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The Victoria University Council is under renovation and if last Tuesday’s student consultation forum was anything to go by, the majority of students are either unaware or simply don’t care.
Recent changes to the Education Act mean that Victoria must reduce its University Council from 19 members to a maximum of 12 by 2016. While four of those members are appointed by the Minister of Education, the composition of the other eight positions is in the University’s hands.
Pro-Chancellor Emeritus Professor Peter Walls indicated that Tuesday’s forum was an “opportunity for students to say what they think the University Council should look like”.
However, the invitation for students to come forward and voice their concerns was met with resolute disinterest, with Walls addressing a bustling but completely disengaged Hub. Walls was joined by consultant Graeme Nahkies, the university’s general counsel Simon Johnson, and a number of student politicians, all of whom looked extremely embarrassed to be there.
“Well that’s a good start,” Walls remarked.
A lone, bold woman, though initially phased by the mechanics of the microphone, voiced her hopes for a Council that not only had female and Māori representatives but also members with humanities backgrounds.
Nahkies acknowledged the undesirable prospect of the Council becoming increasingly “pale, male and stale” before stressing this was not the aim.
“There has been an expression of desire that the Council be as diverse as possible,” Nahkies said. Alongside Māori and women representatives, it would be “highly desirable to have a youth perspective [and ensure] intergenerational diversity”.
The forum, intended to take as long as an hour, continued for only 15 minutes before Walls abandoned the microphones and sheepishly formed a private huddle with one concerned student and a gaggle of VUWSA and Salient hacks.
VUWSA President Rick Zwaan insisted it was “disappointing that so few students turned up” and attributed the low turnout to a lack of advertising on the University’s part. The association has previously criticised the forums for being slap-dash and tokenistic.
The remaining 98% of students in the Hub at the time had these things to say:
“I feel like I don’t know enough about the matter to comment on it.”
“I feel like they should be student elected but I’m also not sure how much effort I want to put into it.”
“Maybe they should just have a showdown. Everything is settled with a joust.”
“With student councils, no one wants them until they want them; in which case they know where to find you.”
Despite the poor turn-out and lacklustre debate at the student forum, Walls remained positive that the 700 responses to the University’s student consultation email would provide some student input to the decision-making process.