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March 19, 2012 | by  | in News |
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Vic and VUWSA Ready to Talk

But, are students ready to Listen?

The details of the Student Forum are to go to wider student consultation before its implementation following a motion put forward by VUWSA President Bridie Hood at last Thursday’s meeting of the Academic Board.

A detailed proposal outlining the principles, role and framework was presented to the Board, intended for it to be endorsed and forwarded to the University Council for final approval.

However following Hood’s motion the document will instead be released to students, allowing them to engage in a consultation process before the Board can make any recommendations to Council on how the Forum functions.

Though the Forum’s details were to be open for ongoing consultation, such would have taken place after the forum had been established in Trimester two.

Speaking to her motion, Hood outlined her concerns that student consultation had neither occurred, nor been attempted, but associated that with “the nature of the third Trimester and the lack of anything concrete to consult on until now.”

Explaining her reasoning behind the motion, she argued that “if the University wishes for the Forum to be truly ‘student- led’ and ‘independent’, and if students are to see the Forum as legitimate, genuine consultation must occur.”

“I believe it is an oversight that this document has not been sent out for student consultation before being tabled at this meeting today,” Hood said.

The document was produced by a student representation working party, comprised of University delegates and VUWSA representatives from both 2011 and 2012 executives.

One University delegate involved in its development, Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Associate Professor David Crabbe spoke on the spirit of the Forum.

“The Student Forum is established on the principle of partnership between students and staff, in ensuring a strong and scholarly community,” he said.

Explaining that it was intended to strengthen the staff-student relationship, he noted that it was part of a number
of initiatives developed over the past few years that were important in strengthening the relationship between teaching and learning.

Crabbe went on to add that the Forum was “a place for the student voice to be heard, and thus one place for the partnership to be enacted.”

Though the Forum will act as the University’s primary student representative body, underpinned with the element of universality that encompasses the entire student body, it is intended to compliment other avenues of student engagement. Whereby it recognises how established frameworks, such as VUWSA and Rep. Groups, have their own value to bring to the table, and incorporates them within the new representational body rather than seeking to replace them.

Several members of the Academic Board raised concerns about how students from several faculties and schools, who had established their own representational frameworks, could be incorporated into the new system.

One obvious oversight was raised about how students with disabilities would face extra barriers in participating within the framework, and ensuring their interests were accurately represented at the Forum.

Hood also spoke on concerns the students’ association had “about the functionality of the Forum.”

“Specifically in regard to mechanisms ensuring the accountability of its members, its democratic legitimacy and whether it will be accepted by the wider student body as their truly representative body.”

The schedule of how consultation will work has not been decided, but extended coverage of the details of the Student Forum will appear in Salient as developments occur.

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