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March 29, 2004 | by  | in Features |
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Student Representative Council – An explanation

In your Handbook Diary you’ll note that on Wednesdays during term time the words ‘Student Representative Council: 12:50, The Quad’ appear underneath the VUWSA logo. What is this Student Representative Council? And what is this VUWSA? Is this some sort of bizarre cult that gathers in the quad every Wednesday? Or something important that all students you be involved in?

VUWSA (Victoria University Wellington Students Association) is the democratic association that represents all students at this university. All students pay $99 and automatically become apart of VUWSA. Every year 10 people are elected to represent students on the VUWSA exec. These representatives are accountable to all students, and are there to decide how students’ $99 is spent.

Student Representative Council or SRC is where you, the 16,500 students at Victoria University, can hold your elected representative to account. Students are able to make directives to executive members. For example an SRC could move “that the campaigns officer run a recycling campaign”. Or “that the Education VP conduct a review of course assessments”. Students are then able to ask for progress reports at the following SRC. All exec members are expected to attend SRC, and if they miss three SRCs without giving their apologies they are deemed to have resigned from exec (same as if they miss three exec meetings without apology).

Students are also able to set VUWSA policy at SRC. This means students can collectively comment on hot political issues of the day, or in issues relating to university management. In 2003 a number of policies were made. Below are policies that were voted for last year:

* That VUWSA recognise that police on campus would undermine the free and open exchange of ideas and impede the development of an effective learning environment.

* The police should not have routine access to campus that could be used to monitor or interfere with political activity.

* VUWSA demands that Victoria University of Wellington be an environment where free and open exchange of ideas can occur and that the university implement the above resolution.

* That VUWSA oppose the Fee Maxima scheme announced in the 2003 budget, due to the rise in tertiary education fees this scheme may cause.

* That VUWSA oppose any actions taken by WCC which will have the effect of removing the homeless from the streets.

* That VUWSA oppose any privatisation of public water as it is a public good.

* That VUWSA opposes the lifting of the GE moratorium.

* That VUWSA campaign for a GE-free campus.

* That VUWSA urge the university administration for Victoria to be placed on the GE Free register.

* That VUWSA support legalising Marijuana.

* That the VUWSA exec must sing ‘Smoke two joints’ by Sublime before every exec meeting.

* That VUWSA Instruct the University to appoint Rodney as the New Vice Chancellor.

* That VUWSA insist that VUW Council hold its fee setting meetings in public, during term time and in office hours.

* That VUWSA actively oppose the exclusion of students from any university building.

* That VUWSA notify the Vice Chancellor under the university statute on protest that until the fess rise proposal is dropped every day is a protest day in every university building.

* That the VUWSA exec be required to sing a song before every exec meeting.

* That VUWSA oppose the US led occupation of Iraq and demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

* That in a conscious effort to fight sexism VUWSA condemns the use of sexism of any form, adopts a policy of using non-sexist imagery and terminology in all of its communications, and urges its constituents to do the same.

* That VUWSA support the action taken by ‘Peace Action Wellington’ and ‘Students against the War’ in preventing the US Ambassador from speaking today (8.10.2003).

* That VUWSA supports pay equity, and will actively oppose pay discrimination.

* In acknowledgement of the need for an inclusive legally and socially recognised union, VUWSA supports the introduction of the Civil Union Bill.

* That VUWSA oppose capitalism.

* VUWSA believes that good quality childcare should be available on campus for students who care for children, and that the full cost should be borne by the University, in the interest of making education more accessible for all.

* That in the interests of making education accessible to all, VUWSA demands a free education system. That is, zero fees and a universal living allowance for all.

* That VUWSA support dancing.

* That VUWSA supports students writing on the new brick wall outside Easterfield.

* That VUWSA express its thanks to Catherine Belfield-Haines for her work in 2003 as VUWSA president.

* That VUWSA express its thanks to Campaigns Officer Nick Kelly for his work in resurrecting SRCs in 2003.

* VUWSA condemns rape and violence, and pledges active support to organisations working in these areas.

Students voted for all these policies. And all of them can be overturned or replaced with new policy at any SRC. There were also a number of policies that didn’t get support. For example the first time someone tried to set a VUWSA policy of opposing GE, the motion narrowly failed.

SRCs cannot roll exec members, or make directive on how the VUWSA exec spends its budget. For this students need to collect the signatures of twenty students (with their names and ID numbers) calling for a Special General Meeting or SGM. At Special General meetings, quorum is 100 students, whereas at SRCs, quorum is 50 students. At SGMs, students can roll exec members (if they have given advanced notice, and can issue financial directives to the exec. Also students can make changes to the VUWSA constitution, thus change any of these or other rules that are stated in it.

Greater attendance at SRCs will result in more democratic decision-making. Until June 2003, there hadn’t been an SRC at Victoria since 1989. Last year’s exec believed it was vital to reintroduce the SRCs so to increase student involvement and democracy in VUWSA. At Auckland Uni, SRCs are held weekly, and the exec decided that this was desirable at Victoria as well. As SRCs hadn’t been held for 14 years, getting students involved again has been hard work. However towards the end of 2003 participation levels were significantly increasing, and are likely to increase further in 2004. SRCs need 50 students to gain quorum, but it is desirable to have considerably more students than this. Remember it is your students’ association, so get involved and take control.

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