Our Q&A with the two Presidential candidates for 2016/17 !
If you are elected President in 2016/17, what are two key policies you would implement during your term?
It is essential that the current perception of the LSS as being unrepresentative must be changed. While greater transparency and communication (see part (e)!) can demystify what it is the LSS does, our approachability is key in being able to fulfil our representativeness. It is pointless having an LSS that no one feels they can talk to or approach about their concerns. I hope to break down these communication barriers between the LSS and the student body to foster greater discussion for example, by scheduling monthly ‘drop in’ times in the LSS Office with members of the Leadership Team. This will ensure that representativeness remains at the forefront of what we do.
Trust me, I know law school can be downright trying at times. The LSS, however, has such an enormous capacity to shape your law school experience for the better but we need your input to make it the best it can be. Although I love cheese, I don’t mean to sound cheesy (wow, good one Rucha) when I say that I want to ensure you have a truly memorable experience, just as I have been lucky enough to have had so far.
Adapting to YOUR needs:
There is no hard and fast rule that the LSS has to continue every year with the same operations and initiatives; every year level that comes into the JD could potentially have different focuses. I would love to circulate a feedback form at the beginning of my term whereby members can raise concerns, queries (or just generally happy comments!) about initiatives that the LSS undertook this year. Getting YOUR feedback will be vital in refocusing our efforts for next year. This practice can extend to more regular surveys throughout the year, ensuring we are responding to your needs.
As President I want to address two areas of Law School culture: our handling of failure and the engagement the LSS fosters in its members.
Since failing Obligations (I forgive you Arlen <3) I’ve gone about trying to improve the process for students who find themselves at the not-so-fun end of the bell curve! With the help of some great mates, I have been able to help get; a support group started, the centralised letter students receive upon failing changed, and a dialogue between students and faculty on the issue opened. The letter, which used to be frighteningly blunt, is now more reflective of one’s actual situation – you can fail, pick yourself up and move forward. As President I can ensure these initiatives continue to help students in the future.
Importantly for those who haven’t failed, this has allowed us to begin working with faculty to change pre-requisites for electives. This means if (for whatever reason!) your course has been altered, you won’t be stopped from doing an elective due to a pre-req that has zero relevance to the subject (WHOO!). As President I can see this work completed and keep pushing for healthier perspective at MLS.
Secondly I want to make the LSS more approachable. One way of doing that is to open LSS funds up to the student body!
Imagine this: 1) you get a killer idea 2) you fill out an application 3) students, a faculty panel and the LSS committee vote on which idea(s) get funded – if your idea is approved by 2/3 of those groups, then the LSS will help you make it a reality! I think this initiative can create a really creative culture and see LSS funds go to areas previously neglected, as well as bring more people into the decision making process!
Identify one significant issue faced by the MULSS in 2016/17. How would you have responded differently to this issue and why?
An issue that really stood out for me was the controversy that surrounded the cost of Law Ball tickets. This issue highlighted two core problems to me.
First was the issue of transparency. Most of the controversy could have been avoided if members of the JD were aware of exactly what they were paying for and the costs associated with running a mammoth event like the Ball. I have outlined my goals on transparency in part (e), but I believe it to be of significant importance that the cohort understand exactly where their funds are being expended, especially when dealing with such a hefty sum. The LSS strives to ensure that funds aren’t being spent haphazardly by requiring a minimum of 2 quotes for expenses before bringing any appropriation before the committee. It’s information like this that needs to be communicated well, so members are more at ease with where our funds are being directed.
Secondly, this issue highlighted to me the need to provide services that are accessible to all members. Ideas were brought up in the Leadership Team this year about the possibility of concession prices for certain events, with the qualification process being similar to that of Book Fairy. I hope to look into this issue further if elected.
Here’s a little shout out to you De Minimis ;)
Many of the important debates that are had within the Law School begin with a De Minimis article, which have an almost unparalleled ability to reach the eyes of both Students and faculty. Last semester alone issues around the JD only study space and recorded lectures were raised in this way.
Too often the LSS’s response to these public and important discussions is reactionary and overly courteous, when it should be pre-empting such discussions and steering, along side De Minimis, conversations down a constructive and collaborative path.
I’ve been on the scathing end of a De Minimis article (I will ensure “Mr. Brightside” is played at Law Ball next year! I promise!!), but I’ve also witnessed the role it has to play in creating real momentum for change in the Law School.
Many of you would have read the articles written by Mary, Clara and I this year on issues surrounding failing. Since then we have gotten some awesome changes made with the help of faculty (which may benefit you even if you haven’t failed!). Without using De Minimis to create this dialogue these changes would have been much harder to make. The problem the LSS has had in the past in their engagement and reaction to De Minimis articles, is indicative of a larger problem: the LSS is often not great at hearing the concerns of marginalized students.
As President of the LSS I would encourage all my directors and committee members to positively contribute to the debate, to be proactive in using De Minimis (and other platforms!) to promote healthy changes within their portfolios.
De Minimis is an amazing (FREE!) publication which the LSS has not utilized well in the past. I can help change that.
The role of President involves liaison with senior Faculty members, external organisations and students often on complex, sensitive issues, or when conflicts have arisen. What key experience, training or qualifications do you have that make you an ideal candidate?
Practically speaking, there is no better role that equips you with the high levels of ‘liaising’ than my current position as LSS Secretary. My role as part of the Leadership Team allowed me to participate in Faculty meetings, engage in sponsorship meetings with various law and consulting firms, represent the MULSS at the nation-wide LSS conference (ALSA) and develop a good relationship with MLS’ Facilities team. These interactions have equipped me with the high level of professionalism and understanding required of the President.
Outside the law world, I have worked in a number of jobs that have tested my interpersonal skills thoroughly, particular as a Customer Advisor for the National Australia Bank, which involved dealing with a range of diverse people, and as a tutor in the Faculty of Economics here at the University. I love working with people, and I hope to use these skills I’ve picked up to the absolute best of my abilities.
My role as Activities Director over the past year and my advocacy for changes surrounding failing, has allowed me to develop a really strong relationship with senior faculty members (we are talking ballers like Ian Malkin!). Especially this later work has seen me privy to many discussions of a sensitive nature.
Though students fail for a myriad of reasons; mental health, financial and familial issues are common themes. I know I have the sincerity and empathy required to actually listen to students going through personally tough times or struggling academically.
Also, when it comes to complex financial discussions I’m no novice either. As President of Melbourne University Surfriders last year I was also able to wrangle $18,000 out of Melb Uni Sport’s notoriously tight pockets. KA CHING!
Being a past President of a large University organization (300+ members) has given me real insight into the challenges of cultivating healthy conversations and relationships. Basically, I’m very confident of my ability to work with both University staff and faculty.
Externally, I was also lucky enough to go to this years Australian Law Students Association conference. It was in Hobart, which was cold. BUT the debate was hot! Attending that conference was a real eye-opener to how strong a voice I had, particularly when talking passionately about efforts being made at MLS to embrace broader definitions of success and student wellbeing.
As a past President of a University club, and a really approachable LSS committee member this year, I can confidently say I have the ability to liaise, chat and collaborate with students, faculty and all external organizations!
The role of President involves high-level management skills and a strong consistent interaction with all members of the MULSS Committee. In particular, the President is expected to lead by example, but must also be able to oversee and delegate tasks to other elected members at times. What key experience, training or qualifications do you have that make you an ideal candidate?
Being the Secretary essentially entrusted me with the immense task of administratively coordinating and maintaining the functioning of the entire Society. My role involved interactions with every portfolio, providing me with the unique advantage of understanding what each director does, and their specific workloads. This is useful when understanding how to delegate tasks. I have organized several information sessions, been in charge of an election and 2 co-opting intakes, alongside the SGM and (TBA) AGM.
I have been involved with the full spectrum of LSS core processes, from spearheading the long-overdue reform of the Constitution, to increasing engagement in co-opt positions and elections, assisting in acquiring sponsorship and being the ‘go-to’ for the internal coordination of the Society.
On top of all this, as a general keen bean, you most likely 100% would have seen me as just about every LSS event this year. Not only do I love the array of bread and cheese selections or the odd veggie burger, I love the chances it gives me to get to know all of you so much better and I guarantee to continue this practice if elected.
During the summer I work at The Portsea Childrens Camp; these run for a week, and are attended by some 250 kids and 70+ leaders. This year, whereas I usually lead the water activities team, I had the absolute privilege of running an entire camp. The kids attending are there for numerous reasons; some are in the DHS system or have recently arrived in Australia, whilst others are extremely ill. Most, for whatever reason, have had to grow up really quickly. All them, and this is the mission of the camp(!) are there just to have a week as a kid again.
Given the nature of the camp, leading it is extremely challenging; staff break down, kids run away, and though there is unbelievable fun, there are also a lot of tears. Keeping 70 individuals focused on a high energy mission in such an environment, as well as logistically running such an organisation, has given me enormous capacity to handle pressure and deal with problems that inevitably arise. If you have ever thought, “geez Henry talks about failing pretty nonchalantly”, it’s probably most attributable to my work in this field. Once you’ve had the experience of consoling several bullied children, whilst trying to entertain a couple of hundred more for the night and keep on top of the proceeding week, everything else becomes pretty chill!
As a past President of a club at University and having been apart of an awesome LSS Activities team this year, I’ve also developed really strong communication and delegation skills. This is really pertinent to the role of President of the LSS, and having come from such a team orientated portfolio I do feel particularly qualified to take on the challenge (and to ask for your vote!).
This year the MULSS increased its focus on transparency with law students. Do you have a position on this, and if so what other changes would you like to see?
I absolutely welcome greater transparency. This year there was a lot of concern surrounding financial transparency, particularly with regards to the Law Ball (see (b)). What this controversy highlighted to me, was the need for better communication of LSS processes to the student body. The LSS is not an organization run by a group of friends who decide amongst themselves how money is spent. Funds are expended solely for the initiatives that will directly benefit you all. Better understanding of LSS processes results in the student body being more informed and allows for more honest and transparent communication. Greater accountability is fundamental in ensuring the credibility of the LSS. Changes that I would love to implement include:
I’ve loved the feedback the LSS has been receiving about proposed amendments and motions at meetings. These have for the most part shown a student body wanting to engage in the conversation and decision making process. I would certainly keep what has been started going. I will also work with the new Secretary to make improvements where they can be made to this avenue of feedback.
But in saying that, it isn’t enough that the LSS merely promises more feedback forms next year. The LSS has got to go beyond merely courting student feedback and actively seek it. This can only be done and encouraged by a President who wants to meet every student, hear every story and address every concern. I have the patience, time and energy to do that, as well as the experience of having been President of a large society before which, really successfully, met the needs and concerns of its members.
Transparency begins with making every student feel welcome to be an active LSS member. Immediately I would make the LSS office a more inviting space; more couches and more drinking cups of tea! Every student, especially our first years, should feel able to enter the office for a chat or to raise a concern.
Like most students living out of home and moochin’ off the ‘Link’, I’m personally a frugal fellow. I was stoked to see both candidates for Treasurer this year have promised to provide greater insight and transparency into LSS finances. I would strongly support them in this effort. With greater understanding of the LSS’s financial situation, as well as the implementation of the LSS funding scheme that I myself have proposed, I think we could dramatically increase student’s appreciation of (and say in!) where LSS funds go.
Thanks for reading! And please take the time to vote!
Don't forget to have your say!
Voting will be both:
Voting will be both:
- In Person: from Monday 12 - Friday 16 September, 1-2pm at the MLS ground floor west entrance; and
- Online: from Monday 12 September - Friday 16 September 2pm (see the MULSS website for the link) - THE ONLINE VOTING FORM IS NOW LIVE HERE!