USU Board candidate profile 2022: K Philips
Honi’s profile and interview with 2022 USU Board candidate K Philips
Slogan: K for Clubs
Quiz score: 30%
Having recently made their debut in stupol by founding INTERPOL, a new faction which purports to represent international students, K Philips scored the lowest in our Election Quiz. They explained that INTERPOL is “an international student faction and social club” that is “more neutral” politically. Philips was at pains to distance INTERPOL from “real life politics”, which makes it difficult to predict how they would navigate political dilemmas facing the Board.
Philips’ answers fit within a long-standing mould of apolitical Board candidates, reflective of a lack of interest in political issues and an overarchingly centrist ethos. Hailing from Canada, when queried as to whether they would be open to voting for the Canadian Conservative Party, Philips answered in the affirmative: “If there are good policies then I’m willing to give any party a chance because they also switch up regularly”. Given that Board Directors ultimately determine the priorities and agenda that the organisation takes on, if elected, Philip’s centrism may shift the Board away from taking political stances.
Philips struggled to identify challenges facing international students beyond an “isolating experience” and visa working hour limits. They failed to name issues such as a lack of access to Medicare and the lifting of working hour limits for international students. Their apparent weak grasp on these challenges is concerning, especially considering their claim to advocate for international students.
Instead, Philips’ pitch focuses primarily on international student social welfare and promises an expansion of “one-on-one online socialising” via Zoom to cater for offshore students and students who prefer to not participate in loud parties. They also propose well-trodden policies such as enlivening student parties by lowering the price of drinks, arguing that “having more affordable drinks would remove that barrier”. It is unclear how Philips intends to implement this promise.
Revealingly, Philips was equivocal on the issue of divestment, characterising the USU’s questionable investment records as a “grey area”. When pressed, Philips demonstrated not only a vague grasp on the issues with the USU’s investments, but also hesitance towards supporting immediate divestment from fossil fuel-friendly investment holdings. To justify this, they claimed divestment could risk adversely “affecting people’s [USU Staff] jobs and livelihood”, even though a Board vote for divestment would have no effect on USU staff, as their salaries comes from the USU’s sales, membership and SSAF allocation.
They also sought to address controversies surrounding their campaign manager Michael Grenier, an SRC Councillor who ran under Wave, a Liberal-aligned ticket, in last year’s hotly contested SRC Elections. Grenier attracted criticism in February’s SRC Council meeting when he voted against a motion calling for a boycott of the Sydney Festival in support of the pro-Palestine BDS movement. In response, Philips praised Grenier as a “person who is not afraid to speak up, even if people dislike him, in this political climate”. Even when pressed, they were hesitant to distance themselves from Grenier’s politics.
Listen to K Philips’ interview and read the transcript here.