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May 30, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Prez Col – Sefulu-Tolu

Student organisations like VUWSA exist because as students we must always have a strong voice in decisions that affect us, and to ensure that our collective interests are protected. Often it’s easy to forget the work that organisations like VUWSA do on a daily basis, often because it has become second nature, and in VUWSA’s case, we’ve been doing so for one hundred and eleven years.

Representation that is tokenistic is not proper representation. It only works and is effective when all aspects of the system work together. VUWSA is acutely aware of this, and over the last three years we have explicitly tried to build a strategic partnership with the University to ensure that our voices are heard and our representatives carry mana.

That’s why VUWSA has made a huge effort to grow and develop our student representation structures to ensure the student voice is effective and strong. This trimester, student representation is the best it has ever been. Our solid and wide ranging submission on the undergraduate education review is testament to the strength of our class rep system, the focus on engaging students on issues, which has provided us with powerful high-level information that is going to have an impact.

You have representatives on national bodies (like Student Job Search), the University Council, Academic Board and Committee, every Faculty Board, and most importantly they are in almost every class. VUWSA representatives have had fantastic successes in recent weeks, some of which I mentioned last week.

For VUWSA; having Class Representatives in all courses is an absolute priority. It’s the foundation of a solid representative structure and means all issues can be addressed in a timely and consistent manner. This trimester 91% of classes have Class Representatives. This is huge and has a massive impact on our student experience. It is unparalleled anywhere else in New Zealand, or even in most institutions across the Tasman. Last year the number was only 73%, and the year before that it was only 44%.

Better yet, of the 537 Class Representatives we have this trimester, 80% of them have attended either basic or advanced training. I have no doubt that these numbers will continue to increase over the year as students, VUWSA, and the University all begin to work more closely together.

VUWSA is strong when our representatives are. VUWSA is accountable and transparent when our representatives are. This puts a huge onus on your student representatives to perform, and for them to drive initiatives in ways that best serve you and other students. That’s what VUWSA exists to do, and all representatives at all levels are expected to put the required effort. Those that don’t are wasting your time and money. You should not tolerate that.

Our recently completed annual audit (by BDO Spicers) was passed by students at March’s IGM. It commented on the strong performance of, and improvement in, VUWSA’s financial management and administration. The many changes implemented over the past three years have seen stricter policies and processes put in place that that goes to great lengths to foster transparency and accountability.

The point of this column is not to display VUWSA’s peacock feathers or to flaunt our successes. Instead it’s a reminder that your association is here to serve you, the students who make it. That is why we survey all students on how we’re performing, how students rate the importance of what we do and their opinions on issues.

VUWSA is not a perfect organisation; no organisation is (including the University). But in order to continue to develop VUWSA’s strengths we must ensure that our representatives are up to the job and willing to further the goals of the Association. VUWSA has great, hardworking, and enthusiastic reps, volunteers, and staff, but we still need more.
So good luck with exams, and enjoy the free breakfasts we’re putting on at all campuses as part of Stress-Free Study Week.

I’ll see you at the start of trimester two and Re-Orientation!
Seamus Brady

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