2022 USU Board Candidate interview: K Philips

Honi Soit’s interview with USU Board candidate K Philips.

HS: What’s your name, pronouns, degree, year, colour, slogan?

KP: My name is K. My pronouns are they/them. My degree is International Business and Marketing and I’m in my third year of a commerce degree, and my slogan is K for Board and the colour is yellow.

HS: Who is your campaign manager and faction if you have one?

KP: My campaign manager is Michael Grenier, and my faction is INTERPOL.

HS: Are you a current member of any political parties? 

KP: No.

HS: How would you characterise the role of the USU and the USU board?

KP: I think the USU is very important towards student life because the board helps direct and plan all the events for the students in our community. And I think the USU really helps enhance the student experience overall.

HS: And what about the role of student unionism more broadly in the USU?

KP: I think it’s good that students can think independently and really strive for what they believe in and I think it’s good that a lot of students are really getting involved and putting themselves out there for the causes that they believe in.

HS: What motivated you to run for the USU?

KP: So I’m in my third year and it took me a while but I realised that I really like getting involved with events and the student community and I really like going out there to make friends and meet new people, and from hearing the experiences that my friends have had. Some of them have been very isolated, especially with the pandemic over the past few years. So I wanted to do something for them as well as everyone else. 

I decided to run for [their] viewpoint. And I think by doing that, I can really help make new friends, help others make friends, and see what I can do for others in order to help them have a similar good experience just as I have and like over the past few years, because of pandemic and post certain world events. 

I think there have been a lot of negative stereotypes and connotations that have come up with certain groups, especially international students, or maybe Chinese students, such as myself or like the Jewish community. And by sort of doing sort of running for USU I don’t want to just by doing this, I think that it really helps give me an opportunity to dispel those stereotypes and sort of showcase that those negative connotations are aren’t true and that the students here at usyd are just like you and me.

HS: How would you describe your politics? And what is one political issue you desire that you are passionate about?

KP: First of all, I’d say I’m definitely a centrist. And I tend to vote independent because we’ve been giving underdogs a chance that might be biased in some circumstances,

HS: In terms of leaning more independent as you said, centrism. Given that you’re an international student, but if you have two picks, like either a party or a candidate in the Federal Election that is coming up, who would you kind of identify with? 

KP: I guess it’s a bit of a hard one seeing where I’m from, we tend to sort of change so in like Canada, which is the country that I was born from, some people might vote Liberal, and some people might vote Conservative one after the other. It’s not like you really stick with a certain party. So I guess I was leaning on the candidate with the best policies and like something that I would really believe in. 

So I think you mentioned what one political issue I have worked or sorry, one, one or more that I really believe in and I think that would probably be how people see newcomers and immigrants because Canada is a country founded on immigration. And we really tend to welcome people who come here and we have lots of refugees as well. So I think that it’s important that Australia welcomes people of colour and foreigners into the country and accepts them. As our own because I believe in inclusion.

HS: You said that you tend to vote on things that you deem as like the best policy. Because you are from Canada, would you consider for example, voting either for the Liberal or Conservative there? In other words, would there be years that you may consider voting Conservative, or in the Canadian Tories?

KP: There is, I guess, a bit of both parties. It’s very broad and in Canada, voting isn’t mandatory, but I do it obviously. Previously, I also voted for an up and coming party that was more niche. And I guess if they had good policies, then I’m willing to give like any party a chance because they also switch up regularly.

HS: Now, back to the Board, to what extent do you think the USU Board should take a political stance? How would you approach working with fellow board members who are more activist oriented for lack of a better word?

KP: I think that’s perfectly okay. And I’m willing to give everyone a chance, because I think teamwork is a vital part of being on the USU Board and we all have the same end goal which is to create a good experience and support students in our community. So I would be equally willing to be friends with and work with every one of the other candidates if I were to be elected.

HS: Given that you did state that your campaign manager is Michael Grenier, who is an SRC Representative since the last election. Grenier ran with a faction that aligned with the campus liberals last year. Does this reflect your politics?

KP: No, I’m independent. And I’m a part of INTERPOL. Which is an international student faction and social club, and we’re more neutral in terms of that where we don’t align with real life politics and our political sort of doings are strictly towards student politics and not in Australian or politics of any other country.

HS: Given that there are ongoing cuts in higher education in Australia, which rose on to for example, groups such as international students, do you imagine the Board taking a stance and putting out a public statement for example, against the federal government’s education cuts?

KP: Yeah, I think it’s like it really sucks that that had to happen and despite being a Commerce student, I’m really passionate about the arts and I’m an artist myself in digital media. I hope that in the future, all the things that they sort of cut out, all the programs and courses [will be] brought back because a lot of them were very cultural oriented as well. And I think that’s a really important aspect for students to be learning.

HS: You said earlier that your campaign manager oes not totally reflect your politics. Then how do you reconcile that close association, regardless, with the campus liberals? If you are saying that you are more independent, apolitical. Are you then functionally an independent liberal candidate? 

KP: Sorry. What was that part about? I think I missed the part where you said something. 

HS: Are you functionally a Liberal or a Libdependent?

KP: No. Well, it’s a funny story about how Michael and I met. Actually, we met in MixSoc, the mixed race culture society. In that club, there’s actually a whole variety of us from like, a lot of different backgrounds. And like, we became friends through that, and he mentioned student politics and I thought: “Hey, this is a good chance to sort of put myself out there and do something beyond the clubs that I’m in since I’m club exec in several clubs”.

As people probably saw from my social media, and referenced several times. That’s how we met and I think despite his sort of political beliefs and mine, we both want to help other people and make the best experience for everyone. And I think that it’s sort of less important in terms of what our politics are, and we’re both independent and willing to help others. So I think that’s sort of where we clicked.

HS: It seems like you and him have a lot of common interests. You have MixSoc as a shared club but you’re very clear that you differentiate from him in being more independent. In terms of his politics, do you agree with any of them? And if so, which ones do you agree with? Which ones do you not agree with?

KP: Well, I think what Michael is really good at is that he’s good at including others and helping other people regardless of politics, and all of that. And he’s also independent as well.

In terms of what I disagree with, I don’t really think I strictly disagree with him and this is a very neutral answer. I know that I think that it’s okay to have different opinions or strong or weak opinions about certain things, and it’s kind of what makes us who we are as people. And like, I don’t have very strong political opinions, in terms of things that occur in life. I believe in always being nice to others. 

I’m not exactly sure [what] Michael’s exact policies were when [he was] running. I think a lot of them had to do with more welfare for international students which I liked. So overall, he seems to really advocate for student welfare in general.

HS: You said that your partnership with Grenier is supposedly through your common desire for better student life and stuff. Can you cite any specific records that Grenier has done in his capacity as SRC representative so far, given it’s nearly six months since he commenced his role. Can you say anything that has impressed you so far?

KP: I think overall, I’m really impressed by how he’s not afraid to speak up, even if people disagree with him, because I know in this political climate that it might be a bit scary for some people, especially younger people to have a strong opinion or voice something that they disagree with. And personally when they like so many people and they’re just like 39 people in the SRC, so there’s probably a really big meeting every time. I really admire his ability to stand for what he believes in and to stand for what he believes in and just not back down even when someone may disagree or someone might be aggressive or that sort of thing.

HS: Now pivoting to your commitment as a Board Director, if you are elected, you will be paid a stipend and if you are one of the Executives you will be paid even higher. You currently serve as we are aware that you are an executive of at least four societies, SUNNS, SUTEKH, MixSoc and you also recently got approved for your Dark Academics society. Given that you’re an executive for four societies and if you are elected, you will commence your Board Director term in a month. How do you imagine your time commitments to your duties as a Board Director?

KP: I mean, from my understanding, it’s that if you do become a board director, then you can’t really be an executive of a club. So I would unfortunately be leaving those positions if I were to be elected. So I would maybe gradually phase out all the tasks that I currently have and do an executive handover to whoever fulfils those roles afterwards. And I will focus on being a Board Director as that’s what I’m currently striving for.

HS:  When you said gradually, do you mean, you stay in the Board, and then hand over or like, quit immediately after and let the society figure things out for themselves?

KP: I mean, I told everyone in advance that I might not be here next semester because of personal commitments. They were really sweet as well. So we’ve sort of been doing that already, where we look for someone else who can do like marketing, for example, and like I’m showing the whoever’s in charge or whoever might be in charge in the future, like, Oh, this is the program I use, and this is this in this process. So if I were to be elected, I think that my colleagues would be in a pretty good position. From like the ones that left to whoever it was that I’ve been talking to take over my current duties.

HS: Yep. Now you frame yourself as a representative for international students. Given that you are one. What do you think are the most important issues facing international students? Can you name identify a few issues and then expand on what is with those areas?

KP: One of the main ones that I’ve had a lot of friends speak to me about is discrimination as an international student because there are a lot of people out there and they may not be aware of, like things that they say or certain stereotypes. And when my friends go out there into the world off campus, they face this sort of discrimination or harassment. So I think that’s a really big one where international students are often treated differently, or like they’re exploited because of their status. And another thing that happens is that sometimes they’re exploited for work and have their documents withheld and you’d have the country or maybe speaking English as a second language. 

It might be sort of more scary for them to stand up for that and say: “Hey, these aren’t like fair work practices.” 

So I think those are two of the main issues that international students face that I would like to help decrease or do what I can to help with. And I think another one is fitting in and making friends because a lot of international students come from a different culture. When they come here, there might be a culture shock where they don’t really understand references or they don’t really get what the events are because it’s not something we do back home. So I think that one of the reasons why I’m doing this is to help international students, make friends and build a bridge between different communities so that domestic students and internationals can really mix up and get to know one another.

HS: Tying that to student welfare, since you have so far, primarily focused on culture, cultural perception and discrimination against international students. Can you identify issues, other than what you mentioned regarding fair work, that concretely affects international students that domestic so things that domestic students enjoy, that international students don’t?

KP: So like international students have work visas and then there’s like different types [of visas], and a lot of workplaces require Australian citizenship to work and that sort of bars out international students, even if those are just one casual positions that have maybe higher turnover rates, and I think that people who are Australian, like myself [sic] have. We have more stability in that we get more benefits and we’re eligible for superannuation, some jobs depends on what is [available] for international students, since they’re not citizens, they don’t really receive those benefits sometimes, unless they work a full time job. 

Maybe that depends on the workplace. Obviously. But I think those factors make it harder for students to have a more stable income or maybe stay here if they wish to do so after uni.

HS: I wanted to ask a question, because you did mention the things and problems that international students face. Recently there was a change in the law that required postgraduate international students to gain approval from the minister from the Home Affairs Minister before they transferred their degree. I wanted to ask your opinions on that. What is your understanding of the issue and if you as a Director, what would you do to support international students who might be facing that issue?

KP: I didn’t read that article. And I think it’s unfair to sort of have a very broad umbrella policy based on the actions of a few people who, like obviously do want to find international students. as a whole. And like it causes a hardship where if an international postgrad, just like any other person, if they want to change programs, and that just makes it a barrier to do that, and there’s been like a lot of COVID and like having online classes and everything, there’s already a lot of isolation and like mental health issues of, of like, a lack of productivity and whatnot. 

So I think that really sort of doesn’t help the case in terms of that. And if I were elected, then I would, first of all, make a statement on that and encourage all postgrads to really choose carefully because obviously, it’s already done. And if anything, I would try to see what my abilities are and like what my outreach has, and if anyone’s willing to get on board to sort of see if we can do something that alleviates that or decreases the effects of that decision. 

HS: Now related to that since you focused on student welfare in your policies. Can you nominate specific policies that you would like to pursue for student welfare, for example, for international students since you said you will be a representative for the community. Can you list out a number of policies you would want to enact to help with student welfare? 

KP: So one of the things I mentioned earlier was mental health. And I think social socialisation is a really important aspect of maintaining good mental health because as humans we need, like connection with other people for most people I was so there’s a lot of students still studying remotely whether due to being overseas or maybe even like domestic students who are here who can’t travel or have other commitments or maybe are immunocompromised. So I think that for more socialisation opportunities, one of my policies would be to have one on one participation and one on one events because like a zoom call, you can’t really like you can only do so much. So I think by having that connection with other people that would really increase mental health and like the welfare of students.

HS: Since you emphasise so strongly on mental health care, do you see any structural factors that contribute to what you characterise as worse mental healthcare and worse mental health for students, what structural factors do you identify as being responsible for that for international students?

KP: I think aside from online classes, being away from home and living in a culture that might be similar or completely different to their own and for most international students, away from their family and close friends are overseas. So I think just that feeling of isolation of being alone in a new country, which I will admit, I faced my first came, it’s deteriorating when you realise that: “Oh, there’s all these people in this new culture and I don’t really have the same knowledge or interest as they do. You’re surrounded by people that yet like you’re alone in terms of your own little bubble when you first arrive”. 

HS: You reference a need for more one-on-one online socialising. Can you expand on it a bit more? What does it mean? How would you implement this policy, as a Board Director, just like what do you mean by one-on-one online socialising?

KP: For example, there’s online meet-and-greets or online speed friending events that I’ve often seen and have participated in, and what it involves is a lot of people logging into a zoom call, and there’s maybe say 20 people.

For example, in the Zoom call, everyone makes an introduction and talks briefly about themselves, but then, because there are 20 people it’s a little hard for each person to talk after their initial introduction because of the number of people or maybe the connection and it’s just harder to talk online. So for those who might be introverted or more quiet, just having that sort of event wouldn’t really be beneficial as if it were like a real life speed friending event where you were actually matched up with someone and you got to talk and get restless. 

So I think if I were to implement that, I would put people in breakout rooms just like the classes. I know that I would post topics or maybe match people with things that they have in common. And I’ve actually tried this once and but in real life with INTERPOL, where I match people for speed friending events based on their interests. So if this was done online, and there was say, two or three people in the room, students would have something to talk about and they would get more engagement and more interaction rather than the whole lecture style zoom call where everyone’s in.

HS: Yep, I guess, in many ways, because during lockdown, as far as I’m aware, online events for example, the USU online day trips, etc, including speed funding, these offerings seems to still be ongoing is still a feature of the university at the moment as well. It seems that these policies are hardly distinguishable from those that seem identical? Is this anything new, like this one on one online socialising [policy] and speed friending new or is this a repetition of what’s already going on?

KP: I think there may be an expansion and more improved version of what like offerings are already available because as someone who’s very extroverted and social, sometimes I’ll talk to people on Messenger one on one and they told me: “Oh, I haven’t really talked to anyone for a few months.” 

Because I went to online events, but it’s more of an introduction and more passive. Like, for example, we’re on a tour, you’d have a tour guide, and you’d maybe say your name and program and you’d just watch a tour of whatever together. So I think by asking the people what they want and like what, how they would like to see online events improve is what I’m sort of thinking of and talking about in my implementation: further interaction through one-on-one events online.

HS: I wanted to ask a follow up to that as well. So you’ve spoken extensively about zoom one-on-one consultations etc. Firstly, I guess, since it does seem very similar to what the USU is already doing, what do you think is the main limitation of the programs that the USU have already implemented, to engage international students in that way? And secondly, do you have any other policies that aim to engage offshore international students beyond just zoom? What are the other options?

KP: In terms of like limitations of online events? I think another one would definitely be that I’ve noticed there’s certain events that sort of are really highly advertised such as parties or etc, but there’s also smaller events that are less known and maybe only advertised through email. And there was this one time where I was at a meeting with some of my friends and we were all studying and in and someone came up to us and asked if there was this event here, and he showed me the ad for it and it said that it was in that room that like there was no one else.

So then he told me later that it turns out they had changed the location, but it was a very lowkey change that happened only an hour prior. So it wasn’t an event that really was overly emphasised. And I think that, like the USU could promote their events more and even the smaller events, and maybe on more platforms as well because like the majority of things are posted on Instagram and like Facebook, and obviously there’s only so much you can post because you can’t be online all day and advertising every event that I think it would be good to implement and create more awareness or smaller events through things other than email. 

And in terms of my policies, I think that having more in-person events would be good for international students and domestic students to sort of get to know one another because there’s some international events at the moment that it seems like it’s advertised too, but to attract more international students in general and not domestic students and I think that by having more events that incorporate both sides, both internationals and domestics together, it creates a higher sense of community where students socialise with one another and not just the internationals in their own group, which is like one of those negative connotations that some people may have.

HS: I wanted to ask about some of your policies on increasing recreational sports. The USU already does a lot of interfaculty events, especially sports events. For that there’s also lots of clubs and societies that do recreational sports. My question is, what do you think are the limitations here? Why do you see a need to increase recreational sports? And secondly, what exactly do you plan to do to achieve that?

KP: I think as a marketing student, a lot of the times I like the ads that I see online for sports, [the USU] IS making it seem like it’s more serious or it’s for people who are experienced. So like one thing that MixSoc has done is have more recreational sports events. So recently, we had a dodgeball event and we just advertised it using more fun colours and to members and we told everyone: “Hey, beginners are welcome. It’s just for fun.” 

I think that’s what differentiates between pictures of people in volleyball gear and even if it’s just for fun, it makes it seem like it’s more directed towards people who are already experienced in sports or very active.

HS: I guess tying into that, it seems so far, you have identified, for example, one-on-one socialising and then with recreational sports. You took issue for example with the design of some of those like marketing. Then, is it true to say that the primary barriers that you identify with the USU in delivering these are communications and marketing?

KP: Yeah, that’s like I think obviously, it’s such a big university and so many things going on. It’s hard to include everything and like you’d be posting several times daily, probably. And that’s a hard thing to do as someone who does marketing for some of my blogs, but I think there could be better communication and that maybe multiple people could run certain accounts. 

There could be more awareness brought for events and whatnot. And sometimes when I look at the USU page, I see events that are sort of vaguely mentioned with a picture and it does look nice, obviously, but as someone who was maybe getting new students or maybe my first language wasn’t English, I wouldn’t really have that many details of what’s happened in one or two sentences and the picture and maybe a link to sign up, I’d want maybe a bit more info, more description on what it is, if everyone’s welcome or like or like no experience needed – that type of thing. 

HS: Yep. I just wanted to ask – 

KP: yeah, yeah, go ahead.

HS: You also mentioned making prices more affordable. And really encouraging socials and more of that aspect. At the beginning of the year, the USU implemented a new policy where clubs and societies were unable to advertise free drinks to Welcome Week events. I wanted to ask what you thought about this policy and if you were elected, how would you go about making this like actually implementing this making it more affordable, lowering drink prices? 

KP: I personally think that like if I were elected, then I try my best to do that and I think a lot of USU events could maybe include drinks as a part of the initial ticket fee, or maybe give them out to people. And obviously, I know that the money has to come from somewhere, but I think it would be good to do that for students because like a lot of students do drink and we’re all adults and everything. And I think aside from cultural barriers, there’s also financial barriers for some students and that not everyone may want to apply for something like a free ticket, but not everyone. They want to do that, especially if their situation isn’t something they really want to discuss even to like an exec of a club. So I think by having more affordable drinks that would remove that barrier, and the issue of people having to ask or not being able to afford a drink if they’re going out. 

HS: I’m gonna move on to finances and budgets. So, in your quiz, you weren’t able to answer the question about which is primarily how it relates to how the USU is funded. So basically, the USU is funded from student money and the Government. Given the fact that your quiz results show, I guess, a lack in this pretty crucial piece of information relating to student funding of USU funding. How will students be confident that you are able to navigate the complexities of USU finances, especially given that it’s a multi million dollar organisation?

KP: I think in terms of that, I would want to maybe inform myself more of the different funding that the USU has to offer and I know the basics of where student fees and everything come from. I would say that if I were elected, I would maybe have a talk with the Financial Committee and I know that they recently sort of said they would do an investment review and everything. So I would, I guess try to inform myself more of this topic. 

And as someone who doesn’t really deal with funding in clubs, because I’m not the Treasurer in any of them. I would say that, I guess I don’t have as much experience in terms of that sort of paperwork and allocating. Like, where what goes but if I were to be elected, I would know that that’s a part of my job, and it’s something I should be knowing I would do more to learn about and be more informed of these sorts of things.

HS: So you did mention then that the USU is currently reviewing its investment portfolio, and Honi did a report on that. Yesterday. We published an article about it recently. I just wanted to ask, what are you aware of at the moment with the USU investment portfolio?

KP: Based on that article, I know it’s sort of like a grey area and that it’s sometimes hard to differentiate what you should be thinking about these things because the university does need money to pay like all the wages and support all these clubs and groups of people and sort of do what it does.

HS: Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. But I guess based on what you say is [the USU’s] current investment portfolio. What do you identify are the key issues with the USU’s current investment portfolio – 

KP: Because it could be maybe more environmentally inclined and there could be more investments towards companies that are more green I would say.

HS: So what’s the issue? 

KP: I guess, you know, you with like, I guess the companies that the USU is currently has these investment deals with

I mean, I guess they did have to invest in something in the end. And sometimes, like you do, You have to pick something even if it doesn’t align with your values, or maybe it might not be the most popular choice. And I think that’s a really hard decision that they had to invest in everything but it was for the better where they would receive returns in order to support and keep going. So I think it was probably a hard choice that they had to do. 

HS: So there’s lots of conversations going on at the moment about whether the USU should divest from those companies. What are your opinions? And do you think that the USU shouldn’t divest from those companies?

KP: I think that if they can find an alternative source then yes, but like I know what the pandemic and everything things have probably been hard and like, they like the USU and like companies and governments sort of need the money to go and especially to keep people employed and keep paying. And I think that’s an important part of our economy where people are able to keep their jobs or at least remain employed during this pandemic.

So if you were elected and you were given the opportunity to divest from these companies that the US was currently involved with. 

HS: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it kind of sounds like I’m hearing that you’re hesitant to vote in favour of divestment from these companies.

Like, it depends, like I mentioned if there was an alternative that was down, then. Yes, but like, I wouldn’t say divest and block it all at once because, like it could affect people’s jobs and livelihoods and everything. And like there would be people and staff members that would be affected by this decision, if it just happened super fast.

HS: In relation to that since I assume you did read the article. The USU voted in favour of [calling on USyd to divest] two years ago. The more pertinent question than that one since you pointed out that your decision this week is contingent on a review finding alternatives. Will you because there is a lack of action so far, what would you as a USU Board Director do to ensure that that’s what actually happened?

KP: I would say that, I guess like, from my experiences, a lot of the times when things don’t happen, aside from that there’s a lot of discussion you have to think about and whatnot like, people don’t check in on things. So it’s sort of a waiting game, sometimes if you’re like, oh, waiting for that email reply for a certain thing. So like, if I were to take any sort of action, even in general, as a Board Director, I would check up on things regularly and see how it’s going. And if there was, say, a dead end of any sort, I would put up to see what I can do to get around that. Or I would ask my peers for advice and see what they would do rather than just keeping it on hold.

HS: I guess then that encapsulates I guess, are you saying that you will only consider voting in favour say of divestment if and only if the issue managed to find other ways of investing when the usual board as a prospective board directors, you guys, aboard directors are able to vote on who to investor. In other words, it is almost like a chicken and egg question. Do you consider it impossible to vote in favour of divestment and then finding alternatives in order for divestment? Do you find that impossible?

KP: Not in particular, I think, like it really depends, because, like, as we’ve seen from the arts cuts recently, like I it would be terrible if like anything else such as like clubs or maybe like other programs or venues that the USU hosts are cut because of like financial decisions, which like has a lot to do with the USU board. So something I like to do is to do the maths for certain things to see: Oh, is this a viable plan for my budget, etc. Or like my house so I wouldn’t talk to whoever’s like doing or making financial decisions or keeping records of that to see if there’s, you know, if it’s a viable decision, and if anything would be drastically cut as a result of that decision.

HS: So you didn’t mention the USU cuts. Related to that is that whole topic of the role that student activism plays in being a Board Director for the USU your quiz results also show a lack of or a gap in your knowledge about the operations of student activism more generally. Is this an indication that you see the USU primarily as a vehicle through which student parties occur? Rather than activism?

KP: Like political parties, or? 

HS: Yeah, especially in your policies, you have a lot of focus on parties, affordable drinks, etc. But you weren’t really able to talk about operations of student activism. So I guess the question here is: What role do you think student activism plays in being a USU Board Director?

KP: I think that it’s good if Board Directors want to, like get involved. And for whatever it is that they’re fighting for, I don’t think it’s necessarily all fun and games. Obviously, I know there’s work such as different committees, and portfolios that are involved and that there are a lot of real world issues that occur for the USU. 

So I guess … How does aptitude [sic] play a part? Yeah, I think like having the USU Board, as we’re more prominent figures within the student community and we have a lot of outreach, and we have our leadership abilities. So I think it’s good for people who are leaders of the community to speak up against something because it brings awareness towards that and I think that USU Board Directors and people in general, if they’re not anxious about it, they should be speaking up on that and supporting reviews and committees that have to do with things that marginalised groups face.

HS: In what way or if any, do marginalised student community such as disabled students benefit from having you on the USU Board? 

KP: I’ve sort of heard that, like the disabled community has been looking for their own space within campus. And I think that’s like it’s been a really long time since they’ve been fighting for that. And I think people with disabilities should have more say in a lot of things because especially for those with physical disabilities like campus, campus is like a big space and like a lot of the buildings are really small and really cramped. 

They should have a space where they can feel safe and face no judgment or like any side glances which is a thing as I’ve heard from my friends who are disabled and I think it’s important that communities just like the queer community or women’s community to have their own place and have larger voice. So if I were to be elected, I would consult people with disabilities who would like to say these things, what they want to see more of and what I can do to help as someone who’s able bodied myself and I would use my voice to amplify those.

HS: Given that the huge issue in that article is that the USU have not had a great track record with timely delivery of these promises. One, why do you think these efforts fail and two, what will be different under you?

I think that like people living with disability isn’t something that’s like, often talked about or like thought about sometimes like not by everyone, obviously, that like, a lot of the times it’s sort of pushed aside or maybe like procrastinated or there’s a lot of discussion that sort of like there’s a hype for something and then it just dies out eventually as the slope falls. And I would continue on fighting for that cause and sort of not letting the engagement burn out after getting attention and support for it.

HS: So just to wrap up the interview, I wanted to ask a couple of questions. Who are two candidates that you would most like to work with on Board? And then conversely, who are the candidates that you would least like to work with? 

KP: Do I have to choose to or can I?

HS: Yep. 

KP: I guess if I would want to work with everyone first of all, but I if I really had to choose maybe like some independents as an independent myself. So if we were to work together, maybe we wouldn’t be independent anymore.

HS: Who the independent candidates are you considering?

KP: Oh, I met Naz online and she seems really nice and super sweet and she’s also a club Exec. And I heard Aydin is also independent. So I think it’s just the three of us. Independence. Yeah.

HS: Any candidates that you don’t really want to work with?

KP: I honestly can’t pick someone that I don’t like because I think that, like none of them have proven otherwise to be anything other than hardworking and dedicated to the cause. And it would be unfair to judge them based on whatever preconceived ideas or like relationships that they have with other people that I haven’t personally experienced.

HS: Have you organised any just out of curiosity, Have you organised a preference deal with any of the other candidates so far? Now? Are you considering doing preference deals? Possibly. Could you tell us who you’re considering preference deals with?

KP: Maybe. It’s a hard choice, I guess. It really depends, I haven’t really talked to anyone to the full extent. So I’d have to get a feel for it and see: “Oh, do their policies and my beliefs align with mine and how compatible are those preferences?”. Being independent and not politically involved in your life, it makes things easier, but it’s hard to say really at this point.

HS: Who would you vote for to be Board President in the Executive elections if you were elected?

KP: I guess whoever has the best pitch, which I assume they will do before.

HS: And in one sentence, Why should students work for you over any other candidate?

KP: I promise to try my best to give the user community the best experience that they can get.

Listen to K P’ interview and read the transcript here.