PULP INTERVIEWS: Ruolin Ma
By Pulp Editors
We interviewed 8 of the 9 candidates in the running for USU board, asking them the same 7 questions about their thoughts on the USU and their reasons for running. We also asked a number of spicy political questions, as well as some relating to their policies. The full, un-edited transcript of each interview will be published over the next week in order of the ballot, so you’ll never be without juicy election content. Here’s Ruolin.
PM: Please state your name, degree, political faction (if any) and the year you’re in.
RM: My name is Ruolin Ma, and I’m an Economics student (third year) and I’m not into any political group.
PM: Why do you want to run for Board?
RM: This question is the question I’ve been asked the most, and the reason will surprise you- because it’s just basically from one lunch that I had the intention to run as a Board Director. At that lunch, I think on that day, a Friday, I was studying at ABS. One of my friends said “oh, go get some lunch” and I’m like “ No I don’t want to have like ABS cafe food” cause I don’t think it tastes as good as like outside, at Broadway or Newtown. But they were like “Oh! Today we have ginger fish with rice, it’s so good” and I’m like, “really?” and she’s like “ you better run fast, cause it will sell out.” and I start to go there and get ginger fish with rice and it tastes really good. And another one of my friends says “Oh, did you know this is from one of the USU Board of Directors, and she made this change?” and that’s the time I first acknowledged this organisation called USU, and what they can do is amazing. I immediately fell in love with USU because as a student I have experienced a lot of time that you can just advise the school, advise the University and they will consider your opinion but they probably won’t do it- but as USU Board of Directors they can actually make this change and as a student just one small, little change will make my day so happy, just like ginger fish. So I hope everyone can find their ginger fish with rice just as me. So that’s why I’m running.
PM: Why do you think you’ll be a good Board Director?
RM: I guess other candidates- they are all very competent. Maybe I didn’t hold any executive positions in clubs and societies, but I still joined a few. So I guess the first thing is I value the value of consultation because these days, what I’ve heard from clubs and societies friends that talk about the new funding models, and this new funding model actually cut a lot of budget from clubs and societies for them to maintain their current event program. I think it’s a lack of consultation- student consultation- because before it was like $6 per student per semester, but now it’s only $1. I imagine they probably considered, because this year access card is free, so more people will join clubs and societies, and as I read in Honi Soit, they said there is a 27% increase in access numbers. Apparently it doesn’t cover that $5 gap, so I think when Board actually implemented these policies, there was a little bit of a lack of consultation with students. Just because I don’t have that experience as executive, like I didn’t have such a big- I wasn’t making such big decisions before. So I would go to more societies, more department staff and students to ask how they would feel about any policy that would be implemented. So that’s the first thing-even though I didn’t hold any executive title, I still helped the societies to hold their events, so I would describe myself as a doer. I understand as a Board of Director most of the occasions you sit with the other 12 people and then you make a collective decision, but I will also be a doer to try to connect between the school, the staff and the student, and I think that’s what will make me a perfect fit for this decision.
PM: What are your three most important policies?
RM: The most important policy is the bonus funding to give to some leading clubs and societies, and now I see every club and society, when they have an event they have a signature sheet to record how many people attend, so I think we can use this as a record to evaluate how this club and societies perform. Because what the exec of these clubs and societies are doing I think is amazing, because they are very selfless to do this just to serve other students. So I think as the USU we need to provide supportive platform to make all of them have an easier job to do. So to reward those very excellent clubs and societies, that’s one of the most important ones. The second one I would say is to have a different kind of forum, because I mentioned having a monthly one on one feedback session, or a newsletter, or a report to our students, to say how we are going to plan to use the money. Because my understanding is every semester we are paying the SSAF fee to both SRC and USU so we kind of have a responsibility to let our students know what we are doing, and that’s also were we need to go for USU because we are trying to be accessible, be dynamic, and also to connect different campus. The third one I would say is to hold more international cultural festivals or religious festivals, because horrible things are happening in the world, just like you know what happened in NZ, the gunshot, or all over the world- I think that is because of a lack of understanding between different cultures and different religions, so as USU we not only have the mission to entertain the student, but also to educate the student. So I think this would be a very good way to educate our students and to let every one of us to understand each-other more.
PM: What would you say the most important function of the USU is, in student and campus life?
RM: The most important function? Definitely clubs and societies, and O-Week as well because for freshmen that come to this university O-Week is definitely a window to see this whole campus and the University, so O-Week can create a very welcoming atmosphere to all the new students who came to university. Also clubs and societies because me myself benefit from clubs and societies so much, like I met my friends, and my friends introduced me to the campus and helped me to develop around the campus, and also because I also joined the mandarin debating society, so they hold a lot events to teach debating strategy, also educational way. Yeah, I would definitely say clubs and societies.
PM: If you had to cut $1 million from the USU budget, where would you cut it from?
RM: I guess I don’t- I’m not so sure about what money the USU will spend on- from what I see all of the areas that I just mentioned are really important and I don’t want to cut more, $1 million is a lot. As an economics student, I would say I need a financial statement. So maybe just take a little bit from each one of them to make $1 million, but I won’t just take $1 million from one area straight, maybe I’m just a too cautious person.
PM: What are the worst failings of the current Board, and the things you’ve most admired?
RM: I have to say because of the USU I love Usyd more, and the current board did achieve their vision to make this campus. I read the USU vision is to make the best university experience in Australia, so they actually did this. Everytime when I bought a smoothie from Cafe, and the club and societies are trying to, the events they are trying to hold, it’s really good. Also I read another article about the Verge Festival, trying to put the arts into every students study life- I think that’s pretty good. What is unfortunate I think is this new funding model, as I just talked about.
PM: Do you think the USU and the Board is doing enough to support the International student community? Please indicate what programs and initiatives you find to be particularly successful if yes, and how the USU could better support International Students if not.
RM: That’s a lot of questions! I’ll just answer the first one, for me I think it is, but it could be better. That’s why I’m here. Because now as you see the increased rate of international students the proportion is increasing. I would say International festival, because it will increase the awareness of the whole campus of different people’s culture, different people’s backgrounds, and also club and societies because I know there’s like Thailand society, Cambodia society, they are all a window to let us know different cultures and I think the current status for international students is pretty good, but could be better. I say that because I talked to lots of international student friends, and they are saying that just because of their residential status, they have been refused to have lots of very good internships, so as USU what we can do is to provide more job opportunities for them, or to help them find internships outside the school.
PM: Do you support the campaign for concession Opal Cards for International Students? Why/ Why not?
RM: Yes, I do. When I first heard this idea I didn’t buy it, to be honest- because I think that’s ridiculous, as one single University you can’t turn over a state government's decision. But, after I did a little research I talked to the people who support this and they told me it is because the other state, they all have this international Opal concession card, so why can’t we have this card? So at that moment I know this has become my mission to do, which is why my policy is to support this campaign, because I think that’s very important, it’s not just about a cheaper transport fee, it’s about bringing equality between domestic students and international students. So I hope every international student feels like we are all equal, so this is very important. Even though this change will be slow, but that’s okay because we know we are trying to push this through.
PM: Significant changes to the way the clubs and societies program is funded were announced in February of this year. Do you support the new model, which has resulted in a reduction in funding for individual clubs and societies? Why? If not, how would you propose funding be allocated?
RM: I think I addressed this question earlier, definitely having a free access card is a good thing, but what we have compromised is our clubs and societies, I think the new funding model deprived a lot of societies event program, which is problematic. I think it would depend on how many budget we as USU have, so I think maybe going to this internal environment to know attainable policy, but for me now, I would say if we could maintain this free access. Before I heard this free access card idea, I also had this idea- because when at O-Week I tried to join a club and this person asked me “do you have access?” and I said “no I don’t” and she said “oh you have to go on the website and you have to pay $65 for one access card” and I’m like that’s a lot of money! That I didn’t plan to spend. As a first year university student I didn’t have that amount of money. Also because I study economics, in economics we have a model called 2 Point Tariff, that means you could make a tiered card. That was what I always thought, if we couldn’t make access free, we could just make a very cheap one just to join clubs and societies, and the gold one would be like discount and clubs and societies, to make it different. Because joining clubs and societies is a key way for all the new students to find a friend or feel related to this university, but that’s also a lot of money- so that’s the idea I used to have. But now we have a new funding model that its free access so its even better! I would definitely support this one, but what I would do is to give the clubs and societies who perform better, like very excellent ones who hold events constantly, who have a fixed amount of people coming to their event, I would give them a bonus funding to further support them.
PM: One of your policies is to increase student staff members and interns in the USU, would these internships be paid and how would they differ from current student leadership roles in the organisation? How do you plan to introduce more student staff members?
RM: As I know, this year we only have one position for economy and finance student in the USU and it’s a paid job, and that’s probably where the idea came from, because I would like to have more, so one can be two or five or ten, so that’s why I say that. Also, the reason why I have this policy, is because the issue I addressed with international and domestic students is they probably will find it more difficult to get a job, it’s a very difficult economic environment these days. As USU what we can do is to try our best to give more job opportunities and to mix both paid jobs and also volunteer jobs together, because now we have over 250 people in the USU, but we can definitely increase this number by like having both. I want to say it must be a paid job, but it can also be not paid.
PM: Would the monthly one on one feedback sessions be with the president of the Board, and if so how would these differ from the monthly board meetings that they currently do?
RM: It’s not necessary to have the president show up to every feedback session, I would say it can be like a turn: this month the president come, and maybe next month can be like a Board Director, so different months have different people to come to the session. This is different because today’s board meeting is a formality, they only discuss the things, like it’s very appearance: nothing important is discussed in Board meeting. This feedback session is different with the current Board meeting, because this feedback session would be like students will come to this session and ask their questions or give their advice on specific areas and then we give them feedback. So it’s like a Q&A session.
Pulp Editor Madeline Ward is a current member of Grassroots and former SRC Women’s Officer.