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“All anti-racists must vote Yes”: September SRC Meeting Recap

The housing crisis, sexual misconduct, Sydney Student, and the Voice to Parliament were all in the firing line as USyd’s hacks and shills reconvened this month.

The dreaded first Wednesday of September brought with it unseasonably warm weather, the faint whiff of an upcoming election, and our favourite band of student politicians once again venturing into the bowels of New Law. Honi’s sleep-deprived Editors — fueled by Redbull and the overwhelming euphoria that comes when the Liberals don’t show up to Council — listened to what the 95th SRC has been doing, so you don’t have to. 

The President’s Report spruiked the “Fix the Housing Crisis!” rally, with President Lia Perkins (Grassroots) noting she would not be able to attend, instead celebrating her grandmother’s 80th birthday (Happy Birthday!). Despite Socialist Alternative’s suggestion to postpone the shindig, Perkins was adamant that the rest of her faction would be out in force.

Perkins also noted the Academic Board’s recent decision to endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart. While Honi is still investigating the specific circumstances surrounding the Board’s decision, it appears the statement was widely endorsed — SUPRA’s representatives and Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott abstained, and one member voted against the statement.

First Nations Officer Ben McGrory (Independent) asked why he was not invited to the meeting as the SRC’s representative. Perkins responded that this was “a genuine oversight” on her part and that she would “certainly invite [McGrory] to the next meeting.”

Vice Presidents Rose Donnelly (NLS) and Daniel Bowron (Unity) spoke on USyd Students for the Voice’s rally in the Quadrangle, and the recent success of FoodHub. Bowron noted that FoodHub is “desperate for more volunteers,” as demand for the service has spiked.

A question from Simon Upitis (SAlt) about Donnelly’s engagement with campus activism inspired a less-than-staunch response, with Donnelly assuring Council that she “does activism at home with my mum,” and that “the reason I don’t go to Enviro Collective meetings is because I don’t think it’s a productive way to cause change.”

General Secretaries Jasmine Donnelly (NLS) and Tiger Perkins (Grassroots) provided a basic update on their activities, mainly the SRC’s Festival of Radical Thinking (formerly Radical Education Week, soon-to-be Radical Chic Week…) and consultation with First Nations Elders and community members on the Voice campaign.

Office Bearer reports were delivered largely uninterrupted by factional squabbles. A notable absence from the meeting was Women’s Officer Alev Saracoglu, who was recently criticised for sharing anti-Voice opinions from the WoCo Instagram account. Ethnocultural Officer Rand Khatib (Grassroots) noted the establishment of stipends for the Ethnocultural Officer, First Nations Officer, and Disabilities Officer. Queer Officer Jamie Bridge questioned why stipends weren’t introduced for other portfolios. Khatib responded “I think the Queer Officers deserve a stipend, but the University is famously stingy. We are looking to expand stipends.”

After a number of largely uneventful reports, Council turned its attention to the agenda, where a number of contentious motions were tabled for debate. 

The first motion of the night was brought by Alexander Poirier (Unity) and involved a proposed change to the regulations to abolish his own position (Intercampus Officer) and replace the portfolio with an Intercampus Committee. The motion was largely opposed, with Perkins arguing that “committees are not the most effective way for the SRC to organise. Having the Intercampus Officer is key for organising, and not having that representation is concerning.” The motion failed — meaning Poirier will be sticking around for a while yet. 

The second motion involved a further change to the regulations. Moved by Lia Perkins (Grassroots) and seconded by Tiger Perkins (Grassroots), the changes sought to limit the number of Office Bearers to two for each portfolio and added Disabilities Honi and ACAR Honi to the set list of Autonomous editions throughout the year. Jack Scalonon (NLS) spoke to the constitutional loophole around the Office Bearers specifically, stating that “as a regulations nerd it scares me when I see this sort of stuff.” The motion passed without dissent, and thankfully the sun will never rise on a day when there are eight OBs elected to a single portfolio.  

The SRC then considered the issue of student housing rent hikes, noting the recent “Fix the Housing Crisis!” rally. Welfare Officer and Presidential hopeful Harrison Brennan (Grassroots) noted that a 6% rent increase will be applied across student accommodation, including in Sydney University Village “where 91 students share three stoves”. The motion carried with no dissent. 

Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Officer Eliza Crossley introduced a motion to end rape on campus in light of the University’s inaugural Annual Report on Sexual Misconduct. She particularly noted the confidentiality clause, which means that students who make reports cannot talk about the names or events involved in the report. “You can’t get support from that, and you can’t warn other people about your perpetrator.” She also noted that based on the National Student Safety Survey (NSSS) in 2021, thousands of students should have made reports. The motion passed with no dissent. 

Environment Officer Maddie Clark (Socialist Alternative) then moved a motion on the climate crisis. Clark highlighted the increasing emissions and fossil fuel extractions under the Labor Government, with seconder Ishbel Dunsmore (Grassroots) noting the hypocrisy of both the University and the Government with regard to climate action.

Rose Donnelly (NLS) took to the microphone, complaining that there are “constantly ten different campaigns going on at one time”, and that a Royal Commission is needed to unravel Labor’s corruption. Amidst heckles from the Council, she lamented that “there’s a new rally each week,” calling for a decrease in climate activism on campus. While there was criticism around different factional approaches, the motion (again) passed with no dissent. 

A few motions from Labor drew incredulous criticism from Council, including one calling for the SRC to host a badminton competition to celebrate 100 years of international students at USyd. Julius Whitforth (SAlt) hit the first serve, claiming the only purpose of the motion is to “entice more international students to come over so Mark Scott can make a quick buck off them.” Queer Officer Jamie Bridge (SLA) asked NLS “are we here to have a fun time, or are we here to get things done?”

Deaglan Godwin (SAlt) accused Labor of paternalism, claiming Labor believes students “are too dumb for activism, so we have to host sausage sizzles to convince them to engage with activist events.” Despite a protracted debate, the motion passed with dissent from the Left.

Grace Porter (Unity) then moved a motion to condemn the ALP National Conference for voting up AUKUS. The speaking list filled quickly, with many students from outside the party criticising young Labor members for believing that they can change the party from within. The motion carried with no dissent.

A motion to streamline Sydney Student, moved by Vice Presidents Rose Donnelly and Daniel Bowron (Unity) passed with no dissent, as did a pro-Voice motion from Alexander Poirier and CSA First Nations Officer Cianna Walker. Both motions were passed.

In a shock move that seemingly united the campus Left, SAlt moved a motion to support the Yes campaign, claiming that “all anti-racists must vote Yes”. When pressed on what this means for First Nations activists, SAlt held the firm belief that — despite the valid reasons colonised people might be hesitant to engage directly with a colonising force — the only acceptable response to the referendum would be to vote Yes.

Tiger Perkins (Grassroots) attempted to amend the motion to add a paragraph acknowledging the progressive No and boycott campaigns, particularly noting that “the referendum has dichotomised Indigenous justice to a binary.” This was declared “against the spirit of the motion” by Godwin and was struck down. The motion passed with dissent.

After the meeting was declared inquorate, Council was gifted a surprise early mark, various factions spilling onto the pavement outside New Law Annex for a dart and a debrief. With only one month left in the 95th Council’s term, we’re excited to see what October brings.

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