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September 25, 2011 | by  | in News |
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Always the Bridie-maid?

With just no confidence and a grassroots online campaign for Dinocop running against her, incumbent Vice-President (Education) Bridie Hood looks set to be VUWSA President for 2012—Salient news editor Stella Blake-Kelly sat down with her to draw back the Hood and peer through the Bridie-al veil at the woman underneath.

STELLA: Why do you want to be President of VUWSA?

BRIDIE: Next year is going to be a tough year and we need to ensure that we have strong leadership. VUWSA must remain a strong and responsive students’ association. I’m running for President because over my last two years as Education Vice President I have seen the important role that VUWSA plays within this University and it’s imperative that in the face of VSM and the challenges it poses we do not lose site of why we were established. We need experienced, committed and reliable leadership and I can provide that.

STELLA: What’s your vision for VUWSA in 2012?

BRIDIE: My vision for VUWSA is to create a students’ association that students view as important and want to be a part of. That means ensuring that students feel connected to the association by effectively engaging with them and regularly seeking feedback. It also means ensuring that VUWSA and the services we provide are responsive to student needs.

STELLA: How do you see VUWSA being funded in a voluntary environment?

BRIDIE: At the moment Seamus and the VUWSA Trust are in negotiations with the University regarding funding and many of those decisions will be made this year. However, how I see it working is that VUWSA can get funding in three ways. Firstly through the VUWSA Trust. The Trust is committed to providing VUWSA with a sustainable, yearly contribution. While this is nowhere near our current funding, it would be enough to ensure that we can continue providing representation and some service. The second way is through the University. We are currently in negotiations regarding funding and those discussions will be concluded within the next few weeks. The final way I see VUWSA getting funding is through user charges, which could be mean increasing the prices of things like lockers and carparks.

STELLA: How do you see the membership structure of VUWSA operating?

BRIDIE: Once again a lot of this will be decided this year, though if elected I hope and I’m sure I will have input into these discussions. How I see VUWSA membership operating is that there will be some services that are provided to all students such as representation and advocacy, regardless of whether or not they are VUWSA Members. However students that sign up to VUWSA will have access to services that non-members will have to pay more for or will not be able to access such as diaries, wall planners and cheaper Orientation tickets. It must be as easy as possible for students to joining VUWSA, which is why I support a $0 membership fee. I think charging a fee upfront creates an unfair barrier for some students. Especially given that the vast majority of students will be signing up at the start of the year when money is pretty tight and they won’t be able to add it to their student loan.

STELLA: VUWSA is going to have to reprioritise as it adjusts to a new membership and funding environment—what roles of the association will you be prioritising?

BRIDIE: The decisions about what VUWSA does and doesn’t do ultimately lies with the student body. VUWSA is the students’ association, run by students for students and big decisions such as these should not be made without adequate student consultation. For me, the most important thing that VUWSA does is provide representation. That was the reason why this association was created. But, luckily enough, representation is also not that expensive. If I had to choose a second area to prioritise it would be welfare. Without some of the welfare services that VUWSA provides such as the foodbank and the student advocate, students would drop out of the University. However, that’s not to say that clubs, rep groups and events are not important, they are. Any decision will be made with student consultation.

STELLA: Have you got any things you want to change within VUWSA next year?

BRIDIE: One of the main things that I want to do next year is carry out a governance review. We have had management and staffing reviews, which have had great results, so it’s about time we looked at governance. I also want to focus on ensuring that VUWSA remains sustainable in the future, so looking at new revenue streams and making VUWSA more financially sustainable.

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