USU Board candidate profile 2022: Naz Sharifi

Honi’s profile and interview with 2022 USU Board candidate Naz Sharifi.

Slogan: Naz is Needed

Colour: Baby blue

Quiz score: 52%

Faction: Independent

One of the late applicants for the USU Board race this year, Sharifi is an independent candidate and relative newcomer to the stupol scene, however she appears to be being supported by SULS President and current USU Honorary Treasurer Ben Hines, along with former USU President Irene Ma. She cited her experience as the previous Secretary and the current President of the Afghan Society, as well as being the SULS Vice President (Social Justice). Having been on the executive for both small and large clubs and societies, Sharifi claims that she is in a good position to understand the USU’s impact.

Despite ranking third in the Honi Election Quiz, Sharifi still barely passed. Her results show a basic understanding of the inner workings of the USU and student life, however there were a lot of concerning gaps in her knowledge of broader University issues and student activism. She was unable to identify the SRC’s current Education Officers or key NTEU leadership figures, nor could she explain what the 40/40/20 model described. With USyd staff working conditions being a prominent current issue, such knowledge gaps cast extremely heavy doubt on her claims to being a progressive candidate, as does some of the support she is receiving from campus rightwing leaders, such as Ben Hines, who accompanied her to the Honi candidate interview. 

Sharifi describes much of her approach to policy as “practical” and “pragmatic”, with a focus on consultation with students. She noted a need to increase student representation from marginalised communities “at all levels”, including in C&S executives and programs, such as hosting information sessions for students in different languages. When asked what she thought of the USU’s current affirmative action policies, which address issues of representation, Sharifi suggested that a “merit based system” was necessary to support affirmative action, but that the two needn’t be mutually exclusive — what that looks like remains unclear.

On USyd’s lack of disability spaces, Sharifi called the issue “heartbreaking” and stressed the need for urgent action, rather than passing the responsibility onto others. To address the issue, she stressed the importance of collaboration with relevant student bodies, although in terms of practicals, could only point to the “many spaces” on campus that could potentially be converted into an accessible disability space.

Improving campus life and events was another common policy point across the candidates, and Sharifi is no different. Where her policies differ from others, however, is her emphasis on “culturally sensitive” events that would accommodate students from different backgrounds. This includes safety measures for immunocompromised students, although it was unclear what that would entail beyond existing COVID-safe policies. She also suggested hosting alcohol-free events and events that would cater to students who lived far away from uni.

When asked about USyd and the USU’s investments in fossil fuel-linked companies, she said that she was “against it in principle”, however favoured a “practical” approach to severing ties over immediate divestment. She also stressed the need for training modules for Board Directors to ensure that they are able to stay informed about the USU’s investments, and said that she didn’t blame the current Board for being unaware. 

As an independent, Sharifi acknowledged that she did not have the same access to factional support as some of her fellow candidates, although seemed confident in her ability to garner support from “the student body as a whole”. She did not express aversion to working with any particular candidates, emphasising that she would work with whoever aligns with her “values and ideals”. She also echoed this sentiment when asked who she would vote for in the Executive Elections if she became a Board member, although noted that she didn’t know who’d be in the running for Exec. Most candidates were able to make an educated guess based on the current Board.

Listen to Naz Sharifi’ interview and read the transcript here.