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May 26, 2014 | by  | in Opinion VUWSA |
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Is Student Activism quieter than the old days? Time = money

It was incredible to see the turnout of students at the ‘Let Me Go Home’ Event last Tuesday. Around 200–300 students came out for the march, which advocated for a community against sexual violence. It is not good enough that the common response to sexual assault focusses on the level of intoxication, level of dress, or time of night that a victim was assaulted. Most students stayed on for the workshop part of it, where as small groups, we brainstormed ideas about how to change the attitudes of the community at large. It was encouraging to see a powerful response, and it was a powerful reminder that student activism is not dead.

It was also awesome last week to speak at the ‘Do Something – How is your University Experience Shaping You?’ Event hosted by Human FM. This event questioned how university not just shapes our skills for a career, but our formation as people. Not long ago, every Wednesday there was a lunch hour, across the University, where no classes were scheduled. This was so that people could take part in clubs and student democracy. VUWSA held a weekly ‘Student Representative Council’ held in the old Quad (where the Hub is) where a scene of lively debate about a whole range of issues was discussed every single Wednesday. It’s hard to imagine that happening now. Funding pressures meant the lunch break was cut – and now there is no ‘free hour’ for everyone to be available to participate in such events. Discussion outside the classroom is a crucial part of how the university experience forms us as people.

This week’s theme of Salient is money, and with more money comes more time. The amount of free time a student has will directly correlate to their ability to participate in student events outside the classroom. Back when university was free, those of our parents’ generation often said that they didn’t need to work during the university year to be able to afford to live. With exams at the end of the year, and no internal assessment, there wasn’t the constant pressure to perform. Fewer students attended university back then, so the pressure to complete internships, extracurricular work, and heaps of relevant work experience to compete in the job market meant there was more time to… be a student.  Nowadays, with course living costs barely covering the average rent, lack of time and money is one the main reasons that the culture of student activism is less than what it used to be. Last week’s ‘Let Me Go Home’ event was really encouraging. However, it’s important to acknowledge the many more student voices who can’t participate because of a lack of time or money.

Sonya Clark

M: 027 563 6986 | DDI: (04) 463 6986

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