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April 15, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Eye on Exec: In Seventh Heaven

It may have been seventh meeting of the VUWSA Executive for the year, but last Wednesday’s two-hour sitting was about as far from heaven as you could get. Your reporter could only console herself with the fact that she had recently gained an hour thanks to the end of daylight savings to make up for the fact that she had to sit through yet another lengthy meeting, most of which was in committee.

As your intrepid reporter headed into the bubble of student politics, she noticed a string of Salients strewn across the tables. Instantly suspicious, a string of theories crossed her mind—what could the Exec be planning? Censorship, budget cuts, how to appear relevant to students? However, they were probably just preparing what they would and wouldn’t talk about in public. Executive meetings are always a staged show, where members generally only talk about what they want to be seen talking about.

In 2012 Exec meetings featured far more open discussion, as Executive members were treated more equally, rather than information only being shared with whoever the President saw fit. This meant that as an organisation, VUWSA was far more transparent to its members, and therefore more accountable. Such attitude appears to have been carried on by President Rory McCourt, that is until they
decide to get all “committee” on us.

The meeting began with approval of last meeting’s minutes, which are records for the auditors and students so that they can keep their accountable eye on their representatives. Salient is yet to find a student who actually reads them, but even if they wanted to—they haven’t been put on the website (!). And what’s more, the minutes themselves (if anyone can read them) are becoming less and less informative, noticeably lacking context around decisions. But the really atrocious cherry on the cake, going by discussion of said minutes, was the spelling and grammar. Vice-President (Academic) Sonya Clark went so far as to exclaim “Can you try and make them more accurate?”

Two minutes into the meeting Education Officer Gemma Swan left the room in tears. It is not yet known whether the punctuation mistakes and tears were related.

McCourt, has used his head and generally opted for oral reporting this year, as a way of communicating to his Exec what has been going down. But this week he evidently wasn’t in the mood and had been too busy, so hadn’t prepared one. Surely a quick browse of the VUWSA Facebook page should suffice as an explanation of what the President has been doing with his time, given the recent onslaught of pictures of a smiling McCourt with [insert politician here].

Vice-President (Welfare) Simon Tapp wanted VUWSA to revert to its radical past—this time fighting climate change as opposed to capitalist oppressors. The Government has opened up the sea off Wellington’s south coast to oil-drilling, and Tapp wanted VUWSA to support a group’s campaign against it, and even put a “banner on the side of the Student Union Building”. Lengthy discussion took place (nothing new here!), before they decided to send it to this week’s IGM. McCourt repeatedly said VUWSA was “member-driven” so it should be up to members to decide whether or not VUWSA supports that.

This proved to be a principle of convenience when the subject of “NZUSA’s finances” came up, with the Exec moving into committee for a case of ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything [publicly] at all’. Salient is not allowed to report what is said in committee, but is allowed to question the decision to move into it. Given the ensuing conversation, it was quite clearly a questionable reason. But what could they possibly have to hide? It’s consistent from year to year, as Execs continually suppress any discussion or say students theoretically have over NZUSA. Why does anyone hide? What are Execs scared of? Perhaps it’s because they’re worried what students might say about their money funding a ‘national representative body’ for New Zealand’s 456,000 students that can only just scrape 600 likes on Facebook?

Next the Exec decided they would have a referendum on whether or not VUWSA should support asset sales during their annual elections, because apparently people keep asking them about their position. Students also keep asking VUWSA to get a cat, and when the Association plans on getting some more wall-planners, but we doubt that either of those issues will be put to referendum.

This week’s IGM was next on the agenda, with McCourt declaring there would be “no Hawaiian [pizza]”. $1500 will be allocated for some members of the Exec to go to Otago to try scab ideas from their Students’ Association on how to be better.

Following this was the review of the VUWSA Code of Conduct, which mostly centred around whether or not the Exec should be able to consume alcohol in their offices. Swan opposed it, saying the offices were a workplace and it wasn’t appropriate. There was some discussion but Salient was unable to follow, too worried that the right to cry into a bottle of wine over the two hours of life they would never get back following this meeting would be taken away.

Then they decided to give $6000 to NZUSA for investigating the impacts of VSM. Is the hundreds of thousands of dollars of student money that NZUSA has received in recent years, including $45,000 per year from VUWSA, not enough? Shouldn’t they already maybe be investigating that, as, it was like, kinda the biggest thing to happen to Students’ Associations this century? Just a thought.

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