Everything You Need to Know About the PARSA Election

Tickets ‘Progress’, ‘ANyou’ and a slew of independents are contesting this year’s PARSA election, in a heated campaign leading up to the online election in Week 4. So what’s actually going on?

What are we voting for?

31 members of the Postgraduate Representative Council (PRC) will be elected. Students will also elect the Postgraduate Student Member of  University Council, which for the first time will be elected separately from the Presidency.

The 31 positions consist of 12 officers, 14 college representatives (two for each of the seven colleges), and five general representative roles.

Who’s running?

The Tickets

The ticket system allows candidates to unite under a common position, so that all people under that ticket share its policies.

There are two tickets; Progress, headed by incumbent PARSA president Alyssa Shaw, and ANyou, headed by Paul Taylor. While Progress is running candidates for every position, ANyou is running all officer positions, but leaving vacancies for 12 college representative and three general representative roles. The tickets are joined by four independent candidates including Zhizhen (Jayson) Liu for treasurer, general representative and council member.

Progress has nominated their presidential candidate, Alyssa Shaw, to run for University Council. But ANyou has chosen General Secretary candidate Chris Wilson, the 2015-2016 PARSA president, to run for the Council seat.

Independents

Zhizhen (Jayson) Liu

University Council, Treasurer, General Representative

Liu’s aim is “to help improving [sic] the study experience and the career service for all ANU students, especially for international students.”

Mingxin Dong

Environmental Officer, General Representative

Dong’s candidate statement simply reads: “If you had all the information that I had, you would completely accept my opinion.” He did not comment on his policies before time of publication.

Kai Yang

College of Business and Economics Representative

Yang aims to help CBE students form goals for the future, with a focus on international students, saying “when [international students] cannot solve something, the first thing in their mind should be to go to PARSA for help.”

Rebecca Buckland

General Representative

Buckland seeks to “help with events that are more inclusive”, catering also to research students by running events closer to the middle of campus.

How do they differ?

Experience

Alyssa Shaw, who heads Progress, is the current PARSA president and Postgraduate member of the University council, and has also previously acted as the PARSA vice president and women’s officer. ANyou’s presidential candidate Paul Taylor has been working in business for the last eight years, previously acting as a “management consultant in corporate restructuring, program evaluation, and process improvement.”

Apart from Chris Wilson, the 2016 PARSA president, no candidates in the ANyou ticket have had previous experience working for PARSA, although having had student representative positions at other universities. This differs drastically from Progress, where the candidates for president, treasurer, education officer, women’s officer and indigenous officer have all had previous roles as officers in the PRC. Shaw criticised the lack of experience in ANyou’s ticket, stating that “their goals are aspirational, but I don’t think it’s backed up with practical experience.” Taylor stressed the importance of a new voice, saying “[PARSA] needs a new set of hands, a new team to take it to the next level.”

 

University Council

Progress’ presidential candidate and ANyou’s general secretary candidate will be running for University Council. There are pros and cons, highlighted respectively by each team, for the president to also serve as council member.

Progress argues that while Council information is mostly confidential, the president can most easily use the information to strategically direct PARSA. Progress also notes that the President has both the highest level of credibility and accountability in the postgraduate community, and so will be able to exert greater influence while at the same time allowing for transparency.

ANyou’s Paul Taylor, meanwhile, stresses the importance of independence between PARSA and the University Council. Taylor told Observer: “PARSA is supposed to be an independent voice… and I don’t think it’s necessary or particularly appropriate that those who are a president of that voice also be picked on the ANU board.” He added that running for both president and council “dilutes the independence of PARSA and probably dilutes the power that PARSA has to be able to say certain things or to challenge the ANU management”.

Policy

ANyou has emphasised safety on campus and pressuring the ANU to take actions against sexual assault as key policy areas. They’ve also said they plan on supporting off-campus postgraduates through guidance and greater accessibility to information, as well as assisting employment with postgraduate internship programs and extending the ANU+ program. ANyou also aims for the ANU to divest completely from fossil fuels by next year.

ANyou has announced unusually specific policies and funding for medical students. The ticket has promised $50,000 directly from SSAF to go to the Medical School. Taylor has not confirmed how exactly these funds would be spent. This deliberate allocation is “not an unreasonable number”, Taylor said, as medical students are “under a new structure and under a lot of stress and … that’s a small way to really contribute”. This follows the ANU’s plan to group health and medicine disciplines into a new college, separate from the current College of Science, Environment, Health and Medicine. The ticket also promised to abolish SSAF contribution for medical students, as “the SSAF fees are an additional burden that isn’t necessary for something that’s so valued in the community.” PARSA would have to lobby the ANU for the change, which has the ability to charge zero SSAF fees to specific groups of students.

Sustainability

  • Zero investments in fossil fuels by 2018
  • Create a campus bike-share network, and free bike lights for bicycle users
  • Discounted coffees on campus for those with keep-cups

Equitable housing

  • Provide information about housing rights, options, and applications
  • Introduce referees from PARSA to waive mandatory inspection for international/ interstate students
  • Expand emergency accommodation options

Employment

  • Introduce internship programs aimed at postgraduate students
  • Expand the ANU+ system to officially recognise volunteering and community work

Action on sexual consent and safety on campus

  • Encourage the release of safety reports from the University Council meetings and updates in the VC blogs

Other policies

  • Improve the efficacy and accessibility of ANU Counselling services
  • Team sports, social events and interstate trips around Australia

To improve welfare, Progress intends to provide mental health and academic support, and safety on campus. In addition to this, they plan on supporting families, the Queer* community, and Indigenous students. Shaw emphasises a focus on sexual assault and harassment as “one of the greatest issues we’re facing at the moment”. Progress also aims to support postgraduate rights by strong representation and advocacy of the postgraduate body, and to promote accountability, governance and sustainability in their organisation. In terms of community building, Progress aspires for inclusivity, and the creation of a stronger community both on and off campus and online.

Welfare

  • Introduce a centralised sexual assault policy, a support/reporting system and training for student leaders and staff
  • Provide support for families by ensuring family friendly accommodation by 2022 and breastfeeding and child friendly amenities on campus
  • Provide mental health support services
  • Ensure representation and support in the LGBTIQQA [sic] community
  • Provide academic and career support and increase accessibility for off-campus students

Student Rights

  • Increase representation by regular consultations every 1 to 2 months
  • Increase postgraduate accommodation provision
  • Grow advocacy presence in university and government
  • Ensure equitable outcomes around PhD scholarship entitles

Organisational

  • Deliver a PARSA strategic plan based on this year’s survey results
  • Embed honoraria and financial policy regulations for greater accountability
  • Introduce a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) officer in 2017

Community Building

  • Expand ‘Shut Up and Write’ programs
  • Introduce new events and expand partnerships with clubs and societies
  • Deliver the first postgraduate virtual hall this semester

Other policies

  • Look into more environmentally friendly policies, specifically around food waste, composting and divestment
  • Overhaul and improve Careers offerings from ANU
  • Develop a rights and responsibilities document to empower HDR students

A major difference between the tickets’ policies is their sheer quantity. While ANyou focuses on four core policies, Progress presents 18 goals accompanied by 23 areas for key projects. ANyou’s Paul Taylor, stated that a smaller number of policies results in greater achievability, arguing the need to “get a close focus on a few things that can be achieved in the short term”. He described his ticket’s platform as a “very achievable set of goals”, comparing it to Progress’ platform which had “too many ideas and not enough focus”. Shaw, commenting on Progress’ policy platform, stated that “all those things are necessary. In terms of feasibility, some of our things are very achievable, some of them are stretch goals… If it isn’t achievable in our term, we progress it far enough to have a really solid foundation to advocate on.”

Additional details on the policies can be found on the websites of Progress and ANyou.