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September 22, 2008 | by  | in Online Only |
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An Open Letter from Nick Kelly on VUWSA’s Change Proposal

VUWSA has recently released a ‘Change Proposal’ Document. I am writing to express my opposition to this document. The intention behind this document is to make redundant the staff positions of Clubs Development Officer, Campus Activities Coordinator and the Advertising and Sponsorship Manager. It also recommends Clubs administration be taken over by VUW, and that VUWSA contract out the organisation of Orientation and other activities. It has been claimed by the main author of this document Sonny Thomas that I had a hand in writing this proposal. This is a lie.

In May this year I had a brief discussion with Campaigns Officer Sonny Thomas about possible changes that could be made at VUWSA. We talked specifically about how Orientation had gone over budget in recent years and the need to remedy this. There was some discussion about VUWSA having performance measures and looking at ways that staff and exec could improve performance measures (eg ways of keeping things to budgets and improving service delivery). Sonny raised some issues about clubs. I showed him the Team Victoria MoU I signed as President in 2006, a document which at the time Sonny hadn’t read nor could find on the VUWSA website (despite it being in a prominent place in the official document section: http://www.vuwsa.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2006/12/TeamVictoriaMoU.pdf)

The Team Victoria MoU was signed in 2006 after 4 years of discussion with the University. Currently both VUWSA and VUW give financial support to student clubs. The idea of Team Victoria was a joint venture where there was an equal partnership. In practice VUWSA always saw this as maintaining all current VUWSA support for clubs, but the university putting in the money it currently spends into the VUWSA grants committees (which the University already has a rep on). Also the venture was to try and attract outside sponsorship such as alumni donations. However the details of this were never worked out and at the time I finished as VUWSA President we’d been unable to sign off on an operating agreement which secured the interests of students clubs and VUWSA. Since then the University walked away from talks about Team Victoria claiming they didn’t have the money to put into such a venture.

What is being proposed in the Change Proposal is absolutely not what I intended when as President I signed the Team Victoria MoU in 2006, nor what former Clubs Development Officer Sarah Benton intended when she began discussing the concept with VUWSA and VUW a few years earlier. Our intention was for VUWSA to maintain its role in supporting student clubs, but to get VUW to come to the party thus to improve funding and possibly provide services like a clubs space as they have in Otago University. What this proposal suggests is to give away clubs administration to VUW management, instead of the students’ association which is democratically controlled by students.

In 2006 VUWSA faced a serious financial crisis with a $300k deficit. Due to the financial review and the increase in the student levy this was reduced to $40k in 2007. VUWSA does need to improve and change. It needs to run Orientations that keep to budgets – as most other student associations in New Zealand manage to. It needs to have processes to control spending and ensure that VUWSA keeps to budget.

The Change Proposal doesn’t actually suggest the fairly minor-to-moderate changes needed to resolve this issue. Instead it suggests that core student association services such as support for clubs and student activites get slashed and burnt. VUWSA has supported student clubs since it was founded in 1899. It has organised activities and similar events for as long. To say these are not core business is wrong. One of the key arguments against Voluntary Student Membership in the 1999 student referendum was that support for clubs would be harmed. The Auckland University Students’ Association has voluntary membership (the only university students’ association in NZ which has voluntary membership). Each year AUSA have to beg the University for money to support student clubs. At Victoria we aren’t in this position, and any potential agreement or arrangement with the University is from a position of strength. For Sonny Thomas to want to give away this student power to the University is utterly incompetent.

This document was written by Sonny Thomas. It was copied from University Change Proposal documents – which have been used to close schools and slash spending accross the campus. It is a disgrace that when VUWSA needs to be standing up for students and fighting the university over its Change Proposals, Sonny Thomas chose to write a similar document for VUWSA which will have similar negative results for students. I also understand that University manager Rainsforth Dix from the Student Union has helped draft this document. Also, Sonny Thomas has been employed by Rainsforth Dix at the Student Union 2008. In 2004 Rainsforth hired unsuccessful VUWSA presidential candidate Mike Bignall in a role where he was responsible for a failed attempt to poach clubs support and admin from VUWSA by the University.

In 2008 the Student Union set up has changed as there is now a formal agreement over governance of the Student Union complex where VUWSA and VUW have equal votes on the Joint Student Union Board (JSUB). Whilst there have been improvements in various areas as a result of this, there is still along way to go. It is important to note that the people in management roles of the Student Union are the same people who only 4 years earlier had an agenda to undermine VUWSA.

At the moment Sonny is standing for VUWSA President. He is going around the campus telling student that clubs will get more funding if the Change Proposal goes through. He is claiming that students will get free entry to gigs in town. The Change Proposal simply will not deliver these outcomes. If implemented this Proposal will mean less student control of clubs and activities for absolutely no gain to students.

Vic Labour member Sonny Thomas has been a member of the VUWSA exec for 9 months. Yet he feels he can write a Change Proposal document that fundamentally changes the organisation – despite showing he has a very poor understanding of what VUWSA actually does. In my view Sonny Thomas is not fit to led VUWSA in 2009. He is inexperienced, dishonest and has a programme for your student association that would be very destructive. I strongly urge students to reject this Change Proposal and not to elect Sonny Thomas the 2009 VUWSA President.

Nick Kelly
2006 VUWSA President

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Comments (11)

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  1. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Nick – you are in a relationship with Jasmine Freemantle, yes?

  2. Mr Magoo says:

    They’re in L.U.V

  3. Gibbon says:

    I’d be interested to hear why Salient published this piece. Why is Nick Kelly’s opinion more relevant than anything else?
    Could I, for example, write a piece like this and have it published online?

  4. Mr Magoo says:

    OMFG can we have a Salient nom-de-plumes party?
    Go on!

  5. Nik is Mad says:

    Nick Kelly, fuck off.

    You have no right to meddle with student politics as you ARE NO LONGER A STUDENT.
    Please peddle your crazy some place else.

    I’m sick of socialist/worker’s party people pushing their politics on to VUWSA. Is it too much to ask that we get a non political exec for once? Or at least, one that knows a time and a place for their politics?

  6. Jackson Wood says:

    Gibbon, you have proven the fickleness of your loyalty to this website. If you had been an avid fan you would have read this post from Tristan. It explains what is happening and why we’re putting this stuff up. I would hazard a guess that we published Nick’s comments because he is an ex president of VUWSA and so has some experience in what VUWSA does yadda yadda yadda.

    I dear say that if you were willing to put your actual name (in the interests of “open information” and to stop the circle jerk of pseudonyms hiding behind their nom -de-plumes”) to the piece, or at least if the piece was a decent one we may put it up. Send it through to Tristan or me (tristan@salient.org.nz or jackson@salient.org.nz)

  7. Gibbon says:

    Fickleness? Loyalty?
    Ah, okay. I thought my question was perfectly valid – and I did read the post, yes.
    The problem is that Nick Kelly is not a student, and that he, like a bad smell, just won’t go away. He is openly supporting his WP chums, but avoiding going into much detail about his relationship to them.
    I find it odd, that’s all.

  8. Tickidy Boo says:

    Ncik don’t you have a day job to be doing, instead of handing out smear leaflets on campus against a certain presidential candidate.

    Your attempt of smear is as laughable as your whining, the flyer does not even contain any thing shocking.

  9. Mr Magoo says:

    He comments while driving the bus. Watch out!

  10. Electrum Stardust says:

    Handing over “administration” or “control” or whatever… that’s not really important here. It’s about loss of POWER, one way or another.

    And power needs to be constrained, lest it turns on and trample upon the weak. Will all problems be solved by making what’s already a powerful organisation, ie. the University, even more powerful than before?

    More specifically, were all the problems caused by the CLUBS in the first place? If not, will making the clubs less empowered resolve anything?

    And it’ not just the clubs that are disempowered – VOTERS should remind themselves that they will have much less ability to influence how things are run in the future, IF the ‘Proposal’ is adopted.

  11. Richard says:

    Seems tit for tat.

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