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March 10, 2014 | by  | in News |
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No Joyce Here

VUWSA may lose its seat on Victoria University’s governing body in the same year as regaining the seat.

Salient reported two weeks ago on the proposed changes, under which university councils would be forced to downsize and would no longer be required to have student and staff representation. The changes would have effect from the beginning of 2016.

Prior to 2012, student members of the University Council consisted of the current VUWSA President and a representative elected by the student body at large.

However, the implementation of Voluntary Student Membership in 2012 meant that, despite free membership, only around three-quarters of Victoria University students chose to become members of VUWSA. These membership issues caused the University to question VUWSA’s mandate to speak on student issues.

The University then removed VUWSA’s seat on the University Council and introduced the Student Forum. It was intended to be a representative student board with 35 positions and representatives from interest groups.

The Forum was plagued by problems, due to a lack of a clear purpose or systems of accountability. The Forum was given responsibility for appointing a student representative to the University Council, meaning the Chair of the Forum effectively replaced the VUWSA President on the Council.

In February 2013, VUWSA, the Pasifika Students’ Council and Ngāi Tauira all chose to withdraw from the Forum. VUWSA President at the time, Rory McCourt, claimed that the Forum: “isn’t the place for accountable, democratic student representation.”

At one of its last meetings on Monday 16 April 2013, the Forum failed to make quorum, with only ten members attending. As a result, the University dissolved the Student Forum and initiated a consultation process to determine a new structure for student representation.

Conducted last August, the results showed that 55 per cent of students believed that the VUWSA President should fill one of the two student seats on the Council. A third of students wished for the two seats to both be filled through student elections. In light of these results, the VUWSA President’s seat on the University Council was reinstated.

The first full University Council meeting for this year was held on 24 February. VUWSA President Sonya Clark said she was hoping to see the Council become more hands-on, and it was important for students to be part of the process.

“I see Council’s role as asking the big questions about the future of the University, what it looks like and where it is going,” Clark said.

The Chancellor, Ian McKinnon, has said that he is supportive of student representation, but has so far declined to comment substantively to Salient on the issue.

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