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July 30, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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President Geoff

This week’s column will attempt to address the stories involving VUWSA at last month’s NZUSA conference. It has certainly been noticed by me that there is considerable consternation on the subject and while, as VUWSA President, I have made my official statement on behalf of the Association, I hope that I might be granted a brief moment to give a musing on my opinions in response to the situation so far. I wish to remind my constituents that I wish only to give my own personal opinions on the matter, and I genuinely hope that the intent – that is, to allude to some key principles that I feel have not been acknowledged – is also genuinely appreciated.

It should be reminded that Salient is required by VUWSA to provide a weekly insight into Victoria and also VUWSA, but it is not the voice box of VUWSA. I could not accept a non-critical student publication. In fact, the Salient Charter protects the editorial independence of Salient. It also dilutes VUWSA power (and benevolently so) in the provision of the Publications Committee by having a body that oversees the management of Salient. This is comprised of students who are elected directly by students each year. It would be mean if I did not take time to give thanks to this years representatives, Chris Bishop and Aaron Packard, as well as the Chairperson of the Committee in their service on the committee. In any case, Salient’s editorial freedom must be protected, or else there is no Salient, just a student Pravda.

It is with this sentiment that I chose not to lend my name to the response emailed by the executive, printed in Salient two weeks ago. Criticising the reporting not only does not address the issues contained within (in fact, it could inflame them), but it drifts close to curtailing the freedom of student press. So let me make this distinction clear. The comments made by those who signed that note are the opinions of the individuals who signed that note and not of VUWSA, who is comprised of a student executive, staff, volunteers and students, as members.

This leads me into my next point – that my fellow executive and I were elected by the students to serve the students. Our collective efforts at VUWSA are, in my opinion, genuinely dedicated to that principle. It has been practice in the past to attend conferences held by NZUSA to help us help you. In my opinion, it should be seen as an investment – and it has not passed my mind that hundreds of dollars of students’ money was spent for me to attend this conference. I intend to follow the precedent set by my predecessors and make a return on that investment. I have already completed and will table my report to the executive – so that I can lend my knowledge to those who did not attend, and also to those who are yet to serve. Now, I am not a prude; in fact, those who know me well know I like to have fun – but I like to think I understand the need to act professionally when it is called for. I think of attending these conferences like being in a school sports team on tour – you are traveling under a banner of an institution. You represent a school or a club who have, as a collective, worked hard to provide the means and money to travel. They expect excellence on and off the field. I note that Wellington has had performances looking at the story of former all black Keith Murdoch, who was sent home from a tour in the UK after being involved in a fight. When compared to the current team harbouring wife beaters, seal shooters and recidivist speeders, one wonders: whatever happened to individual honour?

In that vein, I wish to provide a personal apology for whatever part I played that has upset my constituents. I can say that I have been duped and I am also oblivious to some of the events occurring as they have been printed, but I do not see that as exonerating me. As I have said earlier, I will table my conference report, in line with precedent and VUWSA policy. I can also confirm that any signs taken from Lincoln University have been returned, delivery charges paid by myself – I would not want more student money to be spent on resolving these matters. My remaining hope is that there is still time this year to once again try to restore the confidence of those who have felt so aggrieved by these series of events.

I will be happy to receive your comments – please do not hesitate to contact me via the VUWSA office or by email: president@vuwsa.org.nz

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