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GSA What?

Thursday, 14 May, 2015

As the winter winds of May roll through campus, accompanying them come that most infectious of student conditions – GSA election fever. Yup, it’s that time of year again when graduate students wade out from beneath their mountains of coursework and various doctoral theses to elect both their 15 councillors (every year) and their Graduate Fellow of the Melbourne Uni Council (every other year). For those who’ve been too overwhelmed with menacing mid-sems and endless essays to keep astride of the Graduate Student Association’s latest happenings (shame on you – what could possibly be more important than student politics?), here’s a snapshot of the current situation.

The GSA represents (surprise) graduate students, and exists in parallel with the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU). Its chief body is the GSA Council, which comprises of both regular student councillors and office bearers. After constitutional changes, this election will see the whole council reelected – meaning a total of 15 seats are up for grabs. Six incumbent members are, however, retiring, meaning that nine of the 18 students contesting for a position are new(ish) faces.

Currently, the GSA presidency is held by Steve Brown, with his fellow Labor left supporter Thomas Whiteside occupying the General Secretary position. Whilst both are running for re-election, Brown is graduating this year, and instead a push for Whiteside’s elevation to President seems possible. Also possible is a return of Jim Smith, past GSA President and Labor left figure, to a senior position (he is currently on exchange). Notably, GSA Office Bearers are selected by the Council instead of through direct elections.

The other hotly contested position is that of Graduate Fellow of the UniMelb Council, which follows a botched election for the position last year. Patrick Clearwater and Kara Hadgraft appear the preeminent candidates. For Mr Clearwater, a leader of the More Activities! faction and the self-proclaimed ‘Chief of Staff’ to current Student Union President Rachel Withers, this will be his second attempt at a seat on the Council, after a failed bid for the University Council Fellow position in the 2014 UMSU elections. By all measures, Clearwater appears to be the underdog in the face of Ms Hadgraft, whose past tenure as UMSU President, support from most GSA Council candidates, and NLS ties have given her the advantage in campaigning thus far. Nonetheless, polls remain open until Friday 15 May, and the frenetic nature of #stupol, which hacks so adore, means the race is ultimately anyone’s game.

Update: The article has been updated to reflect the fact that Steve Brown is not a member of NLS.