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Some days you probably thought you’d never get here, but the calendar says it is Week 12, and with that, the final Salient of the year. My tenure as President is coming to an end.
I remember the day I started. I’d finally got back into civilisation after spending New Year’s on an isolated island. We’d been in the ferry terminal only a few minutes when 2013 Prez Rory handed me a phone and a giant set of keys as he ran off to catch his taxi. That was it: I had officially become Prez. No matter how much I thought I understood the challenges I would face as President, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for it like being thrown into the deep end.
I never anticipated the extent people would recognise me in public – meeting someone, only for them to mention that their friend had recognised me at the movies last night when I’d bought popcorn and coke. It was always the time I’d snuck down to Aro St Patel’s in my trackpants that a student would appear by the milk asking about VUWSA.
But those were the best times. They have been a constant reminder to me of the privilege of this role, and the craziness of what it means to represent over 20,000 people, all here at Victoria studying different things for different reasons. You’ll never please all of the people all of the time, my dad would constantly tell me, you can only do your best.
I first came to Vic because I loved Wellington. It remains my belief that Wellington and Victoria must work to be more connected, to make Wellington a truly student-friendly city. We’re not Dunedin, and we shouldn’t try to be, but there’s a lot we can learn from a city which prides itself on its students. We’re not there yet.
One of the hardest things you learn at VUWSA is that the biggest things will take more than a year. Whether it’s adapting to Voluntary Student Membership, or making Wellington better for its students, you do what you can and then pass the mantle. We started our work with the city two years ago with the Fairer Fares campaign – advocating for a public-transport system that recognises the contribution students bring to the Wellington region. When Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford started in March, he jumped on board with VUWSA’s vision of a student-friendly Wellington. 2015 President Rick Zwaan has been an absolutely critical leader on Fairer Fares and the broader project. With good leadership, I know that this project will continue to flourish.
A huge thanks must go to everyone at VUWSA and Victoria who’s been a part of our work this year to make Victoria a better place. A NZ election, a new Victoria Strategic Plan, and heaps of work at VUWSA to focus the organisation going forward in Voluntary Student Membership. To the VUWSA Executive – Rāwinia, Rick, Declan, Caroline, Toby, Steph, Alasdair, Maddy and Jordan – you have all worked incredibly hard and given me a fresh perspective when I’ve definitely needed it. The VUWSA staff and volunteers have all given so much in what has been a year of transition. Thanks to the team at Publications Committee, Salient and the VBC, who have demonstrated huge commitment to ensuring student media adapts and changes to continue being strong.
There are so many students to thank. Ngāi Tauira, the Pasifika Students’ Council, the PGSA, the International Students’ Rep Group, the VUWSA Clubs Council. That’s not to mention over a thousand VUWSA Class Reps, Faculty Delegates and student representatives who’ve attended countless meetings and committees to ensure the student voice is strong at Victoria.
Victoria University has many incredible staff who deserve acknowledgement. There are disagreements, but I am proud of the constructive working relationship VUWSA has built with the University. Chancellor Ian McKinnon and the University Council, and Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford and the SLT team are ready to engage on the big issues facing the University. Thanks to Pam Thorburn, Jenny Bentley, Rainsforth Dix, Maria Cobden and Stephanie Hunter, who we work with often, and who we can have honest conversations with. The Academic Office past and present – David Crabbe, Martin Boswell, Jenny Christie, Kevin Gould, Winnie Laban, and Leanne Ivil and all of the Academic Committee and Associate Deans deserve a huge mention for their commitment to academic quality and equity, and to fair and consistent University policy. Karen Davis and all of the incredible Student Services staff must be thanked also.
Finally, I would like to thank John Dennison, Gerard Hoffman, Yvonne Oldfield, Dave Guerin and Kate McRoberts, who have been very supportive of me personally this year. Thanks to my wonderful flatmates – Aaron and Jerome for being the gin and tonic and game of 500 at the end of some very long weeks. Finally, Taylor, for enduring two years of endless talk of the VUWSA variety – I couldn’t have done it without you.