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October 9, 2017 | by  | in News |
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“Really, it’s a matter of how much I can organise”: The Battle for Engagement Vice-President

The Engagement Vice-President (EVP) is responsible for ensuring that there is strong communication and opportunities for involvement between VUWSA, its members, and students. This year, Sarah Auld and Tamatha Paul are running for the EVP role.

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Sarah Auld is a second-year Law and Arts student who moved to Wellington from outback Australia. She is running for EVP because she sees it as a chance to “concentrate [her] skills and desire for engagement in a position where that is possible.”

Tamatha Paul is also in her second year, studying Politics, International Relations, and Te Reo Māori. She has been on the VUWSA Executive and worked for NZUSA since 2016, giving her “practical insight” as to how the EVP role works.

Although Sarah does not have experience on the VUWSA Executive, she is involved in extensive community work. “I’ve gotten involved in the university, lots of volunteering, lots of executive committees.”

While current VUWSA president Rory Lenihan-Ikin suggested Tamatha run for Welfare Vice-President, Tamatha had full confidence in fellow current executive member Beth Paterson, who was also running for the role. As a result, Tamatha decided to run for EVP instead. She said her experience was a big asset — as well as the training she received as Equity Officer, she had re-established and chaired the Student Equity and Diversity Committee in 2017.

“I know what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs to be improved.”

Sarah said that the EVP role aligned best with her desire to bring people together.

“EVP isn’t super policy-heavy. I don’t have a set agenda about what I want to push through, like there is in those other roles. EVP is more about connecting with the wider community at VUW.”

If elected as EVP, Sarah wants to increase the number of events and activities on all campuses. “It’s about using the Hub and the Courtyard to get clubs and community organisations to come in and do cool little events. Using more of the human resources and connections, [rather than] organising huge events on top of O-Week. Really, it’s a matter of how much I can organise.”

Sarah’s plan to use “human resources” highlights a tension within VUWSA, which is an advocate for the Living Wage. When asked how using club volunteers to help organise VUWSA events would avoid exploiting free labour, Auld said it was a “matter of common sense” to work out how VUWSA could “give back” to volunteers. “At least in clubs, if they are running events, it’s within their capacity and area of interest that they will be operating.”

“I would definitely feel really bad about taking advantage of people’s time and resources.”

Tamatha’s focus if elected as EVP is on prioritising student safety at events. Her main policy is to retain and improve the VUWSA “safe rooms” available at events, focussing resources on “those who need [them], for increased cohesion and overall efficiency.”

Tamatha also wants to implement uniform training at the start of the year to all event volunteers. “What we have is volunteers turning up from VILP [Victoria International Leadership Programme] or Victoria Plus half an hour beforehand and being told what to do on the spot,” something Tamatha wants to change. Tamatha’s plan involves the continuation of using volunteers for these services, with this compulsory training being part of their “volunteering.”

Tamatha said that an elevated social media presence would help engage students, to ensure they knew about the services and events on campus. Sarah agreed, but also suggested moving some services to the Hub and Courtyard, rather than “over there” in the Student Union building.

When asked about the function of VUWSA, both Sarah and Tamatha believed it was about representing “the student voice.”

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