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March 23, 2009 | by  | in Features |
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Salient Loves Vuwsa

Students fund Salient. This is your magazine, your outlet for opinion, and your way of staying informed about campus developments. Here’s a quickie guide to the current relationship between Salient and the VUWSA Executive, and how it will be affected by the VUWSA Change Proposal.

New Salient Editors are appointed by a sub-committee made up of the current VUWSA President, current editor, the two Publications Committee student representatives, and a representative from Nga Tauira. Most student magazines appoint an editor in this way, with Craccum the only magazine in New Zealand to elect an editor democratically.

Once the editor gets her or his grubby hands on the reins, she or he appoint the rest of the Salient staff and set the Salient budget for the year. The editor is guaranteed editorial independence and the right to “criticise and comment on the performance of the Association and its officers.” In return, the VUWSA exec can expect “reasonable coverage” of their priority goals for that year.

Sound cosy? In practice, the balance between mouthpiece and critic of the VUWSA exec is not always easy to maintain. The Eye on Exec column has delivered some scathing criticism over the last two years, and received some equally blistering responses.

On 9 July 2007, News Editor Laura McQuillan reported on the NZUSA conference under the heading “Exec piss on each other, Hayward pissed off but not doing anything about it”. The exec responded with an open letter slamming McQuillan’s “unbalanced, sarcastic tabloid agenda”. An unofficial feud between several news reporters and exec members continued for the rest of the year.

2008 News Editor Seonah Choi’s Eye on the Exec coverage was equally provocative. “I hate VUWSA exec meetings”, she wrote on 28 April. “The upside is that nothing newsworthy or minimally exciting happened—the downside being that I lost an hour of my time in order to report this.”

A more courteous exchange was published on 11 August 2008. In an open letter to VUWSA, Salient called on the exec to sort out their finances and uphold their responsibilities to the student body. The exec responded by acknowledging systemic problems and pledging “big changes” for 2009.

The report of the VUWSA Change Committee spells out some big changes indeed, and not just for the exec. The initial report recommends tweaking the constitution to make Salient more consistent with VUWSA “principles, objectives, values and goals”, and giving the VUWSA Exec greater control over the Salient budget.

According to VUWSA President Jasmine Freemantle, the wording of the original recommendation is “a bit dodgy”. She stresses her support for Salient autonomy. “The relation between Salient and VUWSA is worth fleshing out, but not in a way that would restrain Salient. I do have some recommendations which I’m sure Salient will be partial to.”

Editor Jackson James Wood is open to suggestions, but equally wary of reducing editorial independence. “I am not opposed to Salient and VUWSA working closer together. I am opposed to VUWSA politics interfering with Salient.”

The Change Committee report is currently being considered by a VUWSA sub-committee, with a revised set of proposals to be released over the next few weeks.

The Waghorn Affair

Recent spats between Salient and the exec pale in comparison to the dismissal of Editor Vic Waghorn on 22 September 1995. A prelude to the final clash occurred in June. Ten people signed a petition to remove Waghorn from office, enough to force a special general meeting. After the students behind the petition failed to come forward, the motion to dismiss Waghorn was defeated by around 250 votes to 3.

The fall-out from the botched petition was reported in the subsequent issue of Salient. Waghorn accused the exec of moral and legal negligence in their capacity as her employer, and described the VUWSA constitution as an “archaic, inflexible joke.”

In an interview with the current Salient, former VUWSA President Paul Gibsen admits the exec’s decision to hold a general meeting to vote out an employee contravened the Employment Contracts Act. However, he argues that the outdated VUWSA constitution left the exec no alternative. “At this point, the only way to remove a Salient editor was by rolling.”

The reasons behind the petition remain murky. The experimental typography and radical content of the 1995 Salient were infamous. However, Gibsen says that verbal complaints regarding the content and style of the magazine were in fact “taken on board” by Salient staff.

Personal grievances and rumours regarding Waghorn’s misappropriation of Aotearoa Student Press Association (ASPA) funds appear to have been a more likely cause. These allegations eventually led to Waghorn’s suspension on 22 September pending an “investigation into [her] conduct”.

The controversy continued even after Waghorn’s dismissal. She managed to intercept the final issue of Salient on the way to the printers and change the cover to a cartoon depiction of cunnilungus captioned “suck it hard”. Most of the covers were ripped off by the exec, with an heirloom copy preserved for posterity in the library’s J.C. Beaglehole room.

Following the Waghorn affair, the VUWSA constitution was changed so that an editor could no longer be “rolled” via a vote of non-confidence. The Editor’s employment can now only be terminated “in the case of death or resignation, or termination by the employer”.

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About the Author ()

Nina Fowler (BA), former Salient feature writer, is excited about Salient '10.

Comments (1)

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  1. Gohan_Aro_01 says:

    HAH. I once used Salient as toilet paper: for my soul.

    Hey, here’s a joke for you clowns: How many dirty stinkin’ apes does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    Three: One dirty stinkin’ ape to screw in the light bulb, and two dirty stinkin’ apes to throw faeces at each other؟

    HAH.

    In case you didn’t get that, it’s called irony.

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