What began at 6:30pm as a predictably sentimental final meeting of the 92nd Students Representative Council (SRC) has ended in chaos after incumbent co-General Secretary, Abbey Shi, announced that she would be giving a charitable donation of $50,000 to the organisation.
This is especially surprising since, earlier in the meeting at around 7:30pm, a motion was moved by General Secretary Liam Thomas, who had been sharing the office with Shi in the past year, to publicly condemn her.
This first motion, which carried with 15 yes votes and 2 abstensions, demanded that the SRC censure Shi for her complete lack of engagement with her role and other councillors in Semester 2. Thomas claimed that he had sent her dozens of messages and emails without response. SRC President Liam Donohoe seconded the motion, claiming that Shi’s example was particularly egregious and that she was undeservedly taking student money. This is as SRC stipends come directly from their negotiated Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) amount.
Part of this motion included a demand that Shi refund the past 3 months of her stipend to the SRC, around $3000.
When originally asked for comment on this motion, Thomas told Honi: “It was especially disappointing that a large period of this coincided with me spending almost a month in hospital, during this time I asked her to take over Gen Sec duties and received no responses from her.”
Honi also reached out to Shi herself, who said: “My attendances and absences were all on record, and I take full responsibility.”
However, at 9:15pm, just as the meeting was about to conclude, Shi appeared in the Zoom call and moved a new motion which mirrored the original one moved by Thomas.
As she was speaking, she also noted that in apology for her absence and the censuration, she would be making a charitable donation of $50,000 to the SRC.
This caused an immediate eruption amongst other councillors in the Zoom meeting. At first, there was some disbelief over the amount, with Donohoe eventually confirming that it was “5 with four zeroes.”
Following this, Environment Officer Lily Campbell and Education Officer Jack Mansell (SAlt) raised questions over not only the legality of this sudden and unexpected donation, but also whether it was political in some way: “is there some deal that we don’t know about?”
Meanwhile, members from NLS and Grassroots were claiming that the situation was “not that complex”.
Thomas, who seconded Shi’s new motion, spoke in support of her, thanking her for her apology and “generous donation.” The motion finally passed with 16 yes votes and 2 dissents noted from Mansell and Grace Bowskill (SAlt).
When asked about the motivation behind her donation, Shi said: “This donation is in ode to the SRC councillors, office bearers, staff and Honi editors who are (and will be continuing to) fight the battle of the SRC’s funding cuts and university fee hikes.”
Further, when questioned on the source of the money, Shi told Honi: “It comes 100% from my own earnings. It’s the stock surge and CFD trades in times of the rebound of the NASDAQ, ASX and other Asian stock markets.”
When asked for additional comment, Thomas told Honi: “The apology and donation don’t undo the censure. She still failed to do her duties for 3 months and that remains disappointing.”
“Of course to some extent a desire to alleviate guilt would’ve motivated her donation, however, no student just donates $50,000 as a purely political stunt. She worked extremely hard earlier this year for international students especially during an incredibly challenging period.”
The meeting closed almost immediately after the vote was passed, though several councillors still wanted to remain and debate the implications of the donation. Secretary to Council Julia Robins told attendees to “take it to USyd Rants.”
Mansell, one of the most vocal dissidents to the situation throughout the night, said to Honi after the meeting had closed: “I am extremely concerned that in the space of one SRC council meeting, a student office bearer was censured by a large majority of the council, only to then have all political criticism dropped after she then offered to drop $50,000 to make the problem go away. “
“It’s extremely concerning that the “donation” of $50,000 was not even questioned by any faction other than Socialist Alternative, and discussion only heard after dissent from our members, despite the censure motion having been passed only hours earlier by almost the entire council. “
More to come.