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September 28, 2009 | by  | in Features |
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When Alan met Max

There’s $2 million, 25,000 students, a wacky exec, and the spectre of voluntary student membership sitting on the horizon—and these guys want in on the ground floor.

Salient News Editor Michael John Oliver sat down with the two remaining candidates for VUWSA President 2010, Max Hardy and Alan Young, to find out why in the name of god they want to be the next Jasmine Freemantle.

Michael John Oliver: Why do you want to be President of VUWSA?

Alan Young: Well, everyone seems to not know what the president does, and I want to be the person who tells them, because everyone seems to be able to communicate with me quite easily, being a class rep, being a campus coach, just seems that all these conversations…just to get their opinions, because their opinions matter.

MJO: So, do you know what the President of VUWSA does?

AY: At the moment, I don’t know. I’m not too sure. I’ve never been part of VUWSA, so, I’m coming in from a fresh perspective.

Max Hardy: Well, to put it very politely, many students do not hold their students’ association in very high esteem, and they have not in a number of years. I find that very disappointing because in my brief contact with VUWSA, I’ve come to believe that what VUWSA does is in the very best interest of students, and to the great benefit of students. It means committing to environmental sustainability and a fair-trade campus, and it means providing students with articulate and principled advocacy.

MJO: What qualifies you to be President?

AY: Well, uh, I’m easy to communicate with, and you know, tell me what change they want. They can easily communicate and get opinions. And that’s why I want to take these opinions, put them together, and find the best solution to what they want, reach in the middle for what everyone wants, because everyone’s got different wants and different opinions.

MJO: But how does your experience—as a class rep, for example—qualify you to be this association’s President?

AY: Being a class rep, quite simply, anyone could talk to me. Like, if they had any problems with anything with the whole of the uni and that was quite good because they could talk about their problems, I could try and find a solution to their problems, and that’s what I can take to VUWSA.

MH: The reason I think I’d be a good President because I am approachable. In those two months as Administration Vice President, I’ve built up knowledge of what VUWSA does, and I have really good ideas about how to move the association forward.

AY: So, what have you done in those two months?

MH: As the Administration Vice President, I implemented new financial policies at VUWSA, that will be more accountable to students, and VUWSA’s finances are now more accountable and understandable to the exec. I also implemented better budgeting practices, as well as better student consultation processes, and the ability to have their say on the [VUWSA] budget. I started developing work on VUWSA’s waste management plan, and I explained to our exec how our finances ran. So I think I achieved a lot in the short time I was there.

MJO: But you will admit there is a gulf of difference between the level of work an Admin VP does and the work the President is expected to do.

MH: Oh, absolutely.

MJO: Do you feel that that work has adequately prepared you for the role of President?

MH: I think I would rely on the help and support of other people at VUWSA. We have an Association Manager, who I’ll be relying on, and I’ll be relying a lot on Jasmine Freemantle in the induction process. But a lot of the skills I’ve acquired as Admin VP will transfer over too.

MJO: What is your vision for VUWSA in 2010?

AY: Just to make it more transparent, just to make it more cost-effective.

MJO: What ideas do you have in mind?

AY: Well, apparently, you have executive bonuses? [to Max] Is that correct? Like, executive bonuses? Like, do you have executive bonuses? I’ve been told you have executive bonuses.

MJO: So, you’re not 100% sure if the exec is awarded bonus payments?

AY: No, I’m not sure, because I’m coming from a fresh perspective. But… a lot could be cut from administration, and these resources could be more spent on the food bank, you know?

MJO: What administration costs do you think are superfluous?

AY: [pause] Well, my supporters say we could cut down on a few positions.

MJO: Such as?

AY: [pause] I’ll… I’ll have to discuss, because I’ll have to know by getting in…as [Max] said “induction”… I’ll have to be trained by Jasmine Freemantle into the structure to learn more about, you know, the budget.

MH: I want to build a VUWSA that all students can be proud to be members of, and that means making it a vibrant organisation that responds to what students want.

MJO: Could you give me a couple of examples?

MH: I believe VUWSA is cost-effective, but it can be more cost effective, and there are a number of places that we can cut costs if students thought that was necessary, but I will be seeking a student mandate before cutting any money from VUWSA.

AY: Seriously, people don’t actually know what you do! They don’t actually know where their money is going, and that’s why I’m all for voluntary student membership.

MJO: [to Alan] Are you aware that the exec meeting minutes, as well as the association’s budget, are both available online?

AY: Oh really? Cool. Could you give the link after this? That’s great, you know, let people know that it’s on there. That’s awesome.

MJO: Max, are you in favour of VSM?

MH: I fully support students having the choice as to whether they want a students’ association. I fully support a referendum giving students the right to choose. Personally, I don’t support voluntary membership because it would decimate our association and I don’t think that’s in the best interest of students.

MJO: How do both of you respond to those who say VUWSA’s current method of measuring student support through quorums isn’t representational?

MH: With any organisation you’re not going to get all your members along. There will always be more members who’ll be available and be able to get directly involved in the governance. I strongly believe VUWSA needs to promote those events. If you build an association people are proud of, then you will see more people turn up to those events.

MJO turns to AY for his response. Silence.

AY: Could you explain what you mean by quorums and that?

MH explains General Meetings, Initial General Meetings, and Student Rep­resentative Councils to AY, who admits to have never participated in any before.

AY: 100 doesn’t seem very much, eh?

MJO: You’d like to see the quorum number increase?

AY: Yeah, I’d like to see it go up, because it doesn’t seem representative.

MJO: 200? 300?

AY: [thinks] Probably… yeah, I’d put it up. 200 out of 19,000 or so.

MH: [quietly] 25,000…

AY: 25,000?! Exactly! And if you can’t get 100, that’s pretty disappointing. But I believe I could get more. I reckon double, at least.

MJO: What is your assessment of the government’s position on tertiary education?

AY: Aren’t they cutting the funding to tertiary education? [long drawn-out pause] I’m not for cutting the costs of tertiary education.

MH: I don’t support any government that cuts tertiary education funding, because I believe every citizen has a right to education. I believe the current debt structure of tertiary education is not sustainable and limits the number of people who are available to get a tertiary education in New Zealand—that’s not good for New Zealand, and that’s not good for the individual either.

MJO: Over the past few years, VUWSA elections have experienced low participation rates. How would you seek to rectify that if you were elected?

MH: VUWSA needs to do a better job of getting its message out there, of responding to students better, and letting students know what they’re doing. If you have that level of engagement with students, then they’ll get out there and vote.

MJO: Do you think the style of engagement needs to change?

MH: I think that’s definitely part of it. We need to be a vibrant organisation.

AY: I think it’s got a lot to do with the negative publicity VUWSA gets. Like, with the wreath, and Joel Cosgrove, and that’s why we need basic common sense.

MJO: As President, how would you engage with other campuses? Pipitea, Te Aro and Karori?

AY: I was just down at Pipitea today talking with some of the commerce students.

MH: Once you’re elected?

AY: Oh yeah, but I’m always around! Once I get elected, I can spend time talking to students, because my office is… is at Kelburn… and I can easily go to other campuses because they’re within reach.

MH: I don’t believe as President that I’d have the time to talk to 25,000 students and explain to them what VUWSA is doing, and that’s why VUWSA is a larger organisation than just one person. I think the satellite offices of VUWSA at Pipitea and Karori need to be strengthened, like introducing the bread and food bank service, and there might other services too.

MJO: How would you both describe VUWSA’s role within NZUSA? Are students getting bang for their buck on a national level?

AY: I don’t know enough about that to comment.

MH: I think it’s important students have a national voice that can bring student issues to the government, and we need to ensure that the money we put towards NZUSA is worth it. At the moment, I think they do, but we need to constantly check to see that it is worth it.

MJO: VUWSA’s President not only leads the Executive, but oversees a staff of workers. What experiences do both of you have as a leader of a team and as a manager of staff?

AY: I’ve been through the Campus Coaches program, and I’m also a handball player, and I’ve led a team through that. We’ve got a tournament in October, and I’m organising transportation for that, so that’s quite important—

MJO: What about in terms of the workplace?

AY: Managerial experience? No, none.

MH: Apart from my brief time as Administration Vice President, I haven’t had any experience with leading a team of any kind. And that’s why I will rely a lot on the support of others, including the outgoing President, and the Association Manager.

MJO: What kind of office environment would you look to foster at VUWSA?

AY: Just a friendly, approachable environment, where everyone’s welcome. None of the bickering that I see in Salient, keeping it, you know, ending all these little feuds. I’m definitely for cooperation, getting the talk going, and getting opinions.

MH: I think VUWSA needs to be a vibrant, accessible place, where every person who works for VUWSA feels encouraged. Everybody deserves respect at VUWSA, and every student who comes in should feel like they’re walking into their student association.

MJO: Do you have any questions to ask of each other?

MH: I understand you support voluntary student membership?

AY: Yeah, definitely.

MH: So… are you aware of the consequences of voluntary membership? Do you think that VUWSA should no longer provide orientation? Should no longer fund Salient? Should no longer support Victoria Broadcasting? Should no longer provide welfare services? Should no longer provide advocacy services? Should no longer provide education support services? Should no longer provide representation on university councils and boards? Do you think any of the services VUWSA provides are worth it, and how would you provide them under voluntary membership?

AY: I support, you know, [pause] most of the things you just said, but we don’t need this administration. We don’t need all these offices. But… it’s voluntary… students can choose—it’s putting a check on you, it’s all about the students telling you that if you do a good job we’ll support you, I’ll opt out.

MH: [starts slowly] With due respect, experience across the world suggest that people can’t pay their student association levies through their student loans—which they can’t do if it’s voluntary—they’re not going to show up to their student association with a cheque.

AY: If that means they can keep their money and use it on the services you listed.

MH: None of the services I listed would stay around.

AY: No, I would definitely still support them…

MH: How would you fund them?

AY: People will support them if they’re cost-effective. There’s no reason why people won’t support it. If I don’t do my job well, they can just opt out.

MH: Currently we have a situation where people can opt out…

AY: Called VSM…

MH: No, they can opt out of the association if they want to.

AY: No they can’t, it’s included in our fees.

MH: If you want to opt out, there is a process you can go through to leave the association. It’s in the Act that allows for universal association membership.

AY: Then there should be no problem for VSM if you can opt out now.

MH: Well, no, that’s not what I…

AY: Are you worried that people might think you’re not doing a good job? That others might opt out of your administration?

MH: Anyone can opt out of VUWSA though…

AY: Exactly! If you’re saying that now, but when people opt out.

MH: I think you’ve misunderstood.

MJO: I think we’ll call it a day, guys.

Who are you people?

Max Hardy

AGE: 20
MAJOR: Law, Theatre and History
POLITICAL AFFILIATIONS: Formerly involved with Vic Labour
HISTORY WITH VUWSA: VUWSA Vice-President (Administration) for two months in 2009

Alan Young

AGE: 19
MAJOR: Political Science and International Relations
POLITICAL AFFILIATIONS: None
HISTORY WITH VUWSA: None

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About the Author ()

Kia ora, biography box, kia ora.

Comments (11)

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  1. Estrogen says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA. Oh dear. Max it is then.

  2. Your name says:

    Wow. Alan really doesn’t know anything about VUWSA, VSM, NZUSA, or acronyms in general

  3. Seeking higher education says:

    I like that I can vote for one candidate, and against the other. Indeed this is what I have done.

    Why stand for office when you don’t know anything about the organisation you wish to run?

    Also, why is every novice a populist without the pop by default, and how long does it take them to realise their contradictions-in-statement?

  4. Gibbon says:

    I LIKE ALAN SO MUCH!!!

  5. AnneofGreenGables says:

    Alan = FAIL

  6. Hollius Huntsar says:

    I don’t actually go to Vic, or generally care about the VUWSA, but this Max fellow sounds much more educated and fit for the position.

  7. Stephen Whittington says:

    Alan was obviously terrible, but his point about VSM at the end was correct. If it’s so easy to opt out now, then what’s their fear with VSM?

  8. Nehpets Notgnittihw says:

    Max sets it out quite clearly. Under VSM, students will no longer be able to pay their levy with their student loan. A lot of students don’t have that kind of capital – ironically, those most in need of many of VUWSA’s services.

  9. Jemima says:

    Ironically, if students value the service they will join it, not just for the “essential” services (which are already run by other operators and whose operations could easily be picked up by other operators) but for the things like advocacy and representation. Even at a stretch VUWSA could push that you get cool things like… SALIENT and the VBC and FREE SAUSAGES because of it.

    VSM isn’t the death of students associations or their services. It just means a recalibration of the way in which such organisations work. The “leaders” who are crying out “NOOOO THIS IS THE DEATH OF STUDENTS ASSOCIATIONS” are blind if they can’t see the opportunities inherent in this move.

    Legitimacy is just one of the advantages.

  10. Nehpets Notgnittihw says:

    You have missed the point completely, Jemima. Sure, under VSM, many students will want to join VUWSA but won’t be able to, because they don’t have the means to. Perhaps you do, but you’re one of the few.

    Additionally, the essential services would cost more, and wouldn’t be as good. students associations survive on 100’s of volunteer hours a week. You can’t do this with employed staff.

    Under VSM, many students associations wouldn’t have the capital anymore to be able to offer as good advocacy services. If it were to happen anything like it did at Auckland University, people will still be allowed to join even if they don’t contribute a levy, meaning just as much demand but not the means to cover it.

    And I don’t really understand your comment re ‘pushing’ to have Salient/VBC/free sausages (the latter of which is, by the way, one of the tiniest parts of what VUWSA does), but, ONCE AGAIN, Salient nor the VBC would be in very good shape let alone exist at all if it wasn’t for the contribution from VUWSA.

    Your argument just doesn’t add up, quite frankly.

  11. Sean says:

    Great interview Michael.

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