2021 SRC President profile: Swapnik Sanagavarapu

Sanagavarapu is perhaps the first person ever to be elected to the SRC presidency uncontested

Swapnik Sanagavarapu has been provisionally elected as the President of the SRC for 2021, as the sole candidate in an uncontested election. He scored 64% in our quiz. This is our profile of him:

Swapnik Sanagavarapu’s election to President of the SRC is historic in at least three respects: it is the first time a SRC President has been elected without competition in at least 50 years, it is the first time Grassroots will have held the SRC Presidency for two years in a row, and Sanagavarapu will be coming to the office in the midst of a global pandemic. 

Our interview with Sanagavarapu, much like his rise to presidency, was uneventful. With the vanishing of any opposition, so too goes the need for Honi Soit editors to create contrived downsides to compare him to a much worse candidate. That means we can say this: Swapnik Sanagavarapu will probably be a good president.

Students content with Liam Donohoe’s presidency will likely be pleased by Sanagavarapu’s. Indeed, Sanagavarapu is something of Donohoe’s political protege, and was initially recruited into Grassroots by Donohoe after meeting at a debating mixer. “It’s no secret that I’m very much like Doon,” he tells us in his interview. Both are charismatic former debaters, both have considerable experience in Grassroots election campaigns, both enjoy (perhaps too much) sparring with their political opponents, neither had a paid Office Bearer position within the SRC prior to election, and both (I guess we should mention) are dudes. 

Sanagavarapu was interviewed by Nina Dillon Britton and Matthew Forbes.

Sanagavarapu’s view of Donohoe’s presidency is unsurprisingly favorable. Even what he deemed to be the current president’s biggest weakness — “trying to do too much” — sounded like he was doing a job interview on behalf of Donohoe. When asked how he would differ from Donohoe, Sanagavarapu’s answer was “not much”. He plans to delegate more work to other Office Bearers — a task that may be difficult if the lack of work from this year’s General Secretaries and Vice Presidents is anything to go by — and lobby for permanent funding for Donohoe’s popular initiatives, such as the mutual aid network.

Sanagavarapu has already begun to work closely with Donohoe, sitting in on the Academic Board, acting as the President in July when Donohoe was on leave, and assisting with the SRC’s submission to the Senate’s inquiry into the Higher Education Bill. He has been a councillor for the last two years, a member of the General Executive this year and served as Global Solidarity Officer (after getting rolled from Ethnocultural Officer) and co-convener of the Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR) last year, effectively rehabilitating the group. 

However at the time, a female co-convener complained that Sanagavarapu and other co-office bearers had done less than their fair share in the role. Sanagavarapu said he regrets letting some of his tasks fall onto others, and cited “institutional constraints” — working multiple jobs, full-time study and a 90 minute commute — that would not exist with the President’s approximately $40,000 salary. Though less experienced than Grassroots candidates of recent years, all of whom have had paid OB roles prior to running, Sanagavarapu’s experience in the organisation, and the institutional experience of Grassroots would well-equip him for the role. His quiz results in this area were largely correct, though he crucially missed that the SRC is an unincorporated entity which impacts his legal liabilities as president.

Swapnik was initially hesitant to put his hand up for the role while Grassroots was looking for a candidate earlier this year. He attributes that to the fact that his degree progression is “fucked”. It is for the same reason that he says he might have to, for reasons he could not tell us, take one or two units next year. Though this would be a break from previous Grassroots presidents, this is a far cry from Jacky He’s absentee presidency through which he studied full-time. Previous NLS president Isabella Brook, took two units per semester and was regarded as generally capable in the role. When asked whether this conflicted with Grassroots’ criticisms of Josie Jakovac last year, he said that his criticism was not that she had planned to do any units at all (which might have been manageable) but that she planned to study full-time. 

Most of Sanagavarapu’s policies centre on campaigning against cuts and racism, and for environmental action and greater support for international students. Some of Sanagavarapu’s presidential ambitions seem out of place in the context of the pandemic, though that may well be attributable to the fact that it remains uncertain exactly what effect this will have on the SRC and campus life next year. When asked whether his proposed SRC stall would be feasible if most students remain off campus, for example, Sangavarapu admitted that may be true but detailed an online communications strategy. There are several omissions from his policy statement, notably there is no mention of anti-sexual assault campaigns. In his interview, Sanagavarapu said this was not because they were “not important” but because they had dropped off this year. 

Swapnik’s knowledge of the broader University sector context, and the University itself was left wanting. His quiz scores were low in these areas. Importantly Sanagavarapu will be coming to office in a context of massive university funding and staff cuts. That context will ask more of him than most of his predecessors. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to rise to the occasion.

The full interview transcript can be found here.

Presidential Quiz

1. What proportion of FTE staff has the Faculty of Arts and Social Science proposed to cut? [1]

30%

2. Name the electoral officers for the SRC elections for 2017 – 2020 [4] 

Paulene Graham (2017), Karen Chau (2018), Casper Lu (2019), Geoffrey Field (2020)

3. List the names of all the SRC caseworkers [5]

Mel Da Silva, James Campbell, Lorna Pringle, Breda Lee, Sharon Maher.

4. What is the 2020 NUS affiliation amount? [1]

Currently budgeted for $58,400.

5. Describe one way that an SRC President can be removed from office. [1]

Via petition with 500 signatures, followed by a 2/3 majority at a General Meeting.

6, A recent proposal to merge schools within the Faculty of Medicine and Health would see how many FTE staff cut? [1]

17.5

7. What proportion of international student fee revenue does that University project to take in in 2021? [1]

At the time of quiz, 65%.

8. When did USyd introduce a new Freedom of Speech charter? [1]

2020

9. What does TEQSA stand for, and what is the role of the organisation? [2]

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. Maintain

10. Under which SRC President was the legal service introduced? [1]

Elly Howse

11. In what year were SRC regulations prohibiting SRC / Honi preference deals introduced? [1]

2014

12. When does the University of Sydney enterprise agreement expire? [1]

2021

13. Who is the current National President of the NTEU and who was their predecessor? [2]

Allison Barnes, Jeannie Rea.

14. Name the current branch presidents of the USyd NTEU, and USyd CPSU [2]

Kurt Iveson (NTEU), Patrick O’Mara (CPSU).

15. Who is the Universities Australia chair? [1]

Professor Deborah Terry

16. Which NSW State Minister has the higher education portfolio? [1]

Geoffrey Lee

17. What is the maximum Youth Allowance payment, not including the coronavirus supplement? [1]

$793

18. When is the coronavirus supplement to Centrelink payments due to expire? [1]

December 31 2020. Note: Will be lowered from $550 per fortnight to $250 per fortnight from 25 September 2020.

19. Who is the chair of the Academic Board and what is the Board’s role? [2]

Associate Professor Tony Masters. To advise Senate on academic matters.

20. How many protesters were fined at the campus NDA rally on 28 August? [1]

10

21. How many staff does the SRC employ? [1]

17. Including casual staff, the Electoral Officer and Electoral Officer’s assistant. Arguably electoral staff are not employed by the SRC so 15 would have also been accepted.

22. Describe the case decided in February of this year by the NSW District Court involving a former Honi Soit editor, and the SRC’s involvement in the case [2]

Massarani v Kriz. Patrick Massarani, a former member of the University of Sydney Senate, brought a defamation claim against former Honi Soit editor Georgia Kriz for suggesting in an article he had sexually assaulted someone. The SRC was, amongst other parties, initially named in the complaint, but was dropped prior to the decision being handed down. SRC legal service represented a former Directors of Student Publications.

23. What kind of legal entity is the SRC? [1]

Unincorporated association

24. A recommendation of the 2017 Broderick report was that a review would be held into college culture again in what period of time? [1]

3 years

25. An ICAC inquiry this year found that the Head of Campus security accepted what bribe? [1]

Money and a pin ball machine

26. Is the University eligible for JobKeeper payments? Why/why not? [2]

No. Universities have been included for several different reasons, most recently that they have not 50% losses in revenue.

27. Who currently sits on the Board for the SRC Legal Service? [2.5]

President, General Secretaries, Admin Manager, Principal Solicitor of the Legal Service.

28. What proportion of FASS subjects were “paused” this semester? [1]

8%

29. Per social distancing regulations, how many people are allowed to be inside the SRC offices at the moment? [1]

44 in rooms. Approx 50 including hall. Either accepted.

30. Name the staff representatives on the University Senate. [3]

Associate Professor Maryanne Large, Professor Stephen Simpson AC, Dave Burrows.

Disclaimer: Iris Yao is not involved with this year’s coverage of SRC, NUS or Honi Soit elections. Nina Dillon Britton, Madeline Ward and Lara Sonnenschein are former members of Sydney Grassroots.