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September 25, 2017 | by  | in Features |
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“It was dope, and I killed it”: Six months of the VUWSA Executive

Each of the ten executive members (including nine people who aren’t Rory) wrote about their first six months on the job, and we present but a snapshot of them. We received their mid-year reports late, then it was the mid-trimester holidays, and then there was Te Ao Mārama and a general election, and finally, here they are, half-year reports in Spring — a season less conducive to reading tomes.

Reporting on the reports written by the VUWSA Executive seems an endeavour trapped between their dry technocratic language and the satirical (but really, humourless) attempts at personalisation our predecessors tried in their reportage… we have hardly done any better.

If you don’t trust our summary and would like to peruse them yourself, you can find them online.

(Also, to the executive members reading these: the hours required on each of your reports are weird? Are they supposed to be so different? Also, Rory, much love, truly.)

 

Treasurer-Secretary: Thomas Rackley

Hours Worked: 301.5

Hours Required: 291.5 (10 per week)

Full disclosure, Thomas is a time-traveller, or an old-hand very late with submitting his report. The period covered, January 1 to June 30 2015, sounds good though…  

The Treasurer-Secretary is responsible, among other things, for overseeing VUWSA’s finances: they develop the annual VUWSA budget (alongside the President and CEO), chair the Audit and Finance, Executive Reporting, and Student Media Committees, and are an “ex-officio” member of the VUWSA Trust. They’re supposed to operate as the secretary too, but aspects of the role are covered by the permanent Association Secretary Joseph Hapgood.

Early in the report Thomas recounts stubbing his toe on the proverbial stonewall of someone responsible for VUWSA’s finances, coming to the inevitable conclusion that: “reliance on our current forms of income is unsustainable and in order to enhance ourselves and become a truly strong and independent association we must find alternative revenue streams.” This is the fault of Voluntary Student Membership (VSM), introduced by MP Heather Roy (from the despicable ACT Party — fuck ’em seriously) and passed in 2011, which changed the funding model of student associations across New Zealand. Associations now have to negotiate with the university to receive a piece of the cake that is the Student Services Levy (some associations like Otago’s did pretty well; others like VUWSA…).

Despite these constraints, the 2017 executive managed to get remuneration for the VUWSA Officers passed at the mid-year IGM with considerable support from students; they increased the $2000 honorarium to minimum wage for constitutional hours. However, as Thomas points outs, this wasn’t without difficulty for VUWSA’s finances. “Significant” unaccounted for costs and lowered income forecasts discovered after the IGM, plus the remunerations, meant that the 2017 Budget was cast into major deficit. Thomas “tightened up our ship” and negotiated a one-off grant from the VUWSA Trust to offset the deficit — VUWSA revealed a small surplus of $205 at the AGM on August 10. To add to this impressive achievement, Thomas also initiated a successful constitutional review process and all proposed amendments were passed.

Intriguingly, he admits to being an earthly missionary for the Prince of Darkness — “On the executive I have in many cases assumed the role of devil’s advocate” — but that’s points from us; if one had to criticise the 2017 executive, it’d probably be that they’re too wholesome. Rating systems are uncomfortably capitalist for our taste… but in this case, 666.

Most exuberant (luxuriantly fertile or prolific; abundantly productive) statement: “Cheese toastie duty was crazy on toga night.”

 

Academic Vice-President: Isabella Lenihan-Ikin

Hours Worked: 620

Hours Required: 480 (20 per week)

The cooler of the two Lenihan-Ikins on the executive… controversial, but we said it (sorry Rory, but you’ve got your fanbase #badmemes), Isabella is the Academic Vice-President and has priority goals “to ensure that the university provides the best teaching and learning, research opportunities, assessment and training to students” and “to promote equity for disadvantaged students in access to and within the university.”

To quote a previous Salient editor describing the role: “The Academic Vice-President is basically tasked with slamming his or her head repeatedly against the brick wall that is the steady defunding, creeping managerialism, and academic watering-down of VUW.”

Isabella describes hitting this wall in her involvement in “the most well organised and successful Class Representative system in the country,” detailing how representatives from a 100-level course informed her of concerns surrounding lecture space and technology usage, which “sparked a greater, university-wide conversation, about overflow rooms and lecture recordings.”

She is the convener of the Student Academic Committee which meets four times over the year, and she has introduced a theme to each board meeting. In an example of the technocratic delirium that comes, probably, from sitting on too many university boards, the theme of the first was how to be an effective board member. A board meeting about board meetings, we’re swimming.

Isabella also got to go Canada as part of her involvement with the Students as Partners project, which includes working on Victoria Values, a program to introduce civics education and participation into undergraduate study. As part of expanding accessibility, she has worked with Ngāi Tauira to translate the Class Representative Handbook into te reo Māori.

Most exuberant statement: “The purpose of this research is to explore the inclusion of high impact pedagogies into different courses, and connects with international research.”

 

Engagement Vice-President: Nathaniel Manning

Hours Worked: 598.5

Hours Required: 520 (20 per week)

Alongside Rory, Nathaniel is the longest serving member of the 2017 executive, having started his VUWSA career as Campaigns Officer in 2015. His position as Engagement Vice-President is to ensure there is strong communication and opportunities for involvement between VUWSA, its members, and the broader student population; and to “support sporting, social, and cultural activities for and by students; primarily through clubs and representative groups.”

Nathaniel describes work behind the scenes coordinating O-Week and Arts Week, and working with UniQ to organise VUWSA’s participation in the Wellington Pride Parade. He helped carry the 50m flag sewed by the surviving partners of victims of the HIV/AIDs epidemic: “The flag contained a huge amount of mana, and it was an honour, as the future of our communities, to have been the ones invited to carry it.”

A big part of Nathaniel’s role has been coordinating with NZUSA as part of their We Have Power campaign, which aimed to get 100% of students to vote this election. His report was written before the launch of the campaign, but Nathaniel had faith: “With the right campaign, we believe this to be possible.” Unfortunately we are writing this four days before the election, so who knows who is correct, but someone really needs to point out, better late than never, that “100s of volunteers talking to fellow students, encouraging them to be enrolled and being active participants in our political processes” doesn’t necessarily translate into a voting subject (and is the non-voting subject truly so bad?) — Oh yeah Tony m8, go vote eh. Why? Just do it eh. Oh yeah thanks m8, wasn’t going to before but you really convinced me.

No shade on Nathaniel though (and VUWSA for that matter); we’re sure he did a great job organising on campus. Also, Nathaniel is responsible for bringing puppies and kittens to campus during Stress Free Study Week — a hero!

Most exuberant statement: “While many of the work that I’ve mentioned above can cross over and go toward this constitutional job, such as helping out in our Orientation Safe Room, the main project I’ve helped out on the meets this goal is for Stress Free Study Week.” [We didn’t doctor this, we swear.]

 

Welfare Vice-President: Anya Maule

Hours Worked: 678

Hours Required: 520 (20 per week)

As the name suggests, Anya’s position is responsible for leading and contributing to projects for the wellbeing of students at VUW, and particularly “to advocate for adequate financial support, income, and welfare for students in order to remove barriers to education” and “to promote equity for disadvantaged students in access to and within the university.”

This has seen Anya take a lead role in organising Stress Free Study Week, roping in a coffee deal from Supreme; the free flu vaccinations on campus, of which 1394 were given out; and a five tip flatting guide to help students with the (ongoing) rental crisis at the start of the year (the equivalent of a bucket of water on a flat fire).

— REVEALED — Shockingly, in reading Anya’s report, we discovered information that VUW had refused to disclose despite being repeatedly asked. The compulsory Student Services Levy (SSL), paid by all students to fund essential services, entered 2017 with a deficit of $351,483, leading to rumours that a greater than usual fee rise was on the cards. From 2016 to 2017 the SSL increased by only 1.74%. As stated in Anya’s report, as part of her role on the Advisory Committee on the Student Services Levy: “President Rory Lenihan-Ikin and myself also successfully negotiated the University’s proposed 8% levy increase down to 4% in addition to increased service provision.” The SSL was $730.50 in 2017; a 4% increase brings it up to $759.72 for 2018.

Digression aside, a huge success of Anya’s has been to get VUWSA to provide free toiletries and menstrual products for students. At the time she wrote her report these initiatives hadn’t been rolled out, but she highlights the urgent need for the products, citing reports of “some students not being able to come to class as they cannot afford pads and tampons during menstruation.” Anya’s report was by the far the longest of the lot (20 pages) and she’s done a lot of extra things, including preparing the groundwork for a community garden at Kelburn opposite the VUWSA office.

Most exuberant statement: “It’s difficult to write about one’s strengths (and indeed, write this entire report) without coming across as self-congratulatory.”

 

Wellbeing and Sustainability Officer: Beth Paterson

Hours Worked: 320

Hours Required: 250 (10 per week)

Beth’s role largely involves supporting the Welfare Vice-President. Beth’s report includes topics such as waste, housing, suicide, food, menstrual products, and trees. Though not all are discussed in equal amounts, it indicates how wide the umbrella of “wellbeing and sustainability” is. Beth helped plan the Make a Meal in May event with Marlon and Raven, helped Anya facilitate the free flu shots, and planted trees with some graduates.

This year Beth is on the Wellbeing Symposium Committee, Sustainability Committee, the VUWSA Policy Committee, the VUWSA Revenue and Venture Committee, and the university-wide Wellbeing Network. There isn’t much elaboration on what these committees do.

One of the long-term projects Beth has been working on this year is establishing a VUWSA Food Network: a central hub for all the information on the various free and cheap food services available for students, here at university. Results from a survey in May showed that many students weren’t aware of the food services that VUWSA provided and would’ve used such services had they known before.

Being Wellbeing and Sustainability Officer did not mean being immune to the stresses of the commitments of full-time study, part-time work, as well being on VUWSA. However Beth writes, “I have tried to be mindful of my limitations and accept that I can only do so much.” An apt reminder for all to check their own oxygen mask is still on when trying to help others put on theirs.

Most exuberant statement: “I like coming up with new schemes that I think will improve student life.”

 

Equity Officer: Tamatha Paul

Hours Worked: 232.5

Hours Required: 260 (10 per week)

Tamatha re-established the Student Equity and Diversity Committee, which was “largely inactive” in 2016. Among the 15 representative groups recognised by VUWSA, five of them are equity groups and sit on this committee: Pasifika Students’ Council, UniQ at Victoria, Victoria International Students’ Association, Victoria University Feminist Organisation, and Can Do at Victoria. Ngāi Tauira have a Memorandum of Understanding with VUWSA and, as Tamatha writes in her report, “transcend the representative group structure and are recognised as our Treaty Partners as per Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

The Student Equity and Diversity Committee acts a platform for the equity representative student groups to discuss issues pertinent to their student bodies, critique the university, and keep VUWSA accountable for the effects of their decisions. “Extensive minutes” are kept so that those who cannot make meetings due to “exceptional circumstances” are kept informed about what is discussed.

One of the main projects Tamatha is struggling to complete is the Rep Group Manual, a resource for representative groups that clearly outlines their relationship with VUWSA and aids with the turnover of their executives each year.

Tamatha is also part of the Māori and Pacific Island Interventions Governance Group whose job is to assess current initiatives that target Māori and Pasifika students to see if there needs to be a change of funding “in order to strengthen successful initiatives and scrap others in favour of stronger or newer interventions.”

Most exuberant statement: “It isn’t good enough to just hold these meetings.”

 

Education Officer: Lauren Daroux-Grieg

Hours Worked: 220

Hours Required: 234.5 (10 per week)

Lauren’s role works closely with the Academic Vice-President to ensure the equitable access to and quality of education here at university is maintained. The Class Representatives system is the initiative facilitated by VUWSA to help ensure that students’ feedback regarding the quality of teaching they’re receiving has an easy channel of communication to the course coordinators themselves and to VUWSA. Lauren and Isabella are in charge of running class rep training sessions in trimester two, and Lauren sends fortnightly newsletters to the class reps.

One of the Lauren’s election promises was to “encourage the use of te reo Māori at university.” There were discussions held with the Education Team and the Centre for Academic Development about what resources and incentives there were for academic staff to use te reo in their teaching. It is a goal of Lauren’s to work more closely with the “Māori Students’ Society” [Ngāi Tauira??] to devise a faculty-specific resource for staff to use.

In the first trimester Lauren took four papers, was head tutor for LAWS301 (Property Law), and worked ten hours a week as a researcher for LexisNexis — the reason why the hours worked are lower than the hours required — but reassured us in her report that she’s only taking three Arts papers in the second trimester, “which will give [her] a lot more time to dedicate hours to VUWSA.”

Most exuberant statement: “I think VUWSA absolutely killed it in terms of running safe but really fun events.”

 

Clubs and Activities Officer: Marlon Drake

Hours Worked: 339.5

Hours Required: 260 (10 per week)

Marlon is the Clubs and Activities Officer and has done a “good job” — it’s in writing, not going to dispute that. The Clubs and Activities Officer has a constitutional goal to “support sporting, social, and cultural activities for and by students; primarily through clubs and representative groups.” They work with Recreation Services — another legacy of VSM, as clubs at VUW aren’t under the umbrella of VUWSA as they were in the past — to ensure that clubs on campus are well supported and have access to facilities and resources. (Not so fun fact/digression: there’s a ProLife club on campus… are they deserving of resources? Is this the appropriate time to be asking that question, probably not…). Marlon has been involved in the Clubs Council, and used their meetings at the start of the year to create working groups to address aspects of VUWSA engagement with clubs: training, constitutional review, and a Clubs Manual. The manual is the first of its kind and was released recently.

Marlon also seems to be involved in everything — probably part of the social and cultural requirements of the role. He’s helped with the Living Wage, VUW Athletics Club Relays, Fairer Fares, O-Week, Wellington Student Volunteer Army, Stress Free Study Week, Thursdays in Black, Make a Meal in May… and more. “It has been a crazy semester already…” — this was in June, but he’s still standing tall, having tended “the flames of student politics” and “danced around the edges of burnout” to “some lit tunes.” [Fire emoji]. (It’s amazing what you can do with a little quote trimming).

Most exuberant statement: “I attended the PSC Orientation Event, and sung some Nesian Mystik on karaoke. It was dope, and I killed it.”

 

Campaigns Officer: Raven Maeder

Hours Worked: 197.5

Hours Required: 160 (10 per week)

Raven is a contender with Marlon for the most openly smiley and positive executive member. When we read Raven’s report about how “really fun and rewarding” it was to be a part of O-Week that gave students an “awesome experience,” that “engaging with students at the Newtown Festival was another awesome experience,” and that “Stress Free Study Week was another awesome experience,” we really do believe that relentless positivity.

One of the key projects for Raven this year is Fairer Fares — rallying students to make submissions, coordinating those who presented oral submissions to the Greater Wellington Regional Council, organising a video for the campaign, plus celebrations for the milestones achieved in this marathon.

The other big campaign Raven worked on this year, with Nathaniel, is We Have Power. Raven was part of the National Campaign Team, “which is the group that oversees the running of the campaign at a national level” and was the main communicator between VUWSA and NZUSA. We find out this week whether the 100% target was met.

Most exuberant statement: “…sitting on this national team is an important opportunity to really strengthen student voice nationally.”

 

President: Rory Lenihan-Ikin

Hours Worked: 1484

Hours Required: 1040 (40 per week)

Fails to submit his weekly column to us on time. Is a meme.

Most exuberant statement: “There is so much going on in the President role, and it is easy to skate along on a flat surface if you don’t employ a ruthless focus.”

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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