On becoming VUWSA President, I wrote in my first Prez Col that some people, like my grandmother, often wondered aloud about what I had got myself into, while others would just stare at me blankly. I also wrote that I was honoured and incredibly lucky to be your VUWSA President for 2011.
Twenty-four columns later, not much has changed. Though my grandmother has come to understand (read: accept) that I’m actually doing something worthwhile (and planning on leaving Uni)—others still stare at me blankly. But I am still incredibly lucky to have been your VUWSA President for 2011.
If anyone had told me back at the start of 2008 when I was first elected as humble Education Officer B, that in 2011 I would be President, I would have told you to get a grip and stop being silly. But looking back, it is incredibly satisfying to see the progress VUWSA has made. I have seen it move from being an organisation quite rightly ridiculed by many as a dysfunctional embarrassment to once again being seen as a vital part of the University environment, actively improving the University for students. Most importantly, we have a positive outlook and we still have a way to go to reach our goals.
This has been a sustained effort from many people; no one person has made the difference or achieved change on their own, but I am proud to have been a part of it. Most of all it demonstrated the importance of electing competent people to represent us, and ensuring robust governance structures. I am proud to have been part of a bigger picture—a picture that spans 112 years.
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There have been many highlights throughout my almost four years at VUWSA. Some were obvious—such as our great O Week and the opening of the refurbished Student Union Building, the Hunter Lounge, new meeting rooms and Mauri Ora. Others have been on a smaller scale, such as student reps getting solid wins for individuals or groups of students through policy and advocacy, personally giving out hundreds of food parcels and thousands of study week breakfast servings to students, raising important issues critical to student interests, and facilitating student opinion and input on important work, such as the Review of Undergraduate Education.
Voluntary Student Membership has dominated the many discussions about VUWSA this year. A key challenge for me and our Exec was to put VUWSA in a sustainable position. This now means that students are no longer guaranteed an independent student voice. Instead, we must work for it.
The fact is good universities have strong students’ associations which give students a strong collective voice from which we all benefit. Victoria gets this and the arrangements that we are moving towards should be pragmatic, simple, and transparent. However, we will need to work to retain a system based on independent student-led representation to which VUWSA is committed to.
A huge thanks needs to be given my long-suffering friends, the VUWSA Trust (notably Dave and Alistair), the VUWSA Executive, the student reps, alumni and staff—especially those who went above and beyond what was expected, the babes at Salient, Max and Conrad, the many University staff who, despite never agreeing on everything, always showed a commitment to partnership and to improving the University. But above all, thank you the students who helped make VUWSA and Vic what it is.
Thank you for having me.