Irene Ma (independent, formerly Advance) has been elected as the University of Sydney Union (USU) President for 2020-21. She will be joined on the Executive by Nick Forbutt (Vice President, NLS), Cady Brown (Honorary Treasurer, Moderate Liberals) and Benny Shen (Honorary Secretary, independent and formerly Panda affiliated).
Ma was nominated for the role by Forbutt, with the motion being seconded by Senate appointed director Marie Leech.
Ma promised her first priority would be a “smooth” response to the effects of COVID-19 on the Union, followed by an increase in transparency regarding the Board’s decisions. She also promised to fight for the “underrepresented” and “unprivileged” students at the University.
Benny Shen also contested the Presidency on a platform of equality and diversity.
Forbutt ran for Vice President unopposed on a progressive platform, and stressed the importance of the Union remaining independent.
Cady Brown was also elected unopposed on a platform of financial and institutional stability.
“The number one goal for the USU is to stay solvent”, said Brown.
Finally, Shen was elected unopposed as Honorary Secretary.
Today’s results are in line with last night’s Honi news on the allocation of positions and breakdown of votes, which allegedly saw the Senate-appointed directors wield their influence to shift the vote in Ma’s behaviour over the Shen-Forbutt student alliance.
Whilst Shen-Forbutt had the majority of student votes (six) to Ma-Brown’s five, the Senate directors (two) ultimately preferred Ma. Realising it was impossible to win, Forbutt joined Ma to be her Vice President late last night.
The Senate’s alleged intervention in this election marks a shift away from their more relaxed role in previous years, and hints at the University looking to play more of an active role within the student organisation.
Eve Wang (Panda), who was ‘locked out’ from the Executive elections, told Honi that a meeting she had with Brown and Ma last Friday to discuss her potentially joining the ticket turned hostile after Ma saw a message from Forbutt come through on Wang’s phone. Ma denied these allegations, though Honi heard the allegations from four separate sources.
In addition to the Executive, Ben Hines (Liberal) and Vikki Qin (Independent) were elected unopposed as Directors of Student Publications.
Nick Rigby (Moderate Liberal) was elected unopposed as Deputy Chair of the Finance Committee.
Prudence Wilkins-Wheat (Switchroots) and Ben Hines (Liberal) both ran for the Human Resources and Remuneration committee, with Hines ultimately winning out. The committee is arguably the most powerful within the organisation, as outlined by Honi recently.
Wilkins-Wheat spoke to her experience both on the SRC Executive and as a Law student, whilst Hines argued against the politicisation of the position.
Prudence Wilkins-Wheat was then elected unopposed to the Electoral Committee.
Belinda Thomas (Unity) was elected unopposed to the Awards Committee.
Ruby Lotz (NLS) and Belinda Thomas contested the Deputy Chair of the Clubs and Societies Committee, with Lotz winning out.
Lotz and Thomas also contested the women’s portfolio, with Thomas ultimately receiving the position.
With no queer-identifying first year candidates, Forbutt was re-elected as Queer portfolio holder, as he is the only Executive director who fulfills the requirements.
Wilkins-Wheat was elected unopposed as the Environment portfolio holder, an issue she campaigned heavily on during her election.
The Ethnocultural portfolio was contested by current portfolio holder, Wang and Thomas, with Wang winning the position.
Vikki Qin was elected unopposed as the International Student portfolio holder.
No nominations were received for the disability portfolio, and no Executive directors filled the requirement.
The Executive election comes during a tumultuous time for the Union. This semester has seen the cessation of day trade at Manning Bar, widespread staff lay-offs, a 40 per cent wage cut across the organisation, and the resignation of Alexis Roitman as CEO, along with increasing concerns over the USU’s transparency in decision making processes.
Ma and the rest of the Executive will have to reckon with an organisation in a particularly precarious financial position due to COVID-19, with a potential University takeover of the student organisation not out of the question.