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USU Board Meeting: Courtyard Cafe’s Tapas Transformation

The USU prepares for eased restrictions, celebrates a successful Pride Fest, and throws back SUCE amendment.

The USU’s September board meeting was all about good vibes, big plans, and a path out of COVID. 

Pride Fest

Pride Fest was a big success considering its last minute move to remote presentation. There were 15 events held by more than 10 clubs — an increase from both 2019 and 2020, making 2021 the year to beat. Across the festival, 450 people attended events — with the Queer Performance Showcase being the best attended of the lot. CEO Andrew Mills attended a number of these and said that “Drag Bingo is always a highlight.” So true Andrew!

Staff Vaccinations

85% of all permanent staff have been fully vaccinated, outpacing NSW’s almost 58%.

Social media

All USU socials have tracked up across the month, apart from the USUeats Instagram which has lost 19 followers. Mills attributes this to people not eating as much on campus.

Membership activity roadmap

Mills presented two scenarios for membership activity throughout the rest of 2021. Scenario A was premised on in-person learning returning before the end of semester and Scenario B was premised on the opposite. Considering the recent announcement that the rest of semester will be delivered remotely, it appears that the latter scenario will be implemented. According to the roadmap, this includes an online USYD Store Sale with Footbridge pickup, exam care packs for Rewards members, and sponsored online competitions.

USU Comes to You — care package delivery

Mills presented a video of staff receiving care package deliveries of food and alcohol to the dulcet tones of Together by Ziggy Alberts. Alberts’ vague opposition to lockdown and alleged lyrical allusions to anti-vax sentiments were somewhat at odds with the spirit of the video, but Board Directors reported it was “so CUTE” all the same.

Finance

Mills reported a “turnaround” in finances following a significant drop in operating costs after the USU reduced hours and transitioned staff onto COVID Disaster Relief Payments. Mills also noted their successful application for JobSaver which has “given us a lot of breathing space.” Mills expects JobSaver to be extended into October. The end result is a very strong cash position of $5.5 million, which equates to 6-7 months of average expenses.

Plans for Courtyard Cafe reopening

Following a question from Board Director David Zhu, Mills said that the USU was considering plans to reopen Courtyard after restrictions ease following the first Monday after the state acquires 70% double dose vaccine coverage.

“Most hospitality venues will allow seated meals at the four square metre rule inside and the two square metre rule outside.”

The USU has flagged these intentions with the University but has noted that “If the University doesn’t want students on campus then there’s not a lot we can do.”

If Courtyard were to reopen, a tapas menu is in development and USU Rewards would be redesigned to center “exclusivity and early entry” to these venues.

USU Spaces

Board Director Isla Mowbray asked if USU spaces more broadly would be reopening to students — referring specifically to practice and rehearsal space for the performing arts. Mills said this was a “whole different ballpark” to reopening the campus’ hospitality venues, but indicated there were plans in the works. The Common Room, a long abandoned space in the Holme Building, is about to finish its renovation which Mills said would “reopen a whole new space” which many students have never experienced. There were also mentions of a close working agreement with SCA and the Conservatorium to reformat and eventually make available Footbridge Theatre for their use.

Civil Engineering Society constitutional amendment rejected

Honourary Secretary Vikkin Qin made a brief note of the C&S committee’s decision to reject a recent submission from the Civil Engineering Society (SUCE) to amend their constitution. Qin said they were “not really operating on a democratic basis.” USU President Prudence Wilkins-Wheat rejected the assertion that they were “undemocratic”, however she did concede that they “didn’t meet the USU’s standards of democracy or accessibility.” While Wilkins-Wheat intimated that she did not believe the society will appeal the decision, the issue may be ongoing.

When contacted for comment, the SUCE executive said they were “shocked and perplexed” to see that the issue had made it into Pulp. Suggesting that it arose from the appointment of subcommittee officers, the executive noted that they have already complied with the USU’s directives and agreed that the provisions were not sustainable with the SUCE constitution.

“We take our commitment to the principles of democracy, meritocracy, and equity seriously and will continue to work towards a stronger civil engineering community.”

International Festival

With its recent conclusion, Board Director and International Student Portfolio Holder Du Du reported that she felt engagement was “very good” with this year’s International Festival.

SRC Elections

President Prudence Wilkins-Wheat congratulated provisionally elected SRC President Lauren Lancaster and Cake for Honi. Noting the presence of Pulp alumni Ellie Stephenson and current Pulp editor Fabian Robertson on Cake, Wilkins-Wheat said she looked forward to working with both Lancaster and Cake in the future.

Serious Miscellaneous Notes

  • Board Director Telita Goile encouraged everyone to complete the National Student Safety Survey if they had been selected to participate.
  • Mysterious “Manning and Pulp” reforms were mentioned by Wilkins-Wheat in her President’s report, but when pressed in open question time, she was unwilling to divulge any specifics. Watch this space!
  • The Board has elected to not fill Pulp’s editorial vacancies, citing the few weeks left in the term and a desire to “take a real hard look at Pulp itself.”
  • Following a question from Pulp, it was confirmed that students can still receive a free coffee on campus after showing proof of full vaccination.
  • The USU continues to work with the SRC and SUPRA on Special Cons.
  • Radical Sex and Consent Week is coming up.

Fun Miscellaneous Notes

  • Board Director Isla Mowbray was drinking from a bottle of San Pelligrino throughout the course of the meeting. This is a stark departure from the Santa Vittoria board directors are usually provided with at in-person meetings.
  • At the start of the meeting, Wilkins-Wheat expressed concern over the inconsistency of Board minutes. Requesting a style guide, she demanded a standardised format. We love a style guide here at Honi and firmly support her noble quest for well formatted bliss. 
  • Today’s meeting continued the trend of Powerpoint Presentation reports from CEO Andrew Mills.
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