Joshua Cahill: What position are you running for, what are you studying at the moment, what year are you in, and a little bit about your journey through student politics.

Nicole McEwen: Ok, um well I’m running for ed council president. Um, I’m just finishing up my honours in anthropology and sociology at the moment. So, yeah that’s sort of what I’ve been doing academically. Um, yeah, I guess how did I get into student politics…

Yeah I guess like what got you into student politics and what got you excited, like what drives you to run for this position.

Oh well, at the risk of sounding like the most typical left action candidate ever, activism is what got me involved. So, um, I think I became really involved with the marriage equality campaign that was running last year, um, yeah I really was angry about a lot of the education cuts, obviously. Um, that really affects the arts, um and coming from an anthropologist student it was, I could see it sort of happening over the course of my degree, um and I wasn’t happy about it, so I saw this group of people that were actually dedicated to doing something and I thought well, if I’m mad I better get involved and not just be talking out of my arse. Do something.

Ok cool. Um, and I guess, from that activism is your role, I guess, as education president if you were to be elected, what kinds of things do you think that entails in working with the university? Um, or is it just plain activism?

Um, I think the strategy of working with the university, I know Star and Launch say that a lot, um is a dead-end strategy if you have no leverage. If you have no chip to bargain with, the university is not going to take you seriously, or bend to your demands, um your just gonna constantly be cosying up to people while they stab you in the back basically, is um my sort of perspective on it. So, yeah, I think that um that’s not important to us, we don’t want to create this lovely relationship with the administration and you know, play cricket with the vice-chancellor or whatever, to get things through. We wanna actually say um if you don’t do what’s in the best interest for students, the people we represent, then we will run public campaigns that tarnish your reputation. That actually hit you, where it hurts, your reputation it affects your bottom line, that’s our bargaining chip and so if you don’t come to the table with that and actually be ready and willing to fight, and to say to the administration like you know, piss off, we don’t care about niceties, we care about the quality of education um, then yeah you’re gonna lose out. And I think the strategy of Star and Launch doesn’t work and has proven to be not working for years, so.

Um, I guess in line with some of the questions that were asked at the debate, um often students find that form of activism a bit ah polarising in the way in which they can engage with their university, um why do you think that other than the fact that it is, from your perspective the only bargaining chip, um what is it about um that kind of activism, that going against the university, um that should be more palatable to students if they aren’t fully aware of what it entails?

So like, why do I want, like how can I convince students?

Yeah, kinda like how do you make this issue more palatable to students um given the perception that this pushed to them that left action is considered like quite negative.

I think students aren’t idiots. I think that the reason that they don’t want to get involved most of the time is because they see these just like crazy hacks running around, who only appear to care about these issues at election time, people become cynical because of that. They realise that you know, these people don’t care every day of the year, what’s happening to the education they care that they’ve got their cushy position and can cuddle up to the university and can go get a career, or whatever and I think that students realise that. So, I think that what left action is good at, is actually cutting through that and saying ‘we hate this just as much as you do, this is ridiculous’, um and yeah we aren’t about the same sort of things, we actually want to, you know, put forward a fight. And that is polarising, like you said, but I think that’s a good thing. I think that denying politics, in an election, which is inherently political, is a sort of cowardly move, really. I don’t think people should be covering up and saying ‘oh politics isn’t important, just worry about this or that, it’s a cover, they will make political decisions. You know, Launch is affiliated with the Young Liberals, and they refuse constantly to admit it, but that’s who they sit with at the NUS, that’s who you know, their ticket runs the sort of OB positions, like people who are involved with the Young Liberal club on campus. And so, I think yeah actually bringing that out to students and saying ‘look, this is a mess, this is a shambles, this is horrific’, but, um you know, we have a platform that is about actually advocating for student rights, we, this is inherently political and we’re actually open and honest about our politics, um, is actually yeah the way to sort of go about getting students on board with something that they might be confused about or not really understand why is like the student elections run they way they do and things like that.

Right, um and I think that tying into that, we’ve been asking all our candidates if they are a member of any political party. So, are you a member, are you like a cardholder of any political parties or by the Young factions?

Yeah so, I’m a member of socialist alternative, um, not exactly a party, it’s not like we’re you know a um national, run in federal elections or something, unlike you know, people who are part of Young Liberal or Labour, obviously, are affiliated to these national parties. Um, although socialist alternative is a national organisation, um, yeah, and I think like, all of our members who are part of socialist alternative are quite upfront and honest about that. We’re openly, proudly socialists, so.

Cool. Um and then I guess, in line with the responsibilities of being an educational president, if you were to be elected, is to often, ah, compromising with different faculties. Obviously the interests of the science faculty might be very different to that of the arts faculty, that we were talking about earlier, and the impacts that they have, and also, the interests that they have for university wider. How do you think that you’ll be able to deal with those distinctions between those different faculties and try to bring them all to the table to create essentially that platform of activism you were talking about?

Yeah, well I mean, first of all, I don’t think that the different faculties have that different of an interest. Like for example, the 12 week semester stuff is good for science students and art students to have 13 weeks instead of 12 weeks, and to not introduce trimesters. In some ways it actually does screw over science students more because of the way their labs run, um and things like that. They need those contact hours more than an arts student who can just read, but um, even though I love my contact hours, so I think that most student interests are aligned. Um I know that there’s controversy, maybe your trying to get out ‘the books not bombs’ campaigns there in a sneaky way but um, yeah I think that it’s in the interests of students to have publicly funded education which is what we’re fighting for. We think that education should actually be free, and open to absolutely everyone, um if that’s the case, then we don’t actually need to compromise the kinds of research opportunities that we have. It’s not, like if you were a science, you’re an engineering student, it’s not like you can go do research that’s funded by these private companies, that’s undemocratic. That’s awful. People shouldn’t have to be put in a position where their job prospects are compromised by whatever private company is funding the research here at UWA. That’s why it should be fully publicly funded and democratic, and people can then decide from there what they want to do with their educations, what they want to study, and I think most students would actually choose to study things that are for human betterment. That actually are for, you know, improving schools and hospitals, and those sorts of basic things that are really important to running our society so, yeah I think largely student interests are aligned, um and where they are different, you know, um, we’re putting forward an argument about how we think it should work.

Sure, ok well given that, and given that you think all students have like, a singular vision on what we should be striving for, why do you think, at the end of the day, voters should put a 1 next to Nicole McEwen, or in this case, left action broadly?

Yeah well, I mean, I just want to make it clear like, I do not think that we have a chance at winning. Like my education council president spot, I think that the tickets are run in a way that you know, Star and Launch can go out into the college networks, they can get all their private school friends, whatever, involved, um and you know sell it on the basis of ‘come vote for me because you’re my friend’, like ‘come run with us coz you know we all just love each other, this is fun, it’ll look good on your resume’ whatever, um, and so…wait sorry can you just say your question? I lost it sorry (laughs)…

Well it was more just, and I’ll add to it now with that in mind, because it’s interesting to me to run for an OB position if you aren’t thinking you’re gonna get elected. Um, why, I guess, what was broadly your choice to run for that position rather than an OGC candidate, where you may have a greater chance of getting more representation in that sphere, rather than running for an OB position which you feel you couldn’t win? 

Well because its not about like, me personally and what I want right? Like its not, I’m not like dying for this position on my resume or something, um I think that we have things to say about each of these positions, and so it gives us a platform where I can be here and tell you all of the things I think about the ed council president and you know, what should be done with it, you know, running campaigns and all of those sorts of things. Um, yeah if I did win it that would be you know, fantastic, but I think practically that’s basically impossible because all of these votes are being siphoned up to the top based on, you know, getting all their friends to run or whatever, in these other parties. So, it’s basically like so undemocratic that it isn’t going to um, allow people who aren’t Star or Launch to actually, run and win. Um, so yeah, I’m here to voice our concerns and opinions, um we just really really want to get activists into the guild, to hold them accountable, to say ‘this is what we think we should be doing, this is what a section of students have voted for, and we want to push for that’. 

Ok, great well, um alright, I think that’ll do it. Thanks, thanks for coming down.

Thanks for having me.

No problem.

By Pelican Magazine

Pelican Magazine acknowledges the Whadjuk Noongar people as the Traditional Custodians of the land—Whadjuk Boodja—on which we live, write, and work. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. // Pelican is the second-oldest student publication in Australia and the only independent paper at UWA. If you like having opinions, writing, drawing, and/or free tickets to local events, then Pelican is the place for you! We print SIX themed issues a year, and run a stream of online content. // Email your 2024 Editors (Abbey Wheeler and Jack Cross) here: [email protected] // Where to find us: Upstairs in Guild Village. Address: M300, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley 6009 WA // Pelican Magazine of the UWA Student Guild & The University of Western Australia.

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