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September 30, 2013 | by  | in News |
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2014 VUWSA Elections

VUWSA hosted its annual candidates forum in the Hub last week, with candidates for the 2014 Executive elections getting the chance to win the votes of students. In case you missed the ‘excitement’, what follows is Salient’s breakdown of each candidate’s speeches. You can vote for your chosen candidates from Monday 30 September, with voting staying open until Thursday 3 October. Instructions and online voting links will be emailed out to students on Monday.

 

President

Sonya Clark

Sonya Clark spoke on four key points: education quality; relationships with Council members to achieve fairer fares and a rental-housing warrant of fitness; VUWSA’s financial future, and being friendly, approachable and accessible. She continually returned to her strengths: experience in the face of VUWSA’s challenges, and institutional knowledge. Sonya was critical of NZUSA, but emphasised the need to maintain a national student voice. She would take notice on wider issues to ensure VUWSA had a mandate. On financial sustainability, Sonya spoke on her plans for a financial review, with the lost-property service and VUWSA’s annual $22,000 contribution to Student Job Search being mooted as possible cuts. Though Sonya seemed to struggle to deliver her points in a charismatic and confident manner, this was unwarranted: she had the crowd’s support, and knew the issues she spoke about inside-out.

Thomas Maharaj

Thomas Maharaj came out firing with a loud, confident and charismatic delivery. While experience has been seen as his weak point (not having had any involvement with VUWSA before), he rattled off a list of organisations and positions he’d held within Youth Groups, saying he was “experienced” and “ready” to get stuff done by starting at the top of VUWSA. His key platforms were cheaper transport, introducing University-certified accommodation to show students which properties and landlords were up to scratch, making VUWSA financially sustainable, and enhancing services like counselling. He fell out of favour with the crowd when he appeared to be unclear on what ‘LGBT’ stood for, but recovered to claim LGBT students were treated equally at University, and any students who felt they were not getting a fair go could talk to him as President and he would look into it. Thomas admitted he didn’t have a good knowledge of the University management structures VUWSA interacts with, but said having little experience and being new to the position did not mean he could not achieve policy goals. When asked on how he would improve education, he stated his primary concern was getting students to University in the first place by making transport more affordable.

 

Academic Vice-President

Rāwinia Thompson, the sole candidate for this position, spoke on the need for more courses following cuts in funding in certain areas. Rāwinia spoke on the need for fee increases to translate into higher quality of education. Citing the University’s top research ranking, she said research should not come at the expense of lecturers teaching students. While she stumbled slightly in her response to a question on supporting Māori and Pasifika students, she presented a strong case overall on why she should build on her current work as Education Officer.

 

Welfare Vice-President

Current Vice-President (Welfare) Rick Zwaan is running against no confidence to continue his role, after being promoted from Wellbeing and Sustainability Officer in a by-election in August. Rick has campaigned for VUWSA on fairer fares and healthy homes, and believes this experience will allow him to build on these issues in 2014. He also focussed on next year’s Student Services Levy review and on the Food Bank, but his strong institutional knowledge and detailed answers to questions went over the heads of a lot of the less-VUWSA-minded audience.

 

Engagement Vice-President

After the withdrawal of two candidates, Declan Doherty-Ramsay will be running against no confidence. He described himself as an active organiser, with credentials across volunteer and representative groups. He stated an aim to get Clubs back from University management, who are currently in control of all Victoria’s Clubs, though didn’t have a plan how to as yet. Along with many candidates this year and in previous years, Declan promised to expand VUWSA’s presence to satellite campuses—including Karori. Salient is still not sure why.

 

Treasurer

Jordan Lipski was another candidate hoping to beat no confidence, in this case to become Treasurer. Jordan cited his experience as a Treasurer for a University Club and advocated for transparency and efficiency, hoping to make 2014’s Budget available online for the first time since 2011. He suggested he would cut the salaries of the President and Vice-Presidents, despite the Exec-meeting awkwardness this would create, but didn’t state a definite position on NZUSA membership which currently costs about as much as half those positions combined.

 

Equity Officer

Madeleine Ashton-Martyn was the first candidate to speak, on a platform of increased communication and structural changes to ensure better representation for all minority groups. She will be hoping to continue a tradition of successful blue-haired candidates, after current Equity Officer Matthew Ellison’s 2012 hair-dye efforts helped put him in the job. Joshua Tan Chong Hui spoke next, with enthusiasm unrivalled by anything at the forum except for the rush for pizza at the end. He vowed to have Te Reo used at VUWSA events and for a public campaign for sign language, and definitely won the crowd’s vote. Quan Nguyen admitted he was “really, really nervous” following Joshua’s speech, and struggled to get his policies across. Nate Lewis had a small but vocal support group, and reinforced a commitment to serving minority groups and making voices heard.

 

Clubs Officer

David Rektorys cited his involvement in, and passion for, Clubs at Victoria, but drew shock from the crowd when questioned on his failed attempts to hold a Miss Campus competition earlier this year. While he apologised for the misunderstanding of his intentions and for any offence caused, the self-described “bit of a douche” didn’t win any votes by maintaining he wasn’t sexist as Miss Campus was recognising the University has “not only smart girls, but also pretty ones”.

Toby Cooper, who has thankfully dropped last year’s ‘Super Duper’ campaign platform, cited the importance of fundraising. However, he did not appear overly enthusiastic about getting control of Clubs back off the University. Elizabeth Bing spoke on her strong history in clubs and sponsorship management with VUWSA and the University, and made a case for increasing access through addressing transport costs.

 

Campaigns Officer

Nathaniel Manning promised a keen focus on the 2014 General Election, to hold political parties to account for students. While he admitted he did hold left-wing views—sure to be a real game-changer for student politics—he advocated a bipartisan approach to election issues. Alasdair Keating took less of an outward focus, instead looking at University issues like flats, transport, and counselling services. Alasdair promised inclusivity, and a non-partisan approach to seeking reforms to NZUSA, while still maintaining a national voice.

 

Education Officer

Education Officer is being contested by two candidates: Ravi Ratnam and Caroline Thirsk. Both channelled former Education Officer Gemma Swan’s unexplainable passion for the job, though Ravi managed to earn the crowd’s support by doing so in less words. Caroline offered a fresh perspective, after coming to New Zealand from South Africa relatively recently.

 

Wellbeing and Sustainability Officer

Steph Gregor spoke on being tricked into joining Gen Zero in first year, and advocated for healthy homes and mental-health services. It’s currently unclear who tricked her into running for VUWSA. Two of the other candidates, Casey Diver and Jordan Millburn, did not speak at the forum.

 

Publications Committee

Publications Committee has four candidates running for two student representative positions. Molly McCarthy promised to “twerk hard”, and cited her institutional knowledge having been involved with Salient since 2009. She promised more Committee meetings and advocated a long-term view. Carlo Salizzo, another candidate with long-term involvement, also wanted more meetings and increased contact with next year’s editors, in addition to “cold beer”, “dusty boots”, and “[not] not respecting the zone”. David Alsop cited his experience on University Council, and spent approximately half of his speech rattling off the impressive array of degrees he is currently racking up. Lucas Davies spoke about providing representation rather than expertise, but struggled to enunciate his ideas in his speech with a major faux pas coming as he claimed Salient was both funny and intelligent. While Publications Committee will not have control of the VBC unless the 2014 VUWSA Executive decides to delegate control to the Committee, some candidates were asked for their views. Speaking on the VBC, both David and Molly looked at ways to improve access, and said they would wait for the results of this year’s referendum on continued funding before giving any definitive answers. Carlo and Lucas were not asked about the VBC.

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Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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