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October 5, 2009 | by  | in News |
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VSM debate fun for all the family

Last week’s voluntary student membership debate, “That this house would introduce voluntary student membership (VSM)” was a hotbed of desk thumping, hear-hears and smug interjections.

The debate, hosted by Victoria’s Debating Society, played host to the voices of ACT Party MP David Garrett, ACT on Campus’ Peter “IT’S A SLUSHIE!” McCaffrey and student debater Stephen Whittington for the affirmative.

The negative comprised President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Helen Kelly, Vic Labour member Nicola Wood, and student debater Seb Templeton.

Newly-elected VUWSA President Max Hardy was to speak for the negative, but withdrew, suggesting his appearance could be construed as campaigning.

ACT’s David Garret opened proceedings by saying ACT weren’t against students associations, rather the compulsory nature of them.

“How can you claim to represent someone who was forced to join your association?” Garrett asked.

“Voluntary membership of student associations will give students the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they wish to join a student association.”

ACT on Campus’ Peter McCaffrey noted that by campaigning against the bill, VUWSA was misrepresenting those with a fondness for VSM. Citing the New Zealand Bill of Rights, McCaffrey insisted that students had been denied a right to association through compulsion.

“[The Bill of Rights] doesn’t say you have the right to freedom of association if the majority of other students say you have that right, it says you have that right. It doesn’t say you have the right to opt out, it says you have it.

“It’s not about what the majority wants, it’s about what individuals want for themselves,” McCaffrey said.

Student debater Stephen Whittington questioned the loss of freedom and the politically-charged nature of students’ associations.

“This is a debate how students should contribute to society. Why should those students who support the A-Team have their funds forcibly removed from them and then to support the political campaigns undertaken by student associations?”

Whittington also discussed the difficulty students faced in opting out of an association.

“You can opt out for reasons prescribed by law, which says you must justify it on philosophical or religious grounds. I know of no religion that says Joel Cosgrove is an idiot, and I know no philosophy that says that. When you prescribe the reasons you can opt out of something, you don’t give people choice.”

For the negative, Trade Unions President Helen Kelly made note of the political dabbling shaping the pro-VSM argument.

“ACT want to remove the opposition to its tertiary policies.

“ACT don’t care about campus communities, the role of students’ associations play in giving students a voice. ACT knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing,” she said.

Vic Labour member Nicola Wood refuted the claim that students’ associations chequered past was the fault of the system itself.

“A bad association doesn’t create a bad person, and a bad person in an association is not a reason to change it.

“We think it is dangerous to judge policy on its intent and not its outcomes,” Wood said.

Student debater Seb Templeton took umbrage with the assertion students’ associations led to members losing control over the shape and form of the association.

“People have democratic control over it—they get to mitigate the loss of their freedom of association. They have direct control over the sort of association they buy into,” he said.

Predictably enough, the audience was split on a winner. This house, as it extends to VSM, remains but a house.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Sarah Bedingfield says:

    Nicola was great. She is going places. She was a top notch debater. So was Seb. The rest were all a bit dull really.

  2. Rodgered says:

    Is it true that VUWSA now Officially supports VSM?

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