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September 5, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Prez Col 20

It’s that time of the year! Nominations are now open for the 2011 VUWSA Student Election.

This is your chance to become a student representative in 2012 and help represent the student voice across Victoria. Head to our website, and you’ll find more information and a guide about all the roles and some more important information.

The VSM Bill should be debated again this week in Parliament. The rest of this column will outline in a little more detail the issues I wrote about in an earlier column about the need for an enduring compromise on the issue. The British Conservative Minister for Universities said that “without [students’ associations], universities would be much poorer institutions.” His Government is now thinking about how they can strengthen the role that they play in ensuring Universities are responsive to students.

Contrast this with our Government’s continued support for an ACT Party Bill that will end universal membership of students’ associations and remove the ability for students to ensure that there is a mandated representative organisation on their campus. If the institution decides it doesn’t want one—then there won’t be one.

The only thing that John Key can muster on the issue is to promise to implement a levy which universities could use to replace students’ association services. Despite the fact he is confused about this new levy—it appears he doesn’t care how much you pay or for what, just as long as there is no democratic control over it.

Unfortunately the debate on the Bill has been bogged down in an ideological quagmire. You are stuck between the extreme positions that get all the attention—compulsory membership that means some students must be members of organisations they don’t want to be, or the opposite approach which means there is no requirement to have student representative organisations at all, or any ability for students to ensure there is one.

Evidently, the Government hasn’t really thought about this issue beyond a superficial agreement with the ideology of the ACT Party Bill. What they haven’t done is think about the role and purpose of students’ associations and how they can achieve their own objectives by empowering students to hold public tertiary institutions accountable. They haven’t even asked their own Government departments for proper advice.

Our national students’ association NZUSA, have been looking at ways to improve the current law—upholding the right to freedom of association whilst strengthening associations and ensuring you continue to get the independent representation, advocacy and services you deserve.

In a nutshell, this is what they’ve proposed to National and ACT as a way to gain cross-party consensus and satisfy all sides of the current debate:
• You would still become members of your local association when you enrol
• You can opt-out at any time and without giving a reason
• If you opt-out within the first four weeks of term, you would get a full refund of any association fees
• Membership processes would be administered and promoted by the institution, rather than the students’ association
• Associations would improve their governance and operations through a Code of Practice for democracy and accountability

NZUSA has asked National to adopt a practical, enduring solution like this one. It’s a reasonable, win-win approach that has widespread support.
Unfortunately, despite some individual support within National for allowing fair time for the sector to transition to the new system, the Government has so far dismissed this small practical compromise. You can make yourself heard on this issue by lobbying your local MPs and linking up with your local students’ association. Search ‘Demand A Better Future’ on Facebook and help make this issue too big a risk for National to support.

I hope you had a great break. I did—I went to Rainbow’s End and the national Maori students’ hui. Only six weeks of term left! *

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Comments (5)

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  1. peteremcc says:

    As long as your happy for the same to apply to ACT on Campus then lets go for it.

    Everyone becomes a member of ACT on Campus automatically.
    We get their money.
    If they decide to leave they can have their money back.

    Great!

  2. Marie says:

    How would Act on Campus service the student body though?

  3. peteremcc says:

    Much better than VUWSA does now.

  4. Phil Goff says:

    if the students’ association did more than just sit around passing budgets, delivering services and sapping student money for their own salaries, there would be less support for VSM. Seamus, you are totally incompetent, you are weak, you fear students, you fear activism, you fear confrontation, you even fear public speaking, if there is a god, i pray to him (or her) that you never make it into any position of power greater than the one you currently hold. Peter same goes for you

  5. oh fuck off says:

    So just because VUWSA doesn’t get behind your ‘We are the University’ workers party bullshit by stealth , you personally attack Brady? Real mature. If 100 students started up a group on campus, and were actively campaigning for Vic to be privatised would you expect VUWSA to get behind that? No. Grow up. Stop using the genuine concerns of students for these change proposals to propagate your ideological battle.

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