Students at the University of Sydney have had to sign statutory declarations confirming they are gay, a woman, or have an ethnic background in order to hold certain positions on the student council.
The controversial ruling was introduced by the SRC's returning officer after a male Liberal staffer briefly pretended to identify as a woman in order to earn a $12,000 council position last year.
The new ruling applies to anyone who was elected to a position based on identity – for instance queer officer, disability officer, or even mature age student officer – and anyone who was elected to an affirmative action position, which must go to people who identify as women or non-binary.
This year, Andrea Zephyr, a 24-year-old student, was elected as one of the SRC queer officers.
In order to keep the position, she had to sign a statutory declaration saying she fulfilled the queer-identifying requirement to hold it.
"Do I look straight or cisgender to you?" Zephyr wrote on the document.
Another student simply wrote "I'm gay". One added "P.S. FUCK THE STATE" on their stat dec.
20-year-old student Maddy Ward had to sign a stat dec stating that she is Maori and a woman.
"They said that all our positions would just get re-elected if we didn't sign, so it was like we didn't have a choice," she told BuzzFeed News.
"I wrote on one, 'I'm a FOB', and [the SRC secretary] said 'No'. So I had to write on a different one saying 'I'm Maddy Ward and I identify as Maori'."
FOB is short for Fresh Off the Boat, a slang term meaning an immigrant from another country.
The ruling stems from a council meeting in October last year in which Liberal staffer Alex Fitton said he was a woman in order to become joint general secretary of the SRC with a man from Labor Right.
The $12,000 position can be split between two people, but only if one of them is not a cisgender man, according to SRC regulations.
BuzzFeed News understands that Fitton said he identified as a woman on the night, but when election returning officer Paulene Graham asked him to sign a statutory declaration to prove it, he declined. The election was ruled invalid 24 hours later.
"There were concerns raised to Graham that by making [Fitton] sign a stat dec it was questioning his gender and getting into dangerous territory, the politics of passing and not passing, which I think are valid concerns," SRC president Isabella Brooks told BuzzFeed News.
"So we're not picking and choosing whose identity we question, she decided the most logical thing was to get everyone to sign stat decs."
Graham's ruling has left several students disgruntled.
Zephyr said that while she disagreed with Fitton's actions, she was alarmed by the way his nomination was treated.
"I don't agree with Fitton because he lied. He is not transgender, he is a cisgender man," she said. "But the immediate witch hunt that happens around transgender feminine people, it's horrific."
"I think everyone was pretty pissed off about having to sign a stat dec," Ward said.
Brooks said "quite a few people" had complained to the SRC, but most were OK with the situation after discussing it with Graham.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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