When I came in as President, it felt like the dust had settled from the effects of two years of Voluntary Student Membership. We’re embarking on a massive project to map the next stage in VUWSA’s 114-year history. We want you to lead us in completely rethinking what it means to be a member of VUWSA. It is 2014 and Time for a Rethink.
If you’re not aware of VSM, this law shook the foundation of students’ associations in New Zealand. Our role as an independent voice suffered hugely – we lost our right to represent you on University boards and committees to a University-run Student Forum. Funding dropped dramatically as we moved from a universal membership fee to an annual negotiation of funding with the University that didn’t cover core costs. We had to close our satellite offices and cut right back on Orientation, events, Clubs funding and other services. The last two years have been tough.
By the start of 2014, things were on the up. The Student Forum was no more and Victoria once more recognised VUWSA as the representative body of students. We signed a two-year funding agreement that gives a bit of wriggle room for Events and Orientation, and for getting out to satellite campuses. We’re no longer living out of our savings, and have a budget which will break even, rather than the very large deficits of the last two years.
It’s time to smash the roof open and rethink everything.
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The first thing we did was get an independent person to interview the people we work with often, especially over the difficult two years. From the Vice-Chancellor to The Hunter Lounge, we asked for the good, the bad, and the ugly, and how we could be of better value to their work. They said: VUWSA tries to do too many things, that our reputation rests too much on who is the President at the time, and that VUWSA doesn’t speak enough for the ‘average’ student. We agreed.
It’s your turn. Its been two years of VSM, and it’s overdue to ask you: What do you want from your membership of VUWSA? If you were to start up an organisation that was to represent students and improve their lives – what is the first thing you would do? What wouldn’t you do? We’re proud of our 114 years, but we’re not afraid to cut off our grey hair and recognise that being a student now is crazy-different to 30 or even ten years ago.
We’re working with the experts because we know we can’t do this ourselves. Beyond our ten Executive-member heads, we’ve got alongside us Kate, our researcher and mentor, who has years of experience turning average organisations into great ones. She’ll be leading in-person and online research with you, and helping us write a professional, sustainable plan for grand lady VUWSA for the years ahead.