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August 18, 2014 | by  | in Opinion Politics |
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Ramblings of a Fallen Hack

Well, this is awkward. Our one chance for a conversation, but we can’t find anything to say. Our university is failing us, but we’re just standing there, shuffling about on the balls of our feet, mumbling something about needing a place to have a nap. VUWSA’s elections should debate the future of higher education. But we care only about the future of the presidential office.

Rick and Rāwinia are products of a managerial malaise that’s set our political system to sleep. The ideology of our time is that ideology is wrong; that our institutions don’t need good ideas but only good administration. Radical change belongs in the books of historians, not in the offices of the Beehive or the SUB.

But it wasn’t always like this. Between 2005 and 2009, VUWSA was shamelessly partisan, contested between the Workers’ Party and the Labour Party. According to an Executive member of the time, “the Workers’ Party saw students as being part of the underclass … they would point towards how, in revolutionary socialist movements, students played a large part in effecting change. The Labour Party had a more narrow view of VUWSA’s role being the advocacy of student interest.” Yes, those years were dominated by incompetence and corruption. But at least VUWSA elections could ask questions that matter.

Now look at us. When Sophie interviewed them last week, Rick and Rāwinia couldn’t tell her what they disagreed about (see page 14). The answer is that they don’t disagree about anything. They both believe VUWSA should encourage incremental change while providing students with what services they can. They both believe in a somewhat-subsidised somewhat-accessible education. Attendees of last week’s debate will tell you it felt more like a job interview, both candidates emphasising their past much more than their future. Sonya – the current president – asked the candidates what they considered their biggest weakness. Apparently, Rick pays too much attention to detail. Apparently, Rāwinia cares too much about students. In the absence of ideas, we’re forced to debate competence. And so the candidates stand for nothing but themselves.

Both of the candidates are members of centre-left political parties, both are immersed in the young political scene. So I guess I’m not surprised that the professionalism fetish has been carried into the VUWSA election. But this is student politics. You don’t have to be Joel Cosgrove to entertain some radical ideas. For fuck’s sake, you’re just running for a student’s association. You don’t need a Community Outreach Liaison and you don’t need a professional designer. What you need is an ideology.

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