Wait, Who are We Electing? ANUSA, Explained.
ANUSA elections are here, and candidates are lining up to ask for your vote, so they can do… what? Here’s how the ANU Students’ Association actually works, and what you’re electing people to do.
What Does ANUSA Actually Do?
ANUSA works. In fact, most students would be shocked by how well ANUSA works, and how much it does for the undergraduate body. The people elected every year sit on many, many decision making bodies at ANU – from the committee that decides how to run a few language courses next year, to the literal University Council, which decides on topics like the Union Court Redevelopment or changing ATAR requirements.
And sure, ANUSA doesn’t control ANU. But their voices are heard, and while you’re safe in bed, they’re pushing for change, or shutting down crazy ideas from ANU by pointing out how they would hurt for students. They are why we don’t have Sunday exams, why we don’t have incredibly high library fees, and why we have standardised late penalties. ANU may claim responsibility for the new sexual assault counselor, but it was ANUSA which pushed that program and agreed to fund it long before ANU.
If you’ve ever enjoyed an event run by a Club, a Department, or anything in O-Week or Bush Week, you’ve made use of the huge social program ANUSA funds and administrates. There is no student whose university experience isn’t affected by ANUSA.
The Student Representative Council (SRC)
This council is like an unusual hybrid between a corporate board and a parliament. The SRC can control just about all of ANUSA: which political campaigns are run, how much money goes where, and what official positions ANUSA takes. There are 39 people on the SRC, but typically only 32 are directly elected: the Executive, the College Representatives, and the General Representatives.
Every two weeks, all the representatives get together somewhere on campus, and make decisions. They can fund a language diversity campaign, or condemn the Co-op bookshop, or approve a campaign against education cuts. Everyone we elect (with the important exception of ANU Council representative) sits on this council, and makes decisions which affect all of us.
While it’s technically true that the SRC controls ANUSA (the SRC can decide to make the Executive do whatever they want), the Executive is where the real power resides. These are by far the biggest and most important jobs – SRC meets infrequently and discusses broad principles, while most details of how ANUSA actually runs are in the Executive’s hands. They are paid a living wage, and respond to situations as they unfold. They have far more control over ANUSA than any other position, but one representative has more than the rest: the President.
2017 Salary: $44,500
2017 Office Bearer: James Connolly
This is ANUSA’s most important job. That’s obvious, but what’s not obvious is by how much it’s the most important job. The President holds a lot of power in ANUSA.
The President manages the entire ANUSA staff, is responsible for the administrative affairs, and manages all the representatives. Essentially, every year we elect an undergrad to be CEO of a 2 million dollar organisation.
The President also speaks for ANUSA. Any media statements made by representatives have to be approved by the President, and while the SRC approves ANUSA’s official positions, a reporter with a question will always be directed to the President.
2017 Salary: $31,595
2017 Office Bearer: Eleanor Kay
The VP slot is a vital – but seldom understood or recognised – position. You’ve seen the parties, clubs, and protests, but you might not have known that ANUSA is constantly handling academic and pastoral cases from the student body. Any time a student feels they’ve been wronged by a course or the University, ANUSA will follow up their case, argue in their favour, and negotiate with the ANU bureaucracy to help them out. The Vice-President is responsible for that side of the Association.The VP also supports ANUSA’s autonomous Departments, and manages the Bryan Kenyon student space.
2017 Salary: $17,800
2017 Office Bearer: Robyn Lewis (current); Jessy Wu (former)
Every now and then, the Government decides it doesn’t like students. The Education Officer’s job is to remind them that students vote. Protests, campaigns and rallies go alongside negotiations and community-building for ANUSA’s chief political advocate.
The Education Officer is usually why baby boomer public servants see students in the Canberra Times, and where students who want to protest can go for resources and support. In 2014, when deregulation loomed, ANUSA’s Education Officer sat before Federal Senators to discuss how students would be hurt.
2017 Salary: $17,800
2017 Office Bearer: Cameron Allan
The Social Officer has an insanely stressful job: organising O-Week, Bush Week, and the entire social calendar. Whoever’s in the job has to organise a huge team of volunteers to plan dozens of events attended by thousands of students.
Importantly, the Social Officer we elect this year will not, in all likelihood, manage the Clubs Council. While the Social Officer has historically administered ANUSA’s Clubs, the Clubs Council Executive is expected to remove that power from the Social portfolio, allowing the Officer to focus exclusively on event management.
2017 Salary: $17,800
2017 Office Bearer: Kat Reed
ANUSA is a big, bureaucratic machine, and the Gen Sec keeps the gears oiled. They run meetings, organise elections, and interpret the constitution – basically, they’re in charge of the rules that keep the politics in place. A good Gen Sec likely won’t stand out, because they’re unbiased and run things smoothly. A General Secretary who is incompetent, malicious, or wants to push their own agenda is a dangerous thing for ANUSA: when you control what the rules mean, and how the rules are made, you can easily abuse that power.
2017 Salary: $17,800
2017 Office Bearer: Zhengxian (Harry) Feng
Over one million dollars in SSAF goes to ANUSA each year. The Treasurer is in charge of whether that money sits dormant in a bank account, or is invested responsibly and rewardingly to support ANUSA’s activities. They produce the annual budget, and provide updates on the financial state of the Association.
A great and terrible threat hangs over every Treasurer. ANUSA operates in a golden age of millions in SSAF dollars – but the Government-mandated fee we all pay has seemed close to an axing several times in previous years. Every treasurer faces that danger, and every treasurer makes attempts to build a life raft against that terrifying prospect.
2017 Salary: $0
If you’ve ever wanted to both be a board member of a multi-million dollar organisation, and also a BBQ volunteer, Gen Rep is the job for you. This is the most ambiguous and most numerous SRC position. In essence, besides voting on the all-powerful SRC, Gen Reps’ only defined job is to promote ANUSA’s advocacy. Given the vacuum of clear responsibilities, Gen Reps perform a variety of roles, from hard-nosed independent hawks who constantly scrutinise the Executive; to helpful volunteers who run projects, support events, and generally get involved; to those who do little besides turn up to SRC.
2017 Salary: $0
Exams, courses, lectures and all else academic is considered and decided by Colleges just as much as by Chancellery. The College Reps, two for each College, sit on the decision-making committees and provide a student voice to students from that College. If you’re frustrated about something a lecturer is doing to you, chances are it’s the college reps who know how to fix things up.
College reps are unique among ANUSA positions in that only people from their College are allowed to vote for the position. So while Exec and Gen Rep candidates will hover around Union Court in the lead-up to the election, you’ll likely see College Rep candidates in and around their particular school.
2017 Salary: Departments are given $15,000 to distribute among Officers and their Deputies
You probably won’t see the representatives of minority communities on the ballot, but if you come to SRC you’ll definitely hear from them. The heads of Departments are traditionally chosen within the Department community, and so go unopposed in the general election. However, if someone chooses to contest the Department’s internal choice, there can be a balloted race. Technically, only students from the department, (e.g. queer* students, international students) can vote, but there’s no policing: it’s completely self-identified, which is part of why Departments prefer an internal process.
The Department Officers advocate for and support minority communities at ANU. As well as providing pastoral support to community members and meeting with University executives to promote their causes, many run their own autonomous common rooms on campus.
ANU Council Representative
This is a huge deal.
For years, the ANUSA President has sat on ANU Council, alongside Brian Schmidt, Gareth Evans, and all the other university bigwigs, where ANU’s entire agenda is decided. Sure, on their own the President can’t change a vote, but it’s still a valuable voice at the highest possible level.
This year, for the first time ever, the ANU Council representative will be elected independently from the ANUSA President. Importantly, they can both still be the same person, and both Executive candidates have expressed that they will run. But they could be independent, or a Presidential candidate could be elected to Council but not President.