USU Board candidate interview: Alexander Shu

The full transcript of Honi's interview with 2017 Union Board candidate, Alexander Shu

We Want Shu

Independent | Business/Commerce III | Quiz Score: 53%
Interviewed by Aidan Molins and Siobhan Ryan

HS: To start with can you please state your name, your degree and your political affiliation, please.

AS: So my name is Alexander Zeyu Shu — Alexander is my English name, Zeyu is my Chinese name and Shu is my surname — and my degree is bachelor of commerce liberal studies, majoring in banking and marketing and for my political affiliation is independent.

HS: And what year of your degree are you in?

AS: I’m in my third year

HS: And have you previously been a member of National Labor Students?

AS: No.

HS: Okay. But you were involved in their campaign Boost? And Stand Up?

AS: The reason I was in this is the vision of the international students involved, I agree with them, and I would like to participate within the students within the USyd community alike, so that’s the reason I’m involved with stupol. But I’m not a member.

HS: How would you then describe your political views

AS: As for my political views, with regards to my background, I’m an international student, as for all the politics here its totally different from my home country, as for myself democracy and the system within Australia or America has always been fascinating for me, the reason why I’ve been participating in stupol is because I always want politics, because from my high school to my secondary school and high school I’ve always been interested in politics, and in secondary school and high school I was the person for the student union, so always I have a passion for that, and I’ve always wanted to provide better things through that platform, so that’s the reason why I’ve always been interested in politics, but when it comes to local politics, I don’t want to get involved in “who belongs to which party” I always want to be independent. This view is because when I was back in y home country I see a foreign force to territory dispute and political issues, the 3rd country force come in, and this is the thing I really don’t want to see, and I don’t want to see myself become that kind of person.

HS: So, would you describe yourself as progressive generally? Or that you’re focused on international students issues in this election?

AS: For this election, for my past three years uni life I have involved in the vast majority of students activities and organisation and I also work in the University of Sydney and SRC as well, so I would like to say I can represent the vast majority of students in the USyd community but based on my background I’m an international student which means I will still represent international students because that’s my background and it’s where I come from.

HS: So why are you running for board — and not just because you love the Union?

AS: I have been thinking about this for a long time because this is sourced back to a long time ago when I was in high school because in that time I was always in student politics to do things for students and I always have the passion for those things and they’re also fascinating to me and I want to learn more things about it and get more students involved in this organisation. Because of things in high school I realised this is not just a position. It is a job. It is a really important, there is a possibility to link the students with the school so that is the reason I am involved in stupol. So what I can do here, the system is totally different. So, I want to learn more about it, because I heard a lot about democracy in the western countries in Australia and America. For these things, if I participate in it and learn from it through my practice I will understand more about it. So the first time I was involved in the stupol is for my first semester first year, I was helping someone in the USU election then for the second semester, so the previous international students councillor and officer Emma Lao introduced me to Chloe and we introduced each other and their vision on international policy, I agreed with, and I add more things to it, so that’s the reason I get more involved with it, and during the same time for the other hand outside the student politics, within the involvement with the business school community and performing arts community and the university of Sydney community, so gradually, gradually, I realised, board director is a really important position, and the people who have really good experience to lead the students and to do good things for students even though different people represent different parts, the main goal is to improve student life.

HS: So who are your top 3 candidates other than you that are running — so who would you preference first, second and third, and also is there someone who you would preference last?

AS: I wouldn’t say I have a least favourite because preference system is so fascinating, I mean you have to put someone last, but I won’t say who will be last. So for the top 3, I will definitely say Zhixian, Liliana and Jacob.

HS: And will those be reflected in where you direct your preferences on your how to votes?

AS: Potentially.

HS: Okay, so are you currently in preference negotiations?

AS: Yes.

HS: So can you reveal anything about them yet?

AS: Not yet. So all the things will come out next week.

HS: So why would you say those three candidates are your top 3?

AS: So Zhixian, I met Zhixian during OWeek last year, so I introduced a lot of things to her about revues and stupol, and she get involved in the election and the education revue I remember, so last semester, when it comes to the src elections, Zhixian and me are on the same ticket to run for that position for the international student, so for Zhixian she has a good reputation to be a board candidate, she has a vast majority of support from the international student community as well. As for Liliana and Jacob, so for Liliana has been involved in a lot of clubs and societies and has experience on the management side. And for Jacob, it’s his policy. Jacob’s policy and my policy is simple, sweet and short and sharp, is just directly to what people really want and need, and the things can improve better and will be easy to proof rather than some unrealistic thins.

HS: So can you point to a specific policy of Jacob’s that you think is particularly achievable and also a policy of yours that you think is particularly achievable

AS: That one will be the USU access app. Because currently I strongly agree that USU introduced the app. Even at the beginning was not sure about it but gradually after talking to people who used it and USU through the discount in the ABS cafe, I remember I was like, hmm this is a good thing. Because its renewable, because it’s on your phone and its portable and you won’t forget it because it’s not separate from your phone and your phone is the most important things outside your computer, and at the same time it is friendly to the environment, but at the same time what I was thinking is that for the USU access cards within the phone app you can have much more functions within it, so for that one what I was thinking is for the transaction, so people can use the platform to transact money when you to the event, because the cash here is not as popular as electronic transaction, and what I was thinking is push notifications for students, what I was thinking is that for clubs and societies can send push notifications through the app, even though we use facebook as main platform or Snapchat or Instagram but Facebook is the most important. So when we introduce access app, we can attract more students to purchase access program and to participate within the USU community, and this can be part of the process for students to buy their card, because I know everything has to be done online or you have to go to the access desk, but more and more it will be made electronic, and it’s really great trend for USU to keep up that one and develop it further.

HS: So who do you think has been the most effective board director over the past few years?

AS: I think it’s Michael Rees, because the reason why I say Michael Rees is I read his campaign policy when I was a first year, so he mentioned that he want to let more international students get involved in the student community, and from last year from my knowledge he is trying to support international students running for board, that’s the thing to happen before the nomination, and also what he did through his term within the USU community and so it was through his term in the USU community kinda like the change with the apps and the policy getting implemented from last year and from previous years as well, and his knowledge, cause before I started to write my policy statement I walked with Michael Rees, I talked with James Alexander, I had talked with the marketing director Al Cowie, and other stuff in the USU, so my impression is Michael Rees has really decent knowledge of what the USU does, and the vision for the USU, what the should be, and what it will be in the future, and I think he has done a really good job of that

HS: Cool. So you mentioned you talked to James Alexander who is the director of the Incubate program, is this because you were looking to introduce some policies for Incubate, and what policies were those?

AS: Okay, so for that one is because of my experience within the [?] and as a member of the University of Sydney ENACTUS. So that more focused on social entrepreneurship and benefit of more people from the community and I have done a volunteer program with 40k in India in my first year. So in that time, I realised there is a lot of leads from students that want to do something great, but don’t know what they can do through that channel. So the Incubate is a really great program to let more students get involved in the community and do something, do the things they are really good at, and they can benefit the future of the local community. And another thing is that the reason why I really like incubate is as you know for many faculties they have their incubate program, so that one is much more favoured to their own side, so for the USU, that one is things to let everyone member within the USU community participate and this needs time and energy and focus and the passion to drive their things forward. What I think is that for incubate is not only benefit the students but the USU operation as well. Because there’s great potential out of it, so for the future of the stuff what I think is much more close co-operation with the University of Sydney faculties or without other external organisations in order to let it grow stronger and much more efficient and let more students participate in it, how the USU development is let more students participate in the conversation and participate in the activities and the USU can provide them with the most important memory from the uni.

HS: Cool, so what would you say is the most important policy that’s been passed in the past year

AS: I would like to say it would be affirmative action for women.

HS: Oh okay, that was quite a few years ago.

AS: Oh you mean, the past few years.

HS: The past year. But we can talk about women’s affirmative action in a sec.

AS: For the policy part, I would like to say USU access from the card to the app. Because that one is much more like, transformation from the USU, from the way the USU wants to approach students, because I know previously the way the campaign starts and the way the methods the students and the USU should be better and become the pioneer within this field and let more student become example for students.

HS: In your policy statement, you said you want to support freedom of cultural, ethnic and religious expression through USU programs, so have you included this in your policy statement because you think the USU isn’t currently doing this?

AS: The reason why I put that one is because I believe there should always be a platform that should let everyone have a say within it, and I know the past year the USU the base of their constitution the things to encourage more students to have a say and participate in the conversation, they’ve already done great things. Because for myself the reason why in my policy is that I would like to say there will be more acknowledge eh USU has done a great job for inclusivity and diversity. We need to keep that tradition and make it develop it better and have more students included in this conversation.

HS: In that sense, how would your desire to do that have influenced you if you were on the board when they were making the decision about the Evangelical Union, would you have supported deregistering the Evangelical Union or not?

AS: As for that thing, so for myself I’ve never participated in the religious clubs and societies, but for that I know it was a huge issue from last year. From my perspective, the board of directors have done their job. To do what they have to do based on the constitution. Because for all of them, its not that they hate the EU or they really love them. Everyone has their own religious belief. But when it comes to the operational site, you have to fall the USU regulation, because I acknowledge the USU has done a great job to promote the beliefs, to promote different perspectives to come together to have a conversation, even though there is conflict, it’s a natural thing. But what they USU can do is to encourage the platform and to talk to each other peacefully rather than violently. So peacefully and they will understand each others words, and understand each other there will be a better understanding in the community.

HS: So you said the board made the right decision, so you believe the Evangelical Union should have an exemption? Because what the board decided was to provide an exemption to allow them to make people faith-based declarations, conditional on their membership, so do you believe they should have done that?

AS: As for that one I’m not specifically sure, but the constitution within the EU, all I know is from the past media and Honi Soit’s report on that one, so for that one, I can’t comment on too many things because I’m agnostic, but what the EU did for their own members, the things within their own communities, they have done good things, but when it comes to a new member within that one, I really don’t know about that one because I can’t comment too much because I’m not a member of that and from my own opinion board has done what they had to do so they follow the procedure within the board. So it’s a fair decision.

HS: Cool. So what sets you apart from other candidates?

AS: Okay. So the most important thing in my policy is to promote better integration between international students and domestic students and also cover as many members within the USyd community as possible. So first of all, the integration part. So the integration is based on my own experience because as I stand before the USU and src all of those take experience and what I have learned is that there’s a great potential for international students. They can contribute to the development of the local community, and at the same time they are so keen to learn from the local community because Australia is a great country and the USU is a great organisation for students to have a great uni life. So that’s really important because also another thing is that international students when they first come to here, they have no idea about what the USU is, they only know USYD. So the USU provides a great platform for students to have their most important stuff within their uni experience is uni life. Clubs and societies.

HS: So what we were wondering is what specific policies? Because you’ve talked about how difficult it can be as an international student with kind of secondary understanding of the English language and stuff to be a part of things that you are a part of like the business community and performing arts community, so how are you as a board director going to achieve this and make it better to integrate?

AS: So that would be international student affirmative action, so for that one the reason is because for international students USU is totally brand new idea for them, so when you have an international student as a leader within the USU community the more student will notice oh I have someone with us because of their background, and also for international students what I from my experience if you want to go for that position and you have a lot of experience from previous things you did and from previous things you know and you are ready to lead people and promote your ideas and make the USU better, so those are things I want to do.the reason why there’s that one is the low involvement of international students. Because when it comes to the election, everybody wants to get international students on their tickets or their votes. And so when it comes to events, or from my experience in performing arts, in their show, international students really want to learn how the culture will be like, and sometimes they can’t find out where’s the information, and when there’s certain people with international student background there and promote the culture, promote international students, and promote that dialogue between local community, so it will be better for the better involvement with international students. Because we all know with international students it’s more than 20% of the whole university demographics, so that’s a really important thing to do.

HS: So you were mentioning that you want affirmative action for international students, and you also spoke about affirmative action for women previously, so would you like to see affirmative action for international students in action to aa for women, or like, do you think there should be aa for women as well I guess

AS: Yes, I believe there should be women aa for the female-identifying students within the USU community, and that’s something I really like to see, I love those things, it promotes more female students to participate in it, because we all know based on historical bias, female identifying students are always less advantaged than most students, so affirmative action encourages more students to participate in the election, into the dialogue, into the activeness of the local community, also at the same time there will be much more diversity and inclusivity within the community and it will bee better for future USU development

HS: So if you are elected do you know who you’ll be supporting for the president of the USU in this next term?

AS: From my knowledge I’m not sure who’s going to run.

HS: So we believe its going to be Grace Franki and Courtney Thompson.

AS: I love them both. It’s a hard choice. I’m really not sure which one I support, but things I would desire is that I will talk with them, see what their vision for the USU will be like, because the president of the board is the leading force of everything of the USU, especially on the vision and the things which she wants to achieve, from next year, it will be really important things to know from them, and I’ll have to talk to them specifically about these things, and then I’ll decide which one I should vote, because that one is really important, not for my own benefit, it’s important from what the development of the USU and for the future of the USU.

HS: What is the biggest economic drain on the board? So board directors are tasked all the time with making room for new programs and policies and having to cut other ones, so are there any programs or policies that you would cut funding from?

AS: This is a spicy question. From my perspective I love the programs of the USU. Even though some of the programs, some programs for specific group I have no participation in it, but the things the USU did is objectively for those students and for the better development and integration, and I think there’s one thing I’d like to emphasise is gonna be the clubs and societies and access program, these are things I heavily want to emphasise in the future because from my policy the first part all about access and the second one is about experience. For access, that one is about whether you are in the USU or not and it can provide a lot of access to the students around you, to uni life, and I believe the access program can benefit more students and at the same time reach to more people because that can be a thing that like, pushes this program to be better and more students will come, and there will be more potential revenue for the future.

HS: I was just going to say, you’ve got some policies though that would cost money, like developing international day into an international festival, if you wanted to introduce that policy and they told you cool, okay, where would you cut money from, where would you foresee cutting money from to make a program like that happen? Is there any particular place you can think of?

AS: Uhh, for the cuts there are things as far as I know there are people that want the access membership card cut but I will not agree with that because from the laws I know, SUSF membership fees is a lot if you want to get a gold pass or silver or bronze pass or the blue pass, it’s a lot, and you have to pay a really large fee to the SUSF for the membership of clubs and societies, and when you see the distribution of the SSAF fee, so the SUSF has more than 4 million 2 hundred thousand dollars so 30% from SSAF fee. USU has 26 percent of it, but from my understanding, USU do better, there’s more students that believe the USU is worthy for them, to participate in it and they can get that value out of the USU program rather than the reason why is just for the food the discount or something like that, so the reason why the access program is important and I want to promote more, is because it is important and it’s essential to the USU how the USU grows stronger and formulate, and group together, so what I believe is one of the important things is that the things I really want to do is try and increase our proportion of SSAF fee.

HS: I mean, every year the treasurer wants to get more from the SSAF fee and due to a whole range of different influences that’s not a reliable place to say you’ll get more money from. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you want to introduce things that are going to cost money is there somewhere that you can see in the USU where you would cut some other money from to make room for a program that you think is going to improve people’s participation within the USU?

AS: For the cut money part, that’s a one part I was thinking can be moved tot he future program, that one will be the c&s funding, because for some clubs and societies the reason why USU provides c&s funding for the clubs and societies who want to promote c&s program and make more students participate in it but at the same time a huge drawback is that some clubs and societies will misspend their money and excessive money spending on alcohol and events that you can’t let your member benefit for that one, it’s away from your aim, why you want to create this clubs and societies, even though every single club and society is great for the students to participate because it represents different interests and different students background, so I would say from understanding, every program is good, but some clubs and societies need to take time to prepare for what is actually happening and what students want, so it will take time, which means that one will, the things I was thinking before is superficial financial spending in the clubs and societies the main thing is the way you spend money from within your club is relate to your aim of your club to the aims of the USU.

HS: So one of the things that really stood out to me about your platform is that in terms of there’s a lot of candidates that over the years have tried to improve things, for performing arts students but in your document you said that you wanted to improve the usage of USU students spaces and collaborate with external resources for rehearsals meetings etc and push more for USU students spaces within future reconstructed spaces, so does that mean that USU spaces aren’t being used currently, and so how are you actually going to achieve this?

AS: Okay, so for this one it’s after I hear my friends complain, and I also talked to the people from last year and also Michael Rees as well, so with the USU all the things are owned by the USU have really great space for students who don’t have to think about other things, we only think about how to have fun, and how to enjoy our uni life, so the USU have already done good things on this but the current situation is that there are a lot of clubs and societies that want to get a room from the USU and it’s so hard for them, so when it comes to the rehearsal room booking we did at the beginning of this year, the system crashed down, but thanks to the c&s office, they helped us organize it again, so finally we sorted it out, but during that time its really annoying that we don’t have enough room to do it, even though I understand the capacity of the USU the orbit rooms and stuff like that, for the USU they had its own limit to get more rooms so what I’m thinking is that for some rooms, the refectory, for example, is vacant from 5 or 7, so if there’s space for students, you can let clubs and societies have their events there, and when they’re finished they can put it in its original place, and students can do that, they have the energy to do that, and also for the University of Sydney for clubs and societies if they want to book a room they have to pay a lot of money, to get one, and it may be burdensome for the USU to fund that money, and if the USU don’t fund it then the clubs think the USU is not responsible, or something like that. So what I think is to talk to the University of Sydney that all the students within the USU are from the University of Sydney, and for all the room stuff even though those clubs and societies don’t book it and come in and have their own activities you won’t let them pay because their students and all the students within the members within the access program the majority or them are from USyd, so why doesn’t USyd promote diverse culture, even though USyd always say we promote student activities but for the room stuff it can be mean a little bit, and from my knowledge is that business school has done good things on this one because when it comes to room bookings we just send an email to them and them tell us if there’s a room available and we just email back, and if you have to pay for something they will fund you as well. So that’s something I want to see, and also outside of the university of Sydney from my experience we have done rehearsal in the town hall in the suburb, so while the students want to come to here, and it can benefit for local business and it can let more students participate in the local community outside the USU as well. So it’s mutual benefit internal and external as well. And the space has become a really big issue as well.

HS: So you would be spearheading collaboration between the USU and external councils?

AS: So the first thing within the USU internal, for some space it can improve its usage, for some spaces, it’s normally for events function, and a lot of space is only for rehearsals and for the less common space and we can promote usage of it, and that’s the first thing we think the USU will easy for us to do, then we will talk with USyd, because its in the University of Sydney and it will be convenient for the members to come to the activities and benefit, and then we will talk to external one, so its kinda like three things together to increase the space.

Note: this is a transcript of an Honi Soit candidate interview. Some responses have been edited for clarity.