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August 17, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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Campaigns officer’s column

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Hi. So last week, in collaboration with the newly established Free Palestine group, VUWSA coordinated a week of campaigns themed around the issue of Palestine. On Tuesday we staged a mock IDF checkpoint in the quad to raise awareness of Israel’s routine harrassment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. At this checkpoint IDF soldiers frisked students for weapons and explosives, demanded to see ‘papers’ and generally harassed people attempting to move through the blockade. Several arrests were made, and one Norman Penaia was summarily executed for being Palestinian. On Tuesday evening the Free Palestine group held their AGM and elected an Executive, and on Wednesday VUWSA held a Student Representative Council meeting to discuss the issue of Palestine.

During the SRC an interesting point was made by one speaker, that being that the situation in Palestine does not affect the students of Victoria University and therefore does not concern their student’s association. It was further argued that at a time when the University is making major cut-backs to education, including the termination of the English Language major, to devote a week to a distant middle-Eastern conflict is criminal.

Admittedly, this is a valid observation and a fair point. VUW senior administration has for a long time been working against the interests of its students. Since the introduction of user-pays in the early 90s the government has consistently failed to provide VUW with the level of funding it requires to provide high-quality, affordable education. In response the University has sporadically sent a ‘strongly worded submission’ to government opposing underfunding, before proceeding to hike student fees and slash budgets to cover the costs. The termination of the English Language major, and the lesser known termination of the Social Science Research Programme, are part of a broad historical trend towards expensive, sub-standard tertiary education in New Zealand. In addition, under the National Government’s budget tertiary funding will not be increased with CPI equating to the largest funding cut in New Zealand history. The effects of this cut will be seen next year and in subsequent years. Now is the time to fight back. If you are pissed off about the English Language major, or about cut-backs to your course, the Education Action Group meets every Thursday at 11am in the Collins Room. When University Council convenes in September to push through a 5% fee increase for 2010, help VUWSA fight it. We are prepared to do anything to oppose another fee increase, so in September let’s pull out all the stops.

To finish, I’d like to return to the moral of this column. I’d like to quote a random member of the public who spoke from the floor of the SRC in response to the call for VUWSA to focus on education and ignore international politics. He said, ‘students are supposed to be the conscience of society, so don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t talk about something because it doesn’t affect you personally. We are all people of the earth, and we need to fight on behalf of each other.’ Hear hear, random member of the public. Hear hear.

Sam Oldham
Campaigns Officer

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