Disclaimer: Liam Thorne is a member of Sydney Grassroots.
In a post published last Friday, the SRC publicised a statement from SRC Women’s Officer Gabi Stricker-Phelps made in response to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) posters calling for a boycott of Puma.
It has come to our attention that some posters have been put around the campus relating to a boycott of Puma for…
Posted by University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council – USYD SRC on Thursday, October 10, 2019
The posters were put up around campus following Puma’s decision to sponsor the Israeli national football team.
Stricker-Phelps claimed “no other Football Association in the Middle East would hold a game to end homophobia, or which celebrated having a transgender player.”
The post faced immediate and significant criticism for pink-washing, a term which describes the process of instrumentalising queer rights to excuse or distract from problematic behaviour.
Many commenters pointed out Israel’s treatment of queer Palestinians, which has often involved blackmailing them to coerce them into espionage.
Beyond criticisms for obvious Zionism, SRC President Jacky He was also called out for the undemocratic nature of the post. Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR) Convenor Swapnik Sanagavarapu called out He for posting “the opinions of an office-bearer as a representative of the SRC without even a shred of discussion at council.”
Regarding the post published yesterday regarding the Puma’s sponsorship towards Israeli football association, convenors…
Posted by University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council – USYD SRC on Saturday, October 12, 2019
The SRC has historically run numerous campaigns supporting the BDS movement. Throughout 2018, multiple office-bearers passed motions supporting pro-Palestinian activism, as well as a motion congratulating the Women’s Honi cover depicting a Palestinian freedom fighter.
A public post made by Students for Palestine commented that “Palestine-Solidarity activism on this campus has always been met with hostility,” in particular in the last few years.
In a comment to Honi, they added, “the post was put out by people who want to see student unions be passive bodies … The SRC must stand with oppressed nationalities and actively support their right to self-determination — from Kashmir to Palestine to this land.”
Though neither the SRC constitution or regulations have specific policies regarding the SRC Facebook page, the constitution does specify that “the President may represent and speak on behalf of the Council at such meetings, functions, hearings and inquiries as the Council or Executive deem fit.” This is complemented in the regulations, which outlines that, “The Executive shall be empowered to make decisions on behalf of and to carry out the policy of the Council, provided that no decision shall be inconsistent with the policy of the Council.”
Despite the SRC’s complex history with pro-Palestine activism, He did not take Stricker-Phelps’ statement to council or executive for approval.
This is not the first instance of He misusing the SRC’s Facebook page. Earlier in the year, He failed to publicise an event in solidarity with victims of the Christchurch massacres before lying to council by claiming he never received a request to publicise the event.
He denied the post represented the views of the SRC, claiming it “ specifies that this is the view of an office-bearer”. The next day, the SRC’s Facebook page published a response from ACAR expressing solidarity with the call to boycott Puma.
He’s recent use of the SRC’s Facebook page certainly seems like a departure from general conventions. Whether the page will continue to be used as the university’s ‘marketplace of ideas’ remains to be seen.