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Withdrawal from NZUSA
At Tuesday’s Executive meeting, the VUWSA Executive decided to give notice to withdraw its membership from the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA). This decision has not come easily, but has been made after consideration of the long-term concerns that VUWSA has held with NZUSA. There have been concerns for a long time about NZUSA’s lack of performance and visibility on student issues, for the $45,000 of student money that funds it. We want to look at more effective uses of that money to ensure students have a voice at a government level.
We feel accountable to the referendum in which students voted in 2013. Last year, students voted to stay in NZUSA if the organisation undertook reforms. These reforms were outlined by AUSA (Auckland), OUSA (Otago) and VUWSA at the time, and required NZUSA to run visible, active campaigns on national student issues to restore students’ faith in the organisation. The Executive believes this has not happened, and that lack of funding and other systemic issues mean this is highly unlikely to occur in future.
There are major concerns about value for money in what is a very tight fiscal environment. For the past few years, VUWSA has funded the NZUSA levy out of its financial reserves (savings); an unsustainable arrangement, especially when the Association was running major deficits. Last year, VUWSA ran an operational deficit of $136,000 (not accounting for VUWSA Trust support – which we should not be dipping into unless we have to). While in 2014, VUWSA’s finances are more stable, our financial future is still uncertain – especially with the University holding the purse strings. The Executive feels it is unwise to continue funding NZUSA when there is little tangible benefit for Victoria students at high cost.
Some of you may wonder why this has happened now. The NZUSA constitution requires an entire year’s notice for withdrawing, which is why the Executive has acted now. This is not a hasty process, and in the next year, the Executive will work to ensure Victoria students have a voice on national issues – the shape and form this will take is up for debate. If NZUSA is to undertake activities or campaigns that students value, VUWSA may be open to contribute to specific projects. We remain committed to a strong student voice on national issues, but the time has come to draw the line on an organisation that has talked of change for a very long time.
Since 2011, the Voluntary Student Membership environment has demanded that Students’ Associations adapt and change, something that this year’s Executive has taken very seriously. On a related note, check your inboxes this week for a ten-question survey from us – it’s about VUWSA and what you want us to do differently to work for you.
If you have any questions, concerns, or want to share your ideas about how we should progress, please give me a line.