USU Board candidate interview: Zimeng Ye

The full transcript of Honi's interview with 2018 Union Board candidate, Zimeng Ye

Independent | Commerce II | Quiz Score: 16%
Interviewed by Elijah Abraham and Janek Drevikovsky

HS: Why don’t you start with us your name, degree, and what year you’re in.

ZY: Okay. My name is Zimeng,  a year 2 commerce student majoring in Finance and Business Analytics.

HS: Why would you say you’re running for USU board.

ZY: Well I think the reason is really simple because I think I have some good policies to implement and I want to do some things for students and especially for international students because I am one thing. I want to continue to voice for them and yet do some things for them.

HS: What do you think the status of international students is at the moment that you want to improve.

ZY: You mean the political view?

HS: How international students are treated on campus, what things can the USU can do to make their lives on campus life better.

ZY: I think international student. And for me I am neutral of politics and political party because I don’t have any affiliations for Liberal or Labor. So I am independent maybe yeah i thing yeah I think international students are in this side. Independent side .  I think you mean USU can do can something for international students. I think for me I have some policies for international students so I just think we can improve the participation rates of that international student and encourage them to engage more into the uni.

HS: In terms of political views then so you said you’re independent. Are you an independent who nonetheless has political ideas about the USU do you have a view of how the USU should be politicised?

ZY: I don’t have too much experience with politics  so I’m neutral on this question.

HS: And what’s a USU club or society that you value most or you think does a really important role for students at USyd.

ZY: I was I was a member of one society of the USU, it’s named China development society.

HS: What does that society do?

ZY: This society is about China’s development and we have some talks and forum to talk about China’s development and as a way to light. Also international student and local student to know more about China.

HS: Is that a political club?

ZY:: No.

HS: So in what way do you want to bring that Chinese development?

ZY: I think in this stage we are more focused about Chinese culture.

HS: Helping people understand Chinese culture.

ZY: We host some activities like Chinese traditional festival.

HS: in terms of the USU more broadly are there some USU policies from the last couple of years, USU initiatives which you think are particularly good which you approve of.

ZY: Yeah I know some international students already in the USU board like Koko and Zhixian, they’re all international students and they have some policies that I think are very beneficial to international students like the WeChat platform. Actually it’s very useful because we can get more information from the USU about uni. I think it’s very helpful.

HS: So of the candidates that are running this year other than yourself obviously, who are your top three and who you think you would work well with.

ZY: I think all international students are good for the USU Campaign for the top three I put Decheng in in the first place. And Janet Yin and maybe save one for Mike Mao or Lachlan.

HS: Why would you put Decheng first?

ZY: I have some communication with Decheng and I think he had a lot of good ideas

HS: Which one of his ideas?

ZY: Yeah I know he also wants to work for international students. So I think it’s good.

HS: From reading through his policy, we haven’t interviewed Decheng yet, but his policy platform says he is running a very fiscally responsible platform where he says he won’t take a salary or make sure that every year this year is sustainable. Those sound like the policies some people could definitely agree with but to me there sounds like policies that come from more towards the conservative side of politics so something leaning towards the right where people value keeping budgets balanced. You said that you’re not political but do you agree with those kinds of policies?

ZY: Maybe part of it. I think Decheng also have some policies for international students. I think I agree with that kind of policy. I agree with policies of Decheng that’s beneficial to international students.  But for other policies, I don’t think I have right to judge him.

HS:  In terms of policies for international students, do you think all international students want the same things?

ZY: Not the same thing. So as a candidate I have asked a lot of international students around me asking what they want, what they need. So I try to find what they want.

HS: You mentioned your top three. Have you started negotiations for preferences?

ZY: Well we’re in the process and still under negotiation.

HS: Oh ok so you haven’t decided yet. Who do you think you’re leaning towards in terms of preferences?

ZY: I’m not sure because my campaign manager do this for me.

HS: Okay. Who are your campaign managers actually?

ZY: Jackie Hu.

HS: Is he also active in the China development society?

ZY: Yes. He is a member of that society.

HS: Out of the candidates that are running for USU this year are there any that you think you couldn’t work with? And if so, why?

ZY: I’m not sure because I don’t have too many connections with the candidates.

HS: Well is there any candidate that you agree with less in terms of their policies.

ZY: Well I think everyone is good. Nobody is better or worse.

HS: Yeah. Are you aware of USU executive elections?

ZY: Oh you mean in the past.

HS: How the USU needs to elect the next president, and since you’d be elected to board…

ZY: Oh you mean the next few days?

HS: No no. If you get elected then after that there’ll be the election of the new USU president. Out of the five board members that were elected last year and so do you know who have you given any thought to be supporting in the upcoming presidential election?

ZY: Oh I no idea about this thing now but if I get elected maybe I’ll know more and decide later.

HS: Do you know who the current president is ?

ZY: Courtney? Yeah because she gave us a speech in the candidate training session.

HS: Yeah right. Yeah so Courtney is the president who’s leaving the end of the semester so there’ll be an election for that if you get elected. So in terms of some of the boards recent policies and initiatives that have come out just this year there’s been a couple of things which are controversial. We thought we might get your take on them.  One big one has been a change to the way that alcohol is funded for clubs and societies. Do you know anything about that policy?

ZY: I don’t know too much about that.

HS: So under the new policy clubs can only get funded for alcohol for the events that they run if they run those events at a USU outlet so they have to go to some cafe owned by the USU that sells alcohol and by the alcohol which would restrict them to manning bar, Hermann’s bar or Courtyard effectively. Whereas in the past they could get funded for alcohol purchases anywhere. They could go off campus to a bar on King street. Do you agree with that policy?

ZY: So now the new policy says we can only get alcohol from our cafes or bar under the USU.

HS: The USU won’t give you money if your clubs buy alcohol elsewhere.

ZY: I’m not quite sure I think maybe because the café’s is under USU. Yes that’s right. Yeah. OK. So yeah maybe I think if students can drink in their campus it is safer than outside.

HS:  There’s a lot of criticism about how the policy was introduced. A lot of clubs and society executives said they haven’t been consulted. How would you see a role of the USU board working with the clubs and society executives elected?

ZY: For me I think one of the benefits of this policy, I think it’s safer to drink in our campus because the society is under our control, under the management of the USU, so I think the USU should be responsible for the safety of every student.

HS: But for instance you came to a different policy than the board had to decide on affecting clubs and societies. How do you see the role of the board in liaising or speaking to those clubs and societies, do you think the board should take into account their views. Or should it do what’s better in the board’s view even if clubs and societies disagree?

ZY: But I think this is not my policy so if it’s a policy of someone else they’re responsible, they’re responsible to talk with societies.

HS: If it were your policy? If there was another policy which you felt very strongly about but the clubs and societies disagree with, would you change your view?

ZY: I’ll communicate with them. I would tell them why I think we should practice this policy. But yeah we will have a communication and it depends on the situation. I respect the societies.

HS: Do you support the board’s affirmative action policy. So do you know about that one?

ZY: By the women identifying students. Yeah I support this policy because I think in the past it’s usual for men to dominate position in politics. But I think it’s very necessary to hear the voices from different groups like the gender group male or female. So I think it’s necessary. Yes so I support it.

HS: And do you support a similar AA policy for international students?

ZY: For international students, I’m not quite sure for this one because I think it’s important for international student to know more about USU. But I think it’s very dependent on the support base or the voting base. So maybe not.

HS: What do you mean it’s dependent on voting base?

ZY: Well I think the voting base and support base is the same for every candidate from international or domestic. So they will campaign for their election. So I don’t think so I don’t think the AA policy for international student is so necessary as saying if international students have more access or more information about the election, if they support our policy they will vote for us. Yes so I don’t think AA is so necessary for international student.

HS: Couldn’t you make the same arguments about international students as AA used as to support for women about international students being oppressed on campus?

ZY: I think there two different things because women and men is a gender problem and the international student thing is different.

HS: Another policy we’re interested in getting your take on is recent changes that the USU made to its polling stations for the upcoming elections. So you might be aware that the board closed a couple of polling stations have you heard about that?

ZY: I’ve heard a little bit about it, can you introduce more to me?

HS: So they used to be a polling station in Merewether building is that closed. There used to also be a polling station in the international students lounge that will only now be open for pre-poll, and not on the election day itself.

ZY: Can I ask the reason why we closed that?

HS: The reasons given to us was that both those locations were unsafe. I understand where the polling station was on the top of a flight of stairs, the international students lounge station was really crowded during election day. Obviously Hengjie sun, the board director during the debate over the various polling booths raised the possibility that this would disenfranchise international students who wouldn’t necessarily have close access to polling booths. What do you think about these changes, do you support them?

ZY: Well I think of course if we close voting points for Merewether maybe some international students won’t vote. Because it is more trouble for them to vote somewhere else. Yeah it’s certain. If they’re saying the reason is about safety, yeah I think it’s reasonable because their safety is the most important thing for students.

HS: Why do you think international students vote in USU elections at all or in the past? What have their motivations have been?

ZY: I think in the past. International students didn’t pay a lot of attention about their student politics but I see from 2016, Koko Kong has encouraged us to participate more into the uni so I think more and more international students know about the election or student politics and I think most of us want international students to be better and have a better experience in the uni. So I think they will vote for that representation of international students.

HS: And another policy. I think the last thing we are interested in hearing your opinion on, the USU last year voted to stay open during a couple of strikes that were being run by the National Tertiary Education Union which is the union that represents all employees of the university. Would you as a board director vote to participate in the strikes or would you vote to keep the USU open?

ZY:I have no idea about these question because I don’t know what the policy or the story about this one.

HS: Right so there were a series of strikes, industrial action last year being run by members of a union that represents employees of the uni. And during those strikes the USU voted to to stay open so it didn’t participate in the strike, it didn’t close its offices even though the rest of the uni, all the academics and professional staff at the university didn’t come to work that day. Instead the USU said that ‘no we will come to work today’. So they didn’t participate in the strikes. They didn’t join in with the rest of the tertiary employees on that. If you’re in that position would you vote to keep the USU open or would you vote to participate in the strikes.

ZY: Maybe I think the USU is more of a student organization. It is more about students so I think students benefit is the most important thing for the USU.

HS: Would you keep it open?

ZY:: I’m sorry I’m neutral on this question.

HS: In terms of the USU system to benefit students but they do in more ways than just for instance they can access the services offered. Is there a role for the USU to engage in political action and activism.

ZY: Yeah I think yes you can practice more policies which are beneficial to all the students like some of my policies. One of my policies is a shared charging point. The charging stations in the new law library, is a charging station for mobile phones. I want to increase the amount of this kind of charging station and some laptop chargers in the main libraries. I think it’s useful and helpful for a lot of students so yeah I think this is kind of a benefit that we can provide to students.

HS: But beyond that obviously the USU can give services and give students physical things but what about the USU actually campaigning these students on a political level? So kind of, for instance say like campaigning for international concessions or something like that. Does the USU have a role there?

ZY: International student opal card?

HS: Yeah or just public policy in general, does the USU have a role to support students that way?

ZY: I don’t know if the international students Opal card is activism or…

HS: You can’t do that at university level, you have to campaign to the government to get that done for instance.

ZY: Oh it’s a higher level.

HS: Yes exactly. Is it something the USU should take on or is it something that we should leave to the government, for instance.

ZY: Well I think if the policy is good for student it’s good for the uni. I think we can have more communication with the government and then have negotiation. Yeah I think we can have that.

HS: How do you define what good for students from different students have different views?

ZY: Because I think the good thing for students is that whether they had a good experience at uni, and I think that is also the mission of the USU. The USU’s mission is to provide a better experience of the university in Australia, so I think good things for students, and students are happier to study here, or do they enjoy their life in uni.

HS: Given that some decisions of the union will make some students happy and other students unhappy, how do you weigh those two things up. For instance, the alcohol policy has the capacity to bring a lot of safety, which makes students happy, but also there are a lot of executives of clubs and societies who enjoyed events held off campus and they’d possibly be made unhappy by the policy. How do you weigh up competing policy?

ZY: We can’t have everyone be satisfied by the policy so we want to maximize so that most students benefit.

HS: Having a look at your policies, one thing we did mention in your candidate profile is you don’t have experience. What experience do you have that would qualify you to run a multimillion dollar organization?

ZY: I think my experience is in CDS, the society. That’s my experience.

HS: What was your role in that society?

ZY: Actually, I was just a new member of that society and I work for them, but I don’t play any important role.

HS: So you don’t have an organizing role. So the USU is a multimillion dollar organization, major decisions that govern how it’s run and how it spends its money. Do you think you’re qualified?

ZY: I think experience is certainly important but I think it’s not the most important thing. I think your passion, your energy and whether if you really want to do something for others. I think these things are more important than your experience.

HS: In terms of the day to day work, my impression is that a lot less of it is implementing policies you’re passionate about, as good as they may be, and most of it is overseeing staff, governance responsibilities, especially working as an administer or strategic managers. Does passion help people be good strategic managers? Do you need to have more experience in organizing in roles?

ZY: Because I’m passionate and energetic, so I want to learn, I want to be better. If I lack some experiences, I’ll communicate more and learn more from people who have experiences and skills.

HS: We’ll go through specific policies. Your primary policy is the smart uni policy, so the laptops, umbrellas, mobiles and computers. One thing we noticed about the power bank, is the uni already provides six powerbanks in its library. Why should the USU put out money for a powerbank loans scheme, and also students can just bring chargers to uni.

ZY: I just deleted the policy of the power bank, my policy is about increasing the amount of charging stations.

HS: Well you’re saying they’re trying to increase the locations but the USU only owns a limited amount of buildings on campus, so it’s just Wentworth, Holme and Manning. They’re not teaching buildings, they are buildings that have food outlets. Would you have to enter a licensing agreement with the uni to put charging stations in other places.

ZY: I think adding some charging stations won’t cause too much but it will benefit students a lot and bring them a lot of convenience, so I want to practice that because it’s good for students.

HS: But you’re only increasing it to a small area, and they aren’t teaching areas. How do you go about other places, considering the USU is separate to the Uni.

ZY: I know that. I will have communication with the university, I will tell them it’s a good thing and we want to do that.

HS: In terms of your other shared policy, which is for shared umbrellas on campus, is that still a policy which you’re going to run with. Can you explain how that would work?

ZY: We will put some umbrellas or calculators, like something else, in the USU dominated building like Wentworth building or Holme building so if you are an ACCESS member or if you are a student of Sydney Uni you can have free borrowing of that kind  of stuff and just register your ACCESS number or student card and return it back later.

HS: The SRC already offers calculator loans for students who don’t have ACCESS cards, so they can come here to the SRC offices to borrow them. What does your policy add in addition to that?

ZY: I assume it’s an exam conditions, especially for midterm or finals, I think one time I forgot to bring my calculator so it was a lot of trouble. At that moment, I didn’t know the SRC offers calculators for students. I just want to provide some convenience for students in urgent conditions if they forget to bring something.

HS: That would only be restricted to students with ACCESS cards presumably.

ZY: I think students with ACCESS cards or students of Sydney Uni.

HS: Do you think the USU would extend the policy to students who didn’t have ACCESS cards?

ZY: I’m not sure, maybe they will.

HS: In terms of the umbrella policy, how do you see that working. Can people only keep the umbrellas on campus or can they take them home?

ZY: They can take them home and return them back the second day.

HS: Do you think people would actually bring them back?

ZY: I hope they can. Yeah because we would register their ACCESS number or student ID so I think we have their information, and I think the concept of shared uni is to encourage the sharing.

HS: It’s a nice concept, but the way I’ve seen it with Obike for instance, is people damage the bikes and don’t really take them back where they’re meant to go. Would something similar happen with umbrellas?

ZY: It could happen but we’ll think more about this to prevent this kind of situation.

HS: Would the services be free? (Yes it would be free). Would you have to put down a deposit to use them?

ZY: Mmhmm.

HS: So you’d have to put down a deposit?

ZY: I’m not sure, maybe, but now I just have this kind of idea. For later, I will think about how to practice it.

HS: Have you worked out financially how it’ll be a viable policy because you have the cost of developing the app, getting the goods, and do you think it is financially sustainable for the USU to pursue?

ZY: You mean my policy of shared uni? Yeah I think for shared uni, the USU cannot make money from this. I think it’s purely providing some convenience for students.

HS: If the USU can’t make money from it, the money has to come out of somewhere in the budget. Where would you take money from?

ZY: You mean I can take money from the USU budget for the charging station?

HS: You can, but the budget is limited so you’d have to reallocate the funds.

ZY: As I mentioned before, I don’t think the charging stations won’t cost too much.

HS: Presumably it’ll cost something, so you’ll have to allocate money no matter what. You said the policy won’t make money for the USU so there’s not really money coming into the budget. That means in order for the policy to be brought about you have to take money from somewhere else in the budget so what other program will you take money out of it.

ZY: I think if we have some more interesting events or activities, it would encourage students to be ACCES members and the USU can make money from increasing members of ACCESS cards.

HS: In recent years the trend has been downwards in terms of number of ACCESS card members. Do you think that’s likely to happen, given that costs of living tend to rise?

ZY: It could happen but the USU should think about some ways to solve this problem and encourage more students to engage.

HS: Your secondhand market policy, that’s going to be online, offline and you want to create an app for second hand stuff. Is that something that’s going to be financially beneficial to the USU?

ZY: I think maybe the students who want to sell or buy, yeah I think the students will have a place to sell or buy their secondhand stuff, maybe they can give a little bit of money to the USU, a fee.

HS: Wouldn’t people instead of paying the USU for selling space, wouldn’t they just sell it on Facebook market or gumtree?

ZY: I think the secondhand market could be a physical one held on Eastern Ave because I think it’s convenient for students. From my perspective, I really want to do something good for students and bring convenience.

HS: In terms of a similar policy, one of your new policies which isn’t on your online disclosure statement, is an international students careers fair. Could you explain how it would work?

ZY: I think I would incorporate with some societies which have some internship or job opportunities, and hold once or twice a year.

HS: How would you target it to international students?

ZY: Of course I know the uni has official careers fair for all students but it’s still difficult for international students to find jobs through this careers fair. We don’t have PR or we are not Australian citizens, so it’s still problematic. I want to hold an international students careers fair to create more opportunities to find work.

HS: But what would make the international students careers fair different? Would you invite the same companies? Would you just label it differently or are there going to be meaningful policy differences?

ZY: I know some societies have connections with companies, or some other organisations. As the USU, I want to incorporate with these kinds of societies, not only one, maybe a few and hold a careers fair. For international students, they will have more options to choose from.

HS: I’m still not understanding what’s different from a normal careers fair. If you said the difficulty of a normal careers fair, is that companies overlook international students because they don’t have permanent residency, then surely the companies you invite to the international students careers fair will also say the same. How do you overcome that?

ZY: I think for the preference of this kind of companies, I would prefer to companies who are welcoming to international students to join them.

HS: What kinds of companies are those?

ZY: Maybe some Chinese law firms or some big international firms.

HS: The issue with non-residents and jobs is a bit difficult, is the USU going to do anything to safeguard people who get jobs through those avenues?

ZY: I don’t think the USU could promise to make a promise about who can make a job, I think the USU just offers a platform.

HS: Is this kind of initiative relevant to the majority of international students who are here on short term study visas? If a lot of international students are here to get a degree and then go back home, why would they necessarily be looking for a job at an Australian careers fair.

ZY: I think, we already spend too much to study here, of course we want to experience more, not only study but also work. I think most international students want to gain some work experiences in Australia.

HS: One of your last policies was the UTalk policy, why is this something the USU should pursue?

ZY: I think the UTalk is focusing more about the students speaking, so I want to encourage students to give a speech about their success or their excellent academic performance or experiences, anything else positive to spread.

HS: Current students? (Yes). What qualifies someone to be an influential student?

ZY: I’m not talking about influential student, if you have positive experiences or anything good that deserves to be spread, then that’s good.

HS: Do you have an example of what a student could talk about?

ZY: for example, top 1% of students of the faculty can share their academic experiences or how he gets such a good grade to the students, just share his experiences.

HS: In the policy platform, what you wrote is ideas worth spreading. How do you justify that as ideas worth spreading?

ZY: I would do some research from the students and find what is their interest. I think the students interests should be the criteria or choosing the speakers

HS: One of your other policies is for arts exhibitions. Is that still part of your policy platform?

ZY: I think it’s not the main part, because lots of students or candidates and societies will have multicultural events so that’s not specific of my policies because I can incorporate with these kinds of people and we can do this together.

HS: The USU already runs an art gallery called Verge gallery and relevant to your other International Bridge policy, it runs international students week. How would you improve both facilities if that’s what you’re passionate about?

ZY: I would incorporate with organisations and societies to invite lots of international students or domestic students to participate together, so I want to give some help and push it to be better.

HS: I think that’s about all we had.

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