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September 6, 2015 | by  | in News Splash |
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Democracy returns to Uni Council

General staff wishing they’d also held a “blackout”

After months of consulting with interest groups, staff and students, democracy will remain in (some parts of) University governance.

At its meeting on 24 August, the University Council announced that its staff and student seats will continue to be elected by those they represent, rather than selected as previously proposed.

The changes mean that proportionately, student representation on Council will increase, from a current two seats out of 19 to two seats out of 12.

The Council were positive about the changes. Members verbally patted each other on the back for their “healthy debate” and all seemed generally chuffed at the “wide-reaching consultation process”.

VUWSA President Rick Zwaan hailed the result. “After spending countless hours discussing, campaigning, riding round on scissor lifts blacking out the Hub, lobbying and debating with Council members we finally achieved the most democratic council structure in the country,” he said.

In July, VUWSA “blacked out” the Hub with weed mat, in a protest aimed at retaining elected seats on Council.

The University also received 608 submissions on its initial proposal, which would have removed all democratically elected seats from its governing body in 2016. Most submissions highlighted the “selection not election” of staff and student seats under the proposed model, as well as the lack of a general staff representative.

Though the former has now been rectified, general staff will not be eligible for election onto the new Council. While general staff will be eligible to vote for staff representatives, only academic staff will be eligible to stand.

According to VUWSA, 96.4 per cent of submissions supported retaining some form of election process, while 90.5 per cent of submitters specifically supported elected student seats.

VUWSA’s submission commended many of the Council’s original proposals but pointed to the lack of democratic processes as having the potential to disenfranchise students.

“Electing student members… allows for greater student engagement, as they will be more connected with not only the student body, but with the rest of the student representation structure at Victoria,” VUWSA claimed.

Post-graduate Students’ Association Co-President Hayden Green supported VUWSA’s general submission, but wanted to see “equal representation on the two student seats, between postgraduate and undergraduate students”.

Most of the elected student representatives on Council in recent years, including current rep Stella Blake-Kelly, have been postgraduates.

The Tertiary Education Union’s Victoria Branch organisers Frances Matheson also submitted on behalf of the “860 academic and general staff” at Vic that the TEU represents. The union claimed that “academic and general staff in the University should be able to take part in the major debates affecting their sector.”

The TEU called for elections rather than appointments, and also expressed concern with the lack of general staff representation.

Many of the email submissions during the second consultation process also protested the dismissive way in which general staff were described in the first consultation document. That document stated that “while general staff have been represented on the Council in the past it is hard to see a strong case for their particular skills, knowledge and experience to be carried through into the new constitution. General staff bring mostly generic skills that are not unique to the university context”. Snap.

NEW, OFFICIAL, AWESOME COUNCIL MAKE-UP

  • Four Ministerial appointees
  • Two student reps, elected by students
  • At least two members who are Māori and have recognised standing within the Māori community
  • At least two members who are graduates of the University
  • At least five women
  • Two members of academic staff, elected by both general and academic staff
  • The Nominations Panel will vet and recommend candidates for seats
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