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August 9, 2013 | by  | in Homepage News |
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Waikato Uses Pull Out Method

The Waikato Students’ Union (WSU) has announced it has temporarily withdrawn from the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) and is withholding the remainder of its 2013 membership fees, a move which has been labelled a “stunt” by other students’-association Presidents.

Citing value for money, WSU President Aaron Letcher said the Union had significant concerns over what they were receiving from NZUSA in exchange for its membership levy.

“When you’re talking about large sums of money, like $20,000 a year, you need to be able to see $20,000 worth of value,” said Letcher, who met with NZUSA last week to discuss withdrawal from the national students’ association.

Salient understands that WSU is contractually bound to pay its second $10,000 membership instalment for the year, and may face court action in the event they fail to do so. Membership levies are calculated according to student numbers, with VUWSA’s annual fee a much more substantial $45,000.

VUWSA President Rory McCourt said WSU’s concerns were “completely” shared by VUWSA, although no discussions around withdrawing were currently taking place. Under the current NZUSA constitution, members have to give a year’s notice before departing.

“If you look at [WSU’s] particular concerns, they’re valid,” said McCourt, adding that the national body was being pulled in two different directions. He claimed that smaller associations were looking for core support in functioning, whereas larger ones were wanting a national voice.

McCourt said the current NZUSA President, Pete Hodkinson, had “struggled to straddle that divide”, didn’t share VUWSA’s vision, and that his recent activities “were not helpful for students”.

At the latest Executive meeting, members expressed that they thought Hodkinson was wasting his time on his current nationwide ‘Big Questions’ tour. The tour, which is the second of its kind this year, looks at decisions the Government could make to ensure New Zealand will be able to “afford our future” in the long term. When the topic came up at the meeting, it was met with an audible sigh.

Members were concerned the Big Questions tour was not relevant to students’ interests, with Equity Officer Matthew Ellison calling it the “least relevant” thing NZUSA could be doing. “The mind baffles [sic],” added Vice-President (Academic) Sonya Clark.

WSU is currently in discussions with NZUSA as to the future of its membership. After talking to Hodkinson last Wednesday, Letcher told Salient the talk was “inconclusive”.

“There were a lot of questions asked, but not a lot of answers given, so I think we’re just going to need to work through that,” said Letcher. “I couldn’t say at this stage [whether WSU will start the withdrawal process]. It’s a board decision.”

Hodkinson agreed the meeting was inconclusive, but disagreed it was a political stunt. He will be spending a week in Hamilton sometime within the next two months to look at how value can be provided to WSU and to address concerns in person.

Otago University Students’ Association President Francisco Hernandez told Salient that while there were some concerns around the direction of NZUSA, they provided a strong and important national voice for students. “You don’t reform an organisation by pulling out of it,” Hernandez said.

He dismissed suggestions the OUSA Executive were thinking of pulling out of NZUSA, saying they ”haven’t had that discussion yet”. However, sources close to OUSA have told Salient the Exec is not unified in its support for NZUSA.

“Even though Fran has always been largely pro-NZUSA, other senior Executive members don’t really see value in the organisation any more. But the issue hasn’t been formally brought up yet, and probably won’t this year,” said the source.

It is not yet clear whether VUWSA will decide to continue its membership with NZUSA, as McCourt said they “haven’t made any decisions about it” but that a “meaningful conversation” needed to be had between the Executive. Should they decide to change the relationship with the organisation, then students would have to be consulted.

NZUSA’s staffing consists of an Executive Director, a President and a part-time Communications Coordinator; it also has 659 ‘likes’ on Facebook.

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  1. Waikato pulls out of NZUSA | Kiwiblog | August 19, 2013

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