Presidential Candidate Profile: Ezra Bangun28 August 2021
Meet Ezra Bangun, the presidential candidate for VVholesome, a ticket “for memes and fun that wants UMSU to be better”. Farrago sat down with Bangun to find out more about their presidential campaign in the upcoming UMSU Elections and their vision for the Union in 2022.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is the first thing you intend to do if you get into office?
Personally speaking, realistically, our ticket will be unlikely to win officer positions. However, in the unlikely event that we are elected into officer positions, we’ll be looking forward to supporting students, and focusing on the aim of UMSU to make sure that students think of UMSU as a good thing that listens to students, and is not just doing its own political things.
But obviously, if we get elected, which is more likely in council positions, or committee positions, that’s where we’re gonna push to make sure that our voices are heard. We aim to listen to the students and make sure that it’s not just an echo chamber of people who are into UMSU.
What are your three main goals for UMSU in 2022?
First of all, its to make sure that UMSU takes care of students. And when I say students, I mean, every single student at the University of Melbourne, making sure that their quality of education is taken care of, like, that the qualification is kept up, and making sure that their well-being it’s pretty alright as well.
The second goal is to make sure that UMSU is transparent to students. It’s a very political, politicized organization that might not be very approachable to a lot of students. So to make sure that it’s transparent, that students know where their SSAF money is spent. [The SSAF] is students’ money to begin with, so we need to be sure that students know where it is going, and know that it does good things.
The last goal is just to make UMSU more friendly, making sure that students feel comfortable in it, that it can provide services that support all students in the Union, especially students who are new to Melbourne. So not necessarily just people who are into UMSU feel supported by the Union, but every single student does.
Our next question is about the factional conflict that we’ve seen, obviously, every year in UMSU, but especially this year. How would you plan to unite UMSU again, and create a more open working environment?
Well, I think that’s a very interesting question.
As an individual who’s not really on any faction politically, but at the same time knows about factional dynamics, the main thing is making sure that when you listen to a certain faction’s opinion, you look into the reasoning behind what they want, and use that as a way to make decisions. And if you’re on committee or Council, making sure you’re on the middle ground, because to be honest, factions within UMSU have the same ideas anyway, it’s just that some people have different approaches.
To summarize, just making sure that you don’t go straight into aggression and just listen to every single voice, even the ones that are not elected. You need to be able to listen to everyone because you are in that position. You shouldn’t be like a lot of politicians who might just have their own agenda.
A lot of international students are stuck abroad, and can’t return to Melbourne. Even those in Melbourne are suffering due to mental health concerns, inability to see family, and lack of fee relief. How do you plan to support the international community if elected?
There are two obvious points that need to be brought up. The first is that the University probably doesn’t provide enough support for international students. But this issue is not very easy. Personally, I am an international student myself, and there are people that I know in Melbourne by themselves, so it’s really difficult for them.
UMSU needs to campaign for students, making sure they take care of students but also work together with the University, though it is sometimes really difficult. But creating an aggressive relationship between UMSU and the University probably makes it more difficult to achieve something good. So you need to create conversation between the University and UMSU to make sure that international students’ needs are met and essential services are provided.
I think there should be additional focus on making sure that the University maintains the standards that were there before COVID, making sure that assessments are marked correctly, for example, or that the quality of lectures is good.
The second point I want to make is to also focus on making a community of students, making sure students have the ability to give feedback for the Uni to be transparent.
Sometimes students have no idea what’s happening. So what the university needs to do is to make sure that support is visible and available.
With lockdowns, with border closures, students are finding it harder and harder to attend in-person events. How do you plan to foster a sense of student community again in 2022?
I think, even before COVID, there was a lack of community within UMSU as part of the whole university. The most important thing for UMSU is to know what students want and focus on activities that are needed and interesting for students. There are parts of UMSU that lots of people are interested in, like Clubs and Societies. So in 2022, there should be a lot of focus on supporting C&S to make sure they have the tools and people to welcome new people and make their own communities.
You ran unsuccessfully for the position of President in past years. Why have you decided to run again? What do you think will be different this time?
I’m not going to say that this year will be different, at least for president. I’ll say there are three main reasons I’m running.
The first one is just for fun. As someone who seriously ran in 2018, it’s become a personal interest. UMSU elections should be something everyone is interested in, though many people aren’t because of the factions. I’m running to make it interesting, make it fun, and hopefully, more engaging to people who don’t really care about politics.
The second reason I’m running is as a symbol. You know, we probably need something new within UMSU, because it’s been very much similar, even though there have been different tickets elected throughout the years.
And the third reason, this is my last year in university, so I want to maybe go for Council, or having this name VVholesome, to be like, the last time it’s gonna be here, or maybe someone will bring it to the future. I think it’s a great thing to do.
As you said, there’s always a chance that you will win, and so if you do, why do you think that you are qualified to hold the position of President?
Personally, because I have been in UMSU, as a committee member, as host program director, I know what is within UMSU, the complexity of it, how many stakeholders there are, in terms of factions and everything. So I know how it works, roughly. know this thing, so I know, I could. It’s like, not the jumping difficulty for me, I know exactly. The second one is that I have a lot of experience just in general, in UMSU. I know how to create a community, a workplace where people can work together, which UMSU rarely does.
The third thing is that I’m not with a faction, so I can focus on listening to the students and making sure that students are heard.
However, the last reason, I’m not going to accept the position of president just because I’m going to graduate at the end of this year. So that means any of those for me is pretty much gonna go to your second preference. A vote for me is not a wasted vote, it’s a vote that says we want something different. If you don’t vote, then no one knows where your vote is going, no one knows whether you don’t like the factions or UMSU, but a vote for me means that you want something different.
If you want to know more about who is running for YOUR student union in 2022, Farrago is hosting a presidential candidate debate on Wednesday 1 September at 5:30pm AEST. More details here. All students welcome!