Editors Nell O’Grady, Pranay Jha and Liam Thorne are not involved in the 2019 coverage of the Honi Soit, NUS and SRC elections.
For nearly a decade, the core body of the SRC — the Council, comprising directly elected student representatives — was fixed at 33 councillors, last increased from 31 in 2010. Now, 35 council seats will be on the market in this semester’s SRC race after a decision by newly crowned Electoral Officer (EO) Casper Lu.
The SRC Constitution requires one representative for every one thousand students enrolled in an undergraduate degree, or part thereof, rounded to the next odd number.
The groundwork for the increase was laid last year when Honi revealed the Council had been undersized for more than five years while elections were being administered by EO Paulene Graham.
In her outgoing report, 2018 EO Karen Chau recommended an increase to 35 seats for the term of the 92nd SRC due for election this semester.
According to the University’s 2018 Annual Report, there were 35,351 undergraduate students enrolled that year. However, according to the latest enrolment lists obtained by Honi back last semester, undergraduate enrolments in June 2019 sat at the more recent figure of 37,146.
In lieu of census data from Semester 1 2019 which Lu could not obtain, he instead relied upon the 2018 report’s figures and Council’s acceptance of Chau’s report. A rigid ruling by the SRC’s Standing Legal Committee also enabled the increase to 35 seats if enrolment numbers went above 33,000.
“There is no language in the interpretation which refers to the specific condition (enrolment numbers) in the recommendation; merely accepting the report gives 35 representatives it seems.” Lu told Honi.
This decision leaves the lingering possibility of continued underrepresentation on Council until next year’s election. Despite the increase in seats, the maximum number of representative tickets for each brand remains capped at 17 in 2019.
The increase has been met with support from the full breadth of the political spectrum. Co-Vice President Dane Luo (Shake Up) told Honi the change would improve accessibility to the SRC’s main body.
“It would be an advantage to have more opportunities to participate in the most important and powerful body of the organisation,” Luo said.
Presidential aspirant Josie Jakovac (Moderate Liberal) echoed Luo, telling Honi that opportunities for engagement and leadership were important on campus.
“It is really incredible to see our university continuing to grow and welcome new international students and students from diverse backgrounds,” Jakovac said.
Jakovac’s upcoming electoral opponent, former Honi editor Liam Donohoe (Grassroots) also supported the expansion but expressed disappointment that Council had not increased to 37.
“It’s pretty ridiculous that students have been underrepresented for as long as they have, and I will fight to have the number of councillors increased to 37 should I get elected,” Donohoe said.
With more seats available, the required quota for a candidate to be elected without preferences will be lower. This will make it easier to be elected without favourable external preference deals. Ticket heads, who traditionally play a more active role in campaigning and are most likely to break quota, will be the immediate beneficiaries of the increased seats. Brands, eager to maximise this benefit, may end up fielding more tickets.
Acting President Caitlyn Chu (Panda) did not respond to requests for comment.
Nominations close at 4:30pm this Wednesday 21 August.
Polling for the Honi Soit, SRC and National Union of Students elections will take place between the 24th and 26th of September.