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October 4, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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I was in a van heading to Auckland when the report of the Education and Science select committee on the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill was tabled. I’d had three hours sleep, having finished work on that week’s Salient at 5.35am. Someone called me to say the report recommended the so-called VSM bill be passed with a few amendments. And I was stuck in a van somewhere on State Highway One between Hunterville and Taihape with no internet access and no way to write a story, let alone read the contents of the report. It was pretty much a student journalist’s worst nightmare. The biggest story of the year finally breaks and you are stuck in a van. A really big, white van that looks like an unused tampon.

I made it very clear at the beginning of the year that Salient would not be taking an editorial line on VSM—I’m sure you’re all quite intelligent enough to make up your own minds on the issue. It’s our job to inform, encourage debate and give you an indication of the stuff you should care about. While apathy no doubt reigns among the wider student population as to whether VSM is a good or bad thing, the select committee did receive 4837 submissions on the bill—an overwhelming majority of them opposing the bill. Why, then, has the select committee recommended by majority that the bill be passed with a few tweaks here and there? Students’ associations across the country look set to have VSM imposed on them at the beginning of 2012 whether they like it or not.

I don’t think the decision about whether a students’ association goes voluntary or not should ultimately rest in the hands of Parliament. It should be a decision made by the members of the association—the students. Last time VSM reared its head in the late nineties, a referendum was forced on each campus and, in the end, students decided whether or not they wanted VSM. Students’ associations are democratic organisations—decisions affecting members (students) are made by members (students) through the democratic process. VSM is a decision that should be made by the members of a students’ association, not a bunch of politicians who think they know what they’re talking about.
VSM will have a significant impact on VUWSA. It will have a significant impact on Salient. The extent of that impact will become clearer next year, but in the meantime, keep it in mind when you’re voting in the VUWSA elections this week. Your vote could decide whether or not Team Salient will ever again suffer the terrible affliction known as ‘van fever’, caused by spending 12 hours in close quarters.

Can’t be bothered voting in that? It’s the final week of Academic Idol! Will it be Dean Knight or Marc Wilson? Get your phones out and text ‘Marc’ or ‘Dean’ to 027 CUSTARD or email

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About the Author ()

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

Comments (6)

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  1. Oliver says:

    The Select Committee is there to weigh up the arguments put forward, not the volume, if it was purely based on volume then any relatively small group can overwhelm the select committee process. The reality was there were only 300 substantive submissions, the majority were the tick the box ones linked on the saveourservices website.

    When voter turnout is around 5-10% at each VUWSA election, I don’t see why we need to have a referendum to determine that the majority of students are apathetic and just don’t care. Parliament have taken the side of the 90% of students that don’t get involved and don’t get a benefit of being a union member.

    What we should be doing is looking at the cost drivers of student advocacy and see how they are affected, this is a strong line taken up by unions, but the reality is that class reps, turning up to council meetings, and organising protests (hint use facebook) don’t actually cost materially anything.

  2. Phoenix says:

    Parliament have taken the side of the 90% of students that don’t get involved and don’t get a benefit of being a union member.

    Just because most students don’t vote does not mean that they don’t use VUWSA. I’d bet the majority directly benefit from VUWSA services without even being aware of it. These services would likely disappear with VSM.
    Just because students don’t vote don’t make the assumption that they don’t benefit from being a member

  3. Oliver says:

    @Phoenix, what services do the majority indirectly benefit from that cost money?

    – note that cost money and VSM would get rid of-

    Actually, I made the assumption that they are apathetic enough to their student union that they don’t vote. If they don’t have a vested interest (i.e. use services) then why would they bother voting? seems a safe assumption for the majority, though of course not all.

    What about the satellite students? What about the older students?

    Becoming a member of something if you want to become a member of something seems pretty fair to me especially if it costs $150!!

  4. lol troll says:

    lol constructive arguments on the intenet

  5. smackdown says:

    What about the satellite students?

    they should go back to satellite university ahaha owned

  6. smackdown says:

    heres my pitch for salient 2012 when vsm waddles in:

    three page a4 photocopied print outs of old dom post articles

    cut out picture of milkshakes (milkshake not included buy ur own)

    top 5 ways to keep squatters out of student union building

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