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August 14, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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European Students Association Re-emerges

CW: Racism

 

The Auckland University European Students Association (AUESA) has re-emerged after a period of inactivity, claiming that University of Auckland (UoA) schemes to promote Māori and Pasifika enrolment are “racist.”

AUESA first formed in January 2017, and received extensive media attention for holding views that promoted white supremacy and nationalism.

On August 1, a Facebook post published by AUESA condemned the UoA Māori and Pasifika Admission Scheme (MAPAS), which facilitates Māori and Pasifika student enrolment in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

AUESA posted: “These brave ANZAC heroes did not go to war so that their grandchildren and great grandchildren could be treated like second class citizens. While these brave ANZAC/Kiwi soldiers were fighting, there were scarcely any Pacific Islanders in NZ […] yet today any Polynesian immigrant that gains permanent residence can qualify for the MAPAS scheme and be admitted as a quota student. This is an absolute disgrace to our ANZAC soldiers.”

The MAPAS scheme, in the vein of affirmative action, seeks to alleviate some of the systemic inequalities faced by Māori and Pasifika communities in New Zealand.

In 2015, only 58% of Pasifika students in Year 13 gained their Level 3 NCEA, and only 30% gained University Entrance. Furthermore, the Pasifika community has the lowest median income in New Zealand, at $23,686 per year. 49% of Pasifika people earn below $20,000 per year.

Salient spoke with Sarah, a Pasifika student at Auckland University, about the comments made by AUESA.

“Although [the] post came from a place of negativity, an astounding number of comments came from people who have an understanding and respect for equity,” she reflected.

Salient spoke with another student, who chose to remain anonymous, about the group. “I followed the page when they started, and initially they were promoting aspects of European culture. […] However, in recent weeks, the rhetoric degenerated to blatant racism. […] There is an aspect of this group that may just want to feel some pride in their heritage, without the guilt of colonisation. However, I suspect some see it as an outlet for their racist views.”

Aucklander Eddie Light told Salient that he supported AUESA’s rhetoric.

“People are sick and tired of the racism from radical Māoris. There are hundreds of Māori groups. We even had Māori law firms catering for Māori. Māori schools. Māori farmer of the year awards. […] For God’s sake we even have a Māori Party, and yet one lousy European group starts up and the Māori go off their nut screaming racist? […] The whole attack on the European Association is racist. It’s that simple. We can have Māori groups of all sorts, yet we can’t have a European one? Blatant racism.”

Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) President Will Matthews said their policy is no comment with regard to AUESA, though noted “they are not affiliated to AUSA or the university.”

Following the August 1 Facebook post’s removal, AUESA issued a statement saying that the group had deleted the posts “as they were not particularly relevant to [their] organisational objectives.”

“If they were not relevant, why post them?” Sarah reflected.

“If anything, the offensive post showed that [AUESA] were outnumbered within the viral community. […] Step outside of your mind-set that Māori and Pasifika are privileged and take a look at how our communities are living and then start to have these conversations.”

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