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October 5, 2014 | by  | in News |
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Uni Council Elections

The voting for 2015’s student representative on University Council takes place from Wednesday 8–15 October. The University Council is the governing body of the University, and currently has 20 members, two of whom are student representatives – one elected by students, and one from VUWSA. Steven Joyce’s reforms to the makeup of university councils may shrink the Council to 12, and the University has indicated one student-elected representative would remain. The Council decides on University planning, budgets, student consultation and, importantly, it sets your fees every year. The student University Council representative is one of the most important links between students and University management. This week, Salient talked to the three candidates vying for your vote.

STELLA BLAKE-KELLY

What do you see as the role of the student-elected representative on Uni Council?

The University Council is ultimately responsible for the long-term strategic direction of Victoria – much like a school’s Board of Trustees. There are a lot of competing interests and roles of a university, and the composition of the Council reflects that. Representatives range from academic staff and alumni, to Business New Zealand and Ministerial Appointees – and, of course, students. With all these voices competing for what they think should be a priority, the role of the student representative is pretty similar to what being a student is all about: asking questions. This means making sure the University justifies – and is held accountable for – the decisions it makes, because, as we’ve seen, students’ education and experience unfortunately aren’t always the priority for the institution.

A priority for me will be questioning the academic quality students are receiving for the continual fee increases. If a student submitted an essay comprised solely of the conclusion, it would fail. Yet every year when the University proposes fee increases without a single explanation of how it will directly lead to a better education, it passes. It might be good. It might be bad. The University shouldn’t be afraid to at least ask the question.

What experience do you have at the higher levels of University management?

With so many competing interests and voices around the table at University Council, in order to be effective, the student representative needs to comprehensively understand the University’s governance structures – that is, how each of those interests relates to one another. I’ve spent three years observing and reporting on University Council meetings for Salient, and building working relationships with a number of Student Representatives on there. As such, I have a sound understanding of the way it operates and will be able to work within those structures to effect change from day one.

How do you see yourself working with the VUWSA Representative at Council?

I think a lot more can be achieved if the VUWSA President and Student Representative work together, as has been demonstrated by the working relationships I’ve seen over the past few years while reporting on Council for Salient. But with VUWSA being so financially reliant on the University, it is important for the Student Rep to be independent, and be conscious of the needs of all students, not just that of the Students’ Association.

Why should students vote for you?

As the only candidate who has attended University Council meetings, I have the most experience and institutional knowledge, meaning I can be an effective representative from day one. You should vote for me because of this, and because I really want Victoria to be the best university in the country. This means making sure our lecturers are great, that campus is vibrant – and, most importantly, that our experience here is memorable.
I’m really grateful for the opportunities I’ve had here, and I want all future and current students to feel like their time at Victoria was worth their loan too.

BEN MROWINSKI

What do you see as the role of the student-elected representative on Uni Council?

For me, it’s about helping students out, especially financially. One thing is lowering fees; another that I want to focus on is lowering printing costs. Universities like Massey, their first few weeks of printing is free. That’s one of the things I want to focus on doing.

What experience do you have at the higher levels of University management?

My degree at the moment involves working with different schools and different government departments to do research and improve different systems, so I’m used to working in those sorts of areas.

How do you see yourself working with the VUWSA Representative at Council?

I’ve met him before, and I think it’s really good there are two representatives. It’s good to have two different voices to represent the student voice. VUWSA works quite directly with students; they’ve got their own funding. It’s good to have their voice on Council so we can work together and improve important things like lowering fees, because it’s set to go up again. Year after year it’s going to keep going up; it’s alright at the moment because it’s on our loan, but once we have to start paying it back, you notice the difference.

Why should students vote for you?

As I’ve been saying, fees are the biggest issue, but I also want to help students save money by getting free printing, because it’s quite a big cost for some students, like Law students. It would be good to have that going on during the year. My goal is to get more funding for students: it would be good to get more funding for clubs so that students are benefitting from the money they’re putting into the University. We’ve got our student Levy fees and our fees itself, then we’ve got our support services like financial support and the learning centre. It would be good to have more of the money we’re putting in benefitting students more than just the University.

ELIJAH PUE

What do you see as the role of the student-elected representative on Uni Council?

Now that National’s back in, you don’t know how secure the seat is. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on things that I can do now. At the end of the day, you represent students and you present to Council what students want, in the best interests of students. We need consultation with students in the two, three weeks after the election to gauge what students need from University Council. Some people don’t know what University Council is, so I think some educational presence needs to happen as well. That’s what I’ve been getting from people I’ve been talking to, especially first-years – “What’s University Council?”, “Who’s the VUWSA President?”, sometimes. We need to consult with the students, and ensure that students know the importance of this democratic process within the University.

What experience do you have at the higher levels of University management?

Currently, I’m President of Ngāi Tauira, the Māori Students’ Association. We’ve presented at University Council, but Ngāi Tauira can take credit for that, I can’t personally take credit for that. We meet regularly with the PVC (Pro Vice-Chancellor) Māori, and we’re about to meet with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Guilford. We were also present at the Fees Forum, with VC Guilford, and Chancellor McKinnon was there. We also had a meeting with Professor Guilford about the Strategic Plan, where we indicated we’d be interested in the implementation process of that. Personally, I presented at my local council numerous times when I was living at home, however many years ago that was.

How do you see yourself working with the VUWSA Representative at Council?

I think it’s a given that the VUWSA President and the Uni Council rep need to have a good ongoing relationship, a constructive relationship whereby they know each other’s grounds. The ability to have free and frank discussion, to be upfront and honest with each other, is very important for this. I’ve had experiences with Rick in my presidential role currently where we have had that good relationship, we know what each other does, we meet regularly in terms of my presidential role. I think we’ve got good grounds to work on.

Why should students vote for you?

In Māori tikanga, we don’t usually talk ourselves up, but what I will say is: vote for me, because I want to do what you want me to do. It’s not about what I want, it’s up to the students. I don’t have any problems with the current rep, but I’ve only seen him a couple of times: I’m not really sure what he does. I represent students; I’ve seen the VUWSA Pres everywhere talking to students. I want to be the voice and the face of the University where I can listen, talk, discuss, do stuff for students. I don’t want to tell you how good I am at what I do, I want to do things for students.

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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