What You Need to Know About Your Potential SRC
Tickets and Executive Candidates
By Lungol Wekina
For the first time in years, Tharunka was able to peel back the curtain and report on the candidates vying for your votes in the 2018 Student Representative Council Elections. Over the past week, Tharunka’s Managing Editor has been conducting interviews with candidates for office-bearing and executive positions within the SRC so that you can make an informed and educated vote in the ongoing elections.
Tharunka had given all candidates an equal opportunity to participate in an interview before the publication of this article.
Every year for the past few years, the staple tickets running for the SRC are the Labor faction’s Activate, Socialist Alternative’s Left Action, some iteration of the Liberal faction and a fourth party ticket that fizzles beyond its inception in whatever respective year it manifests in. Last year, it was Swipe Right. The year before it was Ignite.
2018 is hardly different. Labor’s Activate ticket is ambitiously trying to retain the majority it’s had on the SRC, the Socialist Alternative is campaigning to elect more left-wing students onto the council, and the Liberals are trying to “dilute the toxic, radical communist propaganda that has infiltrated our education system” with their ticket, Energise Your SRC.
The fourth ticket this year, however, has proven to be more cohesive and organised than its predecessors. Rise’s ticket has nine candidates for office bearer and executive positions, the most of any ticket this year, in addition to an array NUS Delegates and Councillors and is clear and concise about their positions, priorities, and objectives. And unlike the newcomers that have come before it, Rise insists upon its independence and lack of political affiliation.
During the interview process, Rise and Activate were the only two tickets that made themselves available for an interview either in person or via phone, so the remainder of this article will deal predominantly with the information they provided.
Both Activate’s Angela Griffin and Rise’s Toby Walmsley came in to discuss their tickets and their respective ambitions for the office of President of the SRC. At the beginning of the interviews, all candidates were asked to disclose any political affiliations they held. Griffin divulged her membership within the Labor Party while Walmsley denied having any political affiliations whatsoever.
Griffin, following years of advocating for women and women’s rights, references her role as an exec member of Reclaim the Night in 2017 and her position as the SRC’s Women’s Officer in 2018 as core leadership experiences that she believes best prepare her for the SRC Presidency in 2019. Furthermore, Griffin said that her experience as a student who moved to Sydney from a rural area and has since had to completely support herself financially gives her an insight into the lifestyle many students on campus lead – one where the basic costs of transportation, food, and rent stack up and add anxiety onto the already stressful pursuit of a degree.
When asked about her priorities should she be successfully elected, Griffin expressed a desire to reform Arc’s Clubs and Societies on campus in the context of training students in executive roles as first responders to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault. She voiced her dissatisfaction with the lack of policies and structures in place that hold perpetrators (both one-time and repeat offenders) accountable, and plans to directly address this issue by implementing misconduct training and explicit consequences for sexual harassment and sexual assault. Further, Griffin hopes to implement a Bullying and Harassment portal (similar to the Sexual Harassment and Assault Portal the women’s collective has successfully developed in conjunction with the university) that not only address instances of harassment based on race, ethnicity, and class, but also provides statistics to university bodies on campus to help mitigate these issues. She expressed a keen interest in bringing robust international student representation onto the SRC by building a network of advocates specifically targeting issues faced by that particular group. She used the International Student Concession Card Campaign as a tangible starting point for this exercise. Finally, Griffin aims to make UNSW a more equitable place for students that struggle financially; she hopes to continue the “$5 Feed” program that has just been pushed through Arc in addition to pursuing potential textbook grants that lighten the burden of expensive course materials. Perhaps more ambitiously, she wants to expand the university’s crisis accommodation options to help students that may need to escape an unsafe home situation.
Walmsley is also no stranger to the SRC – his role as Education Officer this year combined with his experience as a Councillor before that provide him with what he believes to be the experience needed for next year’s President of the SRC. He also quoted his involvement with campaigns such as Fossil Free UNSW and the UNSW Staff Strikes earlier this year as additional qualifications for the executive position he’s campaigning for.
Should he be successfully elected, Walmsley noted one of his top priorities as being housing affordability on campus. During his interview, he spoke of many situations in which international students who can’t afford to live on campus are exploited and treated unfairly by landlords who charge obscene amounts of rent or illegally retain initial bonds. Additionally, students from rural or regional areas, much like their international counterparts, also suffer from expensive on-campus accommodation rates that pretty much eliminate their chances of living in or near university once they’ve uprooted their entire lives. Inspired by student activism on university campuses in the UK that successfully saved students living on campus millions of pounds in rent, Walmsley hopes to bring that campaign onto our campus here at UNSW. Continued student activism is also a priority for this presidential hopeful – Walmsley believes in the progress made by movements like Fossil Free UNSW and the International Student Concession Card Campain, and plans on supporting the relevant office bearers going into next year with their petitions, protests, and occupations. Furthermore, Walmsley hopes to introduce an era of transparency to the SRC should he be elected. He expressed a desire to have meetings be open to students on campus, and with our recently changed charter, a sit-in Tharunka reporter to keep the SRC accountable to the students they represent through student media. Walmsley is keen on developing a student population on campus that actively campaigns and fights for their rights – because he believes the twenty-five person council that gets elected every year can’t do it alone.
Both presidential candidates shared a passion for bringing change to the SRC, yet Rise’s core objective seems to be building an activist student population on campus, whereas Activate is focused more on prioritising the provision of services to the larger UNSW student body.
Tharunka’s Digital Media Sub-Editor, Sahana Nandakumar, was appointed as an SRC Councilor for the STEMS in Semester 2 as an independent candidate. She is not running or campaigning for any positions or tickets in the SRC for 2019. Nevertheless, she has recused herself from Tharunka’s coverage of the SRC elections.
No other member of the Tharunka staff hold any conflicts of interest with either the 2018 or the potential 2019 Student Representative Council.