Deep Tea Diving: Week 12

Presidential elections, planning precincts and more!

Artwork by Jess Zlotnick

Executing executive elections (please electrocute me execution-ly)

Just when you thought USU shenanigans were done for the year: it’s executive election season. On 7 June, four lucky Board Directors—usually drawn from those in the second year of their term—will be elected to the executive roles of president, vice-president, honorary secretary and honorary treasurer. These positions work closely with USU staff and are generously remunerated, with the president taking home $26,496 per year.

As the election draws closer, two opposing tickets seem to be forming around the likely presidential candidates, Liliana Tai (a broadly left–wing independent) and Jacob Masina (a Liberal who ran as an independent). At the moment, the race is neck-and-neck: Tai has the support of Adam Torres (NLS, i.e. Labor Left), Claudia Gulbransen-Dias (Centre Unity, i.e. Labor Right) and, out of this year’s batch of directors, Maya Eswaran (Grassroots, i.e. far left) and Connor Wherrett (Centre Unity).

If this bloc has its way, Tai will be president, Torres vice president and Gulbransen-Dias honorary secretary.

Firmly in Masina’s camp are Lachlan Finch (a Liberal who ran as an independent) and Hengjie Sun (independent). His long-term ally, Masina is supporting Sun’s bid for the vice president role. Sun is likely to secure the vote of fellow international student Zimeng Ye (independent), whose successful campaign he managed earlier this year. In fact, Sun is apparently trying to bring all international student Board directors into the Masina fold.

It’s far from certain he’ll succeed in this: Masina and Sun are said to have promised honorary secretary to Zhixian Wang (independent) to win her support. But, word has it, Tai has made the same offer.

Decheng Sun’s allegiances are also unknown. Since he ran on a broadly left-wing platform in this year’s elections, it seems unlikely he’d support Liberal-aligned Masina.

There are also rumours Masina hasn’t been able to fill out his ticket: even with Sun as vice president and Wang as honorary secretary, there’s still an honorary treasurer missing. Masina is said to have offered the role to every one of the newly-elected directors; allegedly, they’ve all turned it down, concerned about their lack of experience.

Expect for this space to heat up in the coming week.

Private, Keep out!

Recently, a video did the Facebook rounds showing a confrontation in the USU’s Ethnocultural Space: the dispute started after four people had used the space, despite not identifying as people of colour. The issue was resolved when USU staff intervened, and the video racked up over 2,000 views. In the most recent USU Board meeting, the Board passed a new policy changing the definition of ‘ethno-cultural’ to: “Someone who is a ‘person of colour’, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, and/or marginalized by white supremacy or systemic racism.”  This is the same definition used by the SRC’s Autonomous Collective Against Racism, a separate collective that often uses the USU Ethnocultural Space located in the Manning Building.

In a statement on the USU website, President Courtney Thompson wrote that the USU did “not condone members of the campus community using the space without considering the purpose as being rooted in providing an area free from racial discrimination.” The new procedural changes also grant USU Officers the authority to remove offenders from the space, record their details and subject them to further consequences by the Board.

Since its 2016 inception, the Ethnocultural Space has had a history of intrusions. On September 1 2017, the Ethnocultural Officers wrote in Honi: “The ethnocultural space…has been vandalised, disrespected and stolen from a number of times. Most recently, someone tore up a beautiful poster drawn by a collective member and threw it in the bin…We’ve found empty Heineken bottles, mess and white people in the space on a number of occasions.” On one occasion last year, a member of the frisbee society used the room for a better view of the utimate frisbee game on the field below.

The City of Sydney finds USyd engineers objectionable

Let it not be said this rag doesn’t have our engineers’ interests at heart. For too long housed in the decay that is PNR, engineering students can look forward to a sparkling new development dubbed the Engineering and Technology Precinct—if the plans are approved. Currently, the proposal is with the state Department of Planning and Environment, who have invited submissions from interested parties. Turns out the City of Sydney Council doesn’t like engineering students nearly as much as this little mermaid: in fact, it objects to the plans as they currently stand.

The stoush comes down to money. Under NSW planning laws, local councils can claim a “contribution” from any development that is likely to increase the demand for public services. The proposed precinct will increase the number of staff and students, the Council argues, and so will put strain on local amenities. But the University says it should be exempt: it points to the extensive public facilities it provides—like libraries, cultural spaces and sporting grounds—arguing that these are “analogous to the services the Council provides for its local government area”. It claims the “distinct community benefit” of its main not-for-profit activities—that is education and research—should qualify it for an exemption.

In this case, it looks like the Department of Planning and Environment, not the local council, will have the final say. That’s because, as a type of public project known as a “Crown development”, university works stand to be approved by the Planning Minister. This is a chap by the name of Anthony Roberts—so engineers, if your precinct gets rejected, you know where to send the complaints.