Editor Alan Zheng is not involved in Honi’s coverage of the 2019 SULS Election
The Sydney University Law Society (SULS) may face its first contested executive election since 2016, and the first since election reforms were introduced in 2017.
Law School students will face a choice between 2018 SULS Sports Officer Isaac Morgan, the only candidate to previously have been a member of the executive, or SULS Treasury Committee member Amer Nasr.
Morgan tells Honi he is running to expand the SULS Equity portfolio, in particular, the Textbook Loan Scheme and subsidised Law Ball tickets. He also plans to advocate for students on the various Faculty Committees the president sits on, to address the poor rates of student satisfaction at the Law School. However, Morgan’s expression of interest (EOI), also emphasises the need for ‘stability’ rather than a radical transformation of society. However, it is questionable whether issues of student satisfaction can be appropriately addressed without signficant changes both within SULS and the Law School more broadly.
Nasr did not respond to Honi’s request for comment by the time of publication. However, his EOI states he would “increase the amount of job opportunities” for Sydney University students and expand student scholarships. Both of these goals seem to be well beyond the reach of a SULS president. Nasr’s more realistic policies include an attempt to socially integrate postgraduate and undergraduate students, as well as expanding information on non-corporate career opportunities.
Two other candidates, Jack Jacobs and Casper Lu (noted more recently in Honi for his controversial tenure as SRC Returning Officer) also published EOIs but have since withdrawn from the race. However, Honi has heard reports that Lu initially attempted to withdraw his presidential EOI in exchange for a position as secretary on Morgan’s ticket. SULS elections have previously been criticised for creating a culture of ‘backroom deals’. In a statement to Honi, Lu said ” I note that there are ‘reports’ stating that I attempted to engage in a backroom deal with Isaac Morgan. I never made an offer to Isaac to drop out of the race in exchange for secretary.”
This is the first contested presidential election since SULS amended its constitution in 2017 to require presidential candidates to publish an expression of interest before nominations for executive positions open. Presidential candidates then speak to aspiring members of the executive to form tickets before nominations open. Reforms passed this year have meant that candidates for other senior executive positions may also publish an expression of interest before nominations.
Reforms were intended to broaden the pool of students nominating for executive positions by making public the formation of tickets for the society’s executive. As Honi has previously pointed out, however, those reforms have largely failed to act as intended. Where only one presidential candidate nominates, as was the case in 2018 and 2019, they have free reign to choose the rest of the executive.
Uncontested elections have meant students have had no say in the executive for one of the University’s largest and best-funded societies for the past two years. This also leaves open the possibility for potential presidential candidates to negotiate to not run in the election in exchange for an executive position.
Morgan has said he has met with or made plans to meet with everyone who has submitted an EOI for an executive position. “I’m not particularly a fan of merging tickets,” he said. “As a general rule, I’m really against the idea of using your candidacy for president as a bargaining chip to try to get yourself a spot on a future executive.”
Nominations for executive positions are now open. Expressions of interest are not binding, meaning it is still possible that only one candidate submits a nomination for an executive ticket. Should that be the case, law students will go another year with no say in the make-up of the SULS exec.