Design by Stephanie Ung.

Welfare Officer at the SRC Elections 2021: meet your candidates

by Sonal Kamble

2021 has placed unprecedented pressure on student welfare at UNSW. Issues symptomatic of the COVID lockdowns are a unique focus of the 2021 Welfare candidates, with online learning and the restoration of a dynamic campus environment taking centre stage, along with more systemic issues regarding UNSW management.  

Tharunka spoke to the three candidates running for Welfare Officer this year:  

  • Reid Hou from Together focuses on SRC support in the move from quarantine to campus, centring a strengthened connection between students and the SRC in his campaign. 
  • Ruby Pandolfi from Left Action emphasizes the inability of the current education system to adequately support student welfare, focusing specifically on the fight against a uni management that does not serve the interests of students in her campaign. 
  • Roy Zhang from Spice Up emphasizes the need for an engaging campus that supports students professionally and socially, centring a lively campus environment in his campaign.  

Get to know your nominees 

Name: Reid Hou [Together] 

“It’s up to us as student representatives to make sure that we’re always in touch with students.” 

What would you like to achieve as part of the SRC? 

What I’d like to achieve is fairly simple— it’s that buzzing, full uni. Anything that can bring us closer to that is what I’d like to achieve as part of the SRC.  

Together had already set up weekly stalls for students before COVID hit. That’s what I’d like to bring in – making sure that we’re fully in touch with students and bringing back the veil that’s been over the SRC.  

Another side is just making sure that no one’s left behind. Close communication with the relevant bodies and relevant students coming together and problem-solving together is central to what I hope to achieve.  

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

I’m actually the interim ethnocultural officer. I was elected less than 2 weeks ago and have already begun to run initiatives. If we can actually get people involved in the spaces that are meant to be serving them, it will help serve students better. We are also going to be doing a ‘zine’, a published, short collection of works focusing on the quarantine experience. Those submissions are kindly open.  

I was also part of the subcommittee for the charity Save The Children, the student action group at UNSW.  

I’m also a part of the Asian Australian Lawyer’s Association student subcommittee, all about raising awareness and advice for diversity in law. I also aided in formulating an Asia pacific panel.  

What are the biggest issues facing UNSW students in 2021? 

It’s very much been said, but it’s COVID. There are issues that branch off from COVID, like, how do we make online learning fair, high quality, and something that everyone can actually wrap their heads around? 

Then, moving back into uni, we believe students want the return to be as smooth and knowable as possible, and we want a clear step-based procedure for bringing everyone back on campus. There’s also uni life—once we’re back, how can students readjust and plant roots in real life again? The main thing is that we might not even know the biggest individual issue will be yet, and it’s up to us as student representatives to make sure that we’re always communicating with the students so it’s actually the students’ needs that, however unpredictable, are addressed. 

Name: Ruby Pandolfi [Left Action]  

“Education should not be degraded for the sake of boosting the university’s bottom line.” 

What would you like to achieve as part of the SRC? 

I think the SRC should be a fighting body that takes a left-wing stance on LGBTI rights, climate justice, against racism and against attacks on education. It should be made up of activists who fight for the interests of students and against uni management on campus (whose priorities lie with making a profit rather than providing quality education or looking after student wellbeing). Student unions should use their resources to help build this resistance to a system that puts profits over human life and the planet. 

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

I’ve been a member of the Education Collective organising protests for student rights and quality education for a few years now, and have also been part of building the climate strikes on campus against climate destruction.  

At UNSW most recently I’ve been involved in fighting with other student activists in Left Action against uni management, who at every turn prioritise profits over providing good quality education or looking after student wellbeing. We’ve also been active in resisting the appointment of the new UNSW Vice-Chancellor Atilla Brungs, who has overseen huge cuts at UTS.  

I’ve also been part of the Lockdown to Zero campaign fighting against the Liberals attempt to sacrifice human lives in the interest of business by not implementing a proper lockdown, and demanding that the health of ordinary people is put above the profits of the rich. 

What are the biggest issues facing UNSW students in 2021? 

Students and staff at UNSW have faced huge attacks on their education in the past two years with massive job cuts being pushed through during a pandemic, as well as course cuts, faculty mergers, fee increases and a general deterioration of the quality of our education.  

UNSW has enough money to pay staff and provide adequate courses, but are simply choosing not to in order to boost their profits. Education should not be degraded for the sake of boosting the university’s bottom line.  

That’s why Left Action activists consistently organize and fight for the interests of students and in opposition to the VC, whether that be against ed cuts, rights for international students, against racism or for refugee rights, and will continue to stand up to university management in 2022. 

Name: Roy Zheng [Spice Up]  

“I strive to create a sustainable, future-ready, and inclusive community.” 

What would you like to achieve as part of the SRC? 

Here are some major initiatives I’d like to achieve: 

– Running a free BBQ lunch once per week. 

– Providing financial/food support (e.g. fresh groceries, food vouchers, relief packages) to international students, students living away from home, and students from low-income families.  

– Reducing public transport costs for all students through decreased concession fares, including acquisition of concession card rights for international students.  

– Electronic distribution of campus food vouchers/discounts for ARC members. 

– Establishing a clothing donation point on campus for students to receive seasoned, warm clothing. 

– Additional funding for both in-person and online student clubs & societies collaborations with ARC. 

– Improving the response rate and efficiency of club & societies venue bookings.  

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

I am currently a Programs Director for UNSW Engineering Society. We ran the EngSoc Peer Mentoring Program where we helped integrate 180+ students into the UNSW Engineering community with diverse professional and social events. We are also currently running the Volunteering Development Program. 

I’m also a peer mentor, campus volunteer and Yellow Shirt! I strive to create a sustainable, future-ready, and inclusive community with everything that I do. 

What are the biggest issues facing UNSW students in 2021? 

I believe one of the biggest issues is not being able to receive high quality, interactive campus life safely at UNSW. One of the main appeals of UNSW is its diverse and vibrant campus experience. However, transitioning into online learning due to COVID-19 limits our capability to live a content university life. 

 Students don’t have the opportunity to collaborate in group assignments and to apply theoretical knowledge in practical activities when learning online. We pay thousands of dollars per year to sit down and learn from electronic devices every day, and that’s not how we should be prepared for the workforce.  

The dying campus environment demotivates students from participating in activities that benefit them professionally and socially. This includes studying with friends on campus, partaking in society activities, or even going for Maccas runs with mates. These are all essential interactions that well-rounded students need to achieve a balanced lifestyle – something we all sorely miss. 

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. If you are interested in watching the debate for Welfare Officer, check out our event here. To keep up with the action, follow us on Facebook or check our  website

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