USU Board Candidate Profile 2023: Ben Hines

Honi’s profile and interview with 2023 (and formerly, 2020) USU Board candidate Ben Hines.

Slogan: Bring Ben Back

Colour: Gold

Quiz Score: 76%

Faction: Independent 

Favourite USU Outlet: Abercrombie Cafe (for the ginger fish).

Ben Hines is running again.

Hines, first elected to the USU Board in 2020, served as Honorary Treasurer of the USU in 2021 after an ill-fated bid for President. By running again, Hines is setting himself apart from other Board candidates in recent memory.  

Hines said he is seeking a second term because “the challenges facing campus and students in 2023 are immense.” He cites the cost of living and return of students to campus after years of COVID, saying “the USU has immense capacity to benefit these students… It needs to be done immediately. It needs to do so effectively.” 

Ben Hines describes his politics as “progressive”, something — given his previous membership of the Liberal Party — he admits is surprising. He cited examples of implementing progressive policies in his roles as USU Treasurer and SULS President including implementing an Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) investment review at the USU and focussing on accessibility at the Sydney University Law Society, of which he was President in 2022. 

Hines has policies centered on introducing equity schemes to the USU, “facilitating centralised sexual harassment reporting,” creating a USU Jobs Board, disability advocacy, increasing funding and reducing bureaucracy for clubs and societies, and a litany of others (including for international students, and “bringing campus culture back”).

This led to the appearance of a policy document which was slight on detail. Hines, in perfect politician style, said “over the next two weeks it is my hope to explain those to people.”

In his interview, Hines was able to give detail to many of his policies. Importantly, Hines showed detailed knowledge of the mechanisms required to implement these policies. This included the ways the USU could exert influence over the University (by renegotiating the Affiliation Agreement between the two), and how Board Directors could implement their policies in the day-to-day management of the USU (passing more specific motions to bind USU management’s course of action). The most interesting, and ambitious, of these was to change the USU Board’s culture to see itself as having a greater responsibility for the USU’s day-to-day operations, rather than deferring to management as “the adults in the room”.

However, the drawbacks to Hines as a candidate are well-known. He has long straddled the line between “independent” and “libdependent”, and the sheer fact that he is running for Board again reinforces the institution’s insularity. His answer regarding his rumoured desire to run for the USU Presidency in his first-year on Board (“I haven’t made a decision as to what my intentions are”) was markedly non-committal. Hines was also not clear on when he, in his sixth year of a law degree, already with a graduation yearbook profile, was graduating (“I can’t commit with certainty to exactly what that would look like… I could be here for two more years if things go, you know, badly in my life, for example.”)

While Hines had responses to all those concerns in his interview (the adequacy of which students can judge for themselves), they do go to the essential choice facing students: should they elect an experienced and competent candidate, even though he is evasive and evidently enthused by the prospect of holding positions of power across the University? Is electing Hines for a second Board term, then, worth it?