Joshua Cahill: So what we’re asking is, we’re looking to get a bit of an insight into your journey through guild, but also a bit about what you’ve been doing at university. So, um, maybe you could speak to what you’re studying at the moment, what year you’re in, and I guess, how you got involved in Star and guild, and what is looking forward to you in the future.
Lincoln Aspinall: Sure. So, firstly I’m studying political science and law and society, and I’m in my final year of undergraduate studies. Um, and I guess um, how I got involved with Star? Um, actually got involved in my first year, so became involved in 2016, and have always been really engaged in the politics and law sort of area through highschool, and then through different extra-curricular activities, like Youth Parliament, UN Youth, those sort of things really gave me an excitement for leadership, and for the mechanisms for change and the way that you can actually enact that. So coming to university I’ve always sort of, had sort of a desire to pursue that, and I actually did speak, in my first year, with both tickets. I sort of thought, you know, where do, where do I lie in terms of the landscape, and Star aligned with my values most closely so I sat down with them and got involved. So this will be my third campaign, and I’m really enjoying it.
And then, for the purposes of consistency, ah we’ve been asking every candidate if they have any political affiliations. So if you have any political affiliations would you like to disclose them for me?
Sure, yeah so I’m a member of the Labor party.
Wonderful, and that’s the extent? Just partnered with Young Labour? Yep. Great. Um so, obviously you have spoken about your involvement in guild, specifically, but do you have any involvement outside, like through other faculties, other societies that would kind of give you the experience that you think would make you perfect for the education president?
Yeah, 100%. So on top of being the education vice-president this year, I’ve also been working on the Arts Union. So doing a lot of work there in terms of their Bachelor of Arts restructure, so um, that space is going through a lot of change at the moment, I’ve been driving that student voice. So, prior to my involvement, the university was making a lot of decisions based on academic voice. I came in at the start of the year on this term and I thought you know, the best way to develop a Bachelor of Arts is to have the student perspective, so working with the Director of the Bachelor of Arts has been a great experience, that in particular as well as the um, yeah (pause to cough because Lincoln was a little under the weather)…
Yeah so working alongside the Director of the Bachelor of Arts as well as the Dean of Coursework studies, that’s given me a great insight into how to develop strong relationships with university executive, um and develop um respect from those people. So, taking that into the role of education council president would be the same approach in terms of, earning their respect, earning their um, the acknowledgement that I do have the experience, that I do understand how to move within the academic board, I understand how to liaise between normal students, the faculties, societies, and the academics.
Great. Um, and I guess, this is maybe overall a broader philosophical question about the role of the university, but I guess it just kind of cuts to what the education kind of portfolio should be about. Do you feel that you university should be more about skills and opportunities, and getting essentially like a job at the end of it, or is there something about the learning experience and the enrichment that you get from simply just learning a degree?
Yeah, well, interestingly, this is the exact discussion I actually sat down with um and spoke about with the Director of the Bachelor of Arts, but more broadly, you know, it applies to the whole university. So I definitely think it’s a bit of both, we come to university to upskill and to go out into the workforce and have a career, but also it is a place of learning. It’s a place that we’re trying to you know, seek wisdom, we’re trying to understand more about ourselves, the world, the society we live in, that’s the balance we need to strike I think. I don’t think moving either way, is um necessarily the right way to go, that balance is something that we are striking quite well I think at this university, ah but you know, it can always be improved upon, putting more money into higher education, by federal government for example would be a great start.
Yeah, ok. So um, I guess touching on this balancing act right, and I think you’re your job kind of encompasses a lot of balancing acts, obviously students aren’t homogenised, like the experiences of EMS students are probably quite different from the experiences of art students. How do you think you’ll be able to reconcile those differences, and the ways in which the university, from an executive perspective, deals with both of those faculties and their experiences?
100%. So I believe in um, first and foremost, representing through education council and supporting every student. Through discussing with them on a ground level, running grassroots campaigns like the ‘save our semesters’ initiative that we’ve done this semester, as well as, um, on the education council, consulting widely with each of the faculty societies so if there are particular interests or concerns that you know, an engineering student might have, speaking to UEC about those concerns directly is the best way to go about that. Likewise, speaking to the Arts Union president, having a discussion with the Arts Union more widely or whichever faculty society it might be, but that strong working relationship does need to exist, and Conrad and myself have done a really good job this year to make sure that that collaboration is really been the strongest that it can possibly be. Um, there’s a grassroots level as well as on the education council, but more broadly than that is that it also exists on a national level. Um, so of course I want to advocate for their, the broad range of instincts that they have, um on a national level through the national union of students, um and I’m really happy to be sitting with them independently, um making decisions just on the basis of um, university students.
Um, and I guess it would be remiss of me not to mention, obviously, you’re talking about activism at grassroots and engagement with various different faculties about the ‘books not bombs’ campaign and the role that that played in UWA. I guess, from your perspective as somebody that voted against the motion that was consulted by those representatives of the EMS department, as something that could cause harm, um I guess, where do you see yourself in that position as like moving forward into a presidential role? Um, how do you feel about reconciling the interests of a national body in the NUS and the campaigns that they provide, against those of the student body that we have here at UWA?
Yeah sure, that’s a great question. First and foremost my role as education council president, is to make sure that the faculty societies feel supported, and that I’m leading them. Um, the educational council is a place to uplift all faculty societies, um in the instance of ‘books not bombs’ this was conceived as a campaign to try and articulate our frustration at the government’s lack of support to what is a publicly funded research institution, this university should be granted far more support, um, in terms of funding, and because its lacking that, I feel, the university has had to find its support elsewhere in terms of, private corporations and that may be linked to tied grants and leading to consequences that could be damaging beyond that. ‘Books not bombs’ was a campaign, put simply, to advocate for higher quality education at this university. So we, I just took a lot of student consultation in that process, took it to education council and I’m really grateful that we did that because it shows that education council is performing its role, UEC, the engineers club, brought up the fact that they were probably concerned that the campaign wasn’t in the best interests of engineering students, and Conrad and myself 100% acknowledged that and accepted that, we understood that the education council’s role is to have a direction that is parallel with the faculty societies’. We should be promoting their work, and if those two things are in contention, then we need to reconsider, and 99% of the time, those interests in terms of what direction is being taken by the education council itself and the faculty societies are paralleled. So we see something like the class rep system, which the ed council brings in, that really did benefit the faculty societies and actually supported them in being able to represent their students, but in an instance with ‘books not bombs’ where the faculty societies may have a concern about it, then of course we step back and we review it, and Conrad and myself were comfortable with the decision to take down the ‘books not bombs’ proposal. It was not proposed at guild council, and I was really happy with that. The discussions with UEC were really positive, and it just shows that that negotiation is taking place, so that’s my stance on it. There’s a lot of discussion around ‘books not bombs’ at the moment, um, under leadership next year, through the education council, I don’t have an interest in pursuing that next year. I think there’s a lot better ways to try and proactively engage not only the federal government, but also our university. So, that’s my stance. Um, the faculty societies are the most important things that drive representation and inclusion of the educational experience, so for me to contradict that would be…
So for the record, the contradiction that you did make to an extent in that last guild council meeting when you voted against the motion that was put before council about the harm that could be caused, is something that you would not do going forward? That is a different stance. So the priority for you, is always students in UWA.
So the priority, it has always been this year, and will be next year, the priority is students. Um, the decision I made in that council was not in contradiction to students, and I’ll get onto that, I’ll speak about that as well, and… I don’t want to dwell on it too much yeah, no I’m happy to go into it if you want to go along that line. So yeah, students will always come at the forefront of every decision that is made, um, I, its also important to note that I’m not a voting member of guild council, I’ve proxied out for that. So then the proxy that you made for that line was in line with the proxy that you were given? Yes, so I for the record, proxied for the societies’ council president, she advised me of the way that she would be voting as well, um and I took that on. But of course, I made a decision in the logical decision that I wanted to make, and because they were in parallel views, that was fine with me. The decision I made was out of the precedence that I thought guild council was setting, guild council for me, is a body that creates motions that are actionable. Creates motions that go out and say ‘yep, we’re happy for you to go out and support that. Make some change’. The fact that ‘books not bombs’ did not exist anymore, we’d spoked to UEC and there was no concern around it anymore, they were happy that we’d taken it down. I didn’t see it as necessary to propose a motion that was effectively actioning the guild council not to do anything. So to, I think if you run a guild council saying everything that you’re not going to endorse, we’re going to be here for a long time, um, guild council is a place of action, so to say that something is going to have detriment when it doesn’t exist I think is just unnecessary. So from a policy perspective, I just didn’t think it was a necessary motion.
That makes sense to me. I guess, tying into actionability that you were mentioning there as a guild council, and I think broadly the guild should represent things that are actionable, um, we’ve seen a lot of changes made by the university that obviously that are, that fly in the face of students in some respects, and the responses by the guild in terms of being able to negotiate positions makes it really difficult because the university has a lot of power in these negotiations. How do you think that your role in trying to negotiate and work with the university, and create that relationship beyond just respect, can ensure that we can potentially action things like thirteen week semesters and the reversal of that? Or potential other educational outcomes that don’t feel comfortable for students.
Yep 100%. So, my platform and Star’s platform has always been an approach of advocacy and activism. So working alongside the university administration, making decisions that lead the student voice. Star has always had a strong relationship with those academics in terms of how we have their respect and how we can go about making changes in those spaces, but what we’ve seen on things like the thirteen week semesters the university can often create those numbers, so the academic board has two students that sit within it, and the rest of them are academics. So it’s very easy to outnumber the students, and in that sense, we say ok this has not been resolved, the student perspective has not been listened to, we can then move to an activist approach, as we have seen in the ‘save our semesters’ campaign this year. We’ve done a lot of work around that space, trying to engage students, trying to continue on the work that previous Star guilds have done. So in 2016 we extensively discussed with education council and all the faculty societies about the decision, at that point the proposal was either trimesters, or 12 weeks, and acknowledging that the trimester model is incredibly damaging, the whole agreement was that 12 weeks would be the way to go, and to really push hard for 12 weeks, and to inflame the issue would be to drive that decision towards trimesters and the university would be more likely to take an anti-guild approach. So for us, it was saying ‘hey look, we don’t appreciate each, each decision is going to be harmful to the student experience’, but 12 weeks, being able to secure 12 weeks was a success within itself in that model. We’ve also been able to delay the implementation of that, obviously it’s coming in this year, in second semester, so students have had that semester to sort of, adjust to it, and moving forward from that, you know, running information sessions down on Oak Lawn, having engaging discussions, I was down there for three and a half hours talking to students around how they feel. And anecdotally, students aren’t very happy with it obviously, so the idea is that we will create an options paper at the end of the year, collate the quantitative data, as well as data that has come from the Australian National University because they’ve just moved the system as well. So to be able to bring that together and bring a real strong case to the university to say ‘this is the decision that students have made’ it is in the best interests of the university’s reputation to move back that model. So I can’t sit here and say 100% that 13 weeks will return, but what I can say is that as an educational leader and student representative, it is like my absolute responsibility, and I think I have like a full obligation to push forward what is best for students.
Sure, and I guess, touching on that, and if you could, I don’t know, the advocacy against activism, if you could go back in a time machine to 2016 and approach that model again, would you run a ‘Save our Semesters’ campaign, as well as doing that advocacy at the same time, or do you think it is something that has to take over a gradual process?
Yeah, well firstly I think its important to note I was 17 in 2016 and I don’t think I had too much of an idea of what was happening at that point. Um, from my understanding, the existing guild president and education council president did take on both models. They ran, so through the education council network, they ran or were running protests on campus, um which were very large and they engaged a lot of students. And the pressure was mounting, so that activist role was there. But also the advocacy was there, they were in meetings constantly. And they were talking to academics, the administration, the former vice-chancellor, um was very difficult to negotiate with. The advocacy level there um, put them in a very tricky position, but I am confident that they balanced advocacy and activism really well. So I don’t think I would change that. I think Star has always known how to balance those and in enact them when it needs to be done, so I don’t take a particular stance either way in terms of right this has to be activism or this has to be advocacy, I think you need to approach it with both in mind. Also, obviously earning the respect of the administration is the most important thing, in terms of that’s their forum, that’s how they operate. If you can get on their terms and understand the way that those cogs work, you’ve got the best chance, but activism is always there and has always been successful as well.
Ok and the final question is ah, given the policy that we have had a chance to discuss, what kind of things are you excited about potentially being able to action next year, if you were to be education council president, um and, broader than that, why you think the voters should put a 1 next to Lincoln Aspinall at the end of this election week.
Perfect, yes, I love that question. Um, for me its about always making sure that students are receiving a high quality, affordable and accessible education. I’ve been really lucky to be brought up in a family that has always placed a real high priority on education, um and they’ve always pushed me to strive as far as possible that I can go. So I sit here in a really privileged position, I’ve always had access to that strong and high quality education, but I do acknowledge that not every student has that opportunity, there’s people on our campus that are still struggling, whether that be first nation students, um deaf students, people in Albany, that can’t access their lectures and need it to be online. So, policies like that that are accessible and allows education to be delivered to the same level that I’ve experienced, is like the strongest thing that I want to implement. So, regardless of postcode, regardless of your bank balance, your education needs to be at the most forefront. UWA is a strong learning institution but it can always be doing better, and what I can say, is that next year if I am elected, I will be a proactive leader in that space. I’m not just looking to react to decisions that the university has made, I want to go out there and negotiate, I want to continue earning the respect of the academics and build on from the vice-presidency that I’ve had this year, to continue um, expanding on the opportunities that we do have here. So things like the 2030 education strategy, how can we implement the you know, high class technology services that we have, into the classroom? How can we better improve online learning? So, there’s always avenues to be explored and for me that’s really exciting, but fundamentally it comes down to my values and to make sure that every student on this campus walks away better prepared for their future life.
Great. Thanks for your time Lincoln.
Thankyou, thanks very much.