Yuxuan Yang, one of the SRC’s two co-general secretaries, has refunded part of his $12,000 stipend, in recognition of three months spent absent from his duties.
He said the decision to return $948 to the SRC, equivalent to one month’s pay, reflected his lack of performance in the role.
“I promised to our students, our international students a lot of things and I made some things come true but some things didn’t come true,” he said.
Yang, an international student and member of the Panda faction on campus, returned home to China for three months between April and June this year, due to personal health issues.
He told Honi that, in the past, office bearers have not refunded their pay despite neglecting their responsibilities. But he “didn’t want to be a person like this”.
Yang said he conveyed his decision to the SRC Administration and Systems Manager in August.
Nina Dillon Britton, who splits the general secretary position with Yang, said she did not understand why he chose to return only four weeks’ pay, rather than pay for the full three months he was away and uncontactable.
“I think if an [office bearer] is paid for an amount of time they clearly did no work for, the right thing to do is for them to return the entirety of the money they received during that time.”
Yang said he decided not to make the refund public ahead of September’s SRC elections, citing concerns that SRC staff would have been too busy to process repayment, and that he did not want to make the election easier for his team.
“I did not want to use this method to get votes, I want[ed] to make [it] a fair election.”
Last week, Honi reported that Yang may nominate for the general secretary position again at the SRC’s annual Repselect, scheduled for Thursday 1 November. This will be the first meeting of the 2019 council, and will elect all SRC executives and office bearers other than the president.
Yang did not rule out running for the position, but said it depended on negotiations leading up to Repselect, and Panda’s internal preselection. Yang told Honi he would assess the benefits of what he could achieve as general secretary, before making a decision on whether to nominate.
He said he “really [wanted] to contribute [him]self” to the SRC next year regardless of whether he had an official position or not.
Yang also revealed that he had chosen to distribute some of his stipend to five other unpaid office bearers. “It is not fair that I get the income and they do not,” he said.
He did not specify which office bearers he had given compensation, but stressed that they would have performed their roles unpaid.
“If they get paid they can work more. It doesn’t mean that if they weren’t paid, they wouldn’t work. It’s just if they get paid they can work happier.”
The SRC general secretary is responsible for preparing the organisation’s budget, publishing the OWeek Counter Course handbook, providing reports to Council and attending meetings, amongst other duties.
Yang said he had a substantial role in preparing the Counter Course handbook, organising the translation of the “radical guide to Sydney Uni” into Chinese and Arabic.
Dillon Britton said Yang did not help with staff consultation or collecting operational information from Office Bearers, and said he chose “not to be very involved in the budget preparations”.
She told Honi that having to work alone in the general secretary position without the extra pay was “unjust” and had caused her significant financial pressure.
The SRC does not have mechanisms to ensure paid office bearers complete their work, or to penalise those who don’t. Other student organisations at USyd such as SUPRA use timesheets as reporting measures.
President Imogen Grant did not respond to a request for comment.