Another month has passed and once again I find myself sitting in a meeting of the University of Sydney SRC. Only this time, I’m forced to attend via Zoom, because if there’s one thing worse than driving through floodwater, it’s driving through floodwater to spectate stupol screaming matches.
Unsurprisingly for a holiday meeting, quorum lapsed around two hours in, meaning the meeting revolved mostly around the administrative first half of the agenda, which included Office Bearer reports and a suite of changes to the SRC’s Regulations.
The most notable part of the meeting was the passage of a wide-ranging set of reforms to the SRC Regulations. The changes have been in the works for a while, with the tortuous and inaccessible Regulations having vexed SRC campaign managers and Electoral Officers for years.
“[The changes] are essentially aimed to make a not very transparent and therefore sometimes undemocratic document more accessible,” President Lauren Lancaster said.
The changes include a variety of simplifications to the document’s language, as well as larger reforms. Several OB portfolios have been renamed or amalgamated: the Sexual Harassment Officer has been renamed the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Officer, the Indigenous Officer has been renamed the First Nations Officer, and the Student Housing and Residential Colleges positions have been combined to create a Student Accommodation Officer.
The Regulations also require that SRC polling days do not overlap with staff strikes.
The most significant and controversial change was a move to codify ‘collective autonomy’ in the Regulations. This would stop the SRC ignoring (a.k.a ‘rolling’) the preselections of SRC Collectives for their respective Office Bearer positions. This occured in 2019 when the Right-dominated Council did not elect the preselected Women’s Collective Convenors as SRC Women’s Officers.
This codification would work by requiring that any nominee for Environment, Ethnocultural, Disabilities, First Nations, International Students, Women’s, or Queer Officer would have to be an active member of the relevant Collective. ‘Active’ being defined as having attended at least two meetings of that Collective in that academic year. It would also require that Collectives’ preselected nominees must be accepted to the exclusion of all other nominees.
Lancaster, along with Education Officer Lia Perkins, both members of Switchroots, framed the changes as an attempt to protect the Collectives “from attacks from Liberals.”
However, Socialist Alternative opposed enshrining collective autonomy for the Environment Collective, with Yasmine Johnson telling the Council, “I don’t think this protects anything from the Right — if the Right wins Council, they control Collective funding.”
NLS joined in on the dissent, with Vice President Mikaela Pappou claiming that the move would “trivialise what autonomous organising is”.
Lancaster replied that the two meeting requirement was not onerous, saying “The bar is nearly on the floor, asking people to come to two Enviro meetings.”
But NLS maintained that was two meetings too many, with Pappou explaining (to some ambient yelling) that she doesn’t attend Enviro meetings because “you guys just argue about dumb stuff.”
Rose Donnelly, also from Labor Left, joined in, arguing that “environmentalism shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
SAlt’s Owen Marsden-Readford suggested the move merely attempted to cement Grassroots’ power, asking why the changes don’t apply to the majority-SAlt Education Action Group. “Bureaucracy is not how you defend yourself from the Right,” he said.
Ultimately SAlt’s amendment to remove the Environment Collective from the provision passed, meaning the rest of the changes to the Regulations passed uneventfully.
SRC elections to occur largely in person
Electoral Officer and friend-of-the-Paper Riki Scanlan appeared in the Zoom to deliver their report.
“The elections are going to be happening… primarily on campus with an online absentee voter component,” Scanlan said, in some great news for those of us who miss the delights of bona fide in-person campaigning.
They explained that those who want to vote online will need to register, and announced polling would occur on 20-22 September. In a change that will relieve faction headkickers, each ticket will be able to nominate in a bulk nomination rather than having to submit candidate-by-candidate registration forms.
Newly-elected USU Board Director Alexander Poirier, ever the voice of the Conservatorium of Music, asked Scanlan whether satellite campuses would be given voting booths. The Con, CPC and Susan Wakil will all receive voting booths for one day of voting — giving these lucky campuses their very own slice of Eastern Avenue.
Other administrative highlights
Office Bearers plugged the upcoming NUS EdCon, which will be occurring next week and is being hosted at USyd. EdCon is the National Union of Students’ annual Education Conference, involving three days of workshops and plenaries for the nation’s student activists, with this year’s theme focusing on ‘Radical Education: the Revival of Student Unionism’.
The General Secretaries, Alana Ramshaw and Grace Lagan, also announced that Rad Ed events would be occurring biweekly throughout Semester Two. Women’s Officer Dashie Prasad noted that WoCo would be once again running Radical Sex and Consent Week, with SBS potentially incorporating it into a documentary about consent.
The Vice Presidents’ report noted that FoodHub will be revived in the upcoming semester, with a volunteer sheet being circulated imminently.
Alexander Poirier asked whether satellite campuses would be included in the FoodHub initiative, with Mikaela Pappou replying that it is “logistically difficult” at this stage.
Finally, in some very exciting news, the SRC has found some cash to increase Honi Editor’s stipends, delivering a long-desired pay raise from the gruelling $3 per hour “enjoyed” by Editors in previous years. Catch me filling my car all the way up — now that’s luxury!
Opposition to the UTS Student Partnership Agreement
A motion proposed by Socialist Alternative condemned the negotiation of an accord with UTS management by the UTS Student Association. A speaker from UTS argued that the SPA wasn’t a “misstep” from Labor student politicians at UTS, but “a part of their strategy”, which has seen a number of altercations with activists over the past two years.
Women’s Officer Dashie Prasad, a former UTS student, said that the practice of making deals with management was ineffective: “These deals do nothing – they’ve never given us anything and they never will.”
“It makes you guys [NLS] look like a pissweak, right-wing faction,” they added.
Various Labor members attempted to defend the move, accompanied by vociferous yelling that was thankfully (?) rendered inaudible by Zoom.
“It’s called union organising… which means you have to sit down with management… we fucking hate the bosses… there’s a bit of realism with this, guys, student unions sometimes need to sit down with the adults at the table,” said one.
“It’s abundantly clear to me that there’s nominal unionists in this room, who know nothing about unionism,” another insisted, arguing that deals with management had “achieved material results” in the past.
Education Officer Deaglan Godwin (SAlt) described the previous speakers as “pretty delusional.”
“You are responsible for the pitiful state of trade union density,” Godwin yelled, an argument which Unity’s Grace Lagan labelled “pretty ludicrous”.
Despite the furore of name-calling in the room, the motion passed.
Opposing the extradition of Julian Assange to the USA
The last motion of Council was proposed by NLS’ Gerard Buttigieg and called for the Australian Government to stop the extradition of Julian Assange to the USA. “It’s really important for freedom of press in our society,” Buttigieg argued.
SAlt speakers supported the motion, with Akee Elliott describing Assange as “a hero” for exposing war crimes. “It’s not enough to be lobbying the Labor Party… they’re absolutely tied to this war machine,” they added.
The motion passed unanimously before quorum lapsed, leaving the rest of the agenda to be completed at the next meeting.
I can only hope I won’t be meteorologically thwarted from appreciating the true Council decibel level next month!