Your Questions, Their Answers
This afternoon, Pulp posted a Google form for students to anonymously submit questions to the USU candidates without actually having to physically talk to them. All thirty-seven questions submitted were sent to the candidates at 4.00pm. Some responses were removed due to their inappropriate nature or lack of relevance to the election (we’re looking at you, whoever submitted ‘why is pulp so bad lol’).
Hengjie Sun informed Pulp that he was too busy tonight to answer these questions.
Q: Can you explain the role SUCSA played in your decision to run for board?
A: Although SUCSA is a society that I have been involved with in the past, it has no role to play in my decision to run for board.
Q: I've heard several rumours about you being supported by the Chinese Embassy. I don't mean to be offensive, but is there any truth to these rumours?
A: I'd be flattered to be supported by the Chinese Embassy, but unfortunately that rumour is untrue.
Q: Why are five of your policies the same as Esther Shim’s? Does this speak to a lack of originality in your ideas?
A: I was a strong supporter of Esther’s campaign last year and was so proud when she was elected. It was inspiring to see her gain the support of so many students on campus with genuine, common-sense policies, and therefore we may overlap in some areas. I have consulted far and wide to create our list of policies and am confident they’re the right ones for a better USU for all students.
Q: Why did you claim to run as an Independent when you and most of your campaign team are from the moderate faction of the Young Liberals?
A: Every person can have their own individual political beliefs and affiliations if they choose to take that step. But for a campaign that seeks to put someone in such tremendous responsibility as a Director on the University of Sydney Union Board of Directors, it is not the place for partisanship, division and politically motivated decision making. I’m running to be a Board Director because we need people who can separate their personal beliefs and be independent from political factions for the best interests of our student and staff community.
Q: Some Team Jacob campaigners supported The Red Pill screening last week, and were vocal about it on Facebook. What is your stance on this?
A: University is a space for intellectual discussion unfettered by arbitrary incursions into free speech and conversation. We see the Union as having a responsibility to promote the engagement of student life on campus, underpinned by its constitutional objectives to foster the social, cultural and intellectual development of our members. Of course this is appropriately bounded by obligations to avoid and mitigate discrimination in all its forms. The Red Pill screening last week was a direct result of the USU’s decision to cut funding for the event jointly organised by several Union societies. We believe this decision was misinformed and indicated the bias of political opinion that should not exist as a perspective on board decisions when determining the legitimacy of club events.
Q: Are you aware the USU already provides sangria and wine?
A: Sangria is not provided at all USU licensed venues, and neither is mulled wine. I would like these beverages to alternate seasonally at every venue.
Q: Are you aware that free sexual health tests are already on campus through the USYD Health Services at the Medical Centre located in Wentworth? If so, why have you made this a policy, and why are you not better informed of the services the University already provides?
A: To my knowledge, the sexual health tests offered at the medical centre in the Wentworth Building aren't free. They're able to be bulk billed, but for those without Medicare cards (for example, many international students), this isn't helpful. I'd like to make sure that every student is able to be tested for free.
Q: I've noticed that one of your policies is to allow people to join societies through the USU app. What will you do to prevent this from being abused by groups (such as political clubs) which may want to stack the elections of regular societies?
A: I absolutely acknowledge that stacking is an issue. I will however note that membership of a society should not necessarily mean voting eligibility. For instance, in the Sydney Arts Students Society AGM, students will only be able to vote if they have attended an event at some point in the year, even if they are members. I envision that the app should allow any student to join a society and become a member, but not give them automatic rights to voting. That should be under the discretion of each society to choose to either implement, or not implement anti-stacking measures like those of SASS.
Q: Why should I care about this election?
SY: You should care about this election because everyone running, including myself, is doing so to make student life at USYD better.
JM: It is YOUR campus and YOUR community that the USU is responsible. It’s purpose is to foster an inclusive, vibrant, engaging space for all students and members of this extraordinary. A vision that I want to embrace! In addition, the USU is a multi-million dollar organisation and most importantly, its revenue comes from the students it represents - so you pay for the USU! This election you get the chance to vote for the Board Directors that will oversee and control the USU. Whether you benefit from ACCESS discounts, are part of a club or society or want more services from the USU, this election will matter to you! Also, a $1 is donated to charity for each vote, so you can’t go wrong caring about this election!
CM: Students should care about the USU elections because it has a direct effect upon student life. Every student should vote for a candidate they can be certain is committed to fighting for student welfare, and a USU that is inclusive, transparent and fun for all. Also, a dollar goes to charity for each vote cast!
AT: Because the USU receives millions of dollars of student money and I think it's vitally important that students have a say in where their money goes. It's important that students know their money is going to candidates who have a positive vision for the union, who have cohesive policies to make this happen, and who have experience about the union. Students should care about this election because the USU creates the most brilliant student experience. If students engage with student life, they should have a say in shaping the nature of student life. If they don't engage, they should care because this is the opportunity to make sure the union is more relevant to them.
CGD: It’s your student money - each year hundreds of dollars of your money go towards the USU, so you should have a say in the services it provides. It’s also important for students to be able to look forward to going to uni, and the USU is integral in shaping student culture on campus.
AS: The people voting in this election are directly deciding the future of the USU, including their unilife, food and beverage outlets and clubs & societies on campus
ZW: Because you pay for it. The USU gets one of the biggest chunks of SSAF each year and thus a large chunk of your student money. Not only that, but the USU controls all of the food outlets on campus and thus, at some point in your university time, even if you aren't involved in any of the programs, you will interact with the USU and be impacted by the decisions the Board makes. But more than that, the USU is the thriving heart of university life and the Board of Directors guide the vision and direction the organisation takes each year. You should care because they are meant to represent you and your interests.
ES: You should care about this election because the USU is responsible for an enormous amount of programs and facilities on campus and you should be able to vote for a candidate who will represent you and your views in regards to the direction the USU will go. Currently one of the main reasons that people don't care about USU elections is because afterwards no one hears about these candidates again, they feel that there vote didn't matter because they don't see the results. If you want to change that, you have to make the change. Sitting back on your laurels waiting for something to change won't change it.
LT: Every student contributes to the Union through their SSAF fees, and the vast majority currently make use of the services it provides, whether that be in the form of an ACCESS Card, Clubs and Societies, food outlets, festivals like O-Week. The Board of Directors has a unique ability to represent students, and to pursue policies that are in students’ best interests, by directing the activities and projects that the Union undertakes. That’s why it’s so important to care about this election - it’s a way for you to have your voice heard, and to let the Union know what it can do for you.
Q: What is your policy for postgraduate students? We form 37% of the student body and have only one event that is exclusive to us. Do you plan to remedy this? If so, how?
SY: A lot of postgraduate students are international students and part of my policy is to increase your working rights and opportunities in Australia, as well as solve concession opal card, and lastly conduct more events not targeted at one demographic on campus which would allow you to socialise and get more involved in student life.
JM: Of course! It’s extremely important the Board is always listening and representing the interests of all students. And many of our policies extend their impact to postgraduate students in their day to day lives too. Growing the ACCESS program and improving the USU App will benefit postgraduate students who want better services and incentives to engage with the USU. Furthermore, the myriad of postgraduate student clubs and societies will have much better experiences if we can promote internet banking and help fund on-campus room bookings for their postgraduate student events. I’m in favour of wider consultation and the development of more events for postgraduate students if it is appropriate too. Overall, our vision of empowering students to harness the potential of their community and get the most of their university experience demands the inclusion of postgraduate students in its broad appeal, much like the prerogative of the Union to be ensuring the vibrancy of campus life for postgraduate students.
CM: Postgraduate students form an incredibly important portion of the USyd student body. I would like to remedy the lack of services provided to postgrad students by creating more opportunities to network with USU alumni.
AT: Postgraduate Ball is an important event and I'd like to make sure that postgrad students aren't locked out of this event. That's why I'm pushing for mandatory and substantial equity tickets for all USU events, including those such as postgrads. Moreover, most of my other policies are relevant to international students - low SES ACCESS cards, free sexual health tests, sanitary items in USU bathrooms, and various others. Specific events fall more under the purview of the USU's campus activity coordinators and the C&S program than the board directors, but I'd be happy to work with the campus activity coordinators to encourage more postgrad events.
CGD: As well as more postgraduate events, I would love to see a stall at O Week/O Day aimed at postgraduate students who want to join the USU and get involved.
AS: Absolutely there needs to be more done with postgraduate students. What's most important is hearing their interests and concerns. Increasing the number of postgraduate events is definitely something I would consider. Further, many of my policies also impact postgraduate students, such as improvements to the access program and improving food and beverage options on campus.
ZW: I think my policies are for all the students, no matter what degree they are doing. I would be happy to talk to SUPRA and find out how we can work together to make sure that the USU engages postgraduate students more. As an international student, i understand how it can feel when you don't feel as though you are heard.
ES: Postgraduate students are just as important as undergraduate and definitely deserve more recognition on campus. My policies are not solely focused on undergrad, they are for students in general, but if post-graduate students had suggestions for what more I could do I would b happy to hear them out. In terms of events, I definitely feel that we could be doing more in terms of exclusive events for them in regards to employment/internship opportunities, balls/galas with industry leaders etc. I think we could also be doing more faculty based events as well, especially in regards to the science/engineering faculties.
LT: Yes - I want to make sure that all students on campus are represented, and that includes postgraduate students. I think that since almost all previous Board Directors have been undergrads, there’s been a real lack of consultation with postgraduate students, and I want to change that. That’s why I want to make sure there are more postgraduate-specific events, such as social and networking events and careers fairs, that will give postgrad students the ability to make connections and access campus social life. Obviously, I’m not a postgrad student, so I’m not going to pretend I know what’s best - I want the Union to work more closely with SUPRA and the Postgrad community more broadly to develop programs that students actually want.
Q: Which do you believe is more important? Representing the students (their interests, beliefs and politics) who elected you or your fiduciary duty to the Board? (No cop out answers, you can only pick one).
SY: Representing student rights. As we all know, board members can even get into disagreement at times, but standing up for student rights is why I decided to run for the board in the first place.
JM: As a member of the Board of Directors your primary duty is to the organisation you represent being the University of Sydney Union, and therefore of paramount importance are the duties and obligations in that role; fiduciary duties being a clear example of that. Fiduciary duties aim to ensure the prosperity and integrity of the Board of Directors as the governing body of the USU and thus the USU itself. A great Board Director will be able to balance the student interest with their fiduciary duty. In this manner, it is ultimately within the student interest for the USU to exist and to be successful as a non-profit organisation seeking to provide student services that benefit the university community.
CM: I believe that representing students should be every Board Director’s priority. That said, I understand that one’s fiduciary duty is also crucial to the continuance of the organisation.
AT: Representing student interests. Of course, there are very few situations where this would conflict with any fiduciary duty, but in the event of any conflict, representing students would take precedence.
CGD: Representing students - I would always try to obligate the duties of the board at all times, but at the end of the day you should be held accountable not to the organisation, but to the students who elected you.
AS: As an elected representative by and for students, I do believe fighting for them and their interests is what is most important.
ZW: It is a fiduciary duty to always be working for the best interests of the union and it's members - which are almost all student so it's one in the same. I think your question doesn't take that into account. By representing students I should also be fulfilling my fiduciary duties. I can't do a good job otherwise.
ES: I believe it is more important to represent the students who elected you because they elected you to represent their views and interests on the board and not just be another mindless puppet, prostrating yourself before the establishment.
LT: At the end of the day, I’m running in this election to represent the student body, and if I’m lucky enough to be elected, it will be because students have shared my vision for the USU. I think that, given that a student union would be pretty meaningless if it didn’t stand up for the rights and interests of the student body, representing students will always be my top priority.
Q: If the Board was presented with a censure motion, to condemn a fellow Director for speaking out against a Union run event, would you vote to censure their conduct?
SY: It would depend on what type of event and the reasons for the board member speaking out.
JM: As per the the Regulations of the University of Sydney Union, a censure motion must be passed by Special Resolution (2.3) and only if it can be considered that the aforementioned Director “(a) is in breach of their fiduciary duty to the USU; (b) is in breach of a duty of confidentiality to the USU; (c) has failed to remedy a conflict of interest; (d) has engaged in serious misconduct in the exercise of their functions under the Constitution and the Regulations made pursuant to it. (e) has been censured on multiple occasions, being not less than two, on the grounds listed in 2.5.” For good reason the standard is set quite high for a censure motion to be considered and individual circumstances of the situation whereby a fellow Director has spoken out against a Union run event must be taken into account to vote in favour of censuring their conduct.
CM: It depends on the individual circumstance, and the reasons why the Director spoke out against the event initially. If the event were potentially harmful or inciting harassment towards a particular group of the student community, I would certainly not condemn a Director for objecting to it.
AT: The USU works very hard to ensure that events are inclusive. This means there are unlikely to be many situations where board directors speak out against an event. If the board director spoke out against an event that conflicted with the USU's aims, I would not vote to censure them. If the board director spoke out against an event that aligned with the USU's aims, I would take it on a case by case basis depending on the balance between the director's right to ideological autonomy and the director's responsibility to further the aims of the USU.
CGD: It obviously depends on what they said, and the veracity of their statements. Fair call outs are fair call outs.
AS: No, I would not censure their conduct.
ZW: Probably not, I think a censure motion is quite harsh punishment just for speaking out against an event. I mean, it depends on the event they were speaking out against and if they had a history of breaching their duties or something. But probably not, that seems a bit harsh.
ES: It depends on the context, if they are speaking out against a union event due to hostility towards the board and petty reasons then yes. If it is because they genuinely disagree with the event on a principled/ideological basis then no.
LT: I think it’s important that Board Directors have the ability to speak out for student interests, so I would not vote to censure their conduct. But I also can’t really envisage that being an issue - I would hope that the Board Directors would work together to ensure that the events the Union is running are in the best interests of the student body. I think as a Board Director, I would listen to the concerns raised by my fellow directors and do the best to balance interests before an event runs.
Q: Do you support the NSW Young Greens boycott of AUJS?
SY: Every demographic deserves to have their say at USYD.
JM: No. It is regrettable that the Young Greens have chosen to outright refuse to engage or attend events for AUJS. AUJS (Australasian Union of Jewish Students) is the primary organisation that represents Jewish students across so many campuses and aims to strengthen identity for its communities. They do a lot of fantastic things for Jewish students and should be supported in their pursuit of a more harmonious community for all students of different or minority backgrounds, rather than shunned and excluded by the Young Greens.
CM: No, I do not support the boycott of AUJS. The Australasian Union of Jewish Students is an important organisation that represents many members of our community. I will stand strongly against antisemitism if elected to Board.
AT: No. Regardless of any institutional issues with AUJS -- and they do exist -- I believe that on principle it's an important autonomous space for a religious group who experiences discrimination. I think it would be more productive to focus on alleviating AUJS's systemic problems.
CGD: No. AUJS is an organisation aimed at representing a group of religiously and culturally linked students, not a political lobby group. I believe that this boycott erroneously pigeonholes the entire Jewish student community as supporting the occupation of Palestine, despite members of AUJS coming from across the political spectrum and having a wide range of views on Israel/Palestine. The position of the NSW Young Greens displays ignorance for diversity and a stereotypical judgement of an ethno-cultural and faith community that is unacceptable in a pluralistic, culturally and religiously tolerant world.
AS: I currently have no stance on this particular issue, but acknowledge the extreme gravity of the situation and hope for things to revolve peacefully.
ZW: I'm sorry I don't know enough about this to be able to answer this question.
ES: I believe it should be at the political organisation's discretion to boycott organisations.
LT: I’m afraid I’m not really up to speed on this and the deadline for answering questions is pretty short - I don’t want to speak on something I’m not qualified to!
Q: Do you think that this time next year you would have made a visible difference to USyd student life?
SY: I certainly hope that me joining on to the board will make a visible difference to the quality of student life on campus.
JM: I hope so! I’m running because I genuinely want a USU that provides better services and programs for the student community. There is so much potential to improve student life at the University and I will be committed to making this possible while listening all throughout the year to students and what they want out of their USU.
CM: Yes. I think it’s important to address issues of structural inequality that face students, which is why I would get started on my policies as soon as possible. I also understand that being elected to the Board is an immense privilege, and I would not take this for granted.
AT: I hope so. I believe in my policies and have spent time ensuring that they're feasible.
CGD: Depends on whether or not I get elected to board! But seriously, I believe my policies will make a difference because not only will they affect the vast majority of students, they’re also financially and realistically achievable.
AS: Absolutely - as one of the most experienced candidates running this year, I feel I have the expertise to ensure that I deliver on my goals for a more accessible, diverse and inclusive union.
ZW: I really hope so! And I’ll try my best to do it.
ES: I feel like I would have if I can implement my policies. One of the most obvious would be the publicly accessible treasury database of the C&S and USU.
LT: Absolutely! I think that my policies are pretty unique in that they’re designed to be achievable. Things like making sure that sanitary products are made available in bathrooms across campus, promoting greater awareness of OS-Help loans and exchange programs in collaboration the Study Abroad Office, and implementing umbrella hire booths so students don’t have to pay through the nose to stay dry are realistic and achievable goals that I think I will be able to accomplish by the end of my term. I know those policies don’t sound as sexy as things that other candidates have promised in the past, but I think it’s important that I keep the promises I make to students and that they know exactly what they’re going to get when they vote for me.
Q: Do you support Pauline Hanson's public call for an inquiry into whether Islam is a religion or a political ideology?
SY: No, every demographic deserves to have their opinion heard and their religion respected.
JM: No, not at all. Islam is a religion. Some of its adherents interpret its religious teaching in a political context. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about people understanding political issues through their faith. Many Christians, Jews and Hindus do the same. A parliamentary inquiry is wasteful and unnecessary.
CM: Absolutely not. Religious freedom is an important issue, and every individual at USyd should feel safe and comfortable to practise their religion without fear of attack.
CGD: Of course not. I have no doubt in my mind that Islam is a religion, and either way, I would be hesitant to support anything that Pauline Hanson stands for.
AS: Absolutely not.
ZW: I don't know much about this but I don't think so, Pauline Hanson isn't a good person.
ES: No, I think it's a waste of money. It would be prudent to investigate the influences of Islam in regards to the sociopolitical sphere and whether the perceived changes are congruent and/or beneficial to Australian society in general but otherwise no, I think it's a waste of money and time.
LT: Absolutely not - Hanson’s call for such an inquiry is ridiculous and only further exacerbates the Islamophobia and racism that Muslim people continue to face in Australia on a daily basis. It is absolutely important to me that the Union plays a role in making sure that all students feel safe and accepted on campus, and that it helps to prevent acts of racial hatred, such as the recent vandalism of the Muslim Prayer Room and the placement of racist and anti-Semitic stickers across campus.