You have nothing to lose but your seats
VUWSA is urging Victoria University to reserve four of its University Council seats for staff and students.
The move is an endorsement of the Tertiary Education Union’s (TEU) stance for all University Councils to retain one-third of their seats for democratically elected students and staff.
After the passage of the Education Amendment Act (No 2), university councils must have no more than 12 members by the start of 2016. The Victoria University Council currently has 19 members, including two student representatives and three staff representatives.
TEU President Sandra Grey wants to retain the seats of democratically elected staff and students in order to “provide a counterbalance to the Minister’s growing power”.
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Victoria University Chancellor Sir Neville Jordan has given no assurance that student seats will be maintained on the Council. This stands in contrast to former Chancellor Ian McKinnon and current Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford, both of whom have expressed support for student seats in the past.
Sir Neville spoke of the potential for a Council member to stand in as a representative of student interests, without actually being a student.
“It’s not about having a post on there or not, it’s about having someone to represent students, which is very different,” he said.
The TEU and the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) recently held a demonstration at Otago University to launch a national campaign in support of the one-third proposal. They will continue to protest the changes to councils and will urge universities to retain staff and student representation.
NZUSA President Rory McCourt said retaining staff and students on councils “adds value to this kind of institution, and protects it against top-down group-think. The importance of this cannot be overstated in the context of a ministerial power-grab.”
Otago’s students’ association, OUSA, did not attend the demonstration.
Labour has also announced its support of the TEU stance, and Tertiary Education spokesperson David Cunliffe has submitted a bill to Parliament in attempt to revoke the recent changes introduced by the Education Amendment Act (No 2).
Cunliffe said that the Act “flies in the face of good governance principles” and that representation of students and staff is “central to any successful tertiary institution”.
Cunliffe’s Education (Restoration of Democracy to University Councils) Amendment Bill proposes to restore the requirement for all universities to have democratically elected staff and students.
VUWSA submitted against the Education Amendment Bill (No 2) in 2014. They said the changes would threaten student and staff representation, perpetuate the lack of ethnic, socioeconomic and gender diversity on councils, and make councils less effective.
VUWSA will continue its campaign to retain student seats at the Council table, amid fears that Victoria University management will tell students, “you can’t sit with us”.