News just in: Guild politics is a hot mess. This is surprising to absolutely nobody, but it’s worth taking stock of how truly messy politics at UWA has become.
Let’s start with the most obscene number of last year, 313. There were 313 candidates for 13 OGC (Ordinary Guild Councillor) positions this year. As anyone who voted will know, the font size was just shy of requiring a magnifying glass to locate a specific name on the ballot in front of you. For a long time, it’s been often said that the annual fiasco UWA puts itself through is nowhere near as crazy as what the east coast gets, but it seems that time is well and truly past us.
The 2017 elections most prominently featured a supposed debate on disaffiliation from the NUS. While there are genuine arguments on both sides of the debate, barely a sensible word was heard in the entire campaign, drowned out by the noise of 300+ candidates trying to fit into a packed lecture theatre debate. The referendum simultaneously managed to take up so much time and space while producing absolutely nothing of substance. I don’t think anyone on either side could realistically argue that students learned much about the NUS, its merits and flaws, or what disaffiliation would realistically mean.
This election also saw a massive surge in the role played by international students, with both parties unsure how to effectively work with the heightened Chinese student presence at UWA. Many high profile Launch candidates took to Duolingo to throw some terrible ‘ni hao ma’s in the direction of every vaguely Chinese-looking person around and downloaded WeChat to get around the hip happening world of having your data collected by the Chinese Communist Party.
This seems like just a fun side development in the world of stupol, but it’s only going to get more and more important. A USyd Board candidate (basically their Guild) ran into serious trouble for the use of WeChat’s ‘red packet’ function earlier this year, and a whole host of campaigning at UWA now takes place on a platform and in a language that it seems the Guild is quite unprepared to manage. The Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) also formally came out in support of Launch during the campaign, and a quick Google search will explain why that’s an alliance worth thinking about. While it may be in Chinese, Google translate has got your back and you can find it here if you’re keen for a read. If you just need a TL;DR, the article is titled ‘Guild isn’t just for coffee discounts’ and argues the Guild does very little to help international students and could be fixed by electing Launch.
Factionalism has gone through some weird twists and turns as well. Most prominently, the UWA Arts Union has seen prominent members of Socialist Alternative replaced by what you could call a coalition of the willing, with a motley crew of students who have run with both Launch and Star running the club. The UWA Politics Club is also firmly back in the hands of Launch, with the President, both VPs and Treasurer having run with them in 2017. You can try and tell me clubs are separate from stupol but I’ll happily disagree with you. These kinds of changes are important, worthy of discussion and have tangible impacts on the experience of students.
And despite ALL OF THIS, Star pretty much maintains the same monopoly on the Guild it has held for years. Exciting, I guess?
Again, news just in: Guild politics is a hot mess.
As politics editor this year, I really want to cut down on the kind of content that is only accessible to already self-described hacks. Regardless of your political affiliation, I want to make sure there is far more space for important conversations to be had and move them out of the same tired stupol circles. This year’s election has reinforced the necessity for quality student journalism going forward. Hopefully we can make this all a little less painful and a lot less confusing. Hit me with your ideas friends, I’ll be here all year.
Cormac Power | @cormac_power