Culture //

Campus dictionary

The who, what and why of campus groups you need to learn to love or hate (but probably hate). Illustrations by Madeleine Pfull.

Photo by @jowoseph.
Photo by @jowoseph.
Photo by @jowoseph.

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU)

The NTEU is the trade union representing professional, academic and research staff in tertiary education on a national basis. The Sydney University branch recently fought over a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. See: ‘2013 Strikes’.

Students’ Representative Council (SRC)

The SRC provides a free legal service and second-hand book shop, as well as academic, Centrelink and tenancy advice. If you have a knack for talking student politics over beers from Hermanns, the dingy SRC dungeons (located at the bottom of the Wentworth Building) are bound to be your new home. 33 students are elected as councilors every year, but beware: if you’re not prepared to lie, swindle, and even possibly commit actual crimes to usurp your contemporaries, you won’t last long.

SRC Election

This election is held in September and is notoriously longer, uglier and more invasive than the one in May. There’s actually four elections on at the same time: SRC President, SRC councilors, Honi Soit editors, and student delegates to the National Union of Students’ National Conference.


Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA)

SUPRA provides advice, advocacy and support to our white-haired, wrinkled and wise postgraduate peers. OK, we’re kidding, the average age of their executive is like 25.  We haven’t heard much from SUPRA since their President suspiciously resigned last year. We wish him all the best in the Cayman Islands.


Sydney University Senate

The Senate is the top governance and decision-making body at Sydney University, made up of about 22 geriatrics who relive their glory days at university whilst making all the major decisions relating to conduct, staff appointments, student welfare and discipline, and financial matters.

Sydney University Sport and Fitness (SUSF)

SUSF describes itself as “the leading provider for University-based sport, fitness and recreation services in the Asia-Pacific region,” but its full-time function is actually as a reverse Robin Hood on campus. SUSF was allocated the largest share from the SSAF fee last year despite not offering a single service that can be used by students who are not prepared to fork out extra dollars.


Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF)

Implemented in 2012, the SSAF was the Labor Government’s response to voluntary student unionism. The legislation allows universities to collect a compulsory fee ($140.50 per semester in 2014) from students and distribute it amongst student organisations.

University of Sydney Union (USU)

The USU runs clubs, societies, parties, events, food outlets, and bars on campus. You can spot a USU event from the obnoxious marketing and/or the inclusion of a jumping castle and ball pit. This organisation is ‘run’ by 11 student Board Directors, but also has a non-student CEO and staff to oversee its day-to-day operations. A USU Access card costs $75 and entitles you to slightly cheaper crap food.

USU Board of Directors Election

In May each year, USyd elects student directors of the USU Board. This process is characterized by terrible puns and empty promises. To mobilize even the most remote concern for this process, the USU has provided voting incentives like drink vouchers in recent times.

2013 Strikes

2013 saw a long-running industrial dispute play out between university management and staff. Each of the seven strike days last year involved picket lines at all entrances to the university. Scuffles between picketers and police resulted in numerous student arrests. The dispute was resolved on October 1, 2013, when the NTEU voted to accept the latest Enterprise Bargaining Agreement offered by University management.



Grassroots is a coalition of various groups from the left who have been growing in size over the past few years. Grassroots members constituted the bulk of the student presence at the 2013 strikes. The biggest mystery surrounding Grassroots is how so many of its members have countless hours to spend arguing about political correctness on Facebook.



Also known as the ‘capital I’ independents, this campus group is virtually dead within the SRC, but comes to life every USU election season. More of a friendship group of USU-devotees than an actual political faction, the Indies have consistently denied possessing a formal leadership structure or decision-making mechanisms.


The USyd Liberals can usually be found wearing suits or employing appallingly ham-fisted campaign tactics during elections. Perhaps most bizarrely, they refuse to shed their long-sleeved button ups during campaigns, electing to yank brightly coloured election shirts over the top of their formal attire.


National Labor Students (NLS)

NLS was the powerhouse of USyd student politics until 2012, but fell in dramatic fashion in 2013 after half the faction defected to create Sydney Labor Students. NLS managed to get one person elected to USU Board last year but, crippled by the loss of so many members, failed to keep the SRC presidency for the first time in 13 years.


Although socialists on campus are split into different factions, their points of difference have less to do with actual real life goals and more to do with different interpretations of Russian history. They are most often found on Eastern Avenue, spruiking any number of left-wing causes and bullying first years into buying copies of their publications. Never give one of them your phone number, or next thing you know you’ll be chewing the fat about Marx and helping sew red flags.

Student Unity

Student Unity is the Labor Right faction on campus. Unity beat NLS to take the SRC presidency last year in a bitter election that saw Labor turn against Labor in a struggle for the top job. Masters of Realpolitik and the six-second scull.

Sydney Labor Students (SLS)

Formerly a part of NLS, SLS split from the national Labor Left faction in 2013 because— long story short— they decided NLS was too crazy. Their aim in life is now to destroy NLS. This desire is so deeply held that SLS actually paired with Student Unity (Labor Right) rather than NLS (Labor Left) to deliver Student Unity the SRC presidency in 2014.