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Final SRC meeting sees reflections, solidarity and the politics of love

Following discussions over a number of sombre motions and a round of silent ball, the final SRC meeting of 2022 wrapped up with plenty of reflection, camaraderie and reminiscence.

This week, USyd’s rogue gallery of Stupol hacks once again descended into the depths of New Law for the last meeting of the 94th Council.

Justice for Cassius Turvey

Lancaster moved a motion of solidarity with the family and supporters of Cassius Turvey – of the Yamatji and Noongar communities – who last month was killed on his way home from school in an act of racially-motivated violence.

“We condemn this senseless act of violence against a mere child, and abhor the colonial state that infiltrates Australian communities perpetuating the injustice, violence against and death of First Nations’ people that we see occur far too often,” said Lancaster.

Recently gaining wider media attention, the murder of Cassius Turvey was last week labelled by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as “racially motivated”. Vigils have been held across Australia, including one on Gadigal Land (St. Andrew’s Square, Sydney) last night.

Lancaster echoed the words of Aunty Lizzie Jarrett, who spoke at last night’s Sydney vigil, stating “a Blak child cannot be in the wrong place at the wrong time on their own land”.

Incoming SRC President Lia Perkins spoke on “the need to end racism in… so-called Australia” and extended her condolences to all First Nations’ people grieving the death of Cassius Turvey.

Deaglan Godwin (SAlt) extended his condolences to the Turvey family. He used his platform to mention the ongoing inquiry into the 2019 murder of Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker by Constable Zachary Rolfe, and the subsequent covering up of Rolfe’s damning text messages by NT Police.

Conversations abruptly shifted from the murder of Cassius Turvey as Godwin also spoke on the “witch hunt” facing senator Lidia Thorpe, who recently stood down from her role as deputy Greens leader in the Senate after revelations of a relationship with ex-Rebels president Dean Martin.

Incoming Disabilities Officer Jack Scanlan (NLS) digressed with mentions of over-policing in regional Indigenous communities and systemic discrimination against First Nations peoples.

General Secretary Grace Lagan (Unity) presented a case study of juvenile detention reform in Hawaii: “Another world is possible” 

Returning to the core of the motion, Lancaster and Perkins outlined a commitment to support “any future rallies, vigils or actions called by the Turvey family and their supporters” and pledging on behalf of all SRC councillors and office-bearers to “endeavour to attend these actions”.

The Motion passed and carried.

Proposal to name the OB room after Ish Varlin 

Outgoing Women’s Officer Dashie Prasad (Grassroots) moved a motion calling for the Office Bearer room to be renamed after Ish Varlin, a long-time activist across numerous SRC collectives in his life, having passed away two months ago in September. 

Alev Saracoglu (SLA), in an emotional address to the room, paid tribute to, calling Varlin “one of my best friends on campus” and “a sorely missed comrade”.

Lancaster provided full backing for the motion, imploring the council to support the motion in recognition of Varlin’s radicalism. 

Returning Officer Riki Scanlan joined in the dedication, noting that Varlin would characteristically “oppose this motion”, noting Varlin’s friendship and kind nature. 

Facing no opposition, the motion carried and thus, the OB room will be known as the Ish Varlin room. 

Mould seizing control of the Women’s room 

Also moved by an absent Prasad, the council heard a motion – spoken to by Perkins – outlining issues with the Women’s room in the SRC office, particularly the presence of mould.. The motion also noted that the room is “essentially used as storage”. It is also worth noting the unstable ceiling which looms over the Women’s Office following torrential rains throughout the past year. 

In light of this, the motion asks that the office be converted into storage space until the issues are rectified. GenSec Alana Ramshaw (Grassroots) spoke to the motion.

“I will keep this short, while I am a feminist, there are some things that women do not need,” Ramshaw declared. “I spent a lot of time in that room last year and I say: good fucking riddance!”

Student accommodation in crisis 

A motion on the growing crisis within student accommodation was brought by Perkins, highlighting issues of skyrocketing rent, attacks on public housing, mass-privatisation, and safety concerns within student housing.

“This poses a challenge for [international] students” she states, emphasising the importance of pressuring university management for caps on rent increases.

Citing the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA)’s recent announcement that universities will be required to offer all courses entirely on-campus from 2023, Perkins proposed action from the SRC in organising “a campaign around student accommodation”.

“All in all, the housing crisis is fucked, and this will disproportionately (…) affect returning international students” said Anderson. Anderson shared anecdotes of friends who have faced outrageous rent increases and no-grounds evictions.

Maddie Clark (SAlt) spoke in support of the motion, citing concerns relating to the cost of living crisis and stagnating wages.

 “We are seeing the cost of food and rent going up 10 per cent,” she said, criticising the Labor government for not implementing sufficient support to address increasing inflation and cost of living. 

Similarly, SRC Queer Officer Yaz Andrews reflected on personal experiences living in student accommodation and spoke on the rampant culture of sexual harrassment. Andrews implored management to think deeply and critically about the way they support student housing.

Facing no opposition, the motion carried without a hitch. 

Wrangling over strike strategy

Coming back to significant strike action throughout 2022, James Sheriff (SLA) asked the SRC to continue building a mass movement to support staff and the NTEU as enterprise bargaining continues with USyd management.

“The number of students who have been coming out has been decreasing despite valiant efforts of students to do zoom picketing,” Sheriff said. “Students need to support staff whenever they can. We should be developing our own demands across specific faculties such as the Department of Education and Social Work that I am.”

Naturally, wading into the debate, Education Officer Deaglan Godwin (SAlt) dissented to Sheriff’s speech, reflecting the divide between the two factions.

“The motion is slightly grandiose. I don’t believe grandiosity helps student activism.

“I think we have to understand the real problems which has been a drawn out campaign, which has tired both staff and students and refused at key points to escalate into longer strikes of greater duration and frequency.” 

Clark soon proposed an amendment to Sheriff’s action points, proposing a “more sensible” strategy and calling for a large student meeting in mid-Semester 1 2023 to vote for a student contingent to the closest NTEU strike action. 

“The amendment, I vote against because I think broadly that I disagree with the approach of weakening the strategy,” Sherriff said, referring to his original motion.

“After two years of trying to build support for these strikes, we do need to think about how we can make our campaign more clear, more specific, more targeted and tactical.”

Godwin soon intervened, comparing Sherriff’s strategy to “building castles in the sky”. He then accused Sherriff and Saracoglu (and Solidarity more broadly) of not sufficiently contributing to education organising within the EAG, which coalesced into a heated exchange between the two factions.

Despite SAlt’s efforts, the amendment was defeated by an overwhelming margin. The original motion carried.

The next round of strike actions will be taken in Week 3, Semester 1 2023. 

Silent ball

Contributing a much-needed dose of levity to an otherwise intense and emotionally-charged last meeting, a motion from Martin O’Flynn (the Con) proposed an impromptu undertaking of the classic primary school game ‘silent ball’, taking the concept of schoolyard politics quite literally. Outlining a comprehensive list of rules – notably ‘no dog shots’, ‘throw as hard as you can’, and perhaps most importantly ‘no factional allegiances’ – O’Flynn and seconder Jasmine Donnelly declared “may the best baller win”.

Donnelly lobbied the council to support a 5-minute break to engage in a small degree of shenanigans. Also among their list of demands was the enshrinement of silent ball as a permanent staple of future last SRC meetings.

Scanlan spoke in support of the motion, intelligently asserting “ball forever”.

“We need more handball in the SRC,” he stated. 

To outcry from the crowd, Scanlan, in a light-hearted joke, issued criticism of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

“Kevin Rudd was 15 years ago!” Scanlan declared. “This motion is not about Kevin Rudd. Fuck Kevin Rudd!”

This controversial statement was immediately rescinded following raucous dissent from the council, including from his own factional bench, lined with soft drinks and snacks of a dizzying variety. 

An intense game of silent ball ensued. Honi observed some egregious violations of what was supposedly a ‘silent’ affair, with a number of rule-breaking councillors disqualified by Returning Officer Riki Scanlan. It seems, for all their political savvy, adherence to O’Flynn’s fairly rudimentary rules proved more difficult than the SRC’s notoriously complex regulations.

Ultimately, victory was claimed by Bella Anderssen.

President’s Report

Reminiscing on her term as President, Lancaster reflected on the achievements and aspirations that she set out to fulfil at the beginning of the year. 

She also urged the Council to continue to stand in solidarity with the NTEU as they continue in the enterprise bargaining process with the University. Following this, Lancaster reflected on what was a tumultuous but ultimately, rewarding year within student politics. 

“Being a part of this Council and to lead this council, it has been a real honour. I saw that we were building collective power. We can connect and make some changes for the good.”

Paying her thanks to other members of the executives and OBs, naming Grace Lagan, Alana Ramshaw, Dashie Prasad and a number of other office-holders, she implored Councillors to revel in what they have done for the student community. 

General Secretaries

Alana Ramshaw and Grace Lagan gave what was an emotional report on their term. Ramshaw, in a return to the Rad Ed session she and Lagan gave on the politics of love earlier this semester, issued an emotional thanks to her colleague and fellow OBs and hacks for the journey. A sense of camaraderie palpable in Ramshaw’s words, she gave a warm shout out to incoming General Secretaries Tiger Perkins (Grassroots) and Jasmine Donnelly (NLS). 

Similarly, Lagan paid tribute to her factional colleagues in Student Unity and Ramshaw, with the latter crowned the “most competent” person that she worked with. 

“She is the best person I could and perhaps will ever work with,” Lagan said. 

Vice President’s Report

SRC Vice President Emily Storey gave an update on what has become the Vice President’s portfolio’s biggest project, Foodhub, which serviced more than 1900 students by the end of the year. “You guys are fucking amazing” said Storey, shouting out councillors who had volunteered time to coordinate Foodhub.

***

And with that, the 94th SRC’s final Council meeting was over. The next year, punctuated by landmarks such as upcoming student-staff strike actions, NSW State Election and the Disability Royal Commission, will certainly be one to look forward to. It will take, as many other Office-bearers noted, concerted effort and political will, to continue fostering the SRC’s activism.