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July 13, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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President’s Column

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This Wednesday VUWSA will hold a Special General Meeting (SGM) to consider two separate motions: the first to remove me from office as VUWSA President, and the second to remove VUWSA Welfare Officer Robert Latimer.

Under the VUWSA Constitution, the names of 10 (or more) currently enrolled Victoria University students attached to such a petition obligates the VUWSA Executive to hold a SGM for the purpose of putting forward whatever motions they contain.

This particular SGM has been called because 10 students (in the case of both myself and Latimer) signed their names to respective petitions calling for such a meeting to be held.

The meeting must achieve a quorum of at least 100 students in order for the motions to be considered, and at least 2/3rds of those students participating in the meeting are required to vote in favour to ‘roll’ me in order for the motion/s to pass (i.e. to remove me, or indeed, Latimer, from office).

The last time this happened was in 1988, when then President Nigel Mander was removed from office by a meeting of 400 students.

A rolling, then, is fairly unusual. While several other rolling motions have been put forward since then – such as against Education Vice-President Jennifer Jones and Activities Officer Scott Trainor in the early 2000s – not a single Executive member has been removed from office for over 20 years.

This may surprise you. Certainly, there are plenty of times that the President probably should have been rolled.

Examples include former President Geoff Hayward who, in 2007, spent over $20 thousand dollars of unapproved student money on pimping out the VUWSA van. Or last year, when 2008 President Joel Cosgrove used student money to finance a trip to Australia (under the somewhat ironic guise) of undertaking research into the state of voluntary students’ associations, when in reality he spent his time at two socialist junkets.

By contrast, those familiar with VUWSA will know that I am considered a fairly popular President, certainly more so than my recent predecessors.

I was elected President on a platform of building a sustainable and accountable students’ association. I have actively worked towards achieving this every day of my term to date.
I have little interest in petty politics, which has helped me win support (and I believe, assurance that VUWSA is doing a good job) from members of political parties across the spectrum.

However, my year so far has been far from easy. The Association I inherited had seen better days, to put it mildly.

Joel Cosgrove left me with a bunch of outstanding grievances from VUWSA staff members, an extremely messy collective agreement with Unite Union, and a complete lack of even the most basic organizational functions and procedures (for instance, when I started on 1 January 2009 I discovered that Joel hadn’t even checked his landline or cell phone messages since September 2008).

I have now settled the grievances and the VUWSA-Unite collective which Joel failed to address, and have made steady progress towards a complete overhaul of VUWSA’s governance, management, and operations. So far this year, I have (amongst other things):

  • Designed and implemented two major staffing restructures. This has seen the creation of a new Advocacy Office, which includes three specialist staff members providing students increased advocacy services, dedicated representative group support, and strengthened class representative and delegate systems. I have also created an Association Manager position, to help provide the Association with clear administrative and strategic support, and to clarify the previously indistinguishable (and dangerous) governance/management split
  • Overhauled and improved core VUWSA’s functions, such as the Food Bank and class representative training
  • Developed and implemented VUWSA’s first ever Strategic and Operational Plan, in order to provide the Executive with direction in line with VUWSA’s constitutional goals
  • Worked with student radio station The VBC 88.3fm and with the University to host regular on-campus events and a greater variety of off-campus events
  • For more examples, you can check out my weekly work reports at www.vuwsa.org.nz

Strangely, those that are attempting to roll me have still not provided a single substantiated reason for wanting to do so.

All they’ve managed to produce is a few murmurs on the Salient blog about VUWSA ‘spending too much money on legal fees’, and the odd mention claiming that I ‘lack accountability’.

The latter claim is completely unfounded. As part of an initial review of how the VUWSA Executive reports on what we do and how we communicate with students, I developed and implemented the following:

  • Weekly written work reports by all Executive members (which are on the VUWSA website; a blog function will also be added shortly so that students and other interested parties can easily provide feedback)
  • Monthly and quarterly reviews by all Executive members against the Strategic and Operational Plan
  • I have also restarted weekly Student Representative Council (SRC) meetings, which have been held every week during term time this year. These meetings provide students with a regular opportunity to pose questions of Executive members and help keep the Executive accountable to the student body.

The first claim about legal fees is even more ridiculous. Granted, VUWSA has run over budget on legal fees. However, almost all (I’d say roughly 95%) of VUWSA’s 2009 legal expenditure has been as a direct result of Joel Cosgrove (and to a lesser extent, Geoff Hayward) leaving the Association in a right royal mess. You can read more about the ins and outs of this on my blog: expelledfromworkersparty.blogspot.com

If you would like further information about the work that I’ve done as President and what I hope to achieve for students in the future, please e-mail me at: president@vuwsa.org.nz or give me a call on 463 6986. I look forward to continuing as President, and encourage all students to attend the SGM and exercise your vote.
In solidarity and service,

pressig

The SGM will be held on Wednesday 15 July, 1pm, at the Mount Street Bar, Level 1, Student Union Building. Readers may also be interested in tuning into The VBC 88.3fm at 9.30am this Wednesday for a special Jasmine v Robert debate, chaired by Breakfast host, Yadana Saw.

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