USU Board candidate interview: Connor Wherrett
The full transcript of Honi's interview with 2018 Union Board candidate, Connor Wherrett
Unity | Laws III | Quiz Score: 63%
Interviewed by Janek Drevikovsky and Andrew Rickert
HS: Could you start by telling us your name, degree, and the year you’re in?
CW: My name is Connor Wherrett, I’m doing a Bachelor of Law and Economics and I’m in my third year.
HS: And why are you running for USU board?
CW: So I’ve been really involved over the past two years and…over that time… I’m a big Hamilton fan. You know the song “The Room Where It Happens” – I’ve kind of, because I’ve been tangentially involved in the USU through revues, through C&S, the decisions that the USU board have made have affected me – so much so that I eventually decided that I just had to be in the room where it happened. So I decided to run for USU.
HS: What’s a decision you’d say has affected you?
CW: Anything to do with clubs and society and the way clubs and societies work. You know, I’m on a number of execs. For instance the alcohol policy affected … the different clubs and societies that I’m part of and the events that we were planning for that.
HS: We might get on to the alcohol policy in a bit,
CW: Yeah, I’m sure we will.
HS: In terms of political stuff are you in a faction?
CW: Yep, I’m a member of Student Unity on campus…
HS: And you’re campus convenor of Student Unity, is that right?
CW: No, no I’m not, that’s Claudia.
HS: That’s Claudia, okay. In terms of Student Unity, Student Unity is a Labor Party faction – a faction of the Labor Party on campus, does it politically bind? Does it bind its board directors?
CW: No, no no. So, Student Unity will support a board candidate with the expectation and with the fact that you know they’re going to, there’s never been a case in which our previous board directors have, sort of, come back to unity and said “What am I doing on this?” There’s a great deal of autonomy with the board directors that are elected.
HS: And how would you describe Student Unity’s political views?
CW: Principled, pragmatic and progressive … are the other sort of by-lines, but yeah it’s true it’s…. it’s unashamedly progressive, on every single issue but doing it in a way that is pragmatic and doing in a way which we really discuss all the different options.
HS: Which of the three do you reckon is the most defining?
HS: When it comes to USU Board how will that translate into practice. So let’s say you’re faced with a decision last year where you might have to vote to support a strike in solidarity with the NTEU, would you as board director support that?
CW: Well the thing about the solidarity with strikes things is that the USU board had information about financial costs and so on that we don’t have access to. So it’s difficult to say how I would vote on that… issue when I don’t have access to the same documents that a board director would.
HS: If principally being progressive is the most important of those three things, shouldn’t it be a foregone conclusion?
CW: With being pragmatic about things. And, you know, it’s the idea that, you know, you always have to consider being pragmatic about things when making decisions. Generally I would lean toward supporting the strike but…. Generally I support strike action. You know, I’m a trade unionist, I’m a member of my union, I think it’s a good idea, but I don’t have access to all the information that the board directors would have.
HS: So in terms of the USU’s broader political role, do you think then that the USU can play a role in activism, in direct action? Can it get involved in things like protest organisations or is it more of a service providing union?
CW: So I would lean more towards service providing union solely for a few reasons: first of all is that we have the SRC and SUPRA, who do take that role and the USU is mostly a service provider. I do think the USU should participate in activism where it represents the overwhelming majority of student’s views. If there is an overwhelming outcry by students that, you know, we need to do this, then I think it’s non-controversial (by nature, it’s non-controversial) for the USU to be like “Yeah – we will stand up for this particular issue.” You know, something, you know, things like marriage equality for instance. The USU should put, when it was an issue, there’s nothing wrong with the USU proudly and firmly saying “We support marriage equality because most of our students believe it.”
HS: Would you say that opposing view deregulation is an issue that most students believe in?
CW: Yes, but the issue is that when you get into issues that are very much replicated on the political divide. The union has to be there for everybody and in terms of activism that is the role of the SRC but the USU should be first and foremost a service provider and yet and when there is an overwhelming majority of people who support a particular viewpoint the USU should stand in favour of it. Always keeping in mind that the USU is there for everybody and the second that you start engaging in activism which people feel like they can’t engage in the USU, then that’s when you lose ACCESS members and you lose what the core of the USU does.
HS: So board directors have certain fiduciary duties to the board. You had certain principles derived from Student Unity’s values including progressivism, so presumably you have ideas about what’s in students’ benefits and what’s not. Are there situations in which you would breach your duties to the board if you thought that it would be in students benefits?
CW: I mean 99 percent of upholding student benefits is upholding your fiduciary duties, because when you’re upholding your fiduciary duty the union is strong and when the union is strong it is in the student’s interests.
We have fiduciary duties to make sure that we have a strong, financially sound union, that is there to provide for students. And so I would be very very skeptical of any situation in which people argue that it was required to breach those fiduciary duties. But of course, you know, if there is a situation in which it is overwhelmingly clear then, you know, as a board director you do have to deal with students.
HS: So does that mean the financial sustainability of the board is the most important thing that you’ll be acting on?
CW: The strength of the USU is the most important thing and the strength of the USU comes from a few things. It comes from financial sustainability. It comes from knowledge of the USU and making sure every student sort of understands the USU, and making sure that the USU is continuing to provide all of the different programs that it does and all of those things are mostly upheld by upholding fiduciary duties.
HS: What would be, if you were forced to make the decision for example, back to striking or anything, where you said you would have to consider information not available to everyone else. I guess then the question is: well, what would be your decision making process? Because that is something you could disclose to people. So it’s like: are we not going to make a profit for the month or are we not going to break even this month, because being not for profit.. How do you think that your decision making process would work in that situation? What would be your your aim, in terms of a more specific thing than just saying “I will uphold the fiduciary duties and be a prudent person”?
CW: In terms of making the decision: I think the key thing is consultation, especially consultation with the USU staff, because we have to remember that yes, the USU is accountable to students but also it employs staff and those are the ones who would be affected by any sort of strike action, solidarity strike action is what I mean. I feel like proper consultation with different staff members would be one of the first things that I would want to do. As well as that, you know, basic things such as: “What benefit it would have to the strike, to the NTEU strike?” “What benefit would it have to students?” – Just standard pragmatic considerations. I would point out that with the EBA negotiating period being three years and if elected I would serve for two years. It is very unlikely that I would have to deal with anything with this issue specifically, but in terms of any sort of difficult question for a USU board director: consultation is the main way that I would make a decision.
HS: So given that the USU employs a lot of staff and a lot of staff in senior positions have been in the organisation for a long time and have pretty clear ideas about how it should be run – how are you going to ensure that through that consultative process you as a student director, with the policy platform that you want to implement, don’t have your voice overcrowded by staff whose views you just said are paramount.
CW: So, what do you mean – can you clarify the question?
HS: If you’ve got a vision for actually running the board, but consulting with staff is the touchstone through how you’ll make decisions-
CW: It’s one of the touchstones. It’s one of the different ways in which decisions will be made if elected as board director. You know, consultation with all the relevant interest groups and people involved and people who would be affected by the decision is just something that I’m very keen about. It is a bit of a buzz word to say consultation but it is true that as board directors you are representatives and it is ignorant to think that you can speak on behalf of the Student Board and the student staff without listening to them and talking to them.
HS: So by nature of a lot of the board’s decisions consultation is difficult if not impossible, for example they concern private financial arrangements of the board. A lot of what the board has to deliberate on happens in camera in meetings – how are you going to consult on issues when you can’t actually disclose the subject?
CW: Well I will point out that a large part of my policy statement-I do have things about accountability, because I do think that there needs to be more transparency. I think there needs to be… I obviously have no idea what’s said in camera but I would guess that a lot of what’s said in camera, it would actually benefit the student population more if it was not in camera and if it was more publicly disclosed. So I do really believe in transparency and accountability of the board and that’s something that I would push for and I know a lot of board directors have pushed for in the past. But in terms of your question which is, you know, how can I do it without this. I will point out that in board meetings there are of course, people present, such as the SADs, who have a lot of institutional knowledge and I would consult with them. I would consult with the CEO and obviously these people are biased, obviously these people always lean towards one side, but making sure I hear their arguments is one of the most important things.
HS: In terms of ending in camera or at least increasing transparency. Would you support then reducing the amount that’s discussed in camera?
HS: So given before you said the financial sustainability of the organisation was important, one of the key things that made the Union strong. What if discussing matters confidentially, to the extent they are discussed currently is essential (to keeping the organisation strong)?
CW: My understanding of in camera is that financial sustainability is one of the reasons things go in camera and I think that, you know, obviously it’s impossible to really properly analyse the in camera. It’s a chicken and egg problem – it’s really, it’s impossible to really analyse how we can reduce in camera discussions but we don’t actually know what the discussions are. But if there are in camera discussions that would only sort of –the tiniest bit of reducing financial sustainability and the strength of the board then I think the great-the benefit of access would benefit students more than any disbenefit from, you know, disclosing information
HS: In terms of the board’s achievements and its activities in recent times. Can you name an initiative or policy in recent years that you particularly value?
CW: So I was very involved in revues. So I’ve been in two revues, I was on the exec of a revue last year and I think just in the past year the movement of international review from policy idea to reality – I look forward to seeing the show in a few weeks time – is something that I’m really, really excited by. And as you know, its everything good that the union can be.
HS: On the flipside what’s a policy you might criticise?
CW: The alcohol policy. The alcohol policy was done, I don’t think with enough consultation. I think there were events planned by clubs and societies. Sorry, are you going to have a question on this?
HS: We can get onto this now, this is great.
CW: So there are events that would have been planned by clubs and societies that would have had to be modified, you know, treasurers plan budgets for events and so on, and when you change the policy without consultation and without warning, it affects clubs and societies management and that’s the reason why so many different clubs and societies spoke out against this particular policy change.
HS: So in terms of policy itself, do you think it’s a good policy?
CW: No I don’t.
HS: Why not?
CW: Because the issue is, is when you say that we should only be funding things on campus. You need to have the support in place for people to have events on campus. A common society can’t book out Hermann’s. You cannot have a policy that redirects alcohol based events to on-campus venues and then limit the access of those on-campus venues; that doesn’t go hand in hand.
HS: And given that Manning doesn’t have bookings most nights of the week it seems that there’s supply at least for clubs to use.
CW: But is the issue the issue with Manning, in my C&S experience, you have two options. You can either go through a booking process which is long and exhaustive. I tried to get something organised it didn’t work out well. Or you can just sort of roll the dice and hope that Manning is mostly empty that night and that’s something a lot of pubs and societies don’t want to do. Yes it is empty most nights. But imagine the disaster of you hosting this wonderful event. Everyone getting there and seeing is booked out. So I think the club and society venue options aren’t open enough to redirect funding in a way so much that, you know, it’s only, you know, it’s only for on campus venues.
HS: So your policy is then to make alcohol cheaper off campus. Could you explain how you’ll do that?
CW: So what do you mean – we would just reverse the policy.
HS: So you would just undo the policy?
CW: Yeah. I just I just disagree with the policy.
HS: So in that case, why not… You said the problem with the policy as it currently stands is a lack of supply of venues on campus. Why not make those better, rather than reverse the policy.
CW: Well that’s… Yes, I’m sure that would be an option, but there are obviously reasons within Hermann’s and within Manning and within the different venues that have led them to be the policy that they are. But generally if I was to rank the different options yes more options at Manning and Hermann’s would be better than what we’ve got now. That’s something that, you know, if I would be unsuccessful in convincing my fellow board directors, if elected, of a reversal of this policy then I would move towards trying to convince them, and trying to implement ways in which we could open up these venues more.
HS: But if you are successful then don’t you go back to a situation where clubs and societies are drinking large quantities of alcohol in spaces unsupervised by the USU, and that serious safety concerns can be raised, which really the USU has a duty of care to prevent.
CW: Yeah I don’t, I don’t think that this is the policy and means of fixing it. I know that, you know, I just don’t think lots of people drinking alcohol at Hermann’s or Manning is substantially better in any way that lots of people drinking alcohol at the Royal or the Rose. I just really don’t see any distinguishable difference between those things.
HS: At least you as the USU board have control over the training that staff get in terms of what kind of sexual assault response practices are in place on campus, campus security is around, aren’t those important considerations, above and beyond other venues?
CW: I think it’s quite a reach to say that the way in which we assist those issues, you know, that, the Rose assists those issues…. is via a funding change to clubs and societies to redirect them. Because the other issue with this is, as I said, because there aren’t substantial enough availabilities on campus. So what you’re doing is you’re probably not actually. I mean, we, I don’t have any evidence on this but you’re probably not actually redirecting club and society events from outside venues to inside venues. You’re probably just redirecting, you probably just … clubs and societies will continue having them at outside venues but with students just paying more, which doesn’t solve any issues and actually takes away from the service provider nature of the USU to organise that service that is making sure we have clubs societies that have consistent good events
HS: But hold on, you can’t have it both ways. You said initially that this policy is bad because there hadn’t been consultation and treasurers had locked in events for the rest of the semester that are now up in the air, but now you’re saying that clubs and societies are going on with events and are still drinking on campus, so what’s the actual situation?
CW: No, not the venue is in the air, the financial situation is in the air. For a treasurer, the financial situation of the club and society over the year has changed. You know, as I said, it’ll probably just mean that they’ll have to re-budget at the event or maybe have a fundraiser or something to compensate for the specific policy, for the specific event that may have now lost money.
HS: I think we’ll doubling back then in terms of your responsibilities as a board director. If elected, you find out that, confidentially, potentially as there was a directive from the University to say “this is your policy, this is crucial to our agreement. We’ll cut, the agreement, we won’t renew up as much, if you don’t have this policy.” How far is your conviction to how vital do you think changing this policy is, in terms of your potential actions if you were to find that this was something that required more action from you – in terms of potentially breaching your… in making information available or breaching your role as a board director.
CW: Well as I’ve said before, we need a strong union, and anything that would threaten the agreement between the university and the USU would take it to the next level and would be something that I would definitely consider in making my decision on how I’d vote as a board director.
As I said… if elected onto the board I would seek all of the information possible to make that decision and also consult with my fellow board directors to come to that decision and obviously new information would potentially mean that things change.
HS: Moving on to the campaign itself. Out of this year’s field of candidates, who would you say your top three picks are?
CW: I absolutely love Bec. I really love her policy statement, stuff around SURG is really good, stuff around sexual assault is really good. I really like Mike Mao – Magic Mike Mao. I think his guidelines for C&S, sorry, clubs and societies code of conduct is an incredible policy. I also like Zimeng Ye. I think she’s got some really good ideas for the board in her policies and that’s purely based on the policies. I want to have more conversations with them about their vision and their ideas.
HS: Are you open to negotiate preference deals with those three candidates?
CW: Yep I’m hoping to… I’m willing to talk to all candidates about preference deals and preferences that reflect my values and who I want to see on the board, but also preference deals are also based on things such as what we see in the first week of campaigning and more talking to other candidates. So yes, that is all still up in the air for the next week or so.
HS: And then on the flip-side, who could not work with out of this year’s field of candidates?
CW: I wouldn’t say not work with, but I would say that there is [an] ideological divide between me and Lachlan Finch. I think that’s something that’s obvious. I just don’t think that his party reflects the ideals of unions and student unionism. And you know, I just think there’s a difference there that’s very difficult to reconcile.
HS: At the same time though, when we spoke to Lachlan, a lot of the basic things he is saying about his approach to the board is the same as what you’re saying. Saying that a strong union is important, that financial sustainability goes hand in hand with student welfare, and that he’d act consultatively as a board director – so, is there really any difference between the two of you, apart from labelling?
CW: Well, it’s just the difficult thing of, you know, when you’re, sort of, a member of the Liberal Party, as he is. I don’t hold that against him in terms of any decisions that he’d make on the board but ideologically there is a barrier in terms of being a Liberal Party member and being on the board at the same time especially considering some of the Liberal party’s actions over the last 10 years when it comes to student unionism. There are just conflicts there that are just almost impossible to reconcile.
HS: In the upcoming board presidential elections. If you were to get elected who would you support?
CW: I think the answer is very similar and also made easier by the fact that Liliana is very competent. She’s shown herself well on the board. I think she’d be a great presidential candidate. Obviously based off – based on what Honi has said, the only two people considering it are Liliana and Jacob. And for the same reasons as I said with Lachlan, there would be a very difficult thing to wrangle with Jacob but also I’m happy to say that if elected to the board I would make sure that I listened to all the potential candidates cases, listened to them well, asked them questions and spoke to them about where they want to see the board going, because they do have to prepare a substantial document and obviously I haven’t seen that document
HS: Other things surrounding the election. Do you support the board’s affirmative action policy for non-cis gender men?
HS: Would you support a similar policy for international students?
CW: No. Because, the reason for international students is the fact that.. obviously we’ve seen in the past two years that international students are making their voice heard on the board and this is a wonderful thing and I just don’t think that we can equate something like AA for women with AA for international students in the same way. I just don’t think that… It is an identity but it is not an identity in the same way as being a woman. But, what I mean by that is, in terms of other policies with regards to the SRC and the USU, it’s not something that’s really recognised as sort of a group that needs affirmative action to get onto the board. The reason why the USU implemented AA for women is because there was a period of male candidates – it was a year in which, you know, the vast majority of candidates were male. You look back at the history – it was very worrying when AA few women was implemented. And if you look at the past two years of USU elections, I don’t think there’s a substantial case enough for AA for international students.
HS: And if that were to change?
CW: If that were to change, then yep.
HS: One of your policies is I suppose, as well, was to support a concession Opal card for international students. So clearly international student’s issues are ones that are in someway important. Doesn’t that mean that more international students or least guaranteed international student representation on the board is a good thing?
CW: It is a good thing to have international students on the board, but we should only implement something like AA when there is a clear problem with a lack of representation.
HS: In terms of that policy about fighting for a concession card for international students, you mentioned before that the USU doesn’t have the same activist role to play as SRC, so how are you going to actually fight for that Opal card?
CW: Well I think this is just an issue, like I was saying before. I think if you talk to students there is an overwhelming response for International Student concessions. There is an overwhelming response by all of the students. It’s not a divisive issue at all. Most students would agree that domestic students get Opal cards, international students should get concession Opal cards in the exact same way. And I think the USU, with such a… with the large percentage of international students as members or affiliate members by being students should be proud to state that through activism whether it be on their page, whether it be a statement, whether it be any sort of activism.
HS: So, the campaign’s going to be limited to statements on Facebook pages and?
CW: No, no – that’s not campaign limiting to it, that’s just me saying some options for how the USU should get their name out there.
HS: Would it be an option to hold a rally?
CW: I would rather the rally… That’s exactly what I was saying about the SRC: rallies and protests and actions are primarily more the role of the SRC and the USU could support a rally but you know, this this space that we’re in, the SRC, is an activist space: there is painting you know, rooms, there are posters everywhere. And that’s really what the SRC is designed to do. And once the USU starts taking away the roles of the SRC then you get into messy SSAF things.
HS: Well on the flip-side the USU always takes a bigger slice of the SSAF pie, so clearly with that huge war chest, it could add a very strong voice to student activism. Would you use those resources?
CW: I would dismiss the idea of having a huge war chest because while the USU does take a larger portion of the SSAF pile, it does also provide a larger array and a huge array of programs and services and places on campus that need to be accessed and need to be used by students. And you know, it would be difficult to sort of say which area should we take away. There isn’t a huge pile of money that the USU is sitting on, its funding student services and different programs the students love.
HS: Yeah I guess we can continue on that policy statement and the international students focused ones. So you have then the next one is preference international students and those living away from home for USU jobs. So I guess we’ll just start by, if you can explain what that policy means, how you think you would implement it in a bit more detail than the one-liner here.
CW: Well I really really quite like- yeah sorry it’s a 200 word limit on the policy statement – but I really… My quite older friends who were at the Union five years ago and say that there was more of a culture of USU jobs for university students and was kind of a thing that happened – it was, you know, you went to uni but you also went to work for the USU, you worked on the access desk and I think in terms of ways in which we could support students: preferencing students for USU jobs. Firstly that’s the first thing we can do. And the second thing we can do, is we can preference those living at home.. living out of home because then that means that they have a job at uni, they don’t need to double their travel time by going to a different travel location and it means that they can have an income source to support their study that’s directly at uni.
The way that I would support this is… just loosely, not through any sort of quota or anything but by just saying that, you know, in hiring and having a policy and that in determining who gets hired for the USU these factors must be considered: Do they live away from home? Are they an international student? Do they need it… Do they need a job based on their income? and things like that. Because the USU, yes, it should get the best staff possible but it also should be there to support students and this would be a great way to do that.
HS: So we’ll go back to the start we’re you’re talking about how in the past, hiring policies would have potentially favoured students more. Would you, I guess, mandate that students have to be considered first for certain roles?
CW: I would say that there should be a policy in which students are preferenced for staff and especially where you had a case where there was, you know, a student and a staff member of completely equal merit. The student should obviously be favoured in that because they are at the university and the USU should be there to support them.
HS: Doesn’t this get very messy very quickly. So for instance would students living at college or on say scholarships at college count as living away from home?
CW: So in the factors of consideration, I said that those living away from home but also things like income and you know, whether the USU should support them. Obviously, but, you know, it also shouldn’t be discounted that, you know, colleges … You have to also ……… you’d have to have strictly defined the lines because you want people in, for instance, the University-provided accommodation. I think they would be ripe for USU jobs. I think they’d be great for them both in terms of their income and where they are, but not so much college students who might already have an easy source of income for themselves.
HS: So you said you’d introduce other criteria into these preferences. So isn’t this very quickly just going to be a pile up of criteria so that the jobs go to people who ideologically you would expect or hope the jobs go to? I mean if you’re introducing… it started off as a pretty basic policy about giving jobs to international students or people who live away from home, but you’re introducing the region of Sydney, if we’re going to increase the criteria, isn’t this just a way to go ensure that the jobs go to people who, ideologically, you expect them to go to?
CW: Criteria means that there has to be a factor in the hiring process. They’re already hiring because the most obvious factor is whether they qualified for the job or not. And that should always be the most overwhelming factor but it’s simply the idea that people who need USU jobs should be given a better outlook by a USU job interviewer. And obviously, if this policy works you gain support by the other board directors then we would workshop it and we would find a model that would both enhance simplicity and also enhance the the goal which is USU jobs for USU jobs for USU students and those USU jobs for students should go to people who really need them.
HS: Would you add to those factors for consideration, say that the candidate is a woman or is not a cis-gendered man?
CW: Again similar to what you said about the international students, this is the same as the questions about the internal students – I would want to look at the USU staff and determine if there is a problem, if there is a definitive problem with the hiring of women, for instance. I would analyse the gender pay gap among the USU staff. I would analyse the percentage and what .. and what parts of the USU they are part of. And I would determine whether that’s a problem or not.
HS: Would you, for instance, extend this policy to external providers operating within USU spaces as well? So for example at O Week when brands bring staff and when there’s a massive influx of workers, and events like that, would you mandate policies, similar policies for those kind of workers as well?
CW: I’m not sure of how… So you’re talking, so say there’s an Optus stand and Optus hires the people to work on the Optus stand during O Week. I’m not sure what the contracts are and how specific they are, that would be something that would really need to be looked into more detail but in principle I support more USU job opportunities and affiliated job opportunities for University of Sydney students.
HS: Onto a couple of your other policies then, you’ve got a bevy of policies at the start of the policy platform about making food on campus better, making live music on campus better. I mean that’s very vague to say make something, making something better. It’s very easy for you to claim that you’ve improved that policy, that you’ve delivered on that policy [if] one person says “oh this food outlet is better.” What do you actually mean?
CW: Well the issue with the policy statement is that you do have to put specific policies in it but it’s also asking you- it doesn’t specifically ask you but the nature of it sort of demands that you have a vision for the board and an outlook of board and what you would fight for on the board. The reason that I put better food on campus and better music on campus is because if elected on the board I would fi- I would preference those things, and I would work on these things and I would be part of the working parties and the committees – hopefully – that sort of, were part of the process of improving those things and because they are important to most students and they are important to pretty much every ACCESS member. It is basic to say that we should have better food on campus and better venues on campus. But that’s a large part of the reason why people get an ACCESS card and we shouldn’t discount that, for being a very standard policy.
HS: But having a policy that just uses the word ‘better’ and leaving it up to students to kind of imagine what that might mean, is very electorally convenient isn’t it? I mean you can now do walk and talks where you just say “we’re going to make free on campus better” and hopefully get votes that way. What are you, what do you actually see as being better food on campus?
CW: Better food means, for instance, there’s a policy about food trucks – I think the food trucks that we’ve seen so far have been a fantastic initiative, in terms of talking to students.. what they want is they want more options – you know, this is from previous board campaigns – they want more options and they want more value for money. So better food means better, which means more things like cheap combo deals to get a lunch for only five or six dollars and a good lunch. It means different ideas around how we can really vary up the food options and also vary it up consistently. So people have new, you know, different things, so they’re not going to the same place every single week.
HS: You’ve got another policy then, there, about improving non-USU outlets. What do you mean by that, given that the USU doesn’t have control over non-USU outlets?
CW: So the purpose of that policy, is if, in any case, the contract with Subway or the contract with Xquisito were to ever come up, I would have consultation and determine if students like these outlets or whether there is scope for renewal of these outlets or whether people don’t like them. That’s pretty much the basis of it. I think those are the only two non-USU outlets, is there another? In USU buildings, I mean.
HS: In terms of another couple of policies in that case, so on ACCESS equity, again, you said you’d expand the ACCESS equity scheme. Can you give us an idea of what that would look like, numbers wise, how many ACCESS…
CW: So, the main way I would improve it is advertising and accessibility of the scheme. There is – I realised that I talked to a biased view of students being a law student means that you do have people who don’t.. who have higher income. But I have, so far, spoken to one person who has told me that they used the ACCESS equity scheme, just in conversation, and that person previously campaigned for a board candidate who ran on this policy. So that demonstrates to me that there is a lack of knowledge about this option for low-ES students, low SES students, and I don’t know if it’s anything just as simple as just making sure that every student who has signed up at the University on an E12 gets… make sure that they get an email about the access equity scheme.
HS: Would you support expanding the numbers of ACCESS equity cards?
HS: Your other policy on ACCESS is a monthly pay scheme. How do you envision that working?
CW: Very simple. You can sign up to access for six dollars a month for instance.
HS: So given that the Constitution of the USU defines an ACCESS, a member of the union, as somebody who has paid their fees – Aren’t you creating constitutional nightmares, if one person pays for the full year and another person is paying their fees, effectively has not paid their fees in full because they’re paying on a staggered basis.
CW: So ….. yeah, this is the policy that would have to be workshopped and looked at, but it’s just a policy that I think we should wrestle with any issues. I mean, the Constitution is up for change anyway. I think there’s still some constitutional amendments they want to get through; Chuck this one in, throw it in there, because I think that this …. What we want to do is, we want to increase the amount of ACCESS memberships students have, so that the students money.
CW: Because if you increase the amount of ACCESS memberships you can do two things: you can either reduce the cost of ACCESS or provide more services. So this is me thinking “what are the ways that we can improve the amount of ACCESS memberships we have?” Month-to-month ACCESS sounds like a great idea for that. And whatever issues there are, I would look forward to, if elected on board, working through those issues and trying to get it done.
HS: Logistically don’t you think it’s just more likely a whole lot of students will sign up for the first month of the year, so they can join some clubs during O Week, and then ACCESS membership will sharply drop off?
CW: Well no, because I think the policy should state that once your ACCESS membership drops off, then you are no longer a member of those clubs and societies. I think that’s completely fair. That is, that does sound logistically hard but it is something that the benefit gained from more ACCESS members would outweigh any disbenefit in terms of bureaucracy.
HS: I think that what happens if you’re a club and you get to say October and you have a zero membership list because no one has paid their fees for that month and you can’t get re-registered? And your club dies.
CW: Well part of that is running.. making sure you run a good club, if you run a good club then people will make sure that they stay members and people will make sure that they stay ACCESS members for that.
I think that, you know, if you have a good club or society then that would be a way in which you could guarantee… a way in which you could make sure that people are engaging with it because you’re like “hey, do you think we’re doing a good job, make sure to renew, make sure you keep keep paying your ACCESS” and keep in mind that this wouldn’t automatically be everyone switching to a five dollar a month system, it would have options. There are many students who would prefer the flat payment and of course the flat yearly payment would definitely, based on, you know, incentives and so on, have a discount for that.
HS: So doesn’t that mean that in the long run you’d actually be making low SES students worse off?
CW: How so?
HS: Given that they would be paying more, for the entire period.
CW: Because this is designed to attract people who weren’t ACCESS members in the first place that’s… its not attracting people who are already ACCESS members and who find it difficult to pay the payment of the year. It’s attracting the people who I’ve spoken to have said “no, I just don’t feel like I can pay sixty five dollars for ACCESS.” So this would be a way to attract people who aren’t ACCESS members.
HS: This is the kind of policy that’s been promised a lot, I think in the five years, four years, however long I’ve been here now. It’s come up every year, nothing has been done to reduce the cost of ACCESS or to change the payment scheme. Can you guarantee that your term on board, if elected will be one where it happens?
CW: It would be a priority for while I’m on board to fight for this. And I also look hopeful that, you know, my favourite other candidate in the race: Bec, if she gets elected, which I think would be a great thing, and I really would like that to happen. She’s also got that in her statement. So it would be something that we would work on together, perhaps-
HS: Would you work with Lachlan Finch on this? Given he has it in his statement too?
CW: So what does he have in his statement, because what I saw was the gold, silver, and bronze thing-
HS: Alongside making ACCESS cheaper.
CW: Making ACCESS cheaper, that’s the kind of thing that I think is is vague and the reason why things like this don’t happen. Making access month-to-month is a SMART goal and I think that’s something that we can sort of set up a plan to achieve, but if Lachlan was on board with the month-to-month ACCESS – yeah, get him involved and let’s work out a policy to get this done.
HS: Thank you very much
CW: See you at your thing next Thursday!
Note: this is a full transcript of an Honi Soit candidate interview. Some words have been edited for clarity.