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March 23, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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What’s a VUWSA?

In these pages you will see many acronyms. Acronyms like VUWSA, which make little sense no matter how many times you try to say them out loud. You will also see references to late budgets, deficits, moving into committee and constitutional motions. To the uninitiated this may seem daunting. But never fear, Salient is here to clarify some of these bewildering aspects of university life and package them in bite-sized potions so that your poor information- drowned brains make some sense of it all.

So what exactly is VUWSA? It stands for the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association. Every student, whether they know it or not, is a member. If you ever bother to look at the invoice that the University sends you, you’ll see a little line that says “VUWSA Subscription” and next to it will be the small total of $131.90.

With this money VUWSA provides services like the Food Bank, advocacy and support, puts on activities like Orientation and Re-Orientation. Funds student media like Salient and the VBC, organises and helps fund affiliated clubs and sports teams and heaps of other stuff.

VUWSA is and has always been an open organisation. Because you are paying members of the association it means that you should care how the money is spent. Because of this VUWSA runs a democratically elected executive that decides how much money goes where and to whom. Any student can stand in a VUWSA election, attend VUWSA meetings, vote at General meetings and put forward motions.

The VUWSA executive is made up of thirteen representatives. At the head is the president.

The president is not only the elected representative but the CEO of VUWSA. The Prez works alongside three vice presidents who cover the areas of Education, Welfare and Administration. In the remaining ten there are specific reps such as the Queer Rights officer, Environment officer and Women’s Rights officer. They all help out with VUWSA events and attend exec meetings. In a first for VUWSA, this year you will be able to access their work reports online and comment on them to tell them if they’re doing a good job or a bad one!

Like most organisations it has its own internal rules and regulations. These are enshrined in the VUWSA constitution. Read up on these if you have time, knowing the rules is a valuable way of being able to hold your representatives accountable.

Traditionally turnout in VUWSA elections has been low, averaging about 10 percent of the entire student population. Whether this is through apathy, not giving a fuck, or whatever, it is kinda startling. Over the course of three years here you may never use any of the services but it is a handy insurance policy, especially as this recession thing kicks in.

History

In 1899 when Victoria College was founded, the Victoria College Students’ Society was formed. The original exec was comprised of seven men and five women. The first few years were mainly about fostering clubs like the Debating Society and the rugby team, and at times supporting and offering mild criticism of the World Wars.

It wasn’t until the 60s that VUWSA became a real bastion of radical left-wing thought and action. The change to having a campus of primarily full-time students meant that there was a little bit of extra time and will to protest. The opening of the Student Union Building added an administrative factor to the running of the association.

Radicalism grew over the next decade. Salient took a vocal stance on political matters and printed informative diagrams about how to build bombs and covered issues like abortion, lesbianism and Maori rights. VUWSA also donated some money to the Viet Cong so that they could purchase a tank. In 1975 the VUWSA Trust was founded to aid students with their legal costs.

In 1992 the Student Union Building was renovated at the expense of students. The University handed over its control to a separate entity—The Union—which students have no control over. The Union, aside from its misleading name, has proven unhelpful on many occasions. In 2002 the relationship with VUWSA blew up but since the signing of an agreement in 2006 things have been improving.

The neo-liberal reforms of the late 80s and 90s added to the woes of students. Radicalism declined because students had to start relying on part-time work so they could live. Add onto that increased cost of study that the fourth Labour government sprung on students and you got yourself a doozy of a problem.

These days VUWSA is struggling to stay relevant. While all of the services are widely used there is a strong section of the student population that believe that they shouldn’t be coerced into joining an association which many of them think does nothing for them.

A series of mildly left-wing to self declared “radical socialist” presidents and executives providing many shenanigans that amuse many students have also done a whole lot of good work resolving issues over ownership of the Student Union Building, the growing amount of Student debt and issues with Ngai Tauira.

So take part. VUWSA is your association. Take pride in it. Get involved. Hold the exec accountable. Help out your fellow students and most of all have fun!

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About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

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