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May 21, 2007 | by  | in News |
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Freedom from what?

In last week’s Salient, resident right wing witches Lukas Schroeter and co. looked at the issue of VSM – Voluntary Student Membership. As a response to their response to the original article, this piece unashamedly thinks what they’re talking about makes me laugh, but not in a funny way, more of a sigh and eye-rolling way.

Student Choice folks like Nick O’Kane and Lukas Schroeter enjoy chucking around amusing anecdotes about VUWSA. How they have turned a motion that wasn’t voted on at an AGM, giving both $15 000 to the ACT party and a tank to the Alliance[1] into VUWSA publicly backing the Alliance at the last election is beyond me. Are they stretching the truth (lying?) on purpose? I’ll leave that for you to make a judgement call on.

There are huge gaps throughout their opinion piece. They say that VUWSA asks no one if it does a good job. Yet 3500 students gave up on average 30 minutes last year answering an in-depth survey ABOUT VUWSA concerning what VUWSA does well, what it doesn’t do well and what it could do better at and we’ve been implementing that this year. I don’t know the obviously lofty standards Student Choice have in terms of consultation, but maybe they can take some time to inform us of them in this year’s survey…The key point of their piece and one they drone on to anyone they come in contact with is the thorny concept of freedom of representation. They tot it out as one of personal choice! Your rights! Freedom! Yet what options exist? Quite simply it is VUWSA or the University in this debate. Nothing else… There is no fantastical marketplace of freedom. This is ignored; they purposefully don’t deal with the outcomes of this supposed freedom.

Go back to the 1999 VSM referendum in which over 70% of Vic students who voted, voted for compulsory unionism. You’ll see the reports from the Vice-Chancellors Committee backing the status quo i.e. universal student membership. Why keep it the status quo? Because otherwise it will COST YOU MORE. That is what happened at AUSA. Yes there is no direct AUSA levy as our friendly Student Choicers pointed out, but they forgot to mention that instead the university charges students and it increased the amount charged compared to that of AUSA. They didn’t mention this in their article and yet I have brought this up every time they try and badger me about “voluntary” students’ associations.

Why don’t they mention this? Because it’s not handy for them to mention the fact that the freedom they’re after costs students more and takes away what little control they do have at the moment.

Because students DO have a say. Presidents and Exec members have been rolled for their actions, that is accountability. I mean, if you’re pissed off at a decision made by VUWSA then you can attempt to roll Geoff or me or whom ever you feel is responsible. If you don’t like me trying to organise student representation on Karori campus and asking class reps what they think of the proposed student hostel on Fairlie Tce, then you’re free to test the water with a motion to roll. But you can’t do that to the Vice-Chancellor, good luck if you do! As student representatives we are accountable for the decisions we make and I stand by all I have made.

Quite simply this statement that is boldly laid down i.e. that “voluntary membership is about making sure you get value for money and have a students’ association that cares about and responds to your needs” is bullshit. VUWSA provides strong support for students. Through clubs support, through Ori and through the staunch representation of the Education Office. This could not be provided by the university at the quality and cost that the Students’ Association does. Not happy with how we do things? Stand for election! Come in and make a difference!

The only thing that will change with VSM is VUWSA’s independence.

I’d much rather rely on students than on the university. That is the situation. For if the world of Lukas and Peter comes about, we’ll only be poorer for it, they will have hijacked the one part of university you do have some control over.If we’re up shit-creek at the moment, with ever higher student loans, decreasing availability of student allowances as well as higher rents, what they’re talking about only pushes us further up shit-creek, with no paddle in sight.

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  1. “Student Choice folks like Nick O’Kane and Lukas Schroeter enjoy chucking around amusing anecdotes about VUWSA. How they have turned a motion that wasn’t voted on at an AGM, giving both $15 000 to the ACT party and a tank to the Alliance[1] into VUWSA publicly backing the Alliance at the last election is beyond me. Are they stretching the truth (lying?) on purpose? I’ll leave that for you to make a judgement call on.”
    I never claimed that VUWSA suported the Alliiance in the 2005 election. Although this was claimed in the Freedom is Choice article, I played no role in writing that article. In fact I put a comment on the Salient website pointing out that they were wrong on this point.
    “Quite simply it is VUWSA or the University in this debate. Nothing else” Wrong. It is a choice between students being forced to join VUWSA and fund services that they may not want, or having a choice if they want to join VUWSA and pay $120 for those services.
    “Quite simply this statement that is boldly laid down i.e. that “voluntary membership is about making sure you get value for money and have a students’ association that cares about and responds to your needs” is bullshit.” sorry cosgrove but thats etxactly what VSM is about. While compulsory membership could work in theory to deliver to students needs if everyone voted in every VUWSA election and turned up to every general meeting, in reality few do, and it is those few who decide everything. In a VSM VUWSA, if VUWSA failed to deliver $120 of quality services to students, VUWSA would be forced to change how they operate, in order to entice people who left to rejoin.
    “They say that VUWSA asks no one if it does a good job. Yet 3500 students gave up on average 30 minutes last year answering an in-depth survey ABOUT VUWSA concerning what VUWSA does well, what it doesn’t do well and what it could do better at and we’ve been implementing that this year.” I’d like to see the results of this survey. One question asked was wether students wanted a higher levy. it would be interesting to see what students thought about that.
    “they purposefully don’t deal with the outcomes of this supposed freedom.” Sorry, we do. The outcome of this propoased freedom is you get a choice if you want to pay $120 to join a student assosciation or not. Market forces determine the amount of services and student assosciation levy provided, in the same way market forces do for every other incorporated society.
    “Because students DO have a say. Presidents and Exec members have been rolled for their actions, that is accountability. ” All an exec mmember needs to do to stop themselves getting rolled is get the support of one third of those who would turn up to an SGM, they can anoy the other 2/3rds and not care about them as much as they like. Under VSM you would get real accountibility. If you don’t like how things are done you can quit VUWSA and get your $120 back. You won’t need to get a 2/3 majority at an SGM to change things. If enough students leave, then VUWSA would be forced to change or go bankrupt.
    lastly, I put a comment in the giving up the ghost article about the fact that where VSM has been tried, with the exception of a rigged a referendum in Waikato, students have voted to keep VSM. At AUSA, after it went voluntary in 1999?, they had another referendum the next year which resulted in VSM winning by a bigger margin than the previous years vote. Since then 2 other referenda have been held at AUSA which resulted in convincing wins for VSM. In Waikato, until they hald a hopelessly rigged referendum anounced only a few days in advance and held during study break, they had several referenda when it was voluntary that resulted in strong verdicts for keeoing VSM. If VSM ios so bad, then why when VSM has been tried, have students voted to keep VSM ? I have yet to recieve an answer to this question from any CSM supporter.

  2. Nicola Kean says:

    If I can just correct you there Nicholas. At the end of last year there was a vote on VSM at Unitec which saw the association move from voluntary to compulsory. That means two thirds of the institutions that have dabbled in VSM have returned to compulsory. So, by your logic, shouldn’t that mean that students think VSM is that bad? Your logic, not mine.

  3. “they forgot to mention that instead the university charges students and it increased the amount charged compared to that of AUSA”

    True. But with Fee Maxima, this would no longer be possible – VUW raises undergrad fees by the maximum of 5% every year, anyway.

    “that “voluntary membership is about making sure you get value for money and have a students’ association that cares about and responds to your needs” is bullshit.” sorry cosgrove but thats etxactly what VSM is about.”

    Um. No. VSM has nothing to do with quality. VSM is about freedom. Would Global suffering decrease if everyone in NZ was forced to give $120 to Amnesty International? Quite possibly. But we don’t abandon cherished freedoms to save lives and alleviate suffering in the third world, and we shouldn’t do it to save ourselves from the $180 the university might charge to offer some of the services VUWSA offers.

  4. Nicola, I was unaware of the Unitec example until your giving up the ghost article, so don’t know what happened there. But if we do a tally of referenda in VSM institutions to become compulsory, lets looka t the results.
    AUSA: 3 referenda, all for voluntary membership by convincing margins.
    WSU: 4 referenda, 3 of which were for voluntary membership by big margins, and 1 referendum which compulsory membership wins,with a turnout of only 10.5% of students voting, held during the study break (compared with over 25% turnouts for all the ones in which VSM won) and anounced very shortly before the event.
    Unitec Students Assosciation: Atleast one referenda, with a majority for compulsory membership.
    Totals (being generous to the CSM side by including the WSU one and asuming no Unitec referenda previously held voted for voluntary):
    VSM: 6 (3 at AUSA, 3 at WSU)
    CSM: 2 (1 at WSU, 1 at Unitec)
    Nice try Nicola.
    Graeme: point taken. Seem to even more pro-VSM than I am,

  5. Holden Iscariot says:

    Geoff will never get rolled. All he’s gotta do is tell his little fraternity buddies to come and vote against such a motion. Bear that in mind, folks.
    H.I.

  6. cijawa says:

    No one ever gets rolled in Students’ Associations – that lovely 2/3 majority rule saves their bacon…

    … Although if you’re as condescending to your members in person as you are in this article, Joel Cosgrove, I imagine it wouldn’t be too much trouble to get you rolled.

    This is probably the worst defence of compulsory student membership I have ever read, and I voted to keep VUWSA compulsory in 1999. It’s based on the “it’s good for you, but I can’t actually tell you why” argument. And, if you don’t like it you should run for the exec and change the student association. Perhaps the student body aren’t cunts like you Cosgrove, and have better things to do with their time? Like, study?

    I have no problem with compulsory student associations, but not if it’s funding salaries for communist retards like you, Cosgrove.

  7. Soon-to-be-VSM-advocate says:

    cijawa: I didn’t realise this article(?) was a defence for CSM. Kinda seems more like a let’s-give-a-retarded-argument-that-boosts-support-for-VSM.

    Thanks Joel, my mind is almost made up now.

  8. Joel Cosgrove says:

    Nick. VUWSA would charge no membership fee and give away prize packs of stuff to get students to join, just like AUSA, no one would get back their $120 because there wouldn’t be one charged. Just like AUSA the Uni would increase levies (they would apply for a special fee maxima exemption because of VUWSA going voluntary). It would cost more.

    Another column is needed about VUWSA itself. My peice was a reaction to what Student Choice published. I can tell you what VUWSA does, i’ve spent the last two and a half years doing that, involved in that. 750 words to both argue against student choice’s opinion peice and outline the benefits and strengths of VUWSA is a bit of a tall order.

    The choice that VSM provides is to take away what control there is currently. It is the choice between an independant VUWSA and one that is beholden to the university through service level agreements that are not voted for bar in the uni council chamber and decided behind closed doors.

    The argument of student choice is ideological as opposed to one based on reality. There is no choice here. I agree that change is needed at VUWSA, that’s why we have started with the financial audit last year, that’s where stop lecture meetings come into play giving a better represenation of the student opinion. That’s where the SPAM surveys are essential.
    Pushing VUWSA into a sitaution where it has to arrange it’s funding with the university as opposed to publicly voting on it is not the way to go.

    I think the suggestion as badly worded by Nicholas in his IGM motion as it was to put issues like the levy for vote online is a good idea and one to mull over.
    I have heard much positive feedback in relation to the student fees stop lecture meeting from last year, in terms of students actually being able to have a say…

  9. Nicholas O'Kane says:

    Joel, you seen unable to think of any VSM situatuin thats not an exact replica of AUSA.

  10. You should read some books

  11. Relating to Cosgrove’s points above,as I pointed out earlier he can’t see any VSM VUWSA except a mirror of what AUSA is already.relating to the point about VUWSA’s funding being determined by backroom deals and uni council agreements, VUWSA can continue to collect a $120 levy if it wants to when voluntary, though I doubt many students will choose to pay. AUSA can (and i think they should) charge a levy in order to mantain financial indepence.
    As for the idea of VSM costing more by the university increasing its student services levy, such as at Auckland where it went up by $220 (where the AUSA levy was $140 previously) this point has some validity. however it is based on only oine case study. The interesting test of this arguement will be if AUSA ever goes compulsory again what happens with this fee-will it decrease by $220? Given the scale of the student services levy increase it may be for reasons other than VSM.
    Lastly as for the it will cost more arguement. lets compare the fees a undergraduate student studying 3 papers per trimester will pay for student services at auckland vs Victoria.
    Victoria (compulsory membership):
    VUWSA levy: $21.
    Amenities levy: $80.
    Student services levy: $120.
    total: $320.
    Auckland uni (VSM):
    AUSA levy: $0 and you don’t have to join.
    student services levy: $238.50
    building fund levy:448.60.
    total: $287.10

  12. Joel Cosgrove says:

    //Joel, you seen unable to think of any VSM situatuin thats not an exact replica of AUSA.//

    Name me another example?!? We’re talking universities here, what other major one is voluntary?

    Nick, you better not tell Auckland Uni that they’re charging less than Vic, or they might raise it out of principle! I know that’s what Vic would do

    Otago have even higher fees
    OUSA $84.22
    OUSA Building Levy $87.73
    Internet Access Fee $38.50
    Welfare & Recreation FeeS $198.00
    Total (GST incl.) $408.45

    And Waikato?
    Resource Fees $60.00
    Building Levy $24.00
    Campus Services Levy $24.00
    Student Services Levy $95.00
    Waikato Student Union $84.00
    Total $287.00

    Canterbury seems to be $75 (They’ve lots of assets AND cash compared to VUWSA)

  13. How about WSU from 1996 to 2000, or USU (UNITEC student union) until this year, or all Australian student assosciations now, or VUWSA before 1923.

  14. tojo says:

    Joel – someone’s read your stuff:
    http://studentchoice.blogspot.com

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