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October 2, 2011 | by  | in News |
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Burn Baby Burn: VUWSA Inferno

In a cruel display of symbolism last Wednesday, VUWSA’s attempt to serve the student body went up in flames on the same day that the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill was passed into legislation.

The Bill, which will make membership of all students’ associations voluntary, passed with MPs voting 63 to 58 in favour, supported by National, Act and United Future.
Under previous legislation, students’ associations’ membership could either be universal or voluntary—with the provision to choose either when a referendum was called for by 10 per cent of students. From the 1st of January 2012, all students associations will now have a voluntary membership system, with students choosing to join their association, rather than opt-out through “conscientious objection” under the universal system.

NZUSA and a number of students’ association representatives have opposed the Bill since it entered Parliament in 2009.

“If students collectively want universal membership, they should be able to vote for it. And equally, if they want voluntary membership, that choice should be theirs as well. It should not be imposed against students’ will by government in the form of a quite extreme and inflexible Bill,” NZUSA co-president David Do said.

VUWSA President Seamus Brady, like many before him, has openly opposed the Bill.

“ACT and National have removed students’ ability to have a meaningful say in their education and their ability to choose how they want organise themselves on campus. Institutions will now pick and choose when it suits them to have credible student representation, what events and support services are offered and how much students will pay for them,” said Brady.

“Reasonable alternatives have been put forward since the Select Committee stages but National and ACT members have refused to listen to reason.”
Its passing has been welcomed by supporters.

“For almost 20 years, students have fought for their fundamental human right of Freedom of Association,” said ACT on Campus President Peter McCaffrey.
“Finally, students will be free to choose for themselves whether or not to join their students’ association… We look forward to a future of more representative and accountable students’ associations for future generations.”

Before Wednesday’s third and final reading, around 80 students took part in a last-ditch rally in opposition to the Bill. Representatives from the Labour, Green, Māori and Mana parties addressed the crowd and signed a letter promising to “seek to repeal this legislation when we are in a position of Government.”

As previously reported in Salient, Te Mana Ākonga, the National Māori Students’ Association, lodged a formal Treaty of Waitangi Claim, citing the prejudicial effects against Māori students.

“As soon as the Bill becomes legislation, the Claim will be active and Te Mana Ākonga will seek redress through the Tribunal, ” says Te Mana Ākonga Tumaki Jacqualene Poutu.
The end of universal membership was marked with a bang on Kelburn campus, when a BBQ held by VUWSA to raise awareness of the Bill caught fire. This was no deterrent to Victoria’s ravenous students, who continued to help themselves to charred sausages, with one enquiring as to whether there was “any sauce”.

As the fire climbed ever-higher, five exec members looked on in confusion as one of their most popular assets went up in flames. More and more students offered helpful advice, with one advising them that water would not put out an oil fire. Eventually, a fire extinguisher was acquired from vicbooks. One student, claiming to be a volunteer firefighter, took charge of the situation, but set the extinguisher off in her face.

After the fire was put out, a second BBQ was rolled into action, but toppled over due a slight gradient, losing a wheel in the process. President Brady was overheard to say, “This isn’t happening, fuck my life”.

Vice-President (Academic) Bridie Hood told students passing by that the BBQ had been called off, 20 minutes after it was due to have commenced.

“You’ll either be poisoned by the foam, or the other one will blow up in your face,” Brady told them.

Campus Care later called Salient for more details on the two abandoned BBQs, and co-editor Elle Hunt did not delay in holding VUWSA accountable.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Your Name says:

    lol
    a fitting end to the mess that is VUWSA

  2. Sam says:

    Indeed. Oh VUWSA what will you do next. Good luck trying to get students to like you now they have a choice over whether they want to support your dickery.

  3. BFG says:

    Irresponsible headline.

  4. LFG says:

    Irresponsible in what sense?

  5. BFG says:

    Maybe it implies that VUWSA is “burning” because of law change? Something that evidently is not happening.

  6. Galanar says:

    So, VUWSA is angry about VSM that they’re going to torch a pre-school?

  7. @BFG says:

    omfg – do you realise how precious you sound?

    If VUWSA is “evidently not” burning, then a little reference to pop culture is not going to shape student opinion in such a way that is “irresponsible”

  8. Average student says:

    I think VUWSA is burning, because for years anti-VSMers have screamed rhetoric that VSM will be the death of students’ associations. I am not inclined to think that VUWSA will be an exception, as Presidents have always said it was a terrible thing. All attitudes have been negative and pessimistic, and not once has VUWSA come out with a ‘plan’ or any evidence that shows anything on the contrary.

  9. Max Hardy says:

    Average Student – It is true that some anti-VSMers have talked about how VSM will be the death of students’ associations. And that will we true for some associations, sadly – those associations which do not have assets and do not have the favour of their institution.

    However, no one at VUWSA over the last two years has ever said that VSM would be the death of VUWSA. VUWSA’s primary arguments against the Bill , when I was President and continued into this year, has been based on a loss of independence and the possibility of compulsorily paying more for the same services and having very little say over them.

    Regardless of all that, I know that Salient are aware that plans exist and that VUWSA is not “burning”. BFG is being unnecessarily precious but he has a point.

  10. Aaron says:

    Fantastic news! Only wish this had happened a long time ago. Now the students can choose whether or not they pay the “self serving political wannabe tax”.

  11. thejackel says:

    Indeed VUWSA will lose independence under VSM

    They will lose the ability to be independent of the student body.

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