What’s the deal with RepsElect?

A can of worms, by any other name, would smell just as sweet

It’s that time of year again: the air is warmer, the breeze a little less crisp, and the jacarandas have bloomed. Since the end of mid-sem break, your favourite campus hideouts ⁠—the darker parts of Laneway cafe, or the parquet tiles that comprise the Anderson Stuart courtyard  ⁠— have been peppered with factional powerbrokers, hidden in plain sight as they scramble to lock in numbers before the inaugural meeting of the 92nd Students’ Representative Council next Wednesday. So, what is the deal with RepSelect?

A meeting of many minds and sour hearts

RepsElect (short for “representatives elect”) is the first meeting of the freshly elected SRC council, where new councillors will vote for different people to hold office-bearer positions, , in the 92nd SRC administration. It seems simple enough a process, but this meeting is infamous for generating a considerable amount of drama and anguish. Indeed, from 2015 onwards, RepsElect has been reported on by  the mainstream press for incidents ranging from, inter alia, the cutting of power switches, Liberals adopting non-binary identities in an attempt to overcome affirmative action requirements, and the pulling of fire alarms, all with the view of stopping votes from going in certain directions. 

While so much makes it easy to trivialise and dismiss RepsElect for the shitshow it inevitably devolves into, some of the positions elected will receive a stipend which comes from student money. With the right people elected into these roles, the student union can become effective in agitating for various social causes and student interests. 

What’s cooking?

Positions are negotiated between factions prior to RepsElect. For the majority of those involved at least, it looks to be pretty smooth sailing this year compared to last year’s iconic four part series. In those circumstances, a series of absences, abstentions and factional shifts meant the SRC saw itself move towards complete dysfunction right out of the gates of the He presidency. 

At this point two rounds of negotiations have taken place: one pre-election, and a second round following the council announcement. At the time of writing, it looks like the ‘Save Our Union’ left bloc, who campaigned together throughout the election in support of Liam Donohoe, will work together in RepsElect to consolidate a left-wing majority on council.

If this is done, a simple majority of 18 out of the 35 available seats is easily achievable and will give the bloc control over all paid positions, at least 3 out of 5 General Executives and at least half of the minor OB positions. ‘Save our Union’ – made up of Grassroots, Switch, National Labor Students (Pump), Socialist Alternative (Left Action), and Advance (Pro-Team) – make up a total number of 17 councillor spots, one shy of a simple majority. 

Activist Strikeback (Solidarity), since winning one councillor position, are perceived as de-facto members of the Left bloc post election. 

Though it is highly unlikely that they side with the right bloc, Activist Strikeback are just as likely to retreat from any ‘deal making’ – which they deem to be unprincipled. Given this, it will be harder to predict who and how they will support the left bloc on the night. 

If the left bloc is numerically victorious, the biggest divergence from last year’s RepsElect may be the decision to respect ‘collective autonomy’, and elect preselected office-bearers from autonomous SRC collectives, such as the Wom*n’s Collective. 

Moving right on 

Two other groups and their plans for the night remain unclear for the moment. While Labor Right  (Unite) worked with the Save Our Union group throughout the campaign, rumour has it that positions on the National Union Of Students (NUS) positions offered by the right bloc, may lead Unity to sway towards the right. This year, three members of the Boost campaign have been elected as NUS candidates.  

Unity headkickers have no doubt been in discussion with Boost over the last couple of weeks, and, if the Sydney University Arts Society AGM is anything to go by, it appears Unite and Boost have forged the way for a lasting deal-based relationship this year. 

Cupcake is the nascent newcomer – with one council seat to their name, their affiliations remain unclear. Cupcake’s campaign manager, Crystal Xu, historically worked with Chinese international student grouping,  Panda, who backed her move to become the 91st Wom*n’s Officer, against the autonomy of the Wom*n’s Collective’s preselected officers.

Things have changed throughout the year though, and recently, Crystal has moved away from the confines of Panda, refusing to endorse Boost presidential candidate Josie Jakovac. The Panda-Cupcake relationship appears tense, however, and Xu may be tempted to join the right bloc if they offered her the role of Vice-President, which now includes a tidy $13K stipend as of this year. 

The right bloc received far less councillor positions than they would have hoped. Panda gained only nine positions, and Boost gained four. With Colleges for SRC almost certainly set to support the right, that bloc look to hold 14 positions. 

Whether Cupcake will support the left is yet to be seen. Should Unity defect and Cupcake turn to the right, it is still unlikely to lose their majority. The right, in turn could create a “minority bloc” gaining them access to at least half of the minor OB positions and up to two general executive positions, expanded further if Pro-Team defect to their side. None of these things are set is stone – in fact, probably by the time you’re reading this, half of this information will have evolved.

This article is an alternate version to that which appears in the Semester 2, Week 11 print edition due to corrected errors.