Every year since time immemorial (so for the past three years or so) Honi Soit has held an SRC debate, with representatives from the student media asking the candidates for the SRC presidency and/or the Honi Soit editorship a few questions about their policies. This year we announced that a representative from Mon Droit, a publication released by the Sydney University Liberal Club, would be asking questions at the debate in addition to speakers from Honi Soit and BULL.
Unsettled by the fact that the sphere of acceptable discourse wasn’t entirely limited to what they wanted, a number of very vocal students complained that we were legitimising a right-wing publication. There were rumours of a informal motion calling upon the “people of USyd” in the crowd (roughly 85 per cent of whom were campaigning for presidential candidates Amy Knox or Kyol Blakeney) to rise up and rebel at the notion of being asked questions by right-wingers; a move somewhat reminiscent of Clive Palmer storming out of an interview that’s not going just the way he likes it.
Like it or not, there are politically conservative students on this campus (though their alleged status as “the silent majority” is more than a little dubious). Like it or not, they can vote, and they should be afforded the opportunity to have candidates interrogated from something even vaguely resembling their perspective. Excluding the views of a significant number of voters from the agenda through brute force is probably a very effective tactic, but seeing as voter turnout in the SRC elections last year barely cracked ten per cent, it’s also antidemocratic and just a shit thing to do.
Every year, left-wing student editors ask left-wing SRC Presidential candidates left-wing questions about their left-wing policies. As far as echo chambers go, this one is pretty damn airtight. Inviting editors from a conservative publication to ask questions is not legitimising their opinions or perspectives; it is merely accepting that they do, in fact, exist among the student population. This is not an attempt at balance, but rather the addition of yet another viewpoint.
We would ask these kind of questions ourselves, but though some of us can pass for pretty convincing Tories, there’s just no substitute for the real thing. We think inviting newspaper editors we politically disagree with to the debate in order to foster an ever-so-slightly more inclusive student democracy is worth it. Depending on how much of a flag-waving zealot you are, you may disagree.
All coverage relating to the 2014 SRC elections is written by editors who are not aligned with any campaign or campus faction.