General Secretary – Candidate Interview

By Harrisen Leckenby

Tharunka interviewed both candidates for the 2023 SRC General Secretary position. Here’s what they said:* 

*Due to contracting COVID-19, Vihan Roy provided answers in the form of written responses.  

What is your Name and Degree?  

Reid – third-year studying Arts and Law, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Politics.  

Vihan – studying computer science and commerce.  

Have you been on or run for the SRC before, or have you been a student representative before?  

Reid – Yes, I am very fortunate to serve as this year’s SRC Welfare Officer. 

Vihan –  I have been on the SRC this year as the Education Officer. I am also the Producer and Arc Delegate for Law Revue and have held leadership positions in Med and CSE Revues. 

If yes, what initiatives were you involved in? If not, have you been involved in other aspects of the student community/organising?  

Reid – I am also serving as the treasure and Arc delegate for Save the Children art group. I would like to extend the sense of community I have felt in this role to the SRC.  

Vihan –  As Education Officer this year I convened Education Collective meetings and helped build numbers and support for the midwives strike by handing out leaflets and supporting them with SRC resources. 

I also worked closely with the Paddington campus and helped directly oppose the Arts, Design, and Architecture degree mergers (i.e cuts) from thirteen degree programs to five. I helped start a petition against these with the Paddington Representation Officer, Daniel Mulia, which received over 300 signatures and was presented to the university. 

In addition, I represented the SRC at the Yom Hashoah commemoration hosted by Project HEAR and I worked with B’nai Brith, specifically with their Moving Forward Together program, to help organise their harmony day walk which will be held on the 16th of October. 

What are the biggest issues facing students in 2022?  

Reid – Even though we have started to emerge from lockdown, bridging the gap between online and in-person classes is important, and making sure both spaces are carried forward into the future. I hope to simplify progression checks and implement mandatory health modules for all students and university staff.   

Vihan – The three biggest issues facing students in 2022, and going into 2023, are degree and course cuts, the return to campus following the pandemic, and the trend towards online-uni. 

Course cuts and the worsening teaching staff to student ratio aren’t confined to ADA. Investigations are showing many courses in other faculties are being “rested” which reduces students’ choices and the quality of a UNSW education. The staff to student ratio has significantly worsened as of late too, currently standing at 41 students per teacher. This has worsened from 22 to 1 just a few years ago. 

Additionally, while campus life has begun to return following the pandemic, it hasn’t bounced back completely to pre-COVID levels of activity. A number of clubs have folded, or are struggling from reduced membership and engagement, and the university isn’t doing enough to incentivise students to actually get back on campus. 

Finally, I’m concerned about the shift towards online university and pre-recorded lectures. The ability to talk to your lecturer or tutor and get real time feedback is a core part of the university experience, otherwise what are we paying all this money for! Online university should be an option, but there should always be enough teaching staff and classes for in-person university for anyone who wants it. 

Are you a member of, or affiliated with, any political party?  

Reid – Yes. I am a member of the Labor party and the grievance officer for the Labor party on campus. I am proud of this position because Labor has practical policies that provide benefits to all students. 

Vihan – I am not a member of, or affiliated with any political party. My sole interest is for student life to thrive on this campus. 

Why are you running to be the General Secretary?  

Reid– I want to serve the student community. I have always believed in the student community. As a third year student with over two years of study in lockdown I aim to do my best to serve the 50,000 students of UNSW. The General Secretary position is a great platform because the roles can be quite varied and the scope is quite broad.  

Vihan – As Education Officer this year, I was personally very demotivated by the state of affairs with degree mergers and the lack of effective response from the SRC to oppose these changes which they effectively, in my view, rubber-stamped. My experience with Education Collective members wasn’t fantastic either as, despite my support for them, they had no desire to consider alternative points of view or approaches to activism from me. Due to what I felt was my personal powerlessness to do anything about it, I even considered resigning from my position. 

Instead though, I thought that walking away doesn’t change anything, and thought the better course was to run again but with a much more determined SRC team next time around. As General Secretary, I will have the opportunity to address the concerns I raised about educational cuts, the worrying shift to onlineuni, and transition back to on campus activity. 

Why did you choose to run with your chosen ticket? 

Reid – I am running under the Together ticket. I have chosen to run with them because they have a proven track record of success. Together has successfully campaigned for the introduction of flex week, the introduction of study vacation (StuVac) and college fee refunds over Christmas in 2020.  

Vihan – I had a heavy influence in initially creating the Unite for UNSW ticket, and the concept was to build a team of club and society Presidents and executives who have the experience, commitment, and energy to improve students’ experience because we believe that the recent SRC has been stale and a new team is needed. I’m pleased to say we’ve achieved that goal with a team of 4 club Presidents and 8 club executives standing for election. 

We have a clear vision of what we’d like to achieve next year on the SRC, however, we’re willing to work with anybody and any organisation that cares about making UNSW better. 

What do you see the role of the SRC as?  

Reid – SRC must empower students and give them a voice. We take our role as listeners seriously, not only just as activists and talkers, although this is a big part of our work. SRC must have genuine and honest communication with students and take these points to the University through a variety of means.  

Vihan – The role of the SRC is to represent students’ interests to the university and ensure UNSW provides a quality educational and social experience. This may involve working collaboratively with the university, or sometimes pushing back against poor decisions that we believe aren’t in the best interest of either students or the university, such as ADA cuts. 

 If you require assistance, the SRC can help with liaison with university officials, direct you towards assistance, and push for changes to university policy. 

What policies are you running under as General Secretary? 

Reid – I am running under a platform of wide ranging improvements to the student body. These range from academic to environmental to women’s. These policies will be developed by proper consultation with relevant students and stakeholders. Some examples are implementing final exam feedback and mock papers for subjects, continue tackling period poverty and providing free period products in UNSW, alongside an increased awareness of resources to students facing distress.  

Vihan – The Unite! team has four key policy areas that we’ll work to implement if elected; fighting educational cuts, supporting international students, supporting clubs and societies / social life, and making the university experience smoother. 

Specifically, my priorities as General Secretary are to: 

  • Increase the Arc Clubs Attendance Grant to $2 per person for the first 20 attendees, reverting to the normal $1 per person afterwards. This will provide a helpful funding boost to smaller and more niche clubs. 
  • Implement a filter option in the Course Handbook that lets you view only courses you are eligible for. You shouldn’t have to trawl through pages of courses you can’t do to figure out the ones you can. 
  • Host live bands during O-Week and Welcome Week. 

What is your favourite book?  

Reid – Book of 500 poems, passed down from my immigrant dad. It always interested me so I picked it up a few months ago. 

Vihan – My favourite book is probably a tie between Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; I don’t know, they really expand the world and explore the lore quite heavily, which I always love in a book. 

Who is your favourite hero or heroine?  

Reid – Gough Whitlam. I admire this person so much. He ended the White Australia Policy and handed land back to Indigenous communities. He opened Australia up to trade and the 21st Century. His pragmatism and his moral ethics, alongside the way he carried himself, that’s what I really look up to in a hero.  

Vihan Aladdin is probably my favourite hero; he epitomises how kindness wins the world which I think is important. 

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