Social Officers, Head to Head: Accessibility, International Students, and Getting Non-Ressies to Events

Pictures of Segaram and Bonan, with "Head to Head Social Officers" at the top

Anya Bonan and Mariana Segaram are running for ANUSA Social Officer with Shake Up and Lift respectively. The pair have common goals – accessibility, increased feedback opportunities, and engaging with international and off-campus students – but are presenting a variety of strategies to achieve them.

The Job

The Social Officer has an insanely stressful job: they organise O-Week, Bush Week, and the entire social calendar. They 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 chair the Clubs Council. While the Social Officer has historically administered ANUSA’s Clubs, the Clubs Council Executive has removed that power from the Social portfolio, allowing the Officer to focus exclusively on event management. The Social Officer will, however, still have a seat on the Executive of the Council. This means the social officer role will be primarily one of event management.

The Candidates

Shake Up’s Anya Bonan is the current President of the B&G Residents’ Committee (BAGMA) and Chair of the Interhall Council of Presidents. She is also a Gen Rep on ANUSA this year, and is currently undertaking a project with Howard Maclean on future residences. Last year, she was the Vice-President (Social) on BAGMA and treasurer of the ANU Jewish Students’ Society.

Lift’s Mariana Segaram is Events Director for the KPop Culture Club, Liaison Officer for the International Students’ Department (ISD), and sits on the Clubs Council as a branch officer. She is involved with the Ethnocultural Department and helped organise Ethnocultural Week this year. Segaram is also the Publicity Rep for the UniLodge Residents’ Committee, and last year was General Representative on the Ursula Hall Residents’ Committee.

Both candidates have extensive event and management experience. Bonan is particularly experienced in coordinating large teams, overseeing 17 representatives on BAGMA. Segaram has significant involvement with and knowledge of Clubs, and her involvement with ISD is notable as both candidates believe international student involvement is vital.

The policies

International Students

Segaram promises to “create a monthly series of events that focus on different cultures and ethnicities”. This will involve working with the ISD, the Interhall International Committee (IIC) and various Clubs, to “facilitate relationships” and cultural exchange between international and domestic students.

Bonan and Shake Up are focusing on helping international students adjust to Australia. They plan to host a six week “Welcome to Australia” programme each semester. Bonan also wishes to continue working with the IIC next year as a “point of contact,” as they transition to an “official interhall body”. She claims ISD “lack SERIOUS funding [sic]” to run all of the events they want to, and promises to collaborate with them and have ANUSA “[cover] costs where needed”.

Off-Campus Students

Bonan believes that “ANUSA needs to strengthen its ties with Griffin Hall” to help engage off-campus students. She acknowledges that many off-campus students are not members of the Hall, but still thinks that “ANUSA should be working more closely with Griffin Hall to collaborate on ways to engage with all non-residential” students. She also wants to “[focus] on connecting non-residential students with the services provided by various Clubs and ANU Sport” by creating a “Non-Res @ANU Facebook page” (presumably similar to ‘[email protected]’) to help disseminate information. She also promises to run events at UC and around Canberra, and host more events in O-Week that bring the first year cohort together.

While Bonan wants to support the existing Griffin Hall more, Lift’s Segaram wants to investigate options for new virtual halls (like Griffin) in the redevelopment. She plans to organise more events in collaboration with residential halls, “assisting [in] creating relationships between off-campus and on-campus students”. Segaram also plans to hold events off-campus, citing positive experiences hosting KPop CLub events with UC.

Accessibility

Segaram promises to “[plan] events in accordance with the DSA’s [Disabilities Students’ Association] Accessible Events Guide, as well as consulting with the department” to ensure events are accessible. She also plans to have a “strong anti-assault policy” and safe spaces at ANUSA events. Segaram also wants to host “low-intensity events alongside larger, more intense events”. She has suggested hosting board game nights or even cake decorating events alongside parties, for instance – inspired by Segaram’s time at Ursula Hall, where cake decorating on Toga Night is something of an O-Week tradition. Segaram has consulted with the Disabilities Officer on these policies. Additionally, Segaram plans to make events queer* inclusive, such as by “ensuring there are gender-inclusive bathrooms at events” – likely making the Pop-Up a popular location.

Bonan wants to finish off and publicise the Inclusivity Guide started by the DSA and current Social Officer (and Shake Up presidential candidate) Cameron Allan, and use it as an “impetus for a campus-wide campaign advocating for accessible events”. She also plans to pressure the Clubs Council to incentivise accessible events by providing “funding benefits” if Club events meet certain standards. Bonan has not yet discussed this aspect of her plan with the DSA.

Advertising and Feedback

Shake Up promises to provide “dedicated ANUSA O-Week and Bush Week feedback mechanisms”, where students can fill out feedback forms which will then be “integrated into the handover documents”. Bonan says she will advertise and form the Social Committee “immediately post O-Week” to ensure ANUSA events “appeal to a wide demographic of students”. She also wants to create a “Calendar App that sets out all events that are occurring on campus”, similar to one created by a BAGMA member and used at B&G. A central event calendar has been repeatedly promised by Social Officer candidates, including Allan, but it is yet to be delivered. Allan says it was unable to happen this year due to difficulties with staff resources and the new ANUSA website.

Segaram similarly promises “a strong social sub-committee from the start of the year” with “students from diverse backgrounds”. She plans to seek feedback from volunteers and attendees “both during and after” events for feedback, and also wants to “create an ongoing, virtual suggestion box” and hold “feedback nights”.

Voting for all positions opens tomorrow (21 August) at 9am.