If the name “Connect ANUSA” sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The key to Ben Gill’s first successful campaign for president in 2014, it is now being reappropriated for the 2016 ANUSA elections. Woroni had the chance to discuss the latest phase of Connect with the ticket’s President, Karan Dhamija.
Dhamija opens the interview by discussing his past experiences with ANUSA, especially his time as the Vice President candidate of the 2014 Connect ticket with Gill. “We had a very similar vision that has been very successful”, he says, “but now I think it’s important to move onto the next phase.”
Dhamija describes this next phase as being one that is particularly focussed on advocacy, now that the services ANUSA provides have been improved, and the internal structure of ANUSA has been restructured to become more efficient.
In terms of this advocacy, Dhamija reiterates the way that ANUSA is a mouthpiece to both students and the university, and should be used to “bring new issues to the forefront of debate so that action can be taken”.
As an example, and on a personal note, Dhamija mentions the issue of low SES accessibility to ANU and the need to improve it, as well as the need to address issues affecting students in the broader Canberra population, such as poor public lighting in surrounding suburbs.
“There are going to be massive changes to the ANU over the next two years,” Dhamija says, “We are thinking about the challenges we are going to have, and making sure the interests of students are being taken care of whilst these changes are being implemented.”
But the question of who “we” is still remains. Here Dhamija tells us about his attempt to form a team from both people who have been involved in ANUSA before, as well as people who are new to the organisation, through publicly posting on Stalkerspace in June to ask for interest, as well as by approaching different groups on campus personally. For Dhamija, the result is that “most of the people on my ticket I did not know before this process started” and it means that the process hasn’t been in a “closed off bubble.”
Interestingly, Dhamija also claims that Connect was the first ticket to use the ANUSA Expression of Interest forms, and that the ticket opened positions at all levels to applicants from these forms, a key difference between itself and Amplify. He adds that it is “hypocritical” for a ticket to say that it wants to encourage diversity if it only does so after it has formed at the exec and college rep level.
Yet, it should be noted that Dhamija is not running a full executive, claiming that he “didn’t want to fill positions for the sake of filling positions” and that if he is elected he will be “happy to work with anyone”.
In terms of the topics that will dominate discourse over the upcoming two weeks, Dhamija predicts the election to be a positive one, with both tickets focussing on advocacy and discussion of future challenges for the ANU and ANUSA, and agreeing on most of the major issues.
“What I want this election to be about is who has more detailed plans about what the next phase of the organisation is,” Dhamija says, “and I think we will have the more detailed plans.”