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October 1, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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President Geoff

The definition of fee setting is trying the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result!

First of all, by the time you read this article, the results of the VUWSA election should be known. Whatever the results are, it is important to remind ourselves that it is the collective will of the students that the results illustrate. If you are unhappy with the result, please take time to console yourself with the fact that you will be willing observers over the 2008 year, and I suggest you make every effort to hold each member of the VUWSA executive to account. While turnout may be slightly higher, it is still a clear plurality. My wish is that those elected serve all of the students of Victoria, not just the ones who voted for them.

Secondly, another important date is coming up. The University Council is about to set the domestic fee levels for the 2008 year. Who is the University Council? They are the supreme governance body of Victoria University. It is chaired by the Chancellor, Tim Beaglehole, and members include the Vice Chancellor Pat Walsh, Pro Chancellors, and representatives from the Government, Unions, local Maori and two student representatives. One is myself (as VUWSA President) and the other is the outgoing Cordelia Black, a role which is elected annually. In fact, if you voted in the VUWSA elections, you would have voted for her replacement. I also must point out that the position is not officially part of VUWSA. It is a student representative, directly voted to that role to you, and as such, is directly responsible to you. VUWSA is, however, happy and proud to support our fellow student representatives, as they carry out an important role in not only keeping the university honest, but also engaging in the university process. For Council train spotters, former Chancellor Rosemary Barrington and 2002 VUWSA President Fleur Fitzsimons are also on the Council. But for the most part, I agree with the comment of a Salient reporter: “they are a bunch of white old aged cronies”.

In terms of the process of fee setting, the Finance Committee, a smaller group consisting of members of the council, meet in private to recommend the level that fees should be set, and if necessary, any applications to the government for a fee increase between 5 and 10 %. These recommendations are then decided upon by the Council in full session.

This session is held in public, that is, you can attend the proceedings. I recommend that you make every effort to, for two important reasons: one, you get to see in person the people who decide to raise your fees each year (and more importantly, see what implausible excuse they try this time), and two, they get to see a group of students upon which the fate of the council’s decisions rests firmly upon.

This year, the Council will be holding their special meeting in the last week of Trimester three. It’s an abhorrent decision, with the most likely consequence that most students will be far too busy to attend. The confluence of a Government Department stuck in the mud with its implementation, and a university struggling to figure out what money the Government will be committing to them, while at the same time reeling from the disastrous PBRF results (and the expected loss in research funding) means that they have had little time to plan ahead. I foresee that the Council will be facing another choice involving a 10% fee increase.

Personally and philosophically, I find having to pay for tertiary education like suckling bile from the teat of some gruesome and unmerciful creature… a cross of a cockroach and a warthog, perhaps. I also don’t have to explain the crippling cost that a fee increase will mean for students, not just now, but later in life. The critical issue that students must bludgeon Government is the idea that the best way to repay student debt is never to get into it in the first place. Increasing fees is counter current to this principle.

I am mindful that universities have to find the money from somewhere.

But considering that the low PBRF score results from a lack of long term planning at the highest level by VUW to put in place employment processes so that they not only recruited quality teachers, but researchers as well (and yes I know it is a tight employment market), but the fact that the university continues to use the argument (that Victoria’s fees are on average lower than other universities, and that a fee increase would bring the same courses to the same level of funding as other universities enjoy) is becoming tired and the government isn’t buying the argument anymore. At the next Council meeting, let us see if the university tries this on us again. Get to the Hunter Building on Monday the 8th of October at 4pm.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Craig D says:

    “Whatever the results are, it is important to remind ourselves that it is the collective will of the students that the results illustrate.”

    The collective will of students is that the vast majority (90%) don’t give two stuffs about VUWSA.

    The results illustrate the preferred candidate of 10% of the student population. As usual, VUWSA doesn’t represent students.

  2. Nick Archer says:

    Even with VSM stuff all of the members would vote. It is the same in many kinds of election, turnout is low…

  3. Happy Smurf says:

    Thats true, local body Wellington elections are standing at just 12%ish and probably won’t even get 40%. Give VUWSA a break and move on.

  4. Tim says:

    At Canterbury turnout is much higher (something like 30-40%). And they don’t have electronic voting (you have to go to a polling booth) and only have voting for TWO days.

    Why are we so crap?

  5. Tristan says:

    Why are we so crap?

    perhaps because
    a) we don’t own the student union building, so the institutional necessity for other student unions isn’t so strong in VUWSA’s case = apathy, but most importantly

    b) the election was run in such a way as to prevent people from voting:
    – there was only one ballot box, hidden in a basement, open for restricted hours on restricted days – and note that we have four campuses;
    – the electronic voting was run by email, meaning that those who don’t use their student emails by a large did not receive the email (or lost it in their junk email inbox); at least in Chch students known that voting is via ballot box.

    Compare this to Otago where all you have to do is enter your ID code and comp password into the Otago Uni website – and their are ballot computers set up in the middle on uni.

    The RO says none of this (students not receiving the email etc) is her problem, but surely SOMEONE in VUWSA should be responsible for the elections being run so badly. Surely someone should ensure that voting is easy to access.

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