Victoria University of Wellington’s decision to relocate its department of Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) to its Karori campus has created a myriad of logistical nightmares, claims a source from inside the department.
The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, damned the decision to move the department in 2005, noting a lack of access to even the most basic of academic provisions.
“No one seems to have noticed that GWS is a humanities/social sciences discipline, but now we are housed in the middle of the Teachers College! No library access, no peer access in other social sciences/humanities—we are up in intellectual Siberia!” the source said.
Last year, the university passed a number of provisions that lead to significant cutbacks within the department. A number of teaching, research assistance and administrative positions were disestablished in the midst of otherwise efficient and proactive contributions to the university.
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VUWSA President and former GWS Studies Associate Lecturer Jasmine Freemantle suspected the personnel structure that was in place in GWS made it easy pickings for cuts.
“The difficulty with GWS, and perhaps the reason it was easier for the university to get away with doing this, is that everyone in GWS, bar Alison Laurie, was on fixed term contracts,” Freemantle said.
“My former position was disestablished, there are no longer any tutors, and we lost our admin assistant who had been working with the department for over a decade.”
The current academic climate at the Karori campus was not conducive to postgraduate study for GWS candidates, Freemantle added.
“The Library of Education in Karori does not store Gender and Women’s Studies books; they’re all located in the Kelburn Campus. This is a major issue, particularly for post-grad students who tend to get out a lot of books, not just one or two at a time.”
In response, Victoria Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Education Professor Dugald Scott felt that the systems in place adequately filled any logistical gaps.
“The main library in Kelburn has a highly efficient inter-site loan service for staff and students across all campuses,” Professor Scott said.
“The university refused for us to use the inter-loan system, which is something that’s part and parcel of being a postgrad student, so it makes it logistically difficult for us to access those basic resources,” she said.
Access to support facilities has also proven to be difficult. Of note is the genuine lack of any kind of university-operated crèche service at the Karori campus, a lamentable circumstance for GWS students, Freemantle said, given the relative age of those studying in the department.
Professor Scott said there were other facilities available.
“There is a community crèche next to the Karori campus, and another within walking distance that staff and students based on the Karori campus can use,” he said.
“Students at Te Aro and Karori campuses can make use of existing university crèches, and Gender and Women’s Studies students would be no exception to this.”
The kind of cutbacks witnessed in GWS is indicative of systematic cutbacks across the university plain, Freemantle said.
“The University is currently undergoing significant cutbacks in many areas, including but by no means limited to the College of Education (where GWS is situated),” Freemantle said.
“Less staff equates to students having few options for papers and majors, ballooning class sizes, and an overall lower standard of education. The ‘slash and burn’ programme that has been applied to GWS affects not just the individual staff who lose their jobs, but it also negatively impacts upon students here at Victoria.”