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SASS election stacked again by Mod-Lib/Unity coalition

The news comes amidst allegations of a deal that traded NUS delegates for SASS exec positions

All members of the 2019-20 SASS Executive standing for a photo The 2019-20 SASS Executive

Disclaimer: Liam Thorne is a current member of Sydney Grassroots

A coalition of Moderate Liberals (Mod-Libs) and Labor Unity (Unity) have taken back the Sydney Arts Student Society (SASS), beating out the existing executive comprised of non-aligned SASS members. 

The vote for President was contested between mod-lib Nick Rigby and Katherine Anagnostopoulous. Anagnostopoulos belongs to what could be described as a group of SASS members non-aligned to any political factions. She, along with most students in that group, emphasised her apolitical nature and dedication to SASS in her speech.

Ultimately, despite what appeared to be a heavy Mod-Lib/Unity presence in the room filled with 80 voters, Anagnostopoulous ended up losing by a mere two votes. 

Before voting took place, several people spoke to the crowd alluding to the need to steer clear of voting according to factional deals. Current SASS President, Brooke Salzmann, said factional dealing compromised the effectiveness of SASS, strongly discouraging factional voting.

Salzmann recently authorised the Cream for Honi campaign, an outfit heavily associated with the mod-libs.

Salzmann’s sentiments were also supported by co-executive member Tim Seguna, an ex-Students’ Representative Council and Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association councillor. Seguna also managed Mod-Lib Lachlan Finch’s USU board campaign. He was heard to have shouted “fuck Unity, fuck the Liberals” upon Rigby’s election.

Current USU Board Director, Vice-President (External) of SASS, and member of National Labor Students Nick Forbutt said, “I think this is quite unprecedented and everyone knows what has happened… I have seen society be dramatically impacted by people only  [joining the executive] for their political interest.”

There has been significant conjecture over the last week that Unity (who ran under branding Unite for SRC) and the mod-libs were in the process of negotiating a deal in relation to the SASS election. Earlier today, PULP reported that this deal involved trading Mod-Lib National Union of Students (NUS) delegate positions for Unity’s support in SASS. While that deal may be limited to SASS and NUS, cooperation between the two factions quite possibly reflects further dealings for the upcoming SRC RepsElect. 

Honi received reports that the attempted stacking of SASS caused significant internal friction within the outgoing executive. In a private group chat, one member allegedly told their fellow exec members of Unity supporting the Mod-Libs were “weak-willed and morally flippant.”

On the night, head kickers from Unity and Mod-Libs (including 2018 failed presidential candidate Adriana Malavisi) were seen engaging in frequent discussions. At numerous points, members of Unity and the Mod-Libs were accused of interfering with and directing votes. While Returning Officer Connor Wherrett (also a member of Unity) issued a warning of their removal, they were ultimately allowed to stay in the room.

While Rigby claimed to have no role in negotiations over SASS positions, he confirmed that negotiations did take place.

“I heard there were negotiations but I didn’t have any role in them.”

While NLS had a reasonable presence in the room, it appears as though they were locked out of any position contested by another faction. Angelina Gu’s (Unity) preferences in the Socials Officer election reportedly flowed approximately 81 per cent to Caitlin Clarke. This, in combination with preferences flowing from Emily Kardum, prevented NLS members Ruby Lotz and Sophie Ohlin from being elected and suggested a concerted effort from Labor Unity to lock NLS out this position, and likely others, during the night.

SASS has been subject to significant criticism in the past relating to stacking at its elections. The society’s elections were declared invalid in 2018 and 2017

The 2020 SASS executive is as follows:

President – Nicholas Rigby

Secretary – Belinda Thomas

Vice President (Internal) – Yanyan Chen

Vice President (External) – Nicole Baxter

Treasurer – Jaz Judd

Socials Director x 1 – Angelina Gu

Socials Director x 2 – Caitlin Clarke 

Publications Director x 1 – Kate Scott

Publications Director x 2 – Jenna Lorge

Sports Director – Katie Morris

International Students Officer – Aditya Nair

Ethnocultural Officer – Jennifer Kwon

Queer Officer – Daniel Graham

Women’s Officer – Olivia Niethe

Postgraduate Officer – David Delprat

No position filled for Indigenous Officer.