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August 11, 2008 | by  | in Opinion |
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An Open Letter to VUWSA

Dear VUWSA,
You know, we’re pretty much joined at the hip, you and I. You underwrite half our costs because we provide your main point of communication with students, and the most obvious proof that they’re getting something for their levy. We need you, and it’s important that we work together, but we’re seriously concerned about your state of health, and want to make sure you recover. While many other students’ associations have long been planning how to cope when VSM eventually comes through, your finances are, to be quite frank, fucked. Thankfully you are carrying out reviews and audits with the aim of fixing this, but the problems run deep, and have been around longer than any of the current Exec.

As you failed to hold an Initial General Meeting this year, and have so far failed to hold an Annual General Meeting to pass last year’s budget, students have not been afforded the forums they need to discuss your structural issues. But it’s not just about structures. We’re cool with you pulling pranks, like offering $10,000 to whoever arrests Condoleezza Rice, but you have to earn the right to pull these pranks by otherwise running your organisation well, and often you don’t. Although we don’t write about every little problem you encounter, given the lack of any general meeting this year, it’s worth discussing some of these issues now.

Here are two examples. At the end of last year, former President Geoff Hayward decided to spend over $22,222.22 (which is a much less funny number when it is students funds) to upgrade VUWSA’s van, with the support of current Education Vice-President Paul Brown. Although they did this without the proper authority, the payment could not be reversed and VUWSA was stuck with the bill.

Similarly, at the snow games party in late 2007, VUWSA held a competition in which they gave away a snowboard. However they failed to give the snowboard to the person who won it, and the winner subsequently took VUWSA to court at the beginning of this year. Hayward’s successor as President, Joel Cosgrove, then failed to turn up on the appointed court date. Good one guys.

Salient of course has a responsibility to fairly report on and represent VUWSA, and though you may not always be happy with what we say, we believe we have upheld this responsibility. Similarly, we believe you have consistently upheld your responsibilities towards us, and given us the support we need, for which we are grateful. But we do not feel you always uphold your responsibilities to the student body at large, which indirectly puts us at risk if, somewhere down the line, VUWSA membership becomes voluntary. What saddens us about this is the fact that such excellent management means this magazine may not exist in a decade’s time. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

Yours sincerely,
Salient


Dear Salient and the student body,

We at VUWSA share your concerns, which is why we have begun the process to undo the old systemic problems that plague VUWSA.

We are joined at the hip, and our relationship with Salient is vital. Yes, we don’t always like what you have to say about us, but that is why you’re independent and why we respect that relationship. Salient has a proud 70 year heritage, VUWSA has been around for over 100 years – we’re old hands with young blood.

Long term planning has been underway to strengthen VUWSA’s performance, and sustain her moving forward. VSM is a major threat to student advocacy, a vital service that our wonderful education office works so hard on, Sandra Crews works tirelessly for the student body as a full time Education Advocate, and we thank her.

An IGM hasn’t been held yet because our audited accounts aren’t in, we think it would be inappropriate, and another failure of process to go to students without having all applicable information. Further, VUWSA budgets are not sent to an AGM to be passed, they’re sorted and passed by the executive, a process that Salient was part of this year. We’ll be holding an AGM on Wednesday, 10 September at 12noon in the Mount Street Bar.

The van issue is a major embarrassment. We’ve moved forward to change our systems so this cannot happen again. The rules around major spending are being tightened up so events, like this that involved certain members of last years Executive cannot happen again. We’ve received a draft report from BDO Spicers who have been looking into the problems, and we’ll action those in the coming days.

The issue around the snow games has been resolved, and we did what we thought was fair after the winner had been mucked around for so long. It was agreed that $500 was a reasonable payment for the cost of the snowboard.

For VUWSA to become sustainable in the long-term big changes must happen, we’re starting those and we’ll come to the student body and Salient for your input on these changes.

Yours truly,
VUWSA

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

Comments (10)

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  1. MikeE says:

    “But we do not feel you always uphold your responsibilities to the student body at large, which indirectly puts us at risk if, somewhere down the line, VUWSA membership becomes voluntary.”

    AUSA has been voluntary for years and Craccum is still going strong. You have nothing to fear.

  2. Superior Mind says:

    If it comes down to it I’d happily contribute to keep Salient running. Who else is going to publish my useless letters and rough mid-lecture cartoon sketches?

  3. Old pal says:

    MikeE: Craccum has to sell a shit load more advertising and sometimes whores out its cover. They also have to resort to more sex on their pages to get people to pick it up (in order to sell advertising for more).

    VUWSA: Your audited accounts not being ready is not an excuse. You should have had it done on time. If you constitution doesn’t state that the budget needs to be passed by the student body, then there is something seriously wrong with it.

    Salient: Good on ya

  4. graeme edgeler says:

    At the end of last year, former President Geoff Hayward decided to spend over $22,222.22 (which is a much less funny number when it is students funds) to upgrade VUWSA’s van, with the support of current Education Vice-President Paul Brown. Although they did this without the proper authority, the payment could not be reversed and VUWSA was stuck with the bill.

    If it went through without going through the proper processes and VUWSA got stuck with the bill, it could try to get the money from Hayward and Brown.

  5. Van says:

    Geoff Hayward=President of Young Labour 2006 = President of VUWSA 2007
    Sonny Thomas= President of Young Labour 2007 = President of VUWSA 2008

  6. Dan Sloan says:

    Far as I know, we sold the cover once, and negotiated another deal with an advertiser. I’m also not sure about have to put sex on their pages to get people to pick it up’. And really, you should be able to sell enough advertising to cover your print costs – otherwise there’s something wrong with your magazine.

    Magazines can be done under voluntary, it’s just a little more difficult to find funding for things like computers, websites and contributor renumeration (ie, downright impossible).

    Dan
    Craccum Editor

  7. blogette says:

    you mean you can’t sponge off students any longer and make people who don’t read the magazine pay for people who do…..sounds good tom me.

  8. Greg says:

    Dan: glad to see you here (well, not really surprised to be honest)
    But I guess this is as good enough opportunity as any to say that the Craccum website (what’s there anyway) absolutely sucks balls.

    No offense, really. Although a website along the lines of this one would be damn cool, it probably cost a bomb. Which leads me to my actual point:

    If VUWSA was voluntary, would the Salient website (which I personally believe is one of the greatest things to come out of Wellington) turn into something along the lines of Craccum’s? Craccum may still be going strong, but (apart from the mostly unrelated pit that is lostotter…) it seems to be missing some of the “extra benefits” Salient exhibits.

  9. Van: Sonny isn’t President. Work it out.

  10. Dan Sloan says:

    The website is basically the bane of our existence. We have had a website in the past, but because we don’t have the same number of full-time Association staff that others do, we have problems. That’s where the real damage gets done – your designer has to also become your Assn IT manager because there’s no money for both, and all of a sudden you have less time to devote to a website after you’ve made a magazine.

    Considering how apathetic students seem to be, once you go voluntary, your revenue would most likely plummet. Then it’s really dependent on what sort of asset base you have – bars, cafes, shops, etc that you can use to generate an income. If you can’t make ends meet, things like websites start to get pushed further and further down the list.

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents. I’m trying to figure out a way I can get something really good online before the end of the year as a legacy project, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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