February 2022: SRC Meeting Recap

Honi attends the first Student Representative Council meeting of the year.

Welcome Week to go ahead in person 

SRC President Lauren Lancaster announced that Welcome Week activities will go ahead largely in person, “with online and hybrid elements”. The SRC has received a number of Welcome Week grants to supplement its existing funding for the week. It has liaised with the USU to secure an accessible spot for stalling on Eastern Avenue, whilst several collectives have scheduled social and activist events in the first two weeks of the semester. These include the Women’s Collective’s (WoCo) Stand Up Against Sexism Rally on February 16, the Education Action Group’s (EAG) No USyd Cuts Rally on February 24. There are also talks of a cross-collective events calendar to collate all of these in the works!

President’s report 

Lancaster cited a “relatively successful and relatively painless” process with regards to the SRC’s Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) funding application for 2022. Paid by students each year, SSAF is split by the university and distributed to student organisations like the SRC and the USU. Notable outcomes of the SRC’s application include $15,000 for Radical Education (Rad Ed) and Radical Sex and Consent weeks (an expansion of last year) in addition to funding for an in-person election, website redesign and Caseworker welfare survey. Two new paralegals have also been recruited to the SRC from the student body, as well as a second solicitor. Meanwhile, Lancaster revealed that the results of the SRC’s Return to Campus and In-person Learning Survey indicate an eagerness to return to campus. The survey closes on February 5 and can be located on the SRC’s social media. 

Condemning Labor’s fossil fuel expansion

Council passed a motion moved by Enviro Officers Angus Dermody (Solidarity), Ishbel Dunsmore (Switch) and Tiger Perkins (Switchroots) condemning Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese for pledging $700 million to back the Kurri Kurri gas-fired power station. The sentiment was supported by Lancaster, who demanded political parties push for more radical policy platforms in this Federal Election year. Vice President Mikaela Pappou (NLS) stated the move was “really shit” and no “better than the Liberal Party.” Owen Marsden-Readford (SAlt, non-Councillor) added that “’really shit” was “a good way to describe the Labor Party full stop.” 

A motion in solidarity with the Gomeroi people against the gas plant was also moved shortly after by Enviro Officers. “Anyone who attended invasion day must support this motion. Indigenous land rights encapsulate everything we fight for,” said Dermody. 

Opposition to Boycott Sydney Festival 

A motion in support of the boycott of Sydney Festival moved by Education Officer Lia Perkins (Grassroots) was passed, with minimal (yet irksome) dissent from Michael Grenier (Wave). Grenier argued that “the (Israel-Palestine) conflict has been mis-characterised; it’s a bit more complicated,” to the outcry of the council floor. Lancaster called Grenier’s position “pretty appalling” whilst Pappou said it was “pretty shameful” when he declined to elaborate on his opinion. So true.  

Perrottet’s mismanagement of Omicron crisis 

Councillor Eddie Stephenson pass a motion opposing the government’s management of  the recent Omicron outbreak. SAlt, in predictable fashion, took it upon themselves to promote their Lockdown to Zero campaign.

Solidarity with Tamils & NSW Nurses and Midwives Federation

Refugee Rights Officers Lydia Elias (SAlt) and Annabel Petit (SAlt) passed a motion to stand in solidarity with Tamil people being persecuted by the Sri Lankan government’s “ethnic cleansing”.

Council subsequently passed a motion in support of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Federation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Marsden-Readford spoke of the “insane workload imposed on nurses” despite a decade without a payrise and the need to “smash back against the bosses”. 

Bickering about speaking time 

A considerable period of council was consumed by debate on shortening speaking time — the irony of which was lost on no one. Lancaster moved a procedural to limit speaking to a minute, much to the chagrin of veteran soapbox aficionados Marsden-Readford and Godwin. Pappou backed the president, stating speaking time was “an accessibility issue” and asking SAlt members to stop shaking their heads on Zoom. “Socialist Alternative has proved time and time again that they’re ableist,” said Pappou— though, to be fair, spoke for multiple minutes herself on the topic. 

Much to the amusement of Honi, Godwin retaliated, saying he didn’t “really care about taking speaking lessons from you Mikaela”. The conflict was cut short by Bella Andersen’s frank response; “if you can’t summarise your point in one minute then be more eloquent”. Thanks Bella, and said in under a minute too!

The ghost of the right 

Council was blessed by an unexpected visit from the Senate’s very own Gabi-Stricker Phelps approximately two and a half hours after the commencement of the meeting. Stricker-Phelps, who is not an elected council member or Office Bearer, decided to voice her dissent towards the motion supporting boycotts of the Sydney Festival: “quite honestly, this is atrocious behaviour from the SRC. This is not representative of the student body, and, more importantly, this is anti-Australian.” Lancaster was swift to shut down Stricker-Phelps’ patriotic display on the basis that the motion in question was passed over an hour ago. Puzzled, Lancaster expressed concern for how “long it took for that information to disseminate on the right.”

Resignations: Julia Tran as Global Solidarity Officer, Misbah Ansari as Ethnocultural Officer, and Riley Vaughan resigning, to be replaced by Victor Zhang.

Winner: Australia (thanks, Gabi) 

Losers: the Labor Party, speaker time limits.