Disclaimer: Ellie Stephenson and Khanh Tran are former members of Switch and Zara Zadro is a current member. Madhullikaa Singh authorised and campaigned for CAKE for Honi in the 2021 SRC Election.
The list of nominees for this year’s USU Board Election has been announced. A total of nine aspiring Board Directors have thrown their hat into the ring: Alexander Poirier, Aydin Varol, Jayfel Tulabing Lee, K Philips, Madhullikaa Singh, Maia Edge, Naz Sharifi, Nicholas Dower, and Onor Nottle.
The election will take place in May, with five students being elected to spend a two-year term on the Board. They will join the six directors elected in 2021, along with two Senate Appointed Directors and the Immediate Past President, forming the Board which presides over the USU. This year, two of the five candidates must identify as non cis-men in accordance with the USU’s affirmative action provisions.
Read ahead for what we know about the candidates so far:
Alexander Poirier (Unity)
Poirier, who announced a Board run to Honi but seemed to prevaricate about actually nominating, is likely hoping to tap into Unity’s reserves of good will at the Sydney Conservatorium. After current Board Director Belinda Thomas mobilised the base successfully in the 2020 Election, Unity candidates have reliably pursued the votes of the satellite campus. It’s a solid strategy, given the dense and minimally-contested nature of the institution, and it was used to good effect by Unity brand IGNITE at the last SRC Election. Poirier is a Con student and current Secretary of the Conservatorium Students Association, likely placing him in good stead to continue the strategy.
Poirer is also a Councillor on the SRC and was the 2022 Welcome Fest Coordinator, giving him a solid history of engagement with USyd’s student unions. All in all, Poirier is likely a fairly strong candidate — one to keep an eye on.
Aydin Varol (Switch-adjacent)
Varol has been involved in a number of Switch election efforts in the past, campaigning and managing on several occasions for the centre-left faction. He ran on fellow Board candidate Jayfel Tulabing’s 2021 SRC ticket (awkward) and was a manager of current Board Director Isla Mowbray’s campaign. However, Honi understands he is not one of Switch’s official candidates, and indeed recently left Switch. Nonetheless, he may be in a good position to negotiate for preference flows and could be an asset for the Left on Board if elected.
Varol’s history of stupol engagement is not prolific, although he is enthusiastically involved in the University of Sydney Turkish Society (TurkSoc) — a base that perhaps hasn’t been mobilised in the past.
Jayfel Tulabing Lee (STEM/Engineers-adjacent, formerly Switch)
Tulabing’s many hours and Instagram Stories spent in PNR and swathe of involvements in STEM societies, presiding over the Women in Science Society in 2022, situate them as the STEM candidate.
Tulabing used to be a member of Switch, but has had a somewhat fractious history of involvement with them. In 2020, being elected to the Real Estate Investment society’s Exec pissed off many on the student Left. Last year, they stood for preselection for the USU Election, but was snubbed, with the faction instead running now-elected Isla Mowbray and Telita Goile. In 2022, a TikTok with Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott was considered by many within Switch as overly chummy with USyd management. Tulabing left the faction soon after, earlier this year.
Despite being something of a controversial figure, Tulabing’s large spheres of stupol and C&S influence could be enough to make them a real contender.
K Philips (Independent)
Stupol newbie K Philips is believed to be managed by Michael Grenier, who ran for the SRC last year on Libdependent ticket WAVE. Despite a dearth of electoral achievements under their belt, they do have a wide-ranging set of club and society ties.
Philips is involved in the new international student grouping INTERPOL along with MixSoc, the Dark Academia & Literature Society, Sutekh – PopCulture and Board Gaming Society, and Sydney University United Nations Society (SUUNS). It is not clear exactly what their politics are, but it seems likely their campaign will tap into this base of international students, ethnocultural societies and Liberal-adjacent groups.
Madhullikaa Singh (Switch)
Singh was a later entrant to the field, with Switch deciding to run a second candidate after the extension on nominations was announced. She has had some involvement in stupol in the past, primarily as a campaign manager, but has a large reserve of C&S popularity which gives her a good shot at being elected. Singh is a big name within the SUDS and Revues communities; if she is elected, it will likely be on the strength of those bases, who were also large wells of support for Isla Mowbray in 2021.
Maia Edge (Liberal)
Edge has been involved in the right-wing of campus for several years, taking part in a number of the Moderate Liberals’ SRC campaigns and being elected as a delegate to NUS NatCon in 2020. She has been on the Executive of the Conservative Club and the Freedom Society.
Edge will likely receive the votes of many campus Liberals, although given the college vote is unusually contested in this election, may find that traditionally Lib-aligned base harder than usual to attract.
Naz Sharifi (Independent)
Sharifi is the Vice President (Social Justice) of the Sydney University Law Society (SULS) and has also presided over the Sydney University Afghan Society. While not boasting much previous engagement with student politics, her SULS involvement is likely to make her a real contender in this election — although the SULS base may be split by fellow SULS-notable Onor Nottle.
Sharifi does not appear to be aligned with any faction, so she could be a big player in preference negotiations and, if elected, hold the balance of power between factions on the Board.
Nicholas Dower (Colleges)
Dower is a definite College Candidate™, having campaigned enthusiastically for Colleges for SRC and seemingly involved in college social life. The Colleges faction is broadly Liberal-aligned, and Dower is no exception, having worked in a Liberal MP’s office. He will likely enjoy the mentorship of current Board Director Nicholas Comino, who was elected last year on the strength of his college popularity.
An unusual factor in this year’s election is that the Left also has a college candidate in Onor Nottle, potentially dividing the base for the first time in recent memory.
Onor Nottle (Switch)
Nottle was the first candidate to be preselected by the left-wing faction, and will likely be taking advantage of a wide set of campus connections. These include aforementioned college ties, with Nottle a popular figure within St Andrew’s College. She is heavily involved in SULS, having been Socials Director in 2021 and Campus Director this year. Nottle is also a current SRC Councillor.
Doubtless, Nottle is in a good position, with a broad campus base and heavy factional backing. All the same, rumours circulating about a “certain SULS girlie” could prove inconvenient.
Following Penta’s lacklustre performance last year when Ruiqi (Rachel) Jia’s campaign attracted little attention, Penta is nowhere to be seen in this year’s race. The decline in stupol involvement of former headkickers like 2021 SRC General Secretary Anne Zhao and Vice President Maria Ge might explain why, despite their successes in the SRC elections, Penta is struggling to field a candidate this time around.
Labor Left has been missing from USU Elections since Ruby Lotz’s successful run in 2020. The faction has suffered a notable decline, with a poor showing in SRC Elections also. Left-wing Laborites will likely turn their attention to May’s Federal Election, perhaps a wise prioritisation.
Where to from here?
The next few weeks will see frantic preparation from the candidates: they will organise branding, produce campaign videos and, most importantly, enter protracted negotiations over voting preference flows.
Online campaigning will commence at midnight on 30 April. Two days later, candidates can begin the physical campaign on campus on 2 May. Voting will open on Monday 9 May and close on Friday 13 May.
Keep an eye on Honi’s upcoming coverage for detailed analysis as the campaigns progress, along with interviews with all the candidates and coverage of any big campaign news.
An earlier version of this article described Jayfel Tulabing Lee as “engineers-adjacent”. Despite the candidate’s visible connection to the engineering community, we have changed the article to clarify that they are not an official Engineers candidate.