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April 27, 2009 | by  | in News |
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VUWSA rejects ANZAC invite

In a decision made fewer than three days out from the day itself, Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) decided to reject an invitation from the Wellington City Council to lay a wreath at this year’s ANZAC Day commemorations.

The decision, made during the weekly VUWSA Exec Meeting, was borne out of a desire not to “arbitrarily” observe events for which there was no formal VUWSA policy on.

VUWSA does not currently have a formal position on officially commemorating ANZAC Day, and this position was considered the “overarching” reason for the rejection.

VUWSA President Jasmine Freemantle said there was no “official mandate from students” to recognise ANZAC Day, despite the association being present during the last five ANZAC Day ceremonies.

“There has been no official mandate from students for VUWSA to recognise ANZAC Day, but a formal movement to do so will be made at Student Representative Council meeting later in the year,” Freemantle said.

During the April 22 VUWSA Exec Meeting, the issue of whether or not a VUWSA representative would be present at this year’s ANZAC Day dawn service was broached with much contention.

VUWSA’s Vice President of Administration Alexander Neilson claimed a wreath would be unnecessary.

“There’s no point in placing a wreath if it has nothing to do with students,” Neilson said during the Thursday 22 Exec meeting.

Neilson went on to explain that Victoria had already “done its part” to commemorate the fallen with the construction of the Memorial Theatre. He went on to suggest the possibility of laying a wreath in the theatre itself, or holding a few moments of silence before the next meeting.

A number of Exec members were vehemently against the idea of laying a wreath, saying it was not VUWSA policy to condone war.

Vice President of Education, Freya Eng, expressed concern for the association’s reputation.

“I don’t want to look like we support war at all,” she said.

Neilson offered a consolation whereby the association laid a “small” wreath as recognition of students who served in the military “and leave it at that.”

2007 VUWSA President Geoff Hayward found the 2009 Exec’s decision offensive.

“As an individual, I’m appalled with the decision, not because it’s a flip-flop of what has been acknowledged by VUWSA as commemorating the loss of so many young lives in war, including former VUW students, an acknowledgement going back several decades, but the hijacking of the day to advance a political viewpoint,” Hayward said.

“[This is] at a time when people are acknowledging the sacrifice, and not the ideologies that may have led to their sacrifice. They are being so selfish for having dissenting views, when those who died gave up the ability to hold them, and gave students today a chance to express them.”

The university sports a long and storied history of involvement in military service. Male students were required to undergo territorial training during World War II, following the completion of exams. 290 students are known to have lost their lives during the conflict.

In 1942, the Victoria University of Wellington Students Association actively engaged in raising money for the Patriotic Fund, which financed all the work done by the YMCA and the Church Army during the World War II. The association also invested in government stock.

In 2007, ANZAC Day commemorations were marred by a number of anti-war students from Victoria University burning a New Zealand flag on the grounds of the Old Government Buildings, situated across from where dawn services were taking place.

Officials from Victoria University were unavailable to comment at the time of publication.

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Comments (25)

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  1. Compton says:

    Who are these ignorant f*#kwits who think Anzac day is about war?

    It’s about PEOPLE

  2. Compton says:

    So, the VUWSA doesn’t want to be seen to condone war? In that case they should make a fuss about the games featured on the Salient home page: COD-World at War=Brutality, Dawn of War 2, Age of Chivalry and Manhunt. Come on VUWSA, do something about this despicable glorification of the imperialist warmachine! Consistency now!

  3. Mike says:

    The exec wastes no time in condoning student booze ups but can’t find time to honour previous generations of young kiwi men and women who went away in order to stand up and protect the very freedoms the students now enjoy. How many Victoria University students are currently giving up their boozing time to put an end the numerous conflicts that are currently occurring on nearly every continent around the globe. None!!! Naive students. Wake up guys. Wars are reality – hand-wringing and finger pointing won’t change a thing – nor will needless boozing.

  4. Steve says:

    Anzac day is a time for paying respect, not only have the exec failed miserably to pay respect, they have insulted a lot of New Zealanders.

    SHAME on you exec.

  5. Jono says:

    F@*K you VUWSA. All you ever do is make VUW look bad, especially in the public eye. Can’t believe I still pay you w@#kers every year. And what do we get in return. Sweet f@#k all

  6. poi says:

    VUWSA peps need to be kicked out if they are going to make decisions like this – they are not representing anyone but themselves and their own agendas – good one guys – you just showed how dumb you really are – shame on you all – narrow minded ignorant fools – next election I hope you are all out – YOU SUCK

  7. Gertie says:

    Wow. They chose a course of action that had no benefit for anyone, least of all themselves. Did they do it so they could sleep in? Or are they just missing the majority of their brain cells?

    “There’s no point in placing a wreath if it has nothing to do with students,” Alexander Neilson, do you really believe that? You should not be in any position of power. You’re way too wanky.

    And obviously Freya has no idea what ANZAC Day actually means. It’s remembering a sacrifice, not cheering for guns. Grow a brain.

    Honestly, you elected these people as representatives? Poor, poor Victoria. You definitely got the retarded end of the stick when it came to student leaders. Better luck next year.

  8. matt says:

    Why do we pay for these ignorant twats? It obviously isn’t the way most students feel. How did these morns get into uni??

  9. Norm Edwards says:

    I am a recent graduate from VUW, an older student that served for over 20 years in the Armed Forces as well as service overseas. Well, the executive of VUWSA is a disgrace. I had actually intended to return to VUW to undertake more study but I can’t put my hand on my heart and do that given that the VUWSA does not seem to understand what ANZAC Day is all about. I certainly would not be forced to pay (compulstory) VUWSA fees towards an organisation that burns to the ground every principle I have ever known of about what ANZAC Day stands for. VUWSA has done itself a great disservice and I fear this one in particular cannot be easily recovered from. I congratulate those students that have protested by posting comments here – at least you have a sense of what ANZAC Day means.

  10. Wayne says:

    I’m appalled and embarrassed to be a graduate of this place…
    Please start administering basic intelligence tests as a pre-requisite for admission to political posit… hang on, oh bugger. Yeah, I guess that horse is already out of the barn.
    Let it be known that these morons do not represent me – I am deeply grateful for the sacrifice of our soldiers and I will not forget it.

  11. Hadyn Nicholls says:

    To the left wing tree huggers on executive, your act of un-patriotism is discgraceful. Men and women have fallen for this country to stop us falling into the hands of other countries who would not allow us the freedom of speech we have now. Laying a wreath does not mean condoning war, your ignorance of this is astounding, maybe you should leave university as you are neither mature enough or smart enough to be there, while you are at it, leave the country too. You are an insult to this nation and no doubt part of the namby pamby cooton wool group. You attitudes are not representative of the student body – you are there for the students,not yourselves.I have been involved with the Student Unions and this attitude coudn’t be further from the ideal we upheld.

  12. Rangi says:

    This is the future of academia in NZ? What a joke! “No formal position on ANZAC day”? DO YOU NEED ONE?? What is happening is VUWSA is concerned about mandate & appearance on this issue. Which leaves the question “where is good judgment?” Is it that VUWSA are unpatriotic? I hope not, inept without policy or mandate? maybe, stupid? I think not, rather I think they just couldn’t be bothered getting off their arses, waking up early & attending the dawn parade.
    So from this we get – Lazy, inept, stupid, unpatriotic with a clear gap in good decision making. Im actually at the more moderate end of the average Kiwi. Im sorry but, you deserve all the negative press you get.
    Rangi…

  13. Giles Whitaker says:

    Well, done, VUWSA, for having the courage to actually stimulate some debate around this sacred cow. There is an element of glorification of war around the ANZAC day celebrations. At the very least, you could say there is a lack of crtitical debate or reflection around this time – why did these wars happen, and how can we make sure they don’t happen again? Yes, the individuals themselves did make sacrifices for what they believed were noble causes. The idea of commemoration isn’t a bad one, but without the ability to reflect and debate the wars and their causes, aren’t we missing an incredibly valuable opportunity? There’s an amazing historical tradition of students at universities leading the way in questioning ideologies and stimulating debate. I’m glad to see this tradition is being kept alive. Do we really want an ideological monoculture?

    Giles Whitaker (student at Vic)

  14. Mike says:

    Giles .. firstly, I am not aware of ever (I’m 40 – so I’ve seen a few ANZAC days) seeing any instance of glorication of war at ANZAC Day. On the contrary it is a very solemn time – try attending a dawn parade and you might get a better idea of what the day is about. Secondly, there is plenty of debate on the merits of war etc. If the University has a library, and if you can find your way to it, have a look around the section that house books on WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War etc. Wars are a product of their time and the circumstances prevailing at the time. Thousands of young (most only 16yrs – 25 yrs old) NZer’s went to war to protect their families, the British Empire and our Freedom – simple as that. Thirdly, wars will unfortunately always happen. There are several occuring around the World right now. Most of the Worlds major forces (USA, Russia, Britian etc) are firing guns somewhere around the World. That’s the way it is, and will always be.

  15. Mark says:

    What were you thinking?! ANZAC day is a day to pay our respects to those that gave their lives to protect others rights. I join the others in saying that this blatant example of disrespect to these fallen heros is completely disgusting. I expect to see, in the near future, some resignations over this stupidity. This is highly, highly offensive.

  16. Junior says:

    Dog tucker. You condone war by your arrogance and inaction. The most anti-war people you will ever meet are soldiers. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who train, and fight and suffer directly from conflict and have to live with the personal consequences of it. You sicken me. Talk to those who have been there… you forget the mistakes of the past, the things which have driven and continue to drive human beings into war, then it continues… You do nothing to prevent it happening now or in the future. And so, people continue to suffer due to your idealistic fantasy world. I’ve faced protesters while they condemn my mates. You have no idea and make judgments on things you know nothing about… Keep living in your perfect wee world… You’re in good company, and that is why war continues to destroy us. Glorification? – you sick bastards. I have to leave now…

  17. Laura McQuillan says:

    ANZAC Day to me means a community gathering to remember the horrors of war, and remembering why it’s important that we ensure we never go to war again.

  18. Giles Whitaker says:

    No need to resort to personal abuse, Mike (the comment about the library). Actually, I have a few degrees, with the highest honours grades. Ideologies are also a product of their times. And it seems we aren’t allowed to question the currently prevailing one about ANZAC day with being subjected to insults.

  19. Electrum Stardust says:

    I voted in the online poll in favour of laying a wreath, but at the same time, this episode ought not degenerate into a right-wing type, pro-VSM (and other things right-wing types are pro-),free-for-all.

    At the very least, something along the lines of the 1973 wreath presented by then VUWSA President Peter Wilson would suffice:

    “To the dead and the dying in the struggle against imperialism [militarism, nationalism etc.], victory shall be theirs”.

    Nobody would seriously argue with that sentiment (except, of course, imperialists, militarists, nationalists etc.).

    They could even quote from, say, Wilfred Owen (himself a victim of that senseless slaughter):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dulce_et_Decorum_Est

    ‘ Owen, in the final stanza, asserts that, should readers see what he has seen, they would no longer see fit to instill visions of glorious warfare in young men’s heads. No longer would they tell their children the “Old Lie,” so long ago told by the Roman poet Horace: “Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori” (“It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country”) ‘

  20. Mike says:

    Giles – I have a few degrees too. ANZAC Day is not a sacred cow – it’s a commemoration – simple as that. ANZAC Day is about being thankful for individuals giving their life so that others can live in peace. Is it too much too ask that we remember young kiwis who willingly gave their lives for others (including those living in other nations)? I’m extremely appreciative of their sacrifice.

  21. Giles Whitaker says:

    Maybe. I’m not saying we should or we shouldn’t. All I was saying is that I appreciated VUWSA recognising that there are a range of viewpoints within the student body, and that it shouldn’t **automatically** take a certain position. Maybe after reasoned debate it would decide to send a wreath – but it’s great to have that debate rather than just assuming things.

    Another debate is the apropriateness of current commemorations and whether they are reflective enough. Do they stimulate real debate about war and its causes, or are people expected to be just struck dumb with gratitude? All good questions. I’m certainly glad this debate has been raised.

  22. Mike says:

    The points you make are all valid. There’s not much more I can say.

  23. Padre Hamish Kirk says:

    The debate as to the wisdom of the VUWSA Ex recent actions is best left for its members to decide.

    ANZAC day started off as an informal memorial- just by the sheer number of grieving families waking early on the anniversary to grieve. Then the custom of dawn parades developed. The most risky and fearful time in a soldiers life is that gap between night and day- the half light being the time when the enemy was most likely to attack. During this time the soldiers “stand to”. This meant out of bed, lying armed in defensive positions. It was a time of absolute quite, of listening for movement, of lying alone among comrades thinking of and missing home. A time of fearing what the day might bring.

    ANZAC day belongs to soldiers, sailors and air personnel alone. It is their day. It does not belong to the state, nor to the defence force. Almost all ANZAC commemorations of various sorts are organised by the RSA on behalf of the returned! It is a politically free day…a day of grieving.

    The day a society gives away grieving for its war dead is the day that society is closer to rush head long into war.

    It would be appropriate that next ANZAC day, someone from Vic will front up with a clear conscience to lay a wreath.

    One could say a lot more…………

  24. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Giles Whitaker:
    “Yes, the individuals themselves did make sacrifices for what they believed were noble causes. The idea of commemoration isn’t a bad one, but without the ability to reflect and debate the wars and their causes, aren’t we missing an incredibly valuable opportunity?”

    “I appreciated VUWSA recognising that there are a range of viewpoints within the student body, and that it shouldn’t **automatically** take a certain position. Maybe after reasoned debate it would decide to send a wreath – but it’s great to have that debate rather than just assuming things.”

    “Another debate is the apropriateness of current commemorations and whether they are reflective enough. Do they stimulate real debate about war and its causes, or are people expected to be just struck dumb with gratitude? All good questions. I’m certainly glad this debate has been raised.”

    Well put, good sir, well put. Your views are refreshing and thought-provoking.

    Cheers, Matt.

  25. Mum says:

    I’ve been reading these comments with much interest. Initially I was appalled at the attitude of VUWSA but gradually I chilled out and looked at their point of view and thought, “okay, I see where you’re coming from, even though I don’t agree with you.”
    What I think VUWSA have not fully appreciated is the wide reaching impact their decision has caused. Nor have they considered the reputation of the University and the affect they have on it. My eldest child is looking at attending university next year and Victoria is one of her choices. We live at the opposite end of the country and VUWSA’s seemingly appropriate (in their eyes) decision has reached us here in the North. While reading the comments I am discovering that membership to this group is compulsory; that the representatives of this association do not appear to consider the consequences of their actions as well as they could be. This often occurs when like-minded people sit in a room and agree on everything without speaking to those concerned. I suggest you get amongst the people you actually represent because MANY of them here are disillusioned with your actions and feel they are not being rightfully represented. They are angry with your actions, angry that they are forcibly required to pay for the choices you are making and that your representation is misguided and self-serving.
    As a prospective parent who is likely to be paying for this very same compulsory ‘service’ next year I can truthfully say I will be scrutinising your actions more closely. It will be one of the things we take into consideration when looking at tertiary education next year.
    Think before you act and as many students have already pointed out, it’s not like you didn’t know ANZAC day was coming, get more organised, prepare well and talk, talk, talk to the people you represent…the students.

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