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July 19, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Editorial

Editorial

This week is VUWSA’s environment week. It’s kind of like women’s week, but with trees and ocean and stuff. This is the environment issue of Salient. It’s nothing like the women’s issue at all. And I’m not going to write about the environment. You’ve got the rest of the magazine to read all about that.

How about tertiary education? That’s something we all have in common.

You’ll see in the news section we’ve got a lot of coverage of Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce’s speech at Vic last week. Leaving the content of his speech aside, it’s nice to see a Tertiary Education Minister actually front up and talk to the key stakeholders in the sector.

Joyce also addressed the recent NZUSA Conference, a gesture which indicates he is at least willing to engage constructively with students and students’ associations on tertiary education issues. Joyce hasn’t shied away from student media either, which is a marked difference from the infamous Anne Tolley. Tolley got herself a bit of a rep last year after Salient, Craccum and Critic embarked on the so-called ‘Great Tolley Hunt’ in an attempt to track her down for comment. Kia ora Steven, kia ora—thanks for talking to us, even if we don’t always see eye-to-eye on your plans for tertiary education.

One of the main talking points of Joyce’s speech is the compulsory fee charged to students for non-academic services, AKA, the student services levy. The mainstream media has jumped on the levy bandwagon of late, helped in part by a One News story featuring a student who said they were “bullied” into paying the compulsory student services levy and students’ association membership fee. Together these fees add up to about $700, which is no small sum of money, but it’s important to remember what exactly it pays for.

Let’s take the student services levy. The $510 you forked out at the beginning of this year—go and check your fees assessment, it’s there—funds stuff like student health, the counselling service, accommodation services, disability services, student learning support services, financial support and advice, recreation services and crèches, among others. These are essential support services, and without them, many students would find studying at Vic even more of a challenge, if near impossible.

I would suggest that many students don’t fully understand what the student services levy pays for and provides—with a greater understanding of the services provided by the university, which are there for our benefit, we may see fewer instances of students feeling outraged that they are forced to pay a fee for services they say they don’t need or don’t use. In the end, while you may not be using the services yourself, you probably have a friend, flatmate, neighbour or classmate who has made use of the services funded by the student services levy. You never know when you might find yourself in financial strife. You never know when you might need to see a doctor. Heck, you might just want some help on an essay to try to up your grades.

We need to tread carefully on the issue of compulsory fees for non-academic services. We need to think about affordability. We need to think carefully about what services are not only of benefit to us personally, but are of benefit to fellow students. We’re pretty much one big family after all. We’ve gotta look out for each other.

But a couple of final environment-related things: thank you to Zack Dorner, VUWSA’s environment officer, for all his hard work for this issue. You seriously rule and everything was in by deadline. My job/life was made so much easier. Thank you to everyone who contributed articles.

This week we’re doing a limited print run of only 3000 copies of Salient, instead of the usual 5000. Share the magazine around, give it to your friends, put it back in the baskets for someone else to read. It’s our way of easing our environmental burden, even if it’s just a little bit.

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About the Author ()

Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

Comments (1)

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  1. Dan Mallone says:

    “I would suggest that many students don’t fully understand what the student services levy pays for and provides”

    Not too sure about this, Sarah. My gut feeling is that when presented with a list of services, students would understand what the levy pays for and provides, and the relative importance thereof, but they either don’t know, do know, or did know, but soon forgot after reading that part of their enrolment, about said levy.

    “We need to tread carefully on the issue of compulsory fees for non-academic services. We need to think about affordability. We need to think carefully about what services are not only of benefit to us personally, but are of benefit to fellow students. We’re pretty much one big family after all. We’ve gotta look out for each other.”

    Okay, that’s nice and everything, I’m all for helping out my fellow man. What I’m interested in is whether the amount paid is somehow comparable with the quality of service received. That’s difficult to quantifiy giving the myriad of different services the levy provides.

    I’d love to see a write-up about costs relative to use, and perhaps some expert insight from outside the tertiary education realm about it all.

    Keep digging, Salient. You’ve only scratched the tip of the turf, methinks.

    Cheers,

    Dan

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