Transition to a voluntary environment is already underway with VUWSA revealing a proposal that will remove the membership fee for 2012.
At an executive meeting last week, VUWSA called for a Special General Meeting to be held this Thursday 13 October, so that a motion amending the constitution to remove the membership fee could be put forward. One executive member spoken to by Salient expressed concern at the lack of consultation with executive members and the speed at which it was taking place.
Constitutional amendments usually require 14 days’ notice, but a clause in the VUWSA constitution allows for “substantial compliance”—of which the 10 days’ notice given is in accordance.
Should the meeting not meet its quorum of 100 students, or the motion not pass, the executive will instead set the membership fee for 2012 at $1. However, collection of that amount would not take place until after 2012’s Initial General Meeting, giving them room for another attempt to change it, or adopt an altogether different structure.
In the past, VUWSA has gathered $2.2 million revenue from membership fees. Despite this, VUWSA President Seamus Brady says that a switch to zero membership fees won’t jeopardise VUWSA’s financial viability in 2012.
VUWSA intends to stop its annual contribution to JSub and Building Levy, which allow for long term investments such as the Campus Hub. This leaves VUWSA requiring roughly $1.5 million to carry on as per usual.
Revenue will instead come in part from the VUWSA Trust, which has given a commitment to provide $250,000 per annum for the foreseeable future. An expected $300,000 will come from non-member revenue streams, such as advertising and car parks—leaving roughly a $700,000 shortfall.
The recent proposal by Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce on direction for the Student Services Levy includes the provision for a number of VUWSA services to be funded through that compulsory fee.
“We have been negotiating with the University over funding of specific services that students have identified as important.”
Though there are no formal agreements, it is understood that the University may contract out to VUWSA to provide certain services. Discussions will take place later in the year, once the specifics of said proposal are finalised. This week, in addition to previous consultation and research, VUWSA will consult on services online, so as to form the grounds of their Service Levy arrangements in regards to which services should be funded.
The rationale for a funding model not dependent on membership subscriptions is based on the fact that VUWSA’s mandate and ability to represent students effectively is in part dependent on how many members it has; a membership fee is seen as a “financial barrier” to joining.
Though there is the provision for students to pay for association membership out of their Course Related Costs, Brady says there are competing priorities, and that it would be unfair for students to forgo their limited CRC in order to join VUWSA.
The position for a zero-fee membership model will be re-evaluated and addressed following active consultation and research leading up to 2012’s IGM, where students will most likely be presented with a new constitution.