PULP INTERVIEWS: Benny Shen
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 Benny.
PM: Please state your name, degree, political faction (if any) and the year you’re in.
BS: My name is Benny, and my Chinese name is Yinfeng Shen, I’m in my second year of Business School and I’m majoring in Finance and Marketing, and I’m independent at the moment.
PM: Why do you want to run for Board?
BS: I think because when I first came to university I received a lot of help from both the USU and the University and I want to find a way to give back to community, to be part of teamwork and also with different roles I’ve held in the University, I have much more perspective of what students actually need, and have a close experience with all of the activities that USyd provided, so I think I can make some improvements, and I see some opportunities for improvements as well.
PM: Why do you think you’ll be a good Board Director?
BS: Because personally, I’m an international student, but I think I have both domestic and international view and so I know a lot of students what they encounter when they first come to Sydney, and they want to make friends with international students or domestic students and also I was working for student support services and also as a guest speaker in the pre-arrival section in China so I know what we should provide for students and what they want to find some sense of belonging to the University.
PM: What are your three most important policies?
BS: I think I divided my policies into three main aspects, which is vivid, connected and empathetic. So I want to find the relationship and then a close relation between the students and the University and to boost the communication with the University and the student, so I think for example the three most important ones are maybe I think the food and the cafe review system and the online booking system, so students can actually review all the restaurants on campus, and then we can actually change those restaurants we don’t like, because I think students should have the right to do that, and also I think if we can get a platform for students to order food online- we don’t have breaks between the class, some people won’t have time to have lunch during their whole day, they might have their first meal at maybe four or five pm. So I think it will make life more easier and efficient if we have those food online booking system. Also I was thinking we could do like a graduate discount, so for those people who graduate, it will boost the sales for the USU as well- when people are graduating they’re going to buy lots of souvenirs at university stores, also they can rent the graduation suit at a lower price- I think we should offer those some rewards for the graduates, because they worked really hard to graduate, and I think for another point is I think we should provide more opportunities for the students on campus, currently we are offering financial intern and some marketing intern and I’m working as a photographer for USU as well and I think we should provide more opportunities to students on campus.
PM: What would you say the most important function of the USU is, in student and campus life?
BS: I think our main mission is to provide the best student experience, I also think it’s really important and I also find its in line with a lot of other university departments as well as student accomodation and student support services to enrich the student life at university, and give the student a better experience.
PM: If you had to cut $1 million from the USU budget, where would you cut it from?
BS: I think I might cut from the staff area of the four main aspect you mention from, and I think we’re actually transitioning into another area, like we’re getting more casual positions from the students, so I think that’s the main thing we can get students to do more work, get them involved.
PM: What are the worst failings of the current Board, and the things you’ve most admired?
BS: I always say the point I really admire, because they’re trying to promote the University and promote a very diverse and very colorful student life which is what I really love about the USU, and another point last semester a lot of people were trying to promote that we should have assured University, in last years policy, but I didn’t see a lot of improvement in that aspect so I think you should keep your promise before your elections. As a normal student, because I didn’t see the Board get involved in lots of activities, so that’s why I think they must do a lot of work, but let’s find a way to meet the board and we can actually talk to the board to have a close communication with students.
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.
BS: I think the USU are really striving to support international students, like the language exchange program. Because I was in the language exchange program and I have met a lot of friends from different cultural backgrounds in this program. Also they have a lot of international students focused programs as well. I think that really helps because when you first come to Australia you meet a lot of friends in those programs. For another thing I think if the USU could work with other university departments, like we have a formal speech at the beginning, if we can work together we can make the same program, not like when you first come and there are multiple programs-students will find like whoa which one should I attend. Makes the information much more accessible I think.
PM: In 2017 the Board voted against shutting down the USU’s commercial operations in solidarity with the NTEU staff strikes. Where the NTEU to call a similar strike during your term as board director, would you vote to close down operations for the period of the strike in solidarity, or keep them open? Why?
BS: Yeah I think that the food and other things should remain open, like for students especially we should remain the daily needs for students on campus.
PM: To what extent do you think the USU should engage with politics and student activism?
BS: I think not to a big degree- if we don’t engage with student politics it would be so much better, because we’re not a student politics organisation, so it’s more like you want to bring more fun to the students, and you want to bring a better experience to the students.
PM: Do you support the introduction of the Ramsay Centre’s Bachelor of Western Civilization at the University of Sydney? What position do you believe the Board should take, if any, on this issue?
BS: Sorry I don’t have very detailed information about the issue, so I might not give a very good answer.
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?
BS: I’ve talked to a couple of societies because some of my friends are running societies as well, so like I’ve heard this year they reduced the personal cost from $6 to $1 for each person, and they give 30% of overall costs back to the society, which is a very large reduction for a society. So some societies even needed to change their events, or like for my friend they used to have a buffet for end of the year and then they had to change to a fixed order for the menu. So I think it actually has a lot of effect on the societies, so I think we have to find a way to support more for the society, because the society can bring more fun and interesting events for students.
PM: The USU already has a Humans of Usyd through Pulp. Are you proposing further USU input into the current one, our are you proposing another Humans of Usyd be established?
BS: I think we can make some improvement on the current one, because I searched on the website you guys can actually get people to put in their email with a fun story about you but not enough people actually know about this, and we do have the instagram account and facebook account, we do promote that aspect a lot, and so I think we should find a new way to get people to know this chanel. The idea came from Humans of New York which was one of my favourite photographic books, I love the normal story of normal people, to find something really interesting in every individual.
PM: The Board and Pulp are generally kept quite separate from each other, because the USU doesn’t want the board to be seen to have too much influence on Pulp. How would you mitigate avoiding being seen to have influence in Pulp, when you are a Board Director and you’re wanting to implement changes into Humans of Usyd, Which is operated by the editors?
BS: I think we can have more of a discussion of how we can bring this program much better than before, so like we can discuss together.
PM: What would the review system look like? How would it extend beyond and improve on people being able to leave reviews through facebook and google?
BS: I think we do have like the USYD rants at the moment to review all these things but if we can give a formal channel, like we do have a review of feedback channel for all the units and all the lecturers on campus, that’s why we should do the same thing for all the outlets on campus as well, in regards to what their service are, what the food quality are, and for some the menus don’t change over the year, so can we provide some new menus. Some people don’t like the bubble tea shop on campus, so I think there are some things we can change for students and a lot of students eat a lot on campus so I think we should make some improvements. Also it relates to another point of my policy, which is providing more cultural and festival related food in USU outlets, we can provide some moon caked during Chinese festival, we can provide Turkey during thanksgiving, and some Sakura cakes can find people’s sense of belonging to the University.
PM: What small gifts are you talking about? How will this differ from the bags that are already distributed to new members at Welcome Week?
BS: I think it would be better if we could give to all students but it depends on how much budget we can put in, because I think we should put that channel into like, when they collect their student card so we can make sure all the new students at least get one, because I know some people they don’t get anything from USU, they don’t even know about USU during their whole entire degree. So that’s the one point we should at least provide this information to students, and some really useful gifts can be given out. I think I have one here, the card holder is really useful, and i think we can do like a whole year calendar where you can write your assignment due dates, what’s the map of the USU, what’s all the restaurants, like we can get all this information in one small book like a notebook, it’s not like we have piles of fliers everywhere. Also for another thing we can also have some after Welcome Week sessions, because some students might miss the session of Welcome Week, and they have to spend months to get to know what’s happening on campus. Lots of people feel very lost for a few weeks.
Pulp Editor Madeline Ward is a current member of Grassroots and former SRC Women’s Officer.