28 July 2014


On Wednesday the 18th of June, your USU Board of Directors elected the new Executive team for the 2014 – 2015 term. Here is your chance to know a bit more about us, and what we plan to do over the next twelve months. 

The Executive Team for 2014 - 2015

President - Tara Waniganayaka

Tara having "fun" at Open Day
What does your role entail?
I act as the main conduit between the Board and staff, liaise with the University and other groups of interest. I also represent the Union externally. Ultimately I am a true believer in servant leadership, which emphasises collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power. At heart, the President is a servant first, making the conscious decision to lead in order to better serve others, not to increase their own power or clout.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Union in the next year? I think our biggest, and most rewarding challenge is being adaptable to an ever-changing environment. We have a diverse membership, and in order to remain truthful and loyal to our base we must be as inclusive and embracing as possible of all facets of our community. What is the one change you wish to make to the Union? The Union should be the place for all students to find a new passion, make new friends and receive support throughout their degrees. I hope to set the foundations for future growth, and ultimately universal access, so that one day we may see every student a member of a club or society, and proud to be part of the last-remaining independent student organisation in the country. What is your favourite thing about the Union? The Clubs and Societies Program is beyond incredible. The fact that there are over 22,000 unique members of over 200 clubs and societies producing over 1,500 events every year – this community is massive and all I can hope is that it continues to grow and flourish, and create a second home for all our members. Which Clubs & Societies are you a member of? United Nations Society, Arts Students’ Society, Politics Society, Law Society, Media and Communications Society, MADSOC, SURG, EpicSoc, SUDS and SHADES At the moment you’re addicted to… Using black inky pens. What song have you got on repeat at the moment? Harder Than You Think – Public Enemy Favourite food? Sushi with cornflakes on top – trust me it is amazing.

Vice President - Bebe D'Souza

Bebe enjoying a SHADEy evening

What does your role entail? I'm responsible for assisting the President and making sure the board functions collectively. I also coordinate student recruitment to make sure that the USU has as much member involvement as possible in the running of our organisation. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Union in the next year? The threat of fee deregulation on the welfare of our membership is something that the USU needs to combat in the coming year, in particular figuring out how as an organisation we can resist any threat to the accessibility of education. What is the one change you wish to make to the Union? I would like to see the union focus more on student welfare than it does currently. Whether that be by providing more facilities like childcare services and kitchenettes or running campaigns through our autonomous portfolios and events like Radical Sex and Consent day. What is your favourite thing about the Union? That it's an organisation which is member driven and democratic. Which Clubs & Societies are you a member of? Greens on Campus, Political Economy Society, and the Feminist Society At the moment you’re addicted to… Orange is the New Black What song have you got on repeat at the moment? I wiped my iPhone and deleted my spotlight account accidentally Favourite food? Sashimi

Treasurer - Robby Magyar

Robby enduring exercise at O-Week

What does your role entail?
The primary difference between my role, and that of the rest of the executive is, I am to ensure the entire Board has a sound understanding of the financial position of the Union. To achieve this I sit on the Finance Committee, and meet regularly with our Director of Finance, Helen Summerfield. Within my role I have the ability to spearhead new strategic initiatives, such as looking towards external investment and sponsorship. I also manage the Board Blog. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Union in the next year?
We need to be innovative in the way we engage new students - as the campus population continues to evolve, we need to ensure we can offer services that enrich the student experience and promote the welfare of as many people as possible. Universal ACCESS may always be the goal, but ensuring that Union membership is valuable is the biggest challenge we will always face.

What is the one change you wish to make to the Union? Having implemented a lot of the policies I ran on, my biggest focus this year will be to ensure the Union provides services for students from low socio-economic backgrounds and marginalised groups that allow for personal development - such as grants to attend conferences like Queer Collaborations, NOWSA, and Students for Sustainability. What is your favourite thing about the Union?
O-Week - three days of free booze and parties, all run by students. Which Clubs & Societies are you a member of? The ALP Club, History Society, Greek Society (SUGS), Fine Arts Society, SUTEKH, and SHADES. At the moment you’re addicted to… Beyond the usual substances, my XBOX One is proving to be a bit consuming. What song have you got on repeat at the moment? Fancy by Iggy Azalea Feat Charli XCX - pretty much the whole New Classic album actually. Favourite food? Cheese in mass quantities, I don't even need crackers.

Hon. Secretary - Eve Radunz
Eve..... in Russia

What does your role entail?
I chair the Clubs and Societies Committee and the Verge Advisory Committee; meaning that I get to be the Board representative for both our Clubs and Societies Program and our wonderful Verge Art Gallery. I also undertake basic administration duties for the Board and help oversee editions of our flagship publication, BULL, as a Director of Student Publications. I also get to help plan the USU's Annual Dinner; the celebratory, end-of-year dinner we invite all our student leaders and staff to, this year's we will be reflecting on the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Women's Union. 

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Union in the next year? 
The fact that we're currently undertaking so many capital works is something that we will need to keep a really close eye on. We are close to finishing the Holme redevelopment, and we are also undertaking refurbishments of Fisher Coffee Cart, Carslaw Coffee Cart and Engineering Cafe. We will need all the expertise of our staff to pull these off!

What is the one change you wish to make to the Union? 
I would love to see our Clubs and Societies Program reflect our progressive values and implement affirmative action for all our club executives.

What is your favourite thing about the Union?
I love the fact that the USU opens so many different doors so that any sort of student can get involved, no matter what their interests are. 

Which Clubs & Societies are you a member of? 
SciSoc, Fred Hollows Society, Feminist Society, Tae Kwon Do Society, and the Labor Club.

At the moment you’re addicted to… Licorice Bullets.

What song have you got on repeat at the moment?
Still D.R.E - Dr D.R.E ft. Snoop Dogg 

Favourite food?

21 July 2014


Hi there,

My name is Ed McMahon and I am the holder of the Sustainability Portfolio on our Board of Directors for the next year.

The Sustainability Portfolio has existed for two years and I am the third person to hold it. It has recently been complemented by the creation of the Sustainability Events Coordinator position (applications for which have recently opened, so consider applying!) The Portfolio Holder is responsible for overseeing the organisation to ensure its sustainability credentials, whereas an events coordinator is responsible for initiatives, such as events, that raise the profile of issues relating to sustainability. Of course, there is plenty of room for us to work closely together.

I want to take a brief moment to consider the terminology. Sustainability, after all, is one of the three main pillars of this organisation's current strategic plan. However, in the context of that plan "sustainability" is used to describe organisational and economic considerations, rather than just environmental ones. Indeed, only one of the listed strategies under the heading concerns itself specifically with "community and environmental needs." By contrast, the Regulations that contain the sustainability portfolio require that the Portfolio Holder be an environmentalist. So it is clear that my mandate is one of environmentalism. Indeed, that is why I wanted to hold the portfolio, for one of my primary election platforms was environmentalism. But even that term is fraught with ambiguities.

What does it mean to be sustainable? One line of argument is that without organisational and economic sustainability, we are unable to make any meaningful contribution to environmentalist outcomes. The error of that argument, however, is that organisational and economic sustainability is defined by reference to a capitalist market that has mercilessly consumed fifty percent of the planet's non-renewable resources in half a century and occasioned the greatest mass extinction event since the dinosaurs. To be perfectly blunt, I am personally of the belief (and I have the stone cold hand of hard scientific fact on my side) that gradual environmentalist tweaks at the seams of neoliberal capitalism will not be enough to achieve true sustainability.

All of that said; it is of course necessary to consider our organisation's longevity in all that we do. I do not believe that we should always define ourselves by reference to "the market" for the reasons outlined above. We must, however, ensure that we remain viable in the context in which we find ourselves. More often than not, viability in fact comes from environmentally conscious thinking. The fossil fuel industry, for example, is ultimately doomed; not only because we will "run out" but because renewable energies are already competitive and indeed an economically prudent alternative. The willingness of organisations like ours to divest from fossil fuels or install solar panels is an important part of ensuring that fossil fuels continue to be shut out of the market. In short, there are decisions open to us that allow us to both ensure our organisation's ongoing viability and to lead the way to a more environmentally sound future.

This is the beauty of our organisation. We are a student union comprised of great and enthusiastic thinkers. We can be the architects of a visionary organisation that has a meaningful impact on the lives of its members and that can also contribute to broad societal changes. Through this organisation we can contribute to changes that are much bigger than any of us, and our time at university.

Clearly I have left a lot of questions unanswered. There are many instances where economic thinking and environmental thinking are at odds, and I do not have a blueprint by which to solve those tensions. What does sustainability mean? What does it mean to be an environmentalist? How does such a person respond to these tensions? Do we engage with and profit from the destructive policies of neoliberal capitalism, or do we have a duty of civil disobedience in the face of ecocide? What even is the environment? Although it is covered in sandstone and concrete, our campuses are part of this elusive "environment". Interestingly, for example, the loveable ibis is with us because its native wetlands in the north-west of the state have been destroyed by activities such as mining – I have written about this previously for Honi Soit - http://honisoit.com/2014/04/ibis-intrigue/

When we live in a closed system such as our planet, questions of sustainability become much more complex than a simple balance sheet.

If you have any answers to the questions raised here, or want to help me find them, you can email me at E.McMahon@usu.edu.au. I'm not necessarily looking for complete answers either. You may simply have a suggestion about how our day-to-day operations could be more environmentally conscious, or perhaps you want to propose a way in which we can support your environmentalist endeavours. Alternatively, if you want to be involved with the environmental movement more generally you should consider heading along to Enviro Collective, details of which can be obtained from the SRC.

In love, rage, and rainbows,

Email: E.McMahon@usu.edu.au
Consultation hours: TBC - watch this space!

14 July 2014


On Sunday 6 June several members of the Board of Directors and USU staff attended the Sydney Bust the Budget rally held at Town Hall. We arrived around 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, by which point Town Hall Square and the streets surrounding had already filled well to capacity with thousands of people. After hearing several keynote speakers we took to the streets alongside teachers, pensioners, families, doctor, nurses, and fellow students.

Recently Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz publically stated that creating a private market out of universities is ‘absurd’, and that the deregulation of fees will move the Australian tertiary education system in the wrong direction. We attended the rally to express our disapproval of the current government’s push for uncapped deregulation of university fees on behalf of the Union’s members.

Figures cited by the Sydney Morning Herald1 show that “students will be hit with double fees for some arts degrees and at least 55 per cent rises for engineering and science degrees at the University of Sydney.” The figures, which go on to show severe increases across all disciplines, are a mark of an unprecedented era in higher education.

These increased costs have a severe impact on student equity, access and participation – and will leave students crippled with debt, and therefore unable in the future to buy their first homes, set up enterprise and support their families. We believe deregulating fees creates a discouraging environment especially for poorer students from low socio-economic backgrounds; this would be yet another hurdle to obtaining a tertiary education. We believe educational resources should be available equitably, and that access to education should not be easier for some than others.

Your Board of Directors is committed to fighting the deregulation of university fees alongside other student organisations. As access to tertiary education becomes more difficult, so too does the ability for many students to get involved in campus life.

Our CEO, Andrew Woodward, also considers the reduction of funding to Australian universities to be a major concern and feels it should be reassessed. “The recent history in this sector is to remove funding which is leading to more and more pressure on individual universities. This is not a good thing.”

We encourage you, our members, to read about what deregulation may mean for you, and form your own opinion. (Caroline McMillen, Vice-Chancellor at University of Newcastle, has written two articles on The Conversation which may prove useful - http://theconversation.com/the-government- should-think-hard-before-deregulating-university-fees-26175, and http://theconversation.com/a- vice-chancellors-defence-of-the-uncapped-university-system-18639).

If you would like to discuss the deregulation debate, or talk to us about how you can get involved, feel free to contact us, whether it’s by email, Facebook, Twitter or dropping by our office on Level 5 of the Holme Building.

Tara Waniganayaka 

On behalf of the USU Board of Directors.

1 Swain, Jonathan and Smith, Alexandra (June 1, 2014), ‘Uni course fees expected to double, analysis shows’, Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/uni-course-fees-expected-to-double- analysis-shows-20140531-39b0b.html