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USU Board Meeting: Honourary Secretary resigns

Belinda Thomas was elected to fill the vacancy uncontested.

In the first in-person board meeting for some time, and the final board meeting for 2021’s Honi editors, the USU promised a lot for 2022. With assurances that Pulp was soon to be overhauled, big changes to the student union’s disabilities portfolio, and countless SSAF applications, the USU promised a lot, but delivered very few material details. 

Resignations

Honourary Secretary Vikki Qin, Assistant Board Secretary Oliver Harding, and one of the USU’s executive chefs are all stepping down from their roles. As Qin is no longer in the country, she resolved to resign from her position. Harding will be pursuing a role in the public service. The unknown executive chef’s plans are a mystery.

Board Director Belinda Thomas was elected to replace Qin uncontested. Thomas had been the only second-year director not to have previously received an executive position, but had been promised a new role since June’s original executive election.

Free sanitary products

Following an article from Honi Soit about the cost of sanitary products on campus, the USU resolved to implement free sanitary products on campus. As of yesterday, Mills reported that they were now available in the bathrooms of all USU facilities. 

Disability Portfolio update

Board Director Telita Goile reported on developments to the disability portfolio, citing meetings she and Wilkins-Wheat had with Andrew Shim who she claimed to be SULS Disabilities Officer; however Honi understands that the SULS board has not yet appointed someone to the inaugural position and Shim is just an active member of the society. 

Goile spoke to the importance of the USU choosing “the social model of disability over the medical model of disability” and creating a dedicated Disability Action Plan. Faculty societies have also been encouraged to establish autonomous disability officer roles on their executives.

Outlets

Outlets, as a whole, are currently making upwards of $10k each day, with Courtyard performing the best of all. This is part of a broader recovery for the USU’s finances and is largely due to ongoing graduation ceremonies.

USU Coffee Van update

The new three-wheeled USU coffee van is ready to roll. Having been “taken for a spin” in the Wentworth car park, it is now awaiting full registration. Van drivers will require a motorcycle licence (fortunately for master motorcycler Mills, who holds one).

In other transport news, the USUeats caravans have been roadtripping, plying their campus comestibles to the good people of the Central Coast and making “money,” though why or how much was not immediately clear.

Renovations

Common Room renovations have finally been completed after years of abandonment, with new flooring, a fresh lick of paint, and plans to install a piano in the new year.

“It’s gonna be a great space. I hope that it’s symbolic of a shift in the USU’s attitude towards performing arts societies after the questionable grants funding restructure earlier in the year and in the context of a broader, national attack on the arts,” said 2021 Sydney University Dramatic Society President Alice Stafford.

A few floors up, the director’s offices have been repainted and new carpets are to come — replacing the “disgusting” ones that are currently there. 

Mills also indicated that the USU might be able to help the SRC with its black mould problem and mused that he might reach out to incoming SRC Presdient Lauren Lacnaster. Too little too late, Andrew! He also noted a SSAF application had been lodged to refurbish the Reading Room in which the meeting was held, in response to questions regarding the room’s boarded up windows. According to Board Director David Wright, the windows are not waterproof and need replacing, yet the temporary solution has been in place for over eight years. Outgoing Assistant Board Secretary Harding also provided that the hapless windows were damaged by a falling tree, with the damage concealed by external faux-brick painting. But there’s nothing to fear — Mills has already submitted a SSAF application to authorise the repair as soon as possible. 

Conservative budget projected

The USU’s budget is $163k behind YTD projections, mostly due to the downturn in outlet revenue during the 2021 lockdown.

Finance director Rebecca Sahni outlined the student union’s budget for 2022, but was firm to note that nothing is finalised. The details of the budget will be explored further in the December budget board meeting. What we do know is that USU management, in this provisional budget outline, has “adopted a strategy of delivering a conservative budget to protect the cash and bottom line position.”

Transparency

Executive reports continue to not be published. A measure intended to enahnce USU board transparency, executive reports were not published in either 2020 or 2021. When questioned about this during the meeting, Wilkins-Wheat said that she would upload them in December. Honi first inquired about this issue in the April board meeting and was told by then President Irene Ma that it would be investigated.

College payment tardiness

An unknown college has continued to delay payment to the USU. It is unknown what the payment is for or why they are taking so long to pay, but Board Directors David Zhu and Nick Comino, both college residents, were very interested in the identity of the college.

Mandatory vaccination

The USU is drafting a mandatory vaccination policy. Further details will be available in the coming months.

Special C&S project fund

While it’s yet to be disclosed if and by how much C&S grants funding will be increased next year, the USU has submitted a SSAF application for a discretionary special C&S projects fund for 2022. Clubs and societies would be able to approach the USU with special project proposals, and the fund could be used to finance them. The application is yet to be approved, but if successful, this would be a welcome new source of funding for clubs and societies. 

If grants funding continues at its current level, many clubs are concerned that it might prove problematic — particularly for smaller clubs.

“USU funding is critical for small clubs, we’re not SASS, we’re not SULS. We depend heavily on funding to get off the ground,” said Ariana Haghighi, co-president of the Cartoon Caption Contest Club.

Hermes

The USU still has no news on Hermes, their legacy publication which was last published as a literary and creative journal in 2017. Ever since, it has been used as a catalogue for the USU’s creative awards.

“Time after time, year after year, the USU keeps promising that they’ll do something about Hermes. It’s time the oldest literary journal in Australasia got back on its feet,” said Shania O’Brien, current editor of Honi and past editor of SASS publications ARNA, 1978, and ZAMI.

Merchandise

New koala bear toys will be rolled out in USU merchandise outlets. The ‘sniff-a-bears’ will come in either lavender or eucalyptus scents.

Director of Debates

USU Director of Debates Sweeney Hughes submitted his end of year report and recommended that the USU pay him his semester 2 honorarium. We suspect a conflict of interest!

Basketball

Reflecting on their loss to Honi Soit in a recent basketball game, USU President Prudence Wilkins-Wheat issued a b-ball challenge to the 2022 SRC executive.

Misc notes

At the last board meeting of Honi’s term, an air of melancholy sat over the USU Board. Multiple disposable cups littered the tables of the reading room with the scent of coffee rich in the atmosphere. A variety of drinks sat in front of the board: Prudence favoured an iced tropical frappe, where Ruby and Irene were satisfied with classic iced coffees. Cole, an enigma, chose to sip on a cold brew. 

A shock to everyone in the room, Ben made a typo in the Honourary Treasurer’s report which he moved to immediately amend. David Wright is quite soft-spoken, and often responded to Mills’ pleas for him to speak louder by pausing and then continuing to speak at almost exactly the same volume. Wright had an endless amount of questions about the finance report, and found it in himself to speak over Sahni time and again. “Why?” Sahni demanded when Wright asked to speak about the report in private.