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Senate appointed directors allegedly sway USU Executive Election in their favour

This represents a shift in the nature of the Senate voting bloc, who usually align with the student majority.

With the University of Sydney Union (USU) Executive Election set for tomorrow at 10am, tensions have reached a boiling point amongst incoming Board Directors, Executive hopefuls and Senate appointed directors. Tomorrow’s election will decide who the next President will be, along with the USU’s new Vice President, Honorary Treasurer and Honorary Secretary, in addition to other more minor committee positions.

Whilst initially set for a Presidential showdown between Nick Forbutt (NLS) and Benny Shen (independent, formerly Panda-affiliated), as previously reported by Honi, the two joined forces following news of an Irene Ma (independent, formerly Advance) and Cady Brown (Moderate Liberals) alliance. Neither Forbutt nor Shen told Honi who would receive President and who would receive Vice President, but Honi understands the Ma-Brown ticket initially gave Ma the role of President, with Brown to serve as Vice President.

Forbutt and Shen were working together up until the late stages of tonight, with the majority of student votes (six) to Ma and Brown’s five. In addition to their own two votes, Forbutt and Shen were believed to have the support of Ruby Lotz (NLS), Prudence Wilkins-Wheat (Switchroots), Eve Wang (Panda) and Vikki Qin (independent). 

Ma and Brown were believed to have the additional support of Nick Rigby (Moderate Liberals), Ben Hines (Liberal) and Belinda Thomas (Unity).

However, with seven votes needed to secure Executive positions, the Senate appointed directors allegedly wielded their power in favour of Ma, seemingly because she was more apolitical than Forbutt-Shen. Realising this, Forbutt switched alliances and is now set to become Vice President tomorrow. Honi understands that Irene will be President, Cady Brown will be Honorary Treasurer and that Honorary Secretary will likely be offered to Benny Shen. 

Whilst in previous years, the Senate appointed directors have taken a more laid-back approach, often going with the student majority, tonight’s news signals a shift in their nature as a voting bloc come Executive elections. According to an anonymous source, the aforementioned distribution of Executive roles seems to align exactly with the Senate’s preferred arrangement, effectively ‘locking out’ Eve Wang (Panda).

In addition to this, Eve told Honi that she met with Ma and Brown last Friday in the Board office to discuss the potential of joining their initial ticket. Whilst initially peaceful, the meeting became hostile when Ma saw a message from other Presidential hopeful Forbutt come through on Wang’s phone. Ma allegedly asked Eve to show her the message, and got increasingly aggressive, even trying to grab her phone and use facial recognition so as to unlock and read it. Wang eventually showed Ma the message.

Ma strenuously denied the allegations to Honi over the phone tonight, yet a Board Director who wished to remain anonymous expressed concern to Honi regarding Ma’s behaviour. They said they were “very much concerned about the professionalism of her as a USU Board Director”, describing her behaviour as “irrational” from someone who is likely soon to be on the Executive and potentially “lead the organisation.”

There was additional controversy last week when current USU Board Secretary Dane Luo sent an email to the Board Directors bringing their attention to a USU constitutional amendment that precluded Senate directors from voting. Introduced in 2016 and ratified in November of 2019, the amendment had the effect of only allowing ‘elected’ directors to vote in Executive elections. The University Senate revoked the ratification of that amendment because it was  carried in an “irregular manner inconsistent with other amendments”. Thus, it was determined to not apply in the coming election.