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May 18, 2009 | by  | in News |
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Students boycott lecture to protest cuts

In a resounding indictment from students against the slicing of teaching resources across Victoria University of Wellington, members of CRIM211: Introduction to Criminal Thought staged a boycott of their 2pm lecture last Friday.

The protest, designed to draw attention both to the dearth of teaching resources available across the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, was the brainchild of CRIM211 Class Representative Samara Martin and Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) Welfare Advocacy Organiser Seann Paurini.

Martin stressed that the situation in CRIM211 had become so dire that classmates felt no alternative but to speak out. “The nature of criminology, being an introductory course, means there is an immense amount of information,” she said.

“What I’ve heard about is students being incredibly stressed. There’s a lot of information coming in through lectures and there’s no opportunity to consolidate it all. There are people walking out of lectures feeling even more confused than when they went in.”

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences received a $200k budget cut in 2009 comparable to its 2008 expenditure. The cut has led to a number of teaching resources being compromised or scratched completely.

Despite the cuts, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Humanities Deborah Willis told Salient that she did not believe that the quality of education offered by the university had been compromised.

“We are still providing the same standard of education as in previous years. The opportunity to interact with other students and with staff about the content of a course is a key learning opportunity that the university values highly,” Willis said.

Unsurprisingly, Martin failed to agree with the Pro-Vice Chancellor’s assessment.

“The standard of education has been absolutely compromised,” she said.

“It brings us to the question ‘What are we here for? Is this a learning institution or what?’”

CRIM211, which once enjoyed 11 weekly tutorials, has had that number reduced by almost half at a rate of “about 1 a month.”

“There is a problem given that we only have 6 tutorials, if for any reason a student can’t make it on a particular day and wants to change over, we’re not allowed to because of health and safety problems. You have to completely forego, you don’t have an opportunity to make it up,” Martin said.

Martin sought the assistance of VUWSA’s Seann Paurini and Campaigns Officer Sam Oldham 4 weeks into the trimester. She described the response to their concerns from Associate Professor Jenny Neale, the Head of the School of Social and Cultural Studies, as frosty.

“We spoke to [Neale] about things, and her response was basically ‘Live with it’,” Martin recalled.

“It would’ve been about two weeks before the holidays that we contacted Sam [Oldham], but I was talking to Seann Paurini first. They organised meetings with the Head of School and they got the same story from her as well. She didn’t want to talk about it.”

Further complications have arisen with the kind of assessment offered in the course. With teaching resources at a premium, the amount of time for regular assessment has been sliced in kind.

“Dr Fiona Hutting, the course convener, put up the CRIM211 Blackboard site about 4 weeks before school started which had all these mini tests throughout the whole trimester. But at the last minute, she had to change it because she didn’t have the time to mark those sorts of things. It had to be changed to one comprehension and one essay,” Martin said.

“Because we’ve only had one assessment, people haven’t been able to get enough support feedback. A lot of people are thinking, ‘Oh god, I can’t do this subject! I’m useless!’ It really isn’t good enough, and it’s a real shame that it’s come to this.”

At the time of production, the boycott was to consist of Martin, and other members of the CRIM211 course dispensing pamphlets to “create awareness” of the inclement learning climate, and some staff from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences were also expected to appear in support.

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Kia ora, biography box, kia ora.

Comments (2)

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  1. Jackson Wood says:

    For some reason this page disappeared. Weird. Once again apologies to Sam for getting his last name wrong in the print edition.

    Sam Oldham. Not “Oldman”

  2. Simon Danger says:

    He’ll never be an oldman vuwsa.

    I’m on the drug. I’m on the drug that killed River Phoenix.

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