Letters: Week Twelve

 

Correction

Last week, we wrote that the USU had passed on “the personal details of members to the USUAF”. We have been informed that this is not true, rather, the USUAF sent the USU the email, which was then distributed on their behalf through the member mail. Honi Soit sincerely apologises for the mistake.

An Open Letter to the USU

A lot of words have been written about the attempted sacking of the Vice President of the University of Sydney Union (USU), Tom Raue, in the pages of this paper and on social media. It has alternately been described as a storm in a teacup and the death knell of democracy. It has dragged into the spotlight, both the USU’s opaque and obfuscated accountability mechanisms and, more damningly, its views towards rank-and-file students.

Though it may be plain that my sympathies lie with Tom, I believe the Vice President’s acquisition of an interlocutory injunction is no great win for union members. Nor is it a great blow against the Union. It is a functional victory, but not a substantial one. It will delay the probability that Tom will be terminated, but the Court cannot enact the necessary change required for the union’s members.

Leaving the election or dismissal of the Board’s executive in the hands of its directors circumvents the democratic process and allows a small cabal to allocate, for themselves, tens of thousands of dollars in executive salaries, often based on pre-ordained deals between individual directors and the support bases and campus factions that propped them up. The current electoral process also means the constituency cannot hold their directors to account. Once a director is elected to Board, for their two-year term, their loyalty is tied fundamentally to the Board as it is they, not the rank-and-file, who will ultimately be the arbiters of promotion and demotion.

One of several reasons why the attempted dismissal of Raue struck a chord was the absence of discussion between the Board and its members. A special meeting was called then delayed and then injuncted, all without so much as a straw poll of the members’ mood. A snap action Facebook event was set up in response. I will admit that it and its organisers cannot fundamentally speak for the entire 5,537 students that voted this year or the 4,873 that went to the polls in 2012.

As such, I propose two constitutional amendments to address both these issues, in accordance with s 16 of the University of Sydney Union’s Constitution.The first being that election for the executive is opened up to the public, concurrent to the election of new board directors in May. I hope this amendment would, at a bare minimum, encourage the current directors to either stick to their promises or propose realistic plans at the time of their election. It would also hopefully ensure that executive appointments are based on merit and their accomplishments in office (and their ability to communicate those successes to the public), rather than on any deals they make.

And second, that the constitution be amended to provide for a ratification mechanism by the Board’s membership in the event of a dismissal. Just as the constitution may be altered “by a two-thirds majority of Members at an Annual General Meeting” as per s 16.1(a)(i) of the Constitution, any special meeting to sack a Director should be accompanied by a members’ meeting where the rank-and-file are represented and can choose to validate or invalidate the Board’s decision, by way of a similar two-thirds majority.

I believe these suggested amendments are neither particularly unreasonable nor revolutionary. However, I do think they would hypothetically prevent Tom’s expulsion based on the current grassroots movement (pun very much intended) that aims to him retain his position. I don’t see why any current director would actively stand against a perestroika and glasnost of Union’s decision-making beyond self-interest.

As it stands, every year the election of new directors is in some part operates as a power-play by the current board to shore up the numbers for a presidential run; returning that power directly to the voters would hopefully encourage current directors to sell their successes in office instead of expounding upon and creating more impossible promises.

Justin Pen

Arts/Law III

Fuck yeah, porn

Dear Honi,

I took great interest in the feature article by Anonymous about staying home to watch porn I am one of the only people I know who openly speaks about enjoying pornography, I consider it perfectly normal and healthy. I’m sure many more of my friends indulge, but the stigma around it makes talking about it comfortably (and soberly) pretty difficult. Anonymous wrote about how she struggles to find porn interesting, but the struggle I (and a couple of friends) have is finding good porn. There’s an awful lot of shitty, demeaning and frankly un-arousing stuff out there.

I’ve wasted countless hours trying to find decent, stylised, female-friendly porn. Tumblr and Reddit are the standard options, Anonymous might find something a little more sensual and to her tastes there. Even with these, finding anything more than pictures and gifs can be difficult if you don’t want to pay. Tumblr has links to seem very well produced queer porn too, which is always enjoyable and empowering, a rare combination. I ask her not to shy away from her capitalist dream of making porn: do it! Make some good porn and link me, if you find Game of Thrones more arousing than a woman asking a man to ejaculate on her glasses, I trust your artistic judgement.

Anonymous

Arts IV

 

Happy birthday to me

Hi eds (and SUBW),

Just a teeny request – November 20 is my birthday; any chance of the gift of a free nude calendar? Heck, I’ll even make a donation to the Colong Foundation, just so I can brag about the best birthday present ever!

Keep up the good work, and don’t forget the sunscreen. A burnt tush is never chic.

Kind regards,

Georgia O’Brien

Arts/Law II

 

Is there life after uni?

The end of university is near. The end of semester, and for many, the end of our time forever within these fabled sandstone walls. Some expectations have been met, and others neglected by what many of us didn’t realise when we excitedly began is the multi-million dollar business of a university. But what use is whining about this? Let’s think of what’s next.

The chatter among those finishing of what’s planned for next year is loud. Very loud. It’s like a squawking bird that’s escaped its cage. University has trained this bird to squawk three words in particular: cadetship, internship, grad-job.

But what happens when we don’t think of what’s next? When we don’t listen to the squawking bird? Both my primary and high school (from years seven to ten) were ones where opening a book at lunchtime triggered taunts of “Nerd! Nerd! Nerd!” and it was cool to be apathetic in the classroom.

I’m thankful I wasn’t swallowed up by this, that I continued being enthusiastic about learning and that I eventually made it to university. Which is why I think it’s important to consider breaking free of the dominant culture at the university which squawks that success is a cadetship or a grad-job. Breaking free of this can bring many rewards, just as breaking free of the culture at my primary and high schools did for me.

This isn’t, of course, for everyone. But we should all at least consider this option of being free from lecturers and free from bosses. Free to be yourself. Don’t just let the squawking bird deafen you. It’s a lesson in the university of life that many, like me, missed from not taking a gap year after school. And I’m as excited for it as I was going into my first lecture all the way back in 2010.

Drew Rooke

Arts IV

A Very Long Letter from the Anti-Racism Collective

Office Bearer positions should be democratically elected by SRC Councillors and be open to contest by any student who fits the criteria. Having strong democratic links between Councillors and Office Bearers encourages broad discussion about what kind of Office Bearers and associated collectives are supported by the SRC. For example, during this year’s elections both Stand Up and Grassroots ran on pro-refugee platforms. This helped win a mandate for the SRC’s continuing support for the refugee campaign through the ARC and also played a small but important role in raising awareness about the issue on campus. This kind of wider politicisation is important to building strong movements on any issue. Formally giving any collective the special right to endorse Office Bearers is a step toward narrowing down that democratic process.

Challenging the Racism of the Government
We are standing a candidate for the position of Ethnic Affairs Office Bearer, because the Ethnic Affairs Department is the SRC’s department for fighting racism. We believe the SRC should vote to elect our candidate because of the political importance of the refugee campaign in the fight against racism.

The ARC has a long-track record of fighting racism, through campaigns against the NT Intervention and against the scapegoating and brutalisation of refugees and asylum seekers. We have based our activism on the political premise that racism is systemic. It is used by politicians, the state, elites and the media to justify the genocide and continued dispossession and assimilation of Aboriginal people. It is also used to scapegoat groups such as refugees, foreign workers etc., for socio-economic problems that have in fact been created by the government, such as cuts to public funding, and justify wars, recently in the case of Islamophobia. Racism can, and must, be fought – and to do this we need to actively campaign against the policies and institutions that create and entrench racism.
The ARC has made the democratic decision to focus on the refugee campaign because the Federal Government’s anti-refugee policies are the sharp edge of racism in Australia today. Policies our government implements, such as the reopening of offshore processing and now Operation Sovereign Borders, entrench and legitimise racism in our society. As Labor raced further and further to the right on refugees, culminating in the disgraceful PNG ‘solution’, reports of racist incidents increased nationwide as did physical attacks against refugees in the community. Confronting racism on campus is also important. We have organised to picket racists such as John Howard when he attended the Sydney Uni Liberal Club’s disgraceful debating cup and we have fought the attacks of right-wingers like Chad Sidler who tried to get rid of the acknowledgement of country from the O-week Handbook. In addition we have supported the campaigns to save the Refugee Language programme and the Koori Centre.
A United Fight
We need an open, democratic, unified collective to fight racism and overcome the divisions that oppression creates and we are standing a candidate for Ethnic Affairs to promote this strategy. The most successful campaigns against racism have been ones that have involved a united fight, where people from all backgrounds and identities worked together. Under Howard a refugee campaign built on this basis was able to successfully push back his divisive agenda. In 2001 the majority of people supported the cruel policy of “turning back the boats”. By 2004 this was a minority and by 2007 Rudd was elected with a pro-refugee mandate, marginalising anti-refugee policies and the racism they brought with them. As part of our campaigning we have had refugees from Afghanistan and Iran speak on campus, taken students to visit detainees in Villawood detention centre and worked hand in hand with people from diverse backgrounds to try and achieve justice and dignity for all. The EPOC is an autonomous collective, which means that only self-identifying people of colour can be involved. We recognise the right of oppressed people to resist racism by any means necessary, but we do not consider organising on this basis the most effective strategy for overcoming racism and division.

Defending the Integrity of the ARC
 The EPOC motion has also been accompanied by various forms of public misinformation about the ARC. Members of the EPOC, who it must be said do not necessarily speak for the collective as a whole, have misquoted ARC members, made untrue statements about the history of the collective and in some extreme cases even slandered the group. For example in the week 10 edition of Honi Soit a member of the EPOC made the claim that the ARC believes “racism affects white people in the same way it affects non-white people”. No such statement has ever been made by the ARC. The same article also makes the untrue claim that a Dutch born person was elected to Ethnic Affairs in 2011. When the EPOC motion itself was moved in the SRC Council Meeting the mover openly called the ARC a “racist group” simply because it is open to people of all backgrounds.  EPOC’s idea that “white culture” is the source of oppression has led some of them to see white anti-racists as the problem instead of racist politicians.  If we want a campus where students can come together to fight racism in all its forms, we cannot legitimise or vindicate this view. This is another reason that it is important that we stand for the position of Ethnic Affairs.
Honi Soit
Honi Soit is the largest and oldest weekly student newspaper in Australia. Our articles, like this one, are made possible by our dedicated student reporters and contributors.
Honi Soit

Latest posts by Honi Soit (see all)

Comments