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St Paul’s College “freshers” given monetary incentive to join SULC by members of soft-right

First year college students were allegedly promised two dollars to sign up to the Liberal Club by members of the soft-right

Image of SULC stall signpost which reads "Liberal Club" surrounded by blue and white balloons

First year “freshers” at St Paul’s College have allegedly been funnelled into joining the Sydney University Liberal Club (SULC) by members of the soft-right faction on campus. Sources within SULC allege this to have been coordinated by Alex Fitton, Will Jefferies and Bailey Broom, campus Liberals aligned with the faction.

Honi was informed by a member of SULC that Fitton, Jefferies and Broom promised “freshers” the two dollar joining fee to join SULC during Welcome Week, in order to stack the Club and have it controlled by their own soft-right faction. Fitton is currently Assistant Sub-Warden and Peer Support Leader at St Paul’s College.

Honi has seen photos of Fitton at the SULC Welcome Week stall taken at midday on Wednesday, in a St Paul’s College cap, amongst a queue of around 40 people who appeared to be signing up to the club. Honi has also seen footage of Jefferies and Broom loitering outside the SULC stall at approximately the same time.

Other footage seen by Honi depicts a stall attendant asking a student in the queue whether they were paid two dollars to sign up to the club, to which the student responds, “Nah, we got given two bucks to sign up to any [club].” The stall attendant then asks the student whether it was recommended that they sign up to SULC, to which they reply “yes.”

Sources within SULC have alleged that the stacking is being orchestrated by former SULC President William Dawes and Federal Member for Mitchell, Alex Hawke. Dawes was President of SULC between 2014-15, before the Club swung to the left with the success of Josh Crawford over Dom Bondar in the 2016 presidential election. According to the SULC website, Alex Hawke is a Life Member of the Club. During the 2016 election, Dawes “unequivocally” condemned stacking, but did not respond to Honi’s request for comment regarding Wednesday’s events.

Fitton denied to Honi that he had knowledge of any potential stacking and noted that he is not involved with SULC in 2019. He also claimed that he had not been in contact with Dawes or Hawke in the past six months. Fitton asserted that he was at the stall “talking to some friends from another college who were standing in line nearby.” He did, however, admit that one or two first years had asked him about clubs on campus.

According to both the St Paul’s College Handbook and its action plan to implement recommendations of the Broderick Review, Fitton’s role as Assistant Sub-Warden of the College includes involvement in designing the College’s Orientation Week program, alongside the provision of pastoral care for first year students. Along this vein, it is possible that Fitton would have knowledge of the whereabouts of 40 new St Paul’s students in his capacity as Assistant Sub-Warden.

Current SULC President Jack O’Brien told Honi that Fitton had previously attempted to stack the Club in both 2016 and 2018. He alleges that “this time, he is inappropriately using and politicising his position… [in] St Paul’s College.”

Feuds between different factions within SULC are not novel. The Club’s presidency was held by the soft-right faction, who have been described as hardline libertarians, from 2014 to 2015. In 2016, the so-called “Alex Dore” faction gained power over the club under the presidency of Josh Crawford. SULC currently remains under the control of this faction.

SULC has been tainted by allegations of factional discord and stacking since at least 2016, despite an anti-stacking measure requiring members to have attended three meetings in order to have voting rights that has been in place since before 2012.

The SULC annual general meeting, where the new executive is elected, is ordinarily held in June of each year as per the Club’s constitution.

An earlier version of this article stated that a “moderate” grouping took and held control of SULC in 2016. This is incorrect, and the article has been amended to note that it was in fact the “Alex Dore” faction that did this.