by Daniel Magee
The candidates running for General Secretary of the SRC this year are Nick Palmer (Together), India Old (Left Action), and Geoffrey He (Spice Up).
If you’re new to student politics (StuPol), check out ‘Does the SRC even do anything?’ for a quick rundown. Past articles (SRC Elections 2020) also provide a useful and succinct summary of the various tickets, what they stand for and aim to do if elected to the SRC.
Together: As described by current SRC President, Tom Kennedy, the Together for UNSW ticket adopts a centre-left position on social and academic issues. It has a strong focus on making practical improvements that make the student experience smoother.
Left Action: A left-wing ticket with a predominately activist approach, having previously taken strong stances against all uni cuts and staff-sackings. Left Action candidates have been involved in Climate Justice, Black Lives Matter, and Free Palestine protests.
Spice Up: The self-proclaimed ‘non-partisan’ and relatively new ticket, Spice Up UNSW, focuses on the improvement of university life and the campus for heightened student engagement. Spice Up aims to facilitate a quick return to campus and start enacting its vision.
- Nick Palmer and India Old have previous experience in the SRC as Councillors. Nick is currently an Education Officer and is affiliated with the UNSW Labor Club. Though Geoffrey (Spice Up) has not been involved in the SRC before, he has bene an active member of the UNSW community, most recently as the VP of Programs for the Engineering Society.
- Both Nick and Geoffrey aim to increase the accessibility of course resources, such as textbooks, to lessen the already significant financial burden of university.
- While Nick and Geoffrey both bring up their concerns regarding the quality and fairness of online education, especially regarding assessments and student wellbeing, India focuses on ensuring that the ethos of the re-opening process is safe and student oriented.
- Both Nick and Geoffrey seek to reinstate and improve funding for societies in light of COVID-related financial hardships.
- India, Nick, and Geoffrey identify the COVID-19 pandemic as the main cause of the most significant problems faced by UNSW students.
Nick Palmer (Together)
“A lot of the time, they don’t have to be massive changes to make a massive difference to someone.”
Nick, at present an Education Officer of the SRC, listed a set of practical aims to pursue if elected as General Secretary. He explained that he would mainly like to continue pursuing projects being currently worked on. These include:
- Improving equity and accessibility, as well as availability of past papers near exam periods;
- The implementation of an assessment definition standardization key;
- Improving society funding to suit a COVID-normal student life.
Nick is currently an Education Officer, though before this he acted as a Councillor, indicating experience within the SRC. On top of this, Nick also helped organise the Bus Rally.
Nick has made contributions to a current project aiming to form a student health advisory council. Most notably is his effort to establish a more interwoven dialogue between SRC councillors and the university’s various clubs and societies. This, Nick says, is about “connecting SRC members with students so that they can represent them in a better way because…it’s good to be able to speak to the students. You’re meant to be the student voice.”
On the biggest challenges facing UNSW students today, Nick expressed concern over the assurance of quality of education, and provisions for student wellbeing that have been inevitably limited by the rapid transition to lockdown, due to COVID-19.
Apart from his desire to improve textbook and past paper accessibility, Nick also wants to achieve an increased standard of learning and provisions for student wellbeing for online learning. He asserted the importance of ensuring academic integrity for the online format without implementing overly harsh penalties that may risk negatively affecting the wider student body.
Regarding student wellbeing, Nick wants to improve the financial support for clubs and societies because “it’s hard to continue that engagement during this online period. So, it’d be a shame to say a lot of clubs are not able to get renewed the membership like they were in past years because they are an important part of uni.”
Nick also brought up his desire to see more flexibility in degrees like International Studies which have important components like exchange years, made impossible by the global pandemic. He says it would be “good to also see a bit more maybe innovation in how flexible maybe some of the programs” to achieve a COVID-normal standard, in light of today’s current unavoidable uncertainty. “Programs could be…just not as rigid.”
India Old (Left Action)
“I want to be part of launching a campaign to reshape education to not be for profit.”
India, true to her ticket, focuses on student activism and taking a firm stance against any and all moves by the University that have the potential to infringe on the student experience.
India firmly asserts her wish to “reshape education to not be for profit” making her position clearly against the “historic attacks to education in the past year including fee hikes, course and staff cuts and faculty restructures.”
She asserts her desire as General Secretary to focus on increasing the student body’s level of engagement and involvement in broader social issues affecting the world beyond UNSW:
I want to be part of launching a campaign to reshape education to not be for profit. Moreover, I want to be part of involving students in campaigns for climate justice, BLM and any and all social issues.
This certainly speaks to her background in activism, and previous involvement in the SRC. When asked about her experiences contributing to the UNSW community, India responded:
I was a Councillor in 2020 where I organised students to fight for the right to protest in NSW against the course cuts and fee hikes at the time. This campaign won back the right to protest and saw hundreds of students fight against the corporate university. I was also part of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests for Climate Justice during the bushfire crisis. I want to continue to push for an SRC that has an activist orientation.
Finally, when asked about the biggest issue facing UNSW students today, India said:
The biggest issue facing UNSW students is the COVID-19 pandemic. The Liberal Government want to open the country up to allow businesses to make profits, which is sacrificing ordinary people and their health. We should be arguing for an approach that places health before profit and re-opening when it is safe to do so. Moreover, the appointment of VC Atilla Brungs reflects the intentions of the University to continue to turn Universities into a degree factory…We should continue to fight for courses that were cut to be reinstated and staff rehired. Capitalism is facing several crises at the moment that are placing profit before people’s lives, the climate, etc and we need to oppose this by building up the voices of resistance.
Geoffrey He (Spice Up)
“My vision as part of the SRC next year is to drive tangible changes which will ultimately benefit the welfare of the UNSW student body.”
From the fledgling, “non-partisan” ticket, Spice Up, Geoffrey clearly outlined his goals to make practical changes if elected as General Secretary:
Some of the pressing issues I intend to tackle during my time on the SRC are:
- Ensuring a smooth transition back to campus for the students who wish to return by providing a safe learning environment to improve student mental and physical well-being;
- Reduction in the Student Services and Amenities Fees for students who choose to fully study at home as they shouldn’t be paying so much for things which they aren’t using;
- Ensuring equality and fairness in assessments for students who are studying on-campus, online and overseas;
- Improve funding for clubs and societies to help them get back on their feet next year as they are an integral part of the UNSW culture and experience;
- Establishing a strong connection between SRC and UNSW societies to work together in order to create a better student experience for UNSW students;
- Transitioning courses away from recommending that students purchase textbooks on top of the tremendous university fees which they already pay to study a course.
Though he hasn’t previously been involved in the SRC, Geoffrey has accumulated many experiences as an active part of the UNSW community throughout his four years, the Engineering Society in particular. He has been acted as a camp leader, involved in peer mentoring, as well as filling the role of VP for programs.
Geoffrey hopes to present “data derived decisions to UNSW Management”, drawing from experiences accumulated during his “software internships at Optus, Accenture and CIMIC [where he worked to] bring about positive change for the organisation.”
When asked about the issues facing UNSW students today, Geoffrey also pointed to problems arising from COVID-19:
This pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our lives and has for the most part impacted a large portion of our university experience.
- Some of the major issues which have affected UNSW students in 2021 because of this are:
Equality and fairness in online assessment as courses struggle to find the right balance and adjust to the new normal;
- Decrease in student welfare due to the persistent lockdowns and lack of consistent quality support from the university.
Elections will be held online in Week 4, from October 5th to October 8th. From Weeks 1-4, Tharunka will be covering the lead-up to the elections, including hosting debates with individual candidates in Week 3. To keep up with the action, follow us on Facebook or check our website.
Declaration: Daniel Magee is a current member of the ALP and has attended events by both the Environment and Education Collectives, and the UNSW Labor Club.