By Hayley Hands

Observer has covered a number of organisations and student bodies through our Explainer series, but thus far PARSA has eluded us. So, after many years of deliberation, here’s what you need to know about the peak representative body for postgrads and research students at ANU.

What does PARSA actually do?

PARSA, or the ANU Postgraduate and Research Students Association, states that their vision as “a vibrant postgraduate community shaping the future”. In order to achieve this vision, PARSA provides a variety of support services for postgrad students including legal assistance, accomodation and family support. In 2020, they received $1,522,460.00 in SSAF funding to provide these services.

One of the key functions of PARSA is providing financial support to students in need, including emergency grants, grocery vouchers and family supplement grants. The Association also administers the Student Extracurricular Enrichment Fund (SEEF), which finances events and projects which “enhance the student experience and provide benefit to the ANU Community”, such as college musicals, 3-minute thesis events and participation in interstate sport events. SEEF funding is available for undergraduate projects as well as for postgrads.

PARSA also advocates for postgrad students within university and government decision-making bodies. Like ANUSA, PARSA has a postgraduate student member on ANU Council who is able to advocate directly to the University’s top decision makers, such as the Chancellor. It is currently running campaigns on a number of issues, including Workers’ Rights and the ongoing issue of postgraduate homelessness.

They also operate businesses and projects on campus with a focus on “continuous improvement” in “seeking opportunities to support [their] financial security” in an ethical manner. They recently opened PARSA Cycles on Joplin Lane, and are expected to take over the Union Bar following the winding down of the ANU Union in January. These reduce the organisation’s dependence on SSAF funding, which can fluctuate each year.

Additionally, PARSA runs “community building” events to connect the postgraduate student community. Their largest event is the PARSA Big Day, a family-friendly event featuring live entertainment.

Members

All postgraduate and research students at ANU are automatically considered members through their enrollment at the university. However, membership may be terminated as punishment for “inappropriate behaviour”, including breaches of the Constitution. Members may also resign their membership by writing to the PARSA Secretary.

All PARSA Members are able to attend, speak at and vote in PARSA General Meetings, which must be held at least once per year. During elections, Ordinary Members may also nominate themselves for the position of Director of the Board or PARSA President, and can nominate themselves or others for Portfolio and College Officer positions. PARSA elections take place mid-year, usually in mid-July or August.

Governance

PARSA Board

PARSA altered their Constitution in June 2018 to incorporate a structure which separates the PARSA Board from the PARSA Representative Council (PRC). The Board meets with the PRC to make “key decisions related to the Association.” The PARSA Board is responsible for oversight of PARSA’s ‘big picture’, like strategic leadership and accountability. They meet no less than once every six months.

The Board must consist of no fewer than six and no more than eleven Directors. PARSA’s Constitution also requires that there are no fewer than two members who identify as female and no fewer than two who identify as male. The same restrictions are in place for international and domestic students. The President of the PRC must also sit on the Board.
The Board also must appoint people to the roles of Secretary and Public Officer, and any member can be nominated to these roles. The Secretary is responsible for the administrative functions of the Board including minute-taking. The Public Officer acts as the official contact for the Association for all legal purposes, and is responsible for keeping bodies such as Access Canberra informed about changes in Board membership, and the Association’s name and office address. They may also appoint a Board Member to be Treasurer, although this position is optional. Directors hold two-year terms following the date of their election.

PRC (Postgraduate Representative Committee)

The PRC is PARSA’s operational body, primarily focusing on the day-to-day functioning of the Association. The Committee is made up of twenty-seven Officers, each of whom look after specific portfolio responsibilities in addition to assisting them with general leadership and management functions. All Officers are accountable to the President.

In terms of tenure, all PRC Officers serve a one-year term. The President may serve a maximum of two terms. The VP, Portfolio Officers and College Officers may be re-elected for a maximum of four terms.

Disclaimer: The following stipend figures are current as of 2019. While PARSA salaries may have changed, the 2020 figures were not publicly accessible at the time of publication.

The Executive

PARSA’s exec consists of only four members: the President, Vice President, Equity Officer and Education Officer. They are described as the “Senior Management” of the PRC, providing oversight of PARSA’s finances, legal and strategic activity.

President
2019 Stipend: $45,500
2020 Office Bearer: Utsav Gupta
The President is responsible for the day-to-day administrative and managerial duties of the organisation and automatically sits as Director on the Board. The role is pretty powerful, as all Officers within PARSA are accountable to the President. However, the President is still accountable to the Board, who can vote to suspend them. The President usually sits as a member or observer on a number of committees, such as ANU Council, the Campus Planning Committee and the ANU Finance Committee.

Vice President
2019 Stipend: $18,200
2020 Office Bearer: Elena Sheard
The VP assists the President with the day-to-day functions of PARSA, and also takes an active role in advocating for postgrad students on advisory committees. The current VP sits on a number of committees, including the Academic Board and the University Research Committee.

Education Officer
2019 Stipend: $18,200
2020 Office Bearer: Hafsa Omar
As we mentioned in our ANUSA explainer, Governments can sometimes mess around with the best interests of students. That’s where the Education Officer comes in, advocating for student’s interests regarding education and providing open communication between University decision makers and postgrad students. The current Ed Officer sits on the Academic Board, as well as committees involving SELT and student surveys. The Ed Officer also Chairs the PARSA Education Committee.

Equity Officer
2019 Stipend: $18,200
2020 Office Bearer: Kevin Tiganna Tagrian
The Equity Officer advocates and supports Officers under the Equity Portfolio, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Disability, International, Queer, and Women’s Officers. They are expected to be responsive to ANU or Government projects which may impact the work of these Officers or the students they represent. The Equity Officer is also responsible for efforts around mental health, which includes the provision of some student support services. They also Chair the PARSA Equity Committee.

Education Portfolio Officers

Coursework Officer
2019 Stipend: $5,200
2020 Office Bearer: Apoorva Raghubanshi
The Coursework Officer reports to the Education Officer, and works closely with them to ensure the representation of coursework students, and to advocate for their needs.

Higher Degree by Research Officer
2019 Stipend: $5,200
2020 Office Bearer: Chitresh Saraswat
The Higher Degree by Research Officer fulfills a similar role to the Coursework Officer, as they work with the Ed Officer to represent students completing research degrees (Masters by Research and Doctoral degrees) and advocate for their needs.

Equity Portfolio Officers

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer
2019 Stipend: $5,200
2020 Office Bearer: Blake Edwards
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer works with the Equity Officer to assist in creating and implementing PARSA’s work on issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. This includes representation on relevant committees and projects, planning and running activities to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and working with ANUSA to plan and deliver Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week.

Disabilities Officer
2019 Stipend: $5,200
2020 Office Bearer: Jahidul Islam
The Disabilities Officer takes a leading role in PARSA’s work related to students with a disability. The role was created in 2018, and is said to be largely focused on “building community and devising advocacy actions for PARSA.”

International Student Officer
2019 Stipend: $5,200
2020 Office Bearer: Claire (Yuechen) Zhu
The International Student Officer has the job of advocating for International Postgraduate students at ANU. This includes consulting with these students to identify areas of concern, running projects to empower and inform them, in addition to representing PARSA at relevant committees, and organising activities that celebrate and share culture among PARSA members.

Queer Officer
2019 Stipend: $5,200
2020 Office Bearer: Weliton Menario Costa
The Queer Officer role was also created in 2018, and has a focus on devising and leading PARSA’s work surrounding issues related to Queer students. This includes being the Chair of the PARSA Queer Advisory Committee, participating in ANU Ally events, and collaborating with ANUSA’s Queer* Department in planning and running events such as Pride Week.

Women’s Officer
2019 Stipend: $5,200
2020 Office Bearer: Nicole Molyneux
The Women’s Officer plans and leads PARSA’s work on issues affecting people who identify as female. This includes providing representation on the Respectful Relationships and Gender Equity Working Groups, leading advocacy and information campaigns, and delivering Women’s Week.

Portfolio Officers Reporting to VP

Environmental Officer
2019 Stipend: $5,200
2020 Office Bearer: Suchir Patil
The Environment Officer helps to plan and advise PARSA’s action on issues relating to the Environment. This includes advocating for the reduction of negative environmental impacts in the actions of students and the actions of ANU as a whole. They also act as PARSA’s representative on the ANU Environment Management Planning Committee.

Social Officer
2019 Stipend: $5,200
2020 Office Bearer: Walter Obaseki
The Social Officer has the fun job of planning events which “maintain a strong postgraduate community”. This includes social, networking and fundraising events, such as the annual PARSA Big Day. The Social Officer is also expected to act as a “conduct and communicator” in the postgrad community to understand and support students who are feeling isolated or disconnected.

College Officers

The PRC also consists of College Officers, who are responsible for supporting and advocating for the interests of postgraduate students within their academic colleges. This includes responding to ANU and Government policy that may impact students within their college. College Officers are expected to attend college level committees and subcommittees at least every 6 weeks, as well as PARSA Education Committee meetings. There are two representatives per committee, with a convention for one to represent Coursework students and the other to represent HDR students. College Officers do not receive a stipend, but are eligible for honoraria.

College of Health and Medicine (CHM)
Emily Sisson (Coursework) and Andini Pramano (HDR)

College of Science (CoS)
Mradul Dhakar (Coursework) and Andrew Almonte (HDR)

College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS)
Parth Sharma (Coursework) and Chalaka Fernando (HDR)

College of Business and Economics (CBE)
Gayatri Mahatekar (Coursework) and Franny (Fengyi) Li (Coursework)

College of Asia and the Pacific (CAP)
Aoudourm Yann (Coursework) and Ben Langley (HDR)

College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS)
Shreya Gyawali (Coursework) and Louisa Kirk (HDR)

College of Law (CoL)
Michelle Chim (Coursework) and Epifanio Gegorio Terbio (Coursework)

Curious about other ANU or student organisations? Check out our Explainer series. Is there something we’ve missed that you want explained? Please let us know by emailing us at [email protected]!

Graphics for this article were created by Tristan Khaw

 

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