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SRC Candidate Interview | Michelle Chandra

What is your current relationship with the Arc Board and how do you plan on growing it?  

I’m part of a lot of societies such as the United Nations society and part of the editing sub-committee of Blitz, but I have no direct relationship with Arc board, don’t liaise with them directly. One thing I do have to say, though: the Arc board needs to be more transparent. most students don’t really know what they do. The board is this elusive apparatus that acts like a puppeteer across UNSW societies.  

What is your current experience in the SRC or other bodies?  

This is my first time running for the SRC; my first year was just focused on getting settled into uni and figuring out what I wanted to do. In Second year I started getting more involved with societies, involved in peer mentoring for arts society, educational subcom MUN society, and editing subcom and writing articles for Blitz.  

Why have you decided to run independently?  

I think there’s a lot of pros and cons to running independently. The first disadvantage, that for the past three years the ARC nomination board was basically comprised of three bodies, Left Action, Together/Revive, and Unite. The biggest problem with that is that it starts to make the SRC feel very exclusive and monopolized.

An advantage, however, is something I value substantially and that is autonomy and the
space/ opportunity to move in between the two different tickets – their values and their goals.

But that’s not to say there aren’t good aspects to the electoral tickets. Left action is an activist
ticket and Revive is a political ticket. Having a two party electoral ticket system in and of itself
does provide checks and balances but to what extent? It is, again, very monopolised.

Why do you think so many students find the SRC irrelevant?  

I think that the main problem is accessibility with the SRC, and this stems from students, especially those living on campus not seeing a physically active presence from the SRC. Part of that is because the SRC works behind the scenes on a lot of policies and even when you see an active presence such as last year, like Cherish who when they and the education collective mobilized protest against the ADA course cuts, but UNSW the institution doesn’t often listen to student voices. So the SRC is seen as a symbolic ideal rather than as a working practical apparatus that actually leads to and engineers change within campus and within policies.  

Are you currently a member of, or are you affiliated with any political parties?  

I’m not a member of any political parties, the one political party that aligns most with my views is probably the Greens but I’ve never attended UNSW greens events.  

Should you take over as [position], what would be your number one priority?  

There are three issues that I would want to pursue if I am elected:
The first issue is inaccessibility in terms of educational tools and resources for women. I want
to enhance access by providing introductory packets when students commence their studies
at UNSW. This includes information on WoCo, campus sexual assault and harassment, student
mentoring, ins and outs of uni/ campus life, lactation facilities and policies, mentoring courses
etc. Lots of students don’t know that the women’s collective is a society-adjacent body they
can be affiliated with. I want to make Gender Studies a viable option for a major, and have
UNSW run financial literacy courses since poverty is a self-sustaining issue and I want to help
students achieve their full potential by giving them the tools to do that. However, in this case,
my main goal is to work with the Women’s Collective to create an online learning platform on
Moodle, similar to that for the pre-existing one for student exchange. I want it to comprise
topics such as intersectionality, gender and religion, sexual and reproductive health, consent
and gendered violence, as well as many others.
The second issue I want to tackle would be lack of support for student mothers and parents. I
have 4 solutions to fix this:

  1. Increasing lactation stations across UNSW campuses.
    ● Physical accessible spaces are necessary for people to express milk for
    nursing. For some students, it is a necessity.
    ● I want to make sure that there are multiple spaces for students pumping
    simultaneously. Already have 5 spaces across campus- Paddington campus
    does not have spaces at all which needs to be addressed.
    ● There are also financial and space limitations associated with lactation rooms. I
    believe it would be a good idea to repurpose conference rooms or some lecture
    halls for that use if new spaces cannot be created.
    ● Kensington only has 5 spaces across 5 different buildings on campus which is
    a very small amount.
  2. Incorporate more free locker room spaces across campus for students who aren’t part
    of faculties that have existing facilities for breast pump equipment.
  3. Changing the attendance policies regarding lactation.
    ● UNSW is obligated to assist students who need to express milk or pump on
    campus.
    ● These students should be able to miss lectures/class to pump and make up
    these hours afterwards. This is an especially salient issue for science students
    who usually have 4 hour labs.
    ● UNSW administrators should assist in planning a conducive pumping schedule
    and take into account that people who express milk also need travel time, time
    to set equipment up and clean it as well as storing milk.
  4. Students should be oriented to lactation spaces and guidelines during new student
    orientation and this should clearly delineate the responsibilities of staff and students
    so these should also be provided in multiple different languages.
    The third issue is the most important to me and that is to confront rape culture and provide
    more support to survivors of sexual assault. I want to do this by allowing students to
    transition from percentage gradings to pass or fail grading for those who experience domestic
    violence or assault recovery, provide drink covers for events and venues associated with
    UNSW/ARC and also provide support for UNSW colleges. I also believe there needs to be
    stronger policies e.g. expulsion surrounding image-based abuse and UNSW’s policies on that.

Do you think UNSW cares about its students?  

I don’t think I could give an absolute answer, since this question is so rich with nuances and
subtlety. I understand why students might feel that UNSW doesn’t care about its students, with
the prime example being ADA course cuts. Even when the SRC protested against these course
cuts, our voices have been silenced and ignored.
Another example is capitulations with the SRC and the way UNSW has responded to a lot of sexual
assault and sexual harassment situations. For example, the Philip Baxter college had students
chanting misogynistic rhetoric which was then glossed over by UNSW and responded to in
very vague/ nonchalant terms. Therein lies the problem, students don’t always see UNSW take
a stronger approach when it comes to these issues that affect and harm minority students.
Increasing student fees is also another facet of why some students believe UNSW doesn’t care about
them, because it feels like they’re just trying to make a profit while ignoring the fact that many
students aren’t in financially privileged situations. Law, science had increases of 40%, humanities
were 113% increased. It’s disillusioning and disheartening to a lot of students. However, I would like
to note that it is quite vague – how much of these increases are at UNSW’s own accord and
how much was propelled due to the federal policies regarding tertiary education fees — hence
my reluctance to give an absolute answer to yes or no unsw does/ doesn’t care about their
students.
There are moments where UNSW cares about our students, such as having active support for the
voice referendum. I believe this makes indigenous students feel seen and supported by their
universities. But again, sometimes when UNSW takes such strong allyship we should consider
the optics and how UNSW wishes to appear progressive, so these issues should be
considered through a PR lens.

What global issue is currently on your mind?  

Something that’s been replaying in my head over and over is probably the incident with the Vice-President of the football association during Spain’s victory in the women’s world cup which shows how even when we speak so publicly to denounce SASH there are still people who are willing to engage with that publicly, openly and brazenly in front of live television. Even when we progress in society sometimes that falls on deaf ears – Rubiales denying responsibility for what he did is disillusioning for many women which was not surprising but was definitely disappointing.  

What is your favourite TV show?  

Once Upon a Time is one of my all-time favourite TV shows because I love fairytales and I love how imposing them in a modern setting blurs reality and fantasy. I love Brooklyn 99 as well because it allows me to turn my brain off. I don’t think this TV show has aged well, but I loved Pretty Little Liars growing up.  


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