Degree and year: Arts/Advanced Studies III
Faction: National Labor Students (NLS, Labor Left)
Quiz score: 43%
You can read the full transcript of Donnelly’s interview here.
Ambitious and approachable, Rose Donnelly is running on a broad policy platform, yet she displays glaring gaps in knowledge required to be President. Her role as the current SRC Vice President and one of the primary organisers of USyd’s NLS (Labor Left), Donnelly wants to expand the SRC’s outreach and make student politics “radical chic” with her work.
A committed member of the Labor Party, Donnelly said she used to call herself “radically left-wing” but that had to change ever since she joined Labor. She holds progressive beliefs and thinks that “both activism from the outside and then working from within” is integral and something she wants to do in her role as President.
Her main activist focus this year has been building the USyd Students Vote Yes campaign for the upcoming referendum. NLS has been building on campus for a collective Yes vote, collaborating with First Nations activists on campus, and holding events like barbecues for better community engagement. In her statement, and one of her three main policies, Donnelly’s main activist cause as President would be to extend the Yes campaign to a larger Treaty campaign. However, she is largely lacklustre in supporting left-wing causes, mainly supporting existing movements (though Donnelly and NLS are pushing for a SRC Legalise It campaign to legalise weed in NSW). Donnelly has been active with FoodHub and organising volunteers to create better food accessibility for students and this is an initiative she wishes to continue if she gets in power.
As for hands-on activist experience, Donnelly has not been engaged in any other political movements on campus. When asked about her engagement with the NTEU, Donnelly said she doesn’t have a lot of “personal experience” with the strikes and did not lay down particular visions for ensuring that students remain engaged in the fight for better education action. In response to being asked about her lack of experience in convening a collective, Donnelly said it wasn’t necessarily an issue, and that her experience as VP, and as NLS’ headkicker was enough.
Though Donnelly’s position as VP has more institutional weight than Brennan’s as Welfare Officer, Donnelly failed the Honi quiz, scoring 43% — decidedly lower than Brennan’s 66%. Donnelly showed worrying gaps in knowledge, claiming that HECS had been indexed by 4.6% this year (it was 7.1%), and incorrectly naming the minimum wage as $11.50 (it is $23.23). Though she did display sound knowledge of the SRC — such as paid OB positions and naming caseworkers — there were many concerning omissions regarding more specific knowledge about the University.
This included naming just one of the five external members of the University Senate, and failing to name the Deputy Vice Chancellors for Education, Research, or Indigenous Strategy and Services. This indicates either a lack of preparation in running for what is a full-time paid role, or an insufficient engagement with University happenings. Donnelly stumbled in her explanation of Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) — rudimentary knowledge for any student politician — only displaying a basic comprehension of the concept. She also gave an incorrect response when asked about Education Focussed Roles (EFRs), which were a focus of the NTEU strike campaign earlier this year.
When pressed on the SRC’s radical mandate, Donnelly articulated: “I think that one of the most radical acts you can do is to basically bring people into radical spaces,” a position which summarises Donnelly’s approach, and Revive’s platform more broadly. When asked about the past four years of Grassroots’ presidency, Donnelly was critical of what she views as a “dwindling” union “in terms of people who are actually involved.”
This characterisation of activism as alienating is quite a common angle for Labor candidates, but it isn’t clear that Donnelly’s policies would be effective in bridging the gap between the larger student body and activist causes. Though broader outreach is a desirable goal, Donnelly’s policies don’t seem to translate outreach into political engagement. Her approach is directly opposed to Brennan’s largely activist-focused platform, as is standard for Grassroots presidential campaigns.
A significant policy, as part of Revive’s cultural shift ethos, is the introduction of “Radical Chic Week”. Donnelly said the term “radical-chic” is the brainchild of her and her sister, which is their proposed stylisation of the SRC and activism more broadly “to bring some irony to the fact that a lot of people who are working around the SRC are really well-off and tend to grandstand on issues that don’t necessarily affect them.”
It is also an aesthetic vision — a supposed rebrand for activism. Donnelly proposed a “fun style” that brings in more “fashionable” elements. She criticised “the black and red sensationalised protests that are currently going on at the moment. It’s scaring the students.” When pressed upon the radical history of black and red brandings, including the land rights flag, Donnelly said, “I think that the Aboriginal flag is beautiful, and I think that the Aboriginal flag is 100% radical chic.” This largely aesthetic approach to First Nations matters is reflected in Donnelly’s policy on NAIDOC Week — consisting of gigs on campus, an Indigenous art competition, and a radical walking tour.
Donnelly said that Radical Chic Week would replace the SRC’s annual Radical Education Week. This year, there was tension between Grassroots and NLS over the vision for Rad Ed Week. In the interview, Donnelly called this year’s iteration “a failure, and it has failed to reach students,” saying they are not well attended enough to continue.
It is worth noting that Donnelly and her faction did not attend any of the Rad Ed Week events, other than the two run by her faction. When questioned on her faction’s lack of engagement with Rad Ed Week, Donnelly said, “I don’t think it’s necessarily the role of SRC Office Bearers to be stacking out events. I think our role is to invite students in and put on events that students want to go to.”
Donnelly boasts a suite of policies around student health, including accessible HIV testing, pill testing, and period products at the SRC. These policies are inherently valuable, though Donnelly’s proposal to include “free nail clippers in USyd bathrooms” is curious. When asked for more detail on this policy point — particularly the cost and hygiene concerns — Donnelly claimed “I think the cost would be low,” though offered no justification for this, and that “we’d be able to put alcohol wipes on the side… just a tiny wipe. I don’t think it’s too unhygienic.”
She proposes a total overhaul including a rave in the Graffiti Tunnel, an Honi Soit archival exhibition, and “restoring fashion at the SRC”. Her mechanisms for bringing students into activism are haphazard, and often surface-level. When asked about the educational trade-off regarding Rad Ed, Donnelly said, “We can celebrate with music from Palestine. I think it needs to be more of a holistic education. So yeah, the rave in the Graffiti Tunnel, who knows what music is playing?” She argued that, by attracting 50 students to a rave in the Graffiti Tunnel, you could hand out pamphlets and have discussions.
The efficacy of these methods are questionable, and would require considerable logistical efforts over direct activism. There are similar concerns surrounding her proposed badminton competition for international students, which the campus Left heavily criticised at the most recent Council meeting. However, Donnelly maintained the vitality of this approach, “You cannot build a movement without incorporating that social side and making sure that everyone’s included.”
Though a Donnelly presidency could bring a new look to the SRC, it appears to be a coke-in-the-bubblers campaign. Under Donnelly, it seems that there would be less direct activism, more social mingling, and fortnightly sausage sizzles.
Online campaigning will commence on Wednesday 6 September, and in-person campaigning will begin on Monday 11 September. Voting will run from 19 – 21 September with in-person ballots and the option of absentee ballots.