By Michael Wright, SECRETARY, PARRAMATTA STUDENT CAMPUS COUNCIL:
On Tuesday October 27, the planned Parramatta Student Campus Council (PSCC) meeting was postponed due to a lack of quorum. Of the 9 members, only 3 attended, with just as many MIA. At both SRC and PSCC meetings in recent months, the number of student reps in attendance only narrowly outweighs the number of university staff. Meetings end with half of the agenda unaddressed because members showed up late, or quorum walked – not as an act of indignant protest, but because they got bored and wanted to go home.
Don’t blame these reps however, for this apathy reflects that of the entire student population. The fact that these reps don’t have any real power contributes to this. Consultation is phrased as “this is happening. Do you want to be involved or not”. Suddenly these roles exist only to hand out pizza and restock the kitchenette.
In reality we exist to fight for you, the students, but we need the university to listen to make it worth us campaigning. We are stuck in this feedback loop, where students’ apathy breeds the university’s unyielding attitude, which creates even more indifference.
Yes, there are massive problems with the student representation model on display at USyd, where police and campus security get called to meetings to prevent fistfights, professional journalists are kicked out and camera crews are barred from entry. We don’t need student politics with the factional deals that end in (allegedly) stolen phones and acts of sabotage to prevent meetings and votes (as reported by Junkee and Honi Soit among others).
But it is undeniable that these students care about student representation, when the meeting’s hashtag (#repselect) trends nationwide. I for one would rather too much passion than not enough. We need student rep to be a position that every student vies for, which every person believes is useful. You have to be deeply invested to bother stealing a phone or sabotaging the lights. The University of Sydney Union doesn’t have to worry about members showing up – they have to barricade the press and audience from joining in.
At Western Sydney, I was declared elected with 14 votes for a position on a campus hosting 13,000 students. This means that .1% of students supported me and yet I won. This isn’t democracy. This is me winning because you didn’t bother to vote against me.
To paraphrase Evelyn Beatrice Hall, ‘‘I may disapprove of who you vote for, but I will defend to the death your right to vote for them’’. We need this passion, we need you to care, even just a little.
Our system is broken, corrupted by apathy and a lack of vision. Help change this. Find an issue on campus to be passionate about, and let us know. Shape our campaigns by telling us what battles are worth fighting.
As always, contact the Student Representative Council at firstname.lastname@example.org and your Student Campus Council at <campus>email@example.com (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org).
My passion made me write this. What will your passion make you do?