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May 24, 2015 | by  | in News |
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Council-tation

Last week consultation with staff and students continued regarding the future makeup of the University Council.

According to senior staff, Vic had the “most comprehensive” consultation process compared to other tertiary institutes in New Zealand.

In terms of feedback, Chancellor Sir Neville Jordan maintained that there had also been over 3000 responses to surveys seeking input on the Council from staff and students.

VUWSA’s forum took place on Monday and saw approximately 20 attendees, most of whom were VUWSA staff or Executive members, plus a shitload of pizza. The somewhat apathetic attendance was matched by the six tweets for #WhoShouldRuleTheUniversity and two for #VuwCouncil.

While the Exec kept the $450 they had accidentally spent on speakers under wraps, VUWSA President Rick Zwaan explained to those gathered that the Council was responsible for the “big picture”and “major investments” and was ultimately “where the buck stopped”.

While some students present claimed the discussion was “way above [their] head”, others saw it as a welcome introduction to student politics.

Lively discussions took place questioning whether a Council rep could be appointed by the VUWSA exec, how best to ensure Māori representation on the Council, and whether alumni should retain a vote. Additionally, some students suggested there be a mandated gender balance on the body, and that VUWSA and University Council elections could be held simultaneously to ensure voter turnout.

On the other side of campus, 26 staff members (including the facilitators) gathered in a Murphy lecture hall to make their own thoughts on the Council known. Overwhelmingly staff were concerned with maintaining academic integrity in the face of an increasingly commercially-driven culture and ongoing pressure on academics to produce research.

Predictably, one staff member raised his concern that seats set aside for Māori wouldn’t be elected on the basis of “merit”. Vice Chancellor Grant Guilford rebuffed the implication that election on the basis of race would mean inferior appointees and instead pointed out the worrying absence of any Māori representation on the current Council.

University staff and VUWSA formally submitted their recommendations to the Council last Friday, along with the responses from their respective surveys.

Salient has taken the liberty of distilling for you the main discussion points of each forum, sans buzzwords like “collegial interdisciplinarity” and references to a “distinctly Victoria approach”.

What staff want:

  • A strong academic voice on the Council.
  • A relevant and accessible Council.
  • Representation of a diverse range of academics, not just “lawyers and accountants”.
  • Student and support staff representation.
  • Communication between the Council and other staff and boards.
  • A genuine representation of Vic’s Māori community and its interests, not a tokenistic one.

What students want:

  • Balanced gender representation.
  • An accessible Council.
  • Representation of international students, women and minorities.
  • Student representation.
  • Māori representation elected by the Māori community at university.
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