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Messy Massey

A war of words is taking place within Massey University, with the resignation of one student president as another lashes out at “possibly defamatory” allegations published in the University’s student magazine, Massive.

Allegations of cronyism within Massey Extramural Students’ Society (EXMSS) arose last week as Massive revealed EXMSS President Jeanette Chapman will earn over $50,000 this year—nearly $40 an hour—after stacking the Executive with her friends and gaining contracts which pay on top of her annual presidential salary.

A source told Massey magazine Massive that Chapman had “shoulder-tapped” people she knew to join a co-opted executive board, after she removed the majority of the original executive members—including the Vice-President—earlier this year. The removal of the former executive happened after it wrote to her with concerns about her performance, and attempted to convene a meeting to discuss them. Chapman was issued a written warning for her behaviour by the original executive.

Chapman has described two out of the three co-opted executive as “good friends”, but declined to comment on what she described as “allegation[s]”.

“This is the second Massive magazine article about me that was obviously made with ‘ill-will’ and is possibly defamatory,” Chapman said in a statement last Tuesday.

“In my opinion, either the editor does not care about the truth or I am a perfect scapegoat that will catapult her into greater name recognition.”

Chapman will earn more than $53,000 a year for her 27-hours-a-week part-time position, it was revealed last week. On top of the $23,000 honorarium she receives for her services as President, Chapman had a newly co-opted Executive approve payments of $10,000 for media and communication, $9521 for office-operations service delivery, and $10,479 for group advocacy. Group advocacy is included in, and remunerated for, in the President’s role, meaning Chapman is getting paid twice to do the same role.

Chapman does not have any intentions of giving up the extra payments, saying in Tuesday’s statement that she will “continue to try to secure ongoing contracts that provide additional revenue that supports our entire society,” as long as she remains President.

The EXMSS President’s base honorarium is $18,000, but can reach a maximum of $31,000 when experience bonuses and allocations for personal computer and study are included. This money is initially distributed by the University under Service Level Agreements, and originally comes from students’ fees.

Massey University diverted responsibility for the faults within EXMSS, indicating it was not their responsibility. Assistant Vice-Chancellor of External Relations Cas Carter said Massey “takes its responsibility for delivery of students’ services seriously,” but indicated the University had limited scope to reign in EXMSS given the society is external to University management.

“We carefully monitor all our contracts and agreements for performance and compliance. The students’ associations are independent entities. The University is always happy to provide advice and support but the students’ associations are independent entities,” said Carter.

Presidents from Massey’s other students’ associations, all of whom are paid significantly less than Chapman, have expressed concern at the situation.

“In my view, unless the President’s wages are fully disclosed, there should be no additional payments other than those approved by the students,” said outgoing Massey University Students’ Association President Steven Christodoulou, who is paid a $22,500 honorarium. Last week saw the resignation of Christodoulou, amidst a climate of faltering student engagement and rising unhappiness with the job.

Albany Students’ Association Acting President Arlene Frost, who is not paid, agreed with Christodoulou stating, “the honorarium payment is not a wage,” and that $53,000 was not appropriate for a student president.

“I believe that it is important to recognise and compensate students for their time and efforts, but it needs to be within reason. I would question whether $53,000 would be classed as within reason.”

Massey Wellington Students’ Association Acting President Charlotte Webb highlighted the importance of formal processes in preventing such events.

“Any remuneration and honorarium, or consultancy payments should be subject to formal approval processes … not just for accountability, but also for transparency in being able to report the use of funds to the student body,” said Webb.

fChapman justified her relatively high pay, telling Massive she had more business and management expertise than other student presidents.

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