Gender and Women’s Studies not down with Karori Kool

by / 09/03/09

Victoria University of Wellington’s decision to relocate its department of Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) to its Karori campus has created a myriad of logistical nightmares, claims a source from inside the department.

The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, damned the decision to move the department in 2005, noting a lack of access to even the most basic of academic provisions.

“No one seems to have noticed that GWS is a humanities/social sciences discipline, but now we are housed in the middle of the Teachers College! No library access, no peer access in other social sciences/humanities—we are up in intellectual Siberia!” the source said.

Last year, the university passed a number of provisions that lead to significant cutbacks within the department. A number of teaching, research assistance and administrative positions were disestablished in the midst of otherwise efficient and proactive contributions to the university.

VUWSA President and former GWS Studies Associate Lecturer Jasmine Freemantle suspected the personnel structure that was in place in GWS made it easy pickings for cuts.

“The difficulty with GWS, and perhaps the reason it was easier for the university to get away with doing this, is that everyone in GWS, bar Alison Laurie, was on fixed term contracts,” Freemantle said.

“My former position was disestablished, there are no longer any tutors, and we lost our admin assistant who had been working with the department for over a decade.”

The current academic climate at the Karori campus was not conducive to postgraduate study for GWS candidates, Freemantle added.

“The Library of Education in Karori does not store Gender and Women’s Studies books; they’re all located in the Kelburn Campus. This is a major issue, particularly for post-grad students who tend to get out a lot of books, not just one or two at a time.”

In response, Victoria Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Education Professor Dugald Scott felt that the systems in place adequately filled any logistical gaps.

“The main library in Kelburn has a highly efficient inter-site loan service for staff and students across all campuses,” Professor Scott said.

Freemantle disagreed.

“The university refused for us to use the inter-loan system, which is something that’s part and parcel of being a postgrad student, so it makes it logistically difficult for us to access those basic resources,” she said.

Access to support facilities has also proven to be difficult. Of note is the genuine lack of any kind of university-operated crèche service at the Karori campus, a lamentable circumstance for GWS students, Freemantle said, given the relative age of those studying in the department.

Professor Scott said there were other facilities available.

“There is a community crèche next to the Karori campus, and another within walking distance that staff and students based on the Karori campus can use,” he said.

“Students at Te Aro and Karori campuses can make use of existing university crèches, and Gender and Women’s Studies students would be no exception to this.”

The kind of cutbacks witnessed in GWS is indicative of systematic cutbacks across the university plain, Freemantle said.

“The University is currently undergoing significant cutbacks in many areas, including but by no means limited to the College of Education (where GWS is situated),” Freemantle said.

“Less staff equates to students having few options for papers and majors, ballooning class sizes, and an overall lower standard of education. The ‘slash and burn’ programme that has been applied to GWS affects not just the individual staff who lose their jobs, but it also negatively impacts upon students here at Victoria.”

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  1. Kerry says:

    Good slant, Michael.
    We had a lot of students come up to the Women’s Group table during clubs week, who would have taken a G&W paper, if it had still been taught – many had been unaware that some of last year’s papers would not continue to be taught this year.

    The University has expressed a preference for G&W to become a purely post-graduate school within the FHSS/EdFac boundaries – currently, some post-grad quals are administered by FHSS, some by EdFac, with undergraduate papers administered through School of Ed. This year’s cuts to papers offered make it impossible for a BA major or Hons to be completed in G&W, if one is starting in 2009.

    Does make those of us who have graduated in G&W into rare humans; and I dare say there will be rumblings from abroad, where many ex-Grad’s are pursuing further education in this field. International students in particular were heavily represented in enrolments for some years.

  2. Wha…? I run off on GWS in the middle of my honours year to get married in the US and this happens? Clearly the campus change between the lines is designed to reduce popularity to the point where the university can at least try to justify a closure a la Russian Department style. (Apparently noone speaks Russian? Isn’t it like a UN official working language?) To an extent, I did see a lot of this coming. I mean, why the [insert your favourite expletive here] would you have the second lecturer, assistant lecturer and administrative assistant all on temporary contracts, not to mention another of the lecturers conventiently seconded as Head of School, if you weren’t planning cuts at some point?

    Oh wait, oops, my bad. I didn’t mean just cuts, I meant closure. Sometimes I wonder if WCE was merged only with the intention of getting possession of the real estate at Karori.

    I found GWS rather supportive of doing research during my undergraduate and honours years. Doing so during my BA actually encouraged me to continue in GEND either at VUW or an American university, which I guess is no longer an option, or at least soon, at VUW. My goodness, all this support was in part because we could easily consult other lecturers and faculty on the Kelburn campus. Like a certain GWS lecturer or research associate whom shall remain anonymous said once to me, if GWS moved to Kelburn, it would be its death knell.

    Not to mention keeping library books on the ‘wrong’ campus. Last time I was in NZ and I checked, incidentally, the university had conveniently kept the Russian books as a testament, I presume, to their (in?)finite wisdom. (They did have those red Collection Appraisal Project stickers on them, however.) Are they trying to set up (or pull the middle finger at) postgraduate candidates to fail?

    Am I glad FHSS let me bugger off with a GEND GradDipArts in absentia, otherwise my honours year would have been for nothing.

    If either VUW, VUW’s alumni office or VUW’s US 501(c)(3)-compliant charity ever come calling again for donations, I’ll be in quite the bind about whether to pony over even the smallest amount of cash I have, let alone in today’s economic climate in the US. It will, for once, Make Me Think™.