Student politics – affectionately known as stupol – is one of the most controversial and entertaining elements of life at USyd. Twice a year (at least), every year, campaigns kick into action and Eastern Avenue is festooned with corflutes, brightly-coloured t-shirts, increasingly maniacal student politicians and their questionably enthusiastic campaigners. Not only that, but university management is always behind the scenes – rubbing their hands together with evil glee, we assume. There’s always something cooked and comical going on, but it can be hard for an ordinary student to decipher. We’ve decoded the stupol game so you can find out what’s going on!
USyd: The Board
The whole game takes place in a tangled web of organisations, hierarchies and humble observers (like Honi). Roll a dice and see where you end up!
The cast of players at USyd is an expansive one – follow our gossip column, Sex and the City Rd, for weekly updates – but here are the players who are really at the centre of power:
Hutchinson has been the University of Sydney Chancellor since 2013. In addition to heading the University, she’s also the Chair of Thales Australia, the Australian arm of the French weapons country. Thales, interestingly enough, has underpaid workers and signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on research with USyd. She was also an executive on right-wing think tank, the Centre for Independent studies. Hutchinson’s husband is a climate change denier and major Liberal party donor. Cool.
Mark Scott recently ascended to Vice-Chancellorship after Michael Spence, our previous overlord, jetted off to University College London. He copped criticism for being a non-academic – unusual when you’re leading a university – and totally flubbed this interview with Pulp. He was previously the Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, Managing Director of the ABC, and worked as Chief of Staff for the Education Minister under Greiner’s Liberal NSW Government.
Annamarie Jagose is USyd’s Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, but was previously the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Last year, she sent out this truly hilarious analysis of students’ chants against her cuts to Arts, declaring: “You don’t have to be much of a queer theory maven to understand the complexities of the interpellative moment that hails into being what it purports only to recognise.” Sure, Annamarie. She had a similarly comical response to students’ accusations that she is a girlboss feminist. We’re not kidding about Jagose putting her dog on anti-anxiety meds… you can read the full academic account of it here.
Prudence Wilkins-Wheat is the President of the USU, which means she heads the USU Board, which runs the organisation. Prudence ran for the Board in 2020, getting elected in a landslide, with over 1000 votes. She ascended to Presidency after protracted negotiations in last year’s Board Executive elections. She’s aligned with Left factions Switch and Grassroots, although Grassroots has for years faced internal turmoil about running for the USU, as some consider it overly corporate.
Lauren Lancaster is the SRC’s third consecutive Switchroots-aligned president, and the fourth in five years. Beating Unity (Labor Right) candidate Matthew Carter in a relatively tight election, she is now responsible for running the multi-million dollar organisation. She was previously Convenor of the SRC Environment Collective – historically, a politically fertile role, with Prudence running the Collective in 2o20.
Gabi Stricker-Phelps & Lachlan Finch
Gabi Stricker-Phelps and Lachlan Finch ran jointly – which is unusual – for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Fellow positions on the University’s highest – and rather secretive – governing body, the Senate. Stricker-Phelps’ visits to SRC meetings (in which a regular report is on the agenda) are infrequent at best, and at the last meeting she appeared, hours late, only to argue against an SRC motion supporting the Sydney Festival Boycott. Stricker-Phelps was, despite objections from the Women’s Collective, the SRC Women’s Office in 2019, while Finch was the USU’s Vice-President in 2020.
The game can be brutal, and there’s a variety of strategies employed to discredit and attack one’s opponents. Beware!