USU Board candidate interview: Eitan Harris

The full transcript of Honi's interview with 2020 USU Board candidate, Eitan Harris

HS: Let’s just start with a couple of general questions. So because we’re recording this and it will be up on Facebook in some form. What’s your name, your degree, year, your campaign colour and your slogan if you have one?

EH: So I’m Eitan Harris. I’m doing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in anthropology and archaeology. I’m completing second year new units and what was the last part of the question?

HS: Your campaign colour and slogan? 

EH: My colour is purple and my slogan is “a USU for all”.

HS: And who’s your campaign manager? Or do you not have a campaign manager? 

EH: I don’t [have a campaign manager]. It’s just me running as an independent.

HS: Is there a reason why you don’t have a campaign manager?

EH: I think – at least for my campaign where it is at the moment – it does seem quite unnecessary. I think also it is quite difficult running as independent knowing that most people who are politically inclined and inclined to run and work within the USU elections are usually quite faction based, which makes sense and it’s like, you know, good on them for getting involved. But at the same time, that’s not entirely where I sit. So I think being able to be truly independent does give me a lot of room to work around that and try to find the best way to represent all students by being that open.

HS: Okay. Are you in a political party?

EH: Yes, I am a member of the Labour Party.

HS: Okay, interesting. But you’re not in a student faction?

EH: No. 

HS: Okay. Is there a reason why you’re involved in federal politics but not interested in campus?

EH: Oh, I’m definitely interested and involved in campus politics. I just think in terms of my ability to perform effectively if I want to be elected, I think the best way for me to be representative of the student body would be for me to be independently representative where it’s a much more direct route to, you know, accessing a board director as an independent than it would be to have to go to the board director who would then have to go to the party who would then have to make an agreement who would then have to go back to the other board directors to then put in their their opinion. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m definitely affiliated with the Labor Party as a whole. I agree with the labour movement. I’m very much for student unionism and unionism in general. So, the same way, I’m against voluntary student unionism, I’m very much in line with both Labour Party candidates. It’s not something where I view myself as less of a Labor individual. I’m just not a labour candidate. 

HS: On that note, could you specify for me: obviously within labor there is quite a broad spectrum of politics and beliefs. Would you say you’re more Labor left or Labor right, or do you sit in the center?

EH: I think I would say I’m pretty central. There have been recent political changes within the structure of Labor left in Labor right, not just on campus but at a state level and federal levels so it can be quite difficult to say “well this is where I sit” because there are issues which may on the face of it seem like a Labor left thing but are actually backed by Labor right and other things which work the other way. So I think as a whole I would very much be in the center of the Labor party.

HS: So you describe yourself as kind of centre-left?

EH: I’d say center left. On certain issues, I would be definitely more to the left but I guess as a whole I would say central center left, yeah.

HS: Okay, great, so moving on to the USU, do you just want to tell us in a couple thoughts why you’re running for USU board?

EH: Primarily it’s because the largest part of my platform will be in disability access. Being a disabled student or student with a disability, I know how challenging it can be to try to manage your health and the needs of your disability, while also trying to engage with your studies. I think there is more that the USU can do both in terms of representation, but also the access of students with disabilities. I have also experienced racism on campus. And I also understand that there are a lot of other issues that other students are experiencing. And we need a USU board which is able to have open discussion and are incredibly accessible to students regardless of their own identities and their experiences. It needs to be universally accessible. And the only way you can really be universally accessible is primarily by having a USU board that is reflective of the student populace, which means affirmative action. You can’t have a representative body without having your entire student body represented in the student union board. On top of that, I also think you need to accept that there are certain people who are having more negative experiences or more likely to be negatively experienced by certain things on campus. The only way you can get around that is to say, well, these are the people most at risk. How can we better communicate with them and have an open discussion about their needs? So while I’m definitely in favor of supporting each and every student, the only way that you can do that is accepting that there are people who are more vulnerable than others and making sure that everyone has equal access by accepting that.

HS: Ok, building on top of that, what do you think makes you better placed perhaps than the other candidates that are running?

EH: I think every candidate running is in it for the right reasons. I just think in being an independent candidate I have more maneuverability around student issues to say, if I was to be elected, what are your concerns and how can I best put them through towards the USU board? But also not just what are your concerns but how do you think we should manage them? How do you think we should deal with them? Because ultimately I have experiences and I have knowledge on a lot of different issues, but I’m someone who definitely believes that we should be going to people who have experience, who have the knowledge and building from there. It definitely needs to be a collaborative process in order to make things better. 

HS: Which candidates are your top two favourites and which candidate is your least favourite and why?

EH: Favourite as in most likely to be elected or favourite just as an opinion? 

HS: We had a little bit of a similar issue with this question without our last interviewee. I think a better way of thinking about it is: which candidates would you say you’re more similar with and more politically compatible with and which candidates would you say you maybe might have some disagreements with or are less compatible with? Maybe that’s a way to think about it?

EH: I mean, I’ve spoken to or at least reached out to most of the candidates. So I don’t think there are any candidates to my knowledge who I would, off the bat, have a disagreement of ideology with. I think I can work with everyone. I know I can. But in terms of who I’m most aligned with politically, in terms of how I see the USU moving forwards, that would be Belinda and it would be the Unity faction of labor.

HS: Okay, interesting. Ben Hines and Nick Rigby are both Liberals. Ben Hines belongs to a much more conservative faction of the Liberal Party. You don’t perceive that there would be any issues with that?

EH: None whatsoever really. I definitely disagree with a lot of aspects of the Liberal Party’s policy federally, but from my interaction with Nick, he seems like someone who is very open to discussion and open to having that dialogue around how we can move forward as a board. So if I were to be elected and he were to be elected, it’s not something where I’m Labor, he’s Liberal, we’re not going to work together. I think we’re there to do a job. And I think, at least for my understanding and conversations with Nick and all the candidates, we all appreciate the job that is in front of us if we were to be elected.

HS: Okay, cool.If you had to cut a million dollars from the USU budget, where would you cut it from?

EH: I think, looking at the situation we’re in right now with COVID-19, the USU is at a risk because it’s quite possible that our number of students at university will decline, which will negatively affect our SSAF funding. But we’re also going to be losing money from the decline in rentals. We will also be losing money from the decline in the regular commercial activity of the USU. So it is quite feasible that it’s something that we would need to consider in the coming year as a result of COVID-19. But also, in general, as much as we can plan for financial success, and we should aim to plan for financial success, we also need to be accountable to our membership to know that we have a plan for if things go wrong and if we aren’t making the financial goals that we need to in order to sustain ourselves. So if I had to make a cut, I would look at the programs which are affecting the fewest number of students positively. So it’s not to say that one program negatively affects a group of students. But if you look at something like – ah I’m having a mental blank for the name – oh it’s the Incubate program. So while it looks great for the university, it looks great for the USU, it doesn’t actually positively affect a huge number of students, whereas clubs and societies, while on the face of it may seem like a very simple thing, it has a drastic influence on the ability for students to engage positively with university life. It’s something that definitely shapes the student experience. So if it had to be a cut between a million dollars to societies and million dollars to a program, which is great, like there’s no denying that it is a great program, but doesn’t necessarily serve the whole student body, the cut has to be to the program that doesn’t serve the whole student body. The USU board needs to be indicative and representative of that collection. We have thousands of members and if we served, maybe a couple… I don’t actually know the numbers for how many students and former students go through each year, but it’s definitely not in the thousands and we would definitely need to consider that.

HS: So maybe building on top of the answer: obviously we’re in an unprecedented crisis for the university, especially for the USU, in such a precarious financial situation. So we want to ask a few more questions on potential financial decisions that you would or would not support. So given the current situation, would you support or stand against a university takeover of the union? Why or why not?

EH: No, I would have not support it any way. I think the union functions because it’s independent. While you may be financially reliant on the university in certain ways, we’re only able to represent the student body and serve them in the way that the union does by being independent. Our collaboration with the university is positive. There are discussions about how extensive that collaboration should be. But as a whole, the USU should always remain independent.

HS: Okay, how about the free access that was introduced last year, which obviously shook up the financial situation for the USU quite a bit. Do you think that’s still viable considering the current financial state of the USU?

EH: I think not only is it viable, it’s necessary. I mean, I remember in my first year I got ACCESS and in my second year I didn’t. And I know I’m not alone in that, because I was questioning the financial value of spending $70 on ACCESS to only join maybe one or two clubs and societies. In terms of getting it back from the ACCESS membership card and discounts, I think very few students would be spending enough money on campus to actually make that money back. So if it’s a question of value, then we’re not going to be gaining the membership and keeping membership. If we have membership to the USU at a huge financial cost, making it free and having a tiered system of having free access  to the union membership and then having a paid access to the USU card and getting cheaper things on campus, that is a system that is required for us to keep that membership because each year we spend a lot of money and energy trying to bring new students through Welcome Week and other activities. But what are we doing to maintain our membership? That’s where we’re really going to be suffering in the years to come, because we need to prove that we have value and add value to the student body. Each individual student should feel like they have a certain amount of value added from the USU and that cannot only be happening if every student has access to the USU. And that’s not what’s going to happen if you drop out of a collaboration and you end up having to charge $70 a student because that is more than a lot of students are able to pay, let alone willing to pay. So if it came to the matter of saying ‘no, it’s not viable anymore,’ I think that answer would have to be seriously reworked because I don’t see the USU continuing to be viable if it’s not viable for every student. I’m not saying that we’re going to reach the point where we have 100% union membership. But we need at least to be representative of students to the extent that anyone who wants to be a member can be a member. And when access was $70, that’s not entirely true.

HS: Following on with some more financial questions, the overwhelming majority of the USU’s income over the next few months is going to be from the SSAF while staff costs obviously still needs to be paid. What kind of actions would you implement to ensure the USU survives? Would you cut staff, encourage them to take paid leave? Would you cut pay for everyone or ask the university to support the USU? Have you thought about this?

EH: As someone who’s a very strong believer of unionism, I believe the primary goal should be trying to advocate and maintain the wellbeing of your members but also your staff. We can’t do that if we’re deciding to lay people off willy nilly to just cut our financial losses because it is quite likely that we’re going to be struggling financially from this COVID-19 epidemic for years to come because it will have a long lasting effect on the USU, its finances and its membership. So, if we were to drop or fire or move certain employees to be part-time casual, or encourage them to go into holiday leave or whatever we want, whatever the USU may or may not be planning to do, it wouldn’t be done in the best interest of the USU long-term. I think there are always ways that you can work around that saves the wellbeing of your employees and annual membership because ultimately we want to make sure everyone’s safe, but we also want to make sure that they have a livelihood. 

HS: So you would disagree with some of the layoffs that have happened in recent weeks and months as a result of COVID? 

EH: I would disagree with them, yes, because ultimately the pandemic will pass but it is incredibly unlikely to be the last pandemic we will ever face. We need to be able to ensure that we can survive as a union regardless of what we have to overcome. And that’s only really possible if you have a long term strategy that includes risk analysis. Ultimately I think this is a huge learning curve for not just the USU but organisations around the world. But we need to be learning those lessons consistently from months back to where we are now to months in the future. We need to be thinking about what we can be doing better and we need to be willing to have a conversation about what we’ve done wrong and what we can improve on. So it’s about responsibility. We are responsible as the USU to our membership but also our employees and while I hope to be elected, I think we’re all members – at least I’m a member – of the student union. I consider myself invested in the success of the student union because I know how they serve myself as a student and students like me and students in general. It’s an incredibly important organisation. We need to ensure that we continue the long term success of the USU but also the heart of the USU.

HS: Do you think that the CEO and heads of department should take a pay cut and, if you’re elected, would you take a pay cut as a board director?

HS: Yes. I mean ultimately I am someone who believes that the USU board should be open to anyone regardless of their financial position. While there is a stipend paid to USU board members, it’s not necessarily something that someone could live off. It’s more of an allowance for the amount of time that they’re doing and putting into the issue. So, ultimately, there’s a question of, if you cut the stipend to the USU board directors, if you cut the salary of the CEO, you need to question: does this make the USU more or less accessible? And if it was something like the stipend, I definitely think it should be discussed openly by board directors, whether it’s something that allowed them to participate in the USU board, because I would hate to see the day where someone decided not to enter the running for the USU board position because they couldn’t financially afford it. Because if that is true for the USU board directors, how can we as a USU board represent students from a low socioeconomic background? And I would consider myself in that background. So ultimately, it has to be on a case by case basis.

HS: Okay, just one final question on the current situation before we move on to more things about policy. Do you think the USU has a role in criticizing the university during this time? Or do you think they should take a stance on how the university should be supporting students during this time?

EH: I think it’s not about promoting opposition to the university. It’s about having a conversation with the university about how students are coming to us as the USU. What’s their experience? And how can the university assist them in making that experience better? We need to look not just at the student experience right now with students being taught completely online. We need to be aware of a lot of different issues when it comes to students being able to safely and consistently access online education. But we also need to be considering in the future: how will this affect the student experience? How will this affect the number of students? How will this affect the finances put into student resources? There is a lot to consider both in the immediate period of this epidemic but then also the long term effects of it. I think that’s something where you definitely need to form a dialogue with the university itself around the actual student experience and what can be done to improve it.

HS: Do you think the USU should take a stance publicly then?

EH: I think they should. It shouldn’t be a monolithic stance of saying this is all terrible because the university is trying. They have spent a lot of time and resources in trying to make online study viable. The criticism and the stance against the university should be on specific points of student interest. So, yes, some things haven’t been great. There have been honestly a lack of consideration to students who may not have reliable or affordable access to internet. So there are things like that which on the scale of the university may be put down as a small problem, but they’re not small problems because if we’re letting down a single student from being able to access their university education, then we are letting down the student body, and that goes to the university just as much as it goes through the USU. So in stances like that, yeah, you should make a stand and the USU should make a stand.

HS: Can you briefly tell us what your overall policy priority is or the policy that you think is most important?

EH: My platform as a whole comprises three main policies. That’s disability access, mental health and racism on campus. So in terms of disability access, in being a student with a disability myself, I understand how difficult it can be trying to manage your studies and manage your health and manage the requirements of a disability. Ultimately, the university as a whole, isn’t that accessible as a place. There are classrooms that you can’t access unless you find your way around the entire building to a single elevator. While there are systems in place to try to stop students with a disability from having to access that space and trying to work out timetabling, even the USU’s own buildings aren’t necessarily the most disability friendly. I think certain things that need to be established include a disability and safe space, not just one but multiple because satellite spaces need to be established for students who may not be able to readily or easily access a single central space. The benefit of such a space is that it gives students with disabilities a place to rest, to manage their condition, to treat themselves in any way that they need on a day to day level. But also it gives them a place to organise. I would love to see the establishment of a disabled students collective because that way they have a direct access to the USU because we have a disabilities or disabled student portfolio. So, ultimately having a disability collective would mean that this collection or the community of students with disabilities would have much more immediate access to the USU to describe their experience but also where they think things can be improved. So I think disability access is a huge part of the platform, in terms of making sure that regardless of the nature of someone’s disability, they have both a place and a voice on campus. In terms of mental health, I have reached out to a mental health advocate and they helped me establish a structure towards my policy because I think we all have experiences of mental ill health. That’s not to rationalise and normalise mental health in any way because you shouldn’t be saying “while you’re just a student, you’re going to be depressed” because it’s a serious problem. It’s something that the USU needs to be dealing with and providing support to students just as much as the SRC provides support and the University provides support for CAPS. CAPS is incredibly over-stretched. But I think reaching out to the disability advocate and saying “this is what I want to achieve. I understand that there are certain groups who are more likely to experience mental ill health. How are we best able to reach them?” She came back to me and said “these are the groups that are most likely to experience mental ill health.” If you look at the survey completed by the NUS in partnership with another organisation, it came to the conclusion that, for example, female students are more likely than male students to experience poor mental health. So then we have to as the USU address, within our own structure, what can we do to make ourselves more representative and more accessible to female students, especially around the mental health space. But then queer students are also more likely to experience mental ill health. Disabled students are more likely to experience mental ill health. Students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds are more likely to experience mental ill health. So we need to have a much more intersectional approach to mental health and deciding how we actually reach everyone. That’s something that needs to be properly investigated. I have a plan in terms of how you start an investigation but what comes from there is very much dependent on what we actually find, if I were to be elected. But I think the portfolio positions are incredibly important in that because it means you have that direct representation on the USU board. So if we establish that the portfolio holders also need to consider the mental health of those that they represent and understand that a lot of those portfolios also represent people who are more likely to experience mental ill health, then we have a much clearer path moving forward. So that would be my first and second position – disability access and mental health. The third position is racism on campus. As someone who has experienced racism on campus, I know that the problem with reporting is that it’s very hard. The process, while it does initially seem clear, isn’t always effective. I think part of that is, if you look at, say, for example, a site like 4chan, every week more and more racist terms are just pumped out which are commonly referred to as dog whistles. They’re terms which their community can understand as offensive or threatening to another community. For the most part, that secondary community are aware of these terms. The people who aren’t aware of these terms are the people in between – the people who are neither propagating the racism, nor are experiencing it. The problem with reporting incidents of racism is that you’re reporting it to a body that, for the most part, aren’t represented by the groups experiencing racism. So ultimately I think the USU needs to work with the student bodies representative of those communities and say: what are the terminologies you know of? What are the stereotypes? What are the metaphors? What are the long story arcs of discrimination against your people? How can we represent that within a consistent set of guidelines? Because there are guidelines about what the student union clubs and societies can do. There are also guidelines for students in general from the university. There are legal guidelines in terms of saying what is discriminatory and what isn’t. The problem is that within the university structure, it’s very hard to say, I experienced racism, this is what they said, this is why it’s wrong, because there’s no structure to say well no that is actually racist because that requires an understanding that is really only possible by the people being affected by it directly. That just proves that the USU needs to be more accountable to those affected groups and say: what is your experience? How can we make it better? But then also: how can we write this down so that we can ensure that it doesn’t happen again?

HS: That was a very thorough answer to that question. Thank you. Staying with your proposed database, you mentioned that it would be applied retroactively. Are there particular clubs and societies that you’ve identified as participating in this racist or potentially discriminatory behavior? And I guess, a second point, how do you propose to hold these societies to account both as societies within the USU structure and also as individual students?

EH: Well, I think the thing is that, within the regulations of the USU, it actually does say that finances from the USU cannot be used for discriminatory purposes. I could look up the exact wording for you. I’ve got it somewhere. The point is that we already have the guidelines dictating what would happen if someone acts in a racist way. That’s not the problem. The problem is the USU being able to say that something is racist. That can only happen with consultation with the affected communities. So whether it’s something like a club or society being disbarred from campus, which would be the ultimate step, which I don’t think would be something you would engage with lightly or without any warning, ultimately it would come down to saying to clubs and societies who engage in these practices that this isn’t okay. You have a warning, if it’s something like well you won’t get financial benefit from your last meeting or your last event when you said these things. Ultimately, I think there’s also the question of should students societies have to pay for security to events when there are protests outside? I can understand politically where there is an argument to say groups like the Liberal Party or conservative groups having certain provocative views should have to pay for security there because they said something provocative and they should expect a negative outcome for them through protest. But if we make that a blanket rule: what is to stop a group from protesting an Islamic Society on campus? There are actually a variety of Islamic societies on campus. Or to protest the Jewish society for being Jewish outside of any political discourse? What is to stop a purely racially motivated or ethnically motivated, religiously motivated attack through protest on a student club or society? So the thing is that’s only really possible if you’re in open dialogue with the affected groups, the communities themselves and the organisations that represent them on campus.

HS: So taking that example – like the Liberal club hosting controversial figures on campus, such as Bettina Arndt and I guess more broadly groups like Life Choice who are quite explicitly pro life, which is obviously a very controversial opinion that some people would potentially label as misogynistic. Other groups on campus like clubs and societies on campus that you see as being a part of this problem that you perceive as having engaged in these racist behaviors, you would want to retroactively apply your policy to them?

EH: I think it’s not something that should be retroactively applied as soon as the policy comes in and go “oh five years ago a club said this”. I think it’s a matter of if a student group says to the USU this other student group said this and there is documentation that they came to us and said this, and then the USU say “oh wait no, we haven’t got that recorded as a racial slur.” That’s what I mean by retroactive, because they don’t necessarily have a complete and current log of racist terminology. So by retroactive I mean from when a complaint is made it should be considered and put to consideration what that affected minority is saying about that term. Because if we have a database and say this is all the current racial slurs, but a student society said this three years before that passed in the USU board, then that’s not fair to anyone. I think we really do want to say: this is what the current regulations are. We want to be able to hold ourselves to a higher standard of changing a culture of racism on campus. And there is [that culture]. I don’t think that’s a matter of left or right. I think part of that culture has to come from the accessibility of the USU to actually address incidents of racism.

HS: I’m just being conscious of time here. So beyond the introduction of a disability space or multiple disability spaces, one of which I believe is already in the works from the USU from previous years and a database for these discriminatory phrases and terms, we can’t really see any kind of decisive actionable policies on working to resolve these structural issues within the university beyond just, you know, listening to students and communicating with these at risk groups. So how do you propose to fix the issues that you’ve identified beyond working with and communicating with these groups?

EH: I think the biggest difference between steaming ahead and saying this is what’s wrong, this is how we’re going to fix it, is that it doesn’t necessarily make cultural change. And I think that’s the only way you can actually ensure the safety and wellbeing of effected groups, whether that’s the disabled community or whether that’s the queer community, whether that’s any community really. So it’s about looking outwards and then looking inwards to say: how can we do better knowing what they have said to us about their experience? So, yes, my policy doesn’t set for a direct line of action. It sets forward a way of saying: how can we investigate what we can do better? Because I think the people voting in this election are asking themselves not who could write the best policy that just looks shiny straight off the bat but who can write a policy which says that they are able to consistently work on the problems? And I think that makes a difference for a lot of students when they’re deciding how to vote.

HS: A couple more questions. Maybe also to wrap up because, once again, we are hitting that 40 minute mark. On top of the disability spaces, which you have talked about, you also mentioned the potential for a disabilities collective in your policy statement. There is a current SRC collective that is the disabilities collective. How would it operate differently under the USU? Or do you think there’s a need for specific disabilities collective under the USU?

EH: I think there is a need definitely under the USU because, while it is wonderful that there is a collective under the SRC, the USU and the SRC very deliberately handle things in different ways. While they can both see the problems that exist on campus, the route that they take to addressing them are drastically different. So having a collective associated with the USU gives them the space as well as the funding they need to actually ensure that they are able to continually represent themselves through the USU in a way that is most effective. Because if it’s just a matter of one disabled student, or a student with a disability, coming to the USU and saying this is my negative experience, what can you do? Of course you should take action. Without a doubt you should take action. But the question is; have they historically? Ensuring that students with disabilities have direct access to the USU through a collective which can heighten their voice is incredibly important. And just having that space as a community is also important because for people like myself, who experienced life with a disability, it can be an isolating experience. And the purpose of a collective isn’t purely the political representation that it brings. It also is a place of unity. It’s a place of shared identity, which is incredibly helpful when you’re going through negative experiences.

HS: So do you think the USU should have collectives for other identity groups or other groups as well? 

EH: I think we should. It’s not a matter of stepping on the toes of the SRC. It’s about learning what the SRC have done right. Because ultimately we serve different purposes but we serve the student body. It’s more of an ideological difference between the SRC and the USU, not one of purpose, because the purpose is always going to be to represent and serve and improve student life. So have the SRC made huge steps in improving life for disabled students and representing disabled students? They have. And we should learn from that as the USU. It’s not something where pride should get in the way, saying that’s the SRC and we’re the USU. It’s not something where we should say that because the USU did it there’s no need. There’s clearly a need. So long as there are students with disabilities feeling like they don’t have a place on campus, feeling like they aren’t represented in the way that they should be, then there needs to be more done. I think the USU has a responsibility to do more for disabled students just as much as they have a responsibility to do more for every discriminated group on campus.

HS: Do you think that’s going to cause a conflict though between maybe the goals of the different collectives or whether that’s going to actually hinder progress on campus if people are going to different sources?

EH: I don’t think it needs to cause a conflict. I think it’s also something where, if it is determined that a collective can’t be formed within the USU, how can we make sure that the SRC collectives are able to access the USU in an effective and incredibly accessible way? Because ultimately, if I were elected, I’m not the only one making this decision. But the question should also remain: how is it that students with disabilities are able to access the USU? If it’s determined that the best way that they can do that is actually forming a relationship with SRC collectives, then we should try that. We shouldn’t be afraid to endeavour in something that will improve student life. Ultimately anything we do to improve connectivity between students experiencing hardship and students who are experiencing isolation, we should be doing more to connect the USU board to them, however that looks like in the future.

HS: One final question to wrap up. We note that you’re coming into this election as you’ve already mentioned without a track record in student politics. Other candidates have been around for a bit. They’ve made their networks. Why should students entrust their vote in you if you have comparatively less experience than some of the other candidates?

EH: It’s definitely that I have a longstanding history with student politics. I have helped with campaigns, I have campaigned for different candidates in the past and I have even run for the SRC in the past on an interfaith ticket. Ultimately it’s not a question of this sudden decision or this sudden interest in student politics and the needs and wellbeing of other students. I know it’s something that’s always been there. This year I decided it’s a time in which it was appropriate for me to run but it is also a time where I’ve thought independent candidates have a huge shot at student union elections. But it’s not just about having the opportunity to run and successfully run. It’s about what independent candidates actually represent. Yes, I am a member of the Labor Party. But I’m running as an independent and the reason for that is that I want direct representation of students to the USU board. I don’t want to have to go through political parties. I understand there is a purpose to political parties. This isn’t to badmouth any candidate associated with a political party because I know that they are all there for the right reasons. I am just thinking in terms of my own ability to serve as an effective candidate. I believe there is a place for independents.

HS: Sorry, quickly, can you let us know which candidates you previously campaigned for?

EH: Yes, so I ran in 2018 on the Reboot for Interfaith ticket for the SRC. I campaigned for George Tamm in 2015 and I campaigned for the Vision for Interfaith ticket in 2017.

HS: Cool. A real broad spread of politics there.

EH: It was definitely about the issues at hand in each election and it was about the candidates as well. 

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