 votes, followed by Bai with 331 votes and Wang with 330 votes. These three candidates also received the most votes at the International Students’ Lounge pre-poll.
Following the commencement of the new Directors’ terms, the Board will comprise of almost 50 per cent of international students, only three years after the election of the first international student to Board in 2016, Yifan (Koko) Kong.This year is the first year that three international students have been elected to the Board.
This election also marks the third year in a row that a member of the Liberal Party has been elected to the Board. Jacob Masina, Lachlan Finch, and Cady Brown have all been elected through the tactical use of a “Libdependent” strategy — purporting to be Independent despite their party affiliation. Brown was also elected in a similar fashion to Finch, relying heavily on favourable preference deals to finish ahead of other candidates.
The consequences of tonight’s results for the upcoming Board Executive election may well be decisive. It is currently rumoured that two tickets are forming, headed by Decheng Sun and Connor Wherrett. Wherrett’s ticket is rumoured to feature both Lachlan Finch and Zimeng Ye. Shen, Bai, and Wang all received support from Ye during their campaign, suggesting likely future support for Wherrett’s ticket. Brown also received support from Finch. If all vote accordingly, the Wherrett ticket will be elected convincingly over Sun’s and the presidency will return to Student Unity for the first time since the election of Alisha Aitken-Radburn in 2016.
The 2019 campaign trail was also marred by a notable animosity between rival campus Labor factions, NLS (Labor Left) and Student Unity (Labor Right). Unity were heard to have been making efforts to spoil the votes of Nick Forbutt of NLS, hoping to exceed his vote count on the last day.
The newly elected directors will be officially inducted in the coming month.