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September 9, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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The McCourt Report

Kia ora and welcome back from the break! It’s going to be a full-on few weeks in this last quarter of the academic year. You might want to take out your calendar and add these dates:

University Fees Meeting with the VC: Tuesday 10 September, 4–5 pm SU217

Have you got some thoughts on whether fees should go up, really up, or really really up? Just kidding, it’s not like our fees go up every year… Anyway the University would love to hear from you at a meeting with the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Chancellor on Tuesday from 4–5pm. While I joke about the powers that be ignoring students’ annual pleas to keep fees flat, this will remain the case until people like you and your friends attend meetings like this and tell them how bullshit it is that fees go up four per cent every year when inflation was only 0.9 per cent last year, and even less this year. The staff pay-increases certainly aren’t four per cent per annum. And most frustrating is that the quality of education is not rising. In fact, contact time is under pressure and tutorials in the firing line as Faculties prepare for cuts and marshal their brightest academics into a rat race for the research dollar.

So, it’s a bit shit. But, that’s where you come in. Come along and tell the VC and the Chancellor why you think that the University should resist yet another four-per-cent fee rise (the maximum), and instead focus on getting central government to properly fund education.

And be sure to tell them that if they think an eight-per-cent rise is ever okay, they have another thing coming!

University Council Fees Meeting: Monday 16 September L2 Hunter Building

Come along to the full council meeting on fees, and make sure every Councillor sees the students their decisions will impact on.

Healthy Homes Launch and AGM: Wednesday 11 September 1 pm in the Hub

In addition to my degree, I rack up StudyLink debt to pay for the cold, wet flats I trundle between every year. We know that rental housing in Wellington is not healthy, and standards need to be introduced to ensure vulnerable groups like students don’t pay $180 a week to live in a mould-infested hellhole.

Well, good news my friends. On Wednesday we’ll be announcing alongside Wellington City Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and supportive councillors our shared plan for improving housing for students and other renters.

Why housing, you may ask? We’re focussed on housing, like we were on Fairer Fares, because they’re quality-of-life and welfare issues that affect a great number of us. We know that students who get sick don’t get as much out of their courses, and countless late assignments and extensions have been had due to crappy flats. There’s also the cost when students have to miss their part-time work, or the risk to the collective when someone gets sick. You’ve told us that freezing damp flats are an issue for you, and so they’re an issue for us.

Come along and hear how we’re going to make your life a little bit better, and how you can make a difference in getting the campaign over the line.

VUWSA General Elections: Nominations open Monday 9 September

Ever thought about putting up your hand and getting involved in VUWSA? Our Elections are coming up, and all 10 positions on our Executive are up for grabs. Students’ associations are a fantastic way to serve your fellow students, work on exciting campaigns, and gain leadership and communication skills.

From our Chancellor Ian McKinnon, to former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, to successful lawyer Peter Cullen; student associations are a fantastic way to grow as a person and get the experience you’ll find useful for a lifetime to come.

So what are you waiting for? Head down to the VUWSA Reception now and drop in your form. Run with a few mates. Have a go!

More information about these candidates as the election draws near.

Referendum on NZUSA: Thursday 26 September–Wednesday 2 October

You might’ve heard recently that your student exec, as well as other students’ associations, have publicly raised some concerns about the effectiveness of NZUSA in the last 18 months. We think it hasn’t been focussing enough on its core business as a campaigning and lobbying organisation on behalf of students. Since then, the Waikato Students’ Union has threatened to permanently withdraw, and VUWSA has called for a major overhaul of the organisation—along with AUSA in Auckland and OUSA at Otago.

Here at Vic, a student has asked the Executive to consider a referendum question on NZUSA as part of our General Elections. The Executive has agreed, and the question has been lodged with the independent Election Committee for approval. I will let you know how this goes and when/if they accept.

NZUSA, and VUWSA’s membership thereof, has been an issue that’s been kicked around for many years. The recent question on withdrawal is not new, although different in that no students are compulsorily levied anymore to pay the $45,000 membership levy. What is still a concern in a VSM environment, however, is the effectiveness of this organisation.

I have no doubt in my mind that VSM is not working, and that students’ associations are not sustainable in the current environment. Student hardship is staggeringly high, and living-cost loans and allowances are failing to keep up with ever-increasing rent, transport and course costs. Right now, we need a national voice for students. Right now, we need NZUSA to have its shit together.

That’s why, for the first time in a generation, the VUWSA Executive is leading an honest conversation about NZUSA and the future of student voice nationally. Let me know what you think by flicking me an email: president@vuwsa.org.nz. Although this referendum will have only two options, I’m keen to hear your ideas on how to improve this pretty bleak situation.

Get engaged, you only live once.

Rory

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