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SASS wards off Liberal stacking as unresponsive Faculty continues to withhold funding

This potentially signals a new, apolitical era that prioritises the needs of the society and its members, after a history of student politicians using SASS executive positions to launch their student political careers.

The Sydney Arts Students Society (SASS) has successfully locked out the Liberals from gaining executive positions for a third year in a row, after their annual general meeting on Wednesday.

The majority of the new executive do not have any factional affiliations, with outgoing Vice-President (External) Jamaica Leech succeeding Angelina Gu as President.

“As President, I really hope to continue making SASS as accessible to students as possible, providing a safe and welcoming space for all,” Leech told Honi.

Two Liberal candidates attempted to nominate for the positions of Vice-President (Internal) and Treasurer, despite their lack of involvement in the society. However, Returning Officer Cole Scott-Curwood ruled that one candidate was ineligible because he was not a member of the society.

Despite the Liberals’ attempts to stack the elections, outgoing Marketing Officer Miranda Cao and outgoing Sponsorship Officer Justina Hua won Vice-President (Internal) and Treasurer respectively, with Hua winning by a landslide.

In contrast with other recent society elections, the composition of the incoming executive signals a shift towards depoliticising the society. Historically, positions on the SASS executive have been used for entry into student politics, usually for USU Board hopefuls to build networks and accumulate credentials, often at the expense of the society.

The incoming SASS executive is expected to continue the society’s work into the next year, including first year camp, coffee and pub catch-ups, and SASS Ball. Leech also highlighted as priorities the importance of increasing equity tickets and organising a range of society events.

“There is a general sentiment that we need to bring back student life post-COVID, however, I feel COVID has significantly changed everyone’s behaviour and it is important that rather than trying to revive what was, we adapt and offer events and opportunities that students want now,” she said.

She also expressed her desire to continue printing its flagship publications, including Avenue (formerly ARNA), its journal for BIPOC students Wattle, and its journal for diverse sex and genders 1978.

The production of SASS publications is one of the society’s more expensive initiatives. In recent times, SASS has struggled to finance its publications due to receiving insufficient funding, mainly from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS).

“The Faculty initially committed $5000 in for the publication of ARNA when it was restarted in 2008,” outgoing President Angelina Gu told Honi.

“But since then, to my knowledge, they haven’t really been financially supporting us beyond providing $2500 last semester,” Gu said.

The society was advised to submit a separate application to FASS for additional funding in Semester Two, as $2500 was not enough to cover the two publications printed last semester.

“This semester, the Dean [Professor Lisa Adkins] took three months to respond to our email. Our funding request was denied because, according to her, the Faculty had already matched previous years and they didn’t review applications on a semester basis,” she said.

The Dean has yet to reply to any of SASS’ follow-up emails as to why the process had changed, or why they had failed to communicate this change with SASS in advance.

According to Gu, the society receives $1300 per semester from the USU, which is not enough to cover production costs. This grant was also recently reduced on the “false understanding” that SASS receives up to $10,000 yearly from the Faculty, in line with other faculty societies.

“We’ve been using our profits from our ticketed events to cover the costs of our publications, but this also means we have to dig from our equity budget, which is also a problem,” Gu said.

“I perceive that to be a serious lack of respect and interest from the Dean in the work of the Faculty’s student society, its executives and all Arts students, combined with an expectation for those very students to devote their free and voluntary labour at the cost of their own personal income, commitments and study to uphold the reputation of the Faculty by giving it the vibrancy and colour that attracts so many to the University of Sydney Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences,” she said.

“SASS remains inherently disconnected because our funding is reliant on abstract rules that appear to be easily changed pending the Dean’s goodwill. A lack of funding provided by the Dean is the very reason why events are not accessible to students with a disability, experiencing difficulty with finances, from a regional area, or simply trying to balance work and study.”

Previous SASS Presidents have also reported difficulties in communicating with the Faculty for funding, with 2021 FASS Dean Annamarie Jagose reportedly ignoring all of 2021 SASS President Nicole Baxter’s communications throughout Baxter’s term.

“In 2022 the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences provided the Sydney Arts Student Society $2500, matching the funds provided 2021, 2020 and 2019,” a University spokesperson told Honi.

“There are many student clubs supported by the Faculty – including the Education and Social Work Society, History Students Society, International and Global Studies Society, Philosophy Society, Sydney College of the Arts Society, USYD Society of Asian Studies and more – and this figure was considered appropriate in context of other funding requests received,” they said.

“We do have clear processes in place for student society funding. We’ll make sure to explain these processes again to the incoming Presidents of our student societies next year to avoid any confusion.”

The full list of the incoming SASS Executive is as follows:

PresidentJamaica Leech
Vice-President (Internal)Miranda Cao
Vice-President (External)Nicole Pan
SecretaryKatelyn Williams
TreasurerJustina Hua
Socials DirectorsRuby McGinty and Mia Freeland
Sports DirectorsEmma Christie and Muhammad Ali
First Year RepresentativeGeorgia Wheatley
International Student RepresentativeNo candidate nominations were received.
Postgraduate Student RepresentativeNo candidate nominations were received.
Queer OfficerMatt Velder
Women’s OfficerTara Grice
Indigenous OfficerBenjamin McGrory
Ethnocultural OfficerNo candidate nominations were received.
Disabilities OfficerAnnalise Schwarz

*Note: This article was updated to include the University’s statement.