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The 2008 Salient news year saw in a fiery (excuse the abysmal pun) start in which an international student residing at Stafford House was charged with arson. The student, later identified as Bennet Alexander, set fire to one of the elevators at the hall of residence as he returned home in an intoxicated state following the Sevens rugby tournament.
Revenue Minister Peter Dunne announced that interest-free loans would extend to students participating in formal overseas exchange programmes.
John Key unveiled the first of National’s tertiary education policies, announcing intentions to introduce a 10 per cent bonus on student loan repayments over $500 to “help get that monkey off [students’] backs as quickly as possible.”
A University proposal to disestablish the film programme was made public. Students protested and national media got involved. Salient obtained insolvency papers showing that EdPac, owner of two former Universityaffi liated halls of residence, Southern Cross and VicCentral, had been placed in liquidation the previous December. It was also reported that asbestos had been discovered on one of the floors in Cumberland House, another student hostel, marking the beginning of Unicomm’s ensuing woes.
The University got a whole lot of money from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), and in the same month, was found to have recorded the third highest number of plagiarism cases.
The VUWSA exec discovered a $46,000 deficit in its expected income, prompting plans for a re-budget.
Salient also disproved One News’ claims that increasing numbers of students were turning to prostitution to fund their studies.
Salient returned from the first mid-trimester break refuting exaggerated claims made by Rotorua motel owners that accused Victoria University students of unruly and drunken behaviour during the Uni Games. Mainstream media got involved with reports of vomit-covered motel rooms and extensive vandalism. Salient responded with accounts from eyewitnesses who alleged that the moteliers were abusive and racist. Victoria won the Games, by the way, the first time it has won the tournament at a venue outside of Wellington.
A “working group” was established by the University in response to student and staff feedback on the film programme proposal.
VUWSA President Joel Cosgrove again attracted national media attention when he wore an “I (heart) my penis” T-shirt to a graduation ceremony, a decision described by many as “offensive” and “inappropriate.”
Cumberland House and Unicomm management again became the target of negative publicity, with reports of a burst sewage pipe in the building, among other maintenance problems.
A $1.7 million budget blowout at the Education Faculty resulted in uncertainty over the future of 24 jobs and one of four schools at the Faculty.
VUWSA kept and spent the money from students at the New Zealand School of Music (NZSM), including the share of the amount destined for the Massey University of Wellington Students’ Association (MAWSA). Around the same time, certain members of the Exec were suspected of stealing cans of Red Bull from Salient.
The University Council passed a motion to increase international fees by two per cent, as Vice-Chancellors from around the country urged the government for more funding. Finance Minister Michael Cullen announced the 2008 Budget, which pledged increases in student loan living costs and parental income thresholds for allowances.
All computers on campus began to print double-sided by default.
Salient came under fire from members of the Chinese Students’ Association, who demanded an apology from Editor Tristan Egarr for the cover of the previous issue, published before the mid-year break, that depicted a naked Chinese President Hu Jintao wrapped only in a flag. Egarr refused, and Salient was presented with a petition containing over 100 signatures, as well as numerous angry (and somewhat threatening) letters.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) held their annual conference in Auckland, during which Cosgrove was attacked by members of his own Exec for supporting a motion to establish a men’s network.
Tertiary Education Minister Pete Hodgson considered the cost of a universal allowance, sparking rumours of a possible election promise.
Cosgrove again faced criticism later in the month for doubling the bounty offered by his Auckland University counterpart for a citizen’s arrest of visiting American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, then again at an Exec meeting over a sexual harassment complaint that had been laid against him by a Salient staff member.
A draft report was released on the film school proposal, recommending the retention of the programme.
Three Victoria University PhD students received a total of $300,000 in funding as recipients of the TEC’s Top Doctoral Achiever Scholarships. The University’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme received international recognition by the Association of MBAs (AMBA).
The continuously dire situation at the Unicomm-managed Cumberland and McKenzies hostels deteriorated even further over the mid-trimester break, leading to a protest organised by residents and the absence of a Unicomm stall at the University’s Open Day. Again, national media took notice.
The University appointed Australian academic Penny Boumelha as the new Deputy Vice- Chancellor, to replace retiring David Mackay. The VUWSA Exec finally settled its rebudget, and the Change Proposal was made public. The Proposal suggested radical changes to Orientation Week activities and the disestablishment of three full-time positions at VUWSA.