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October 14, 2013 | by  | in News |
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David Alsop: Introducing Your ‘New’ Student Rep

David Alsop was elected as student representative on University Council for 2013. Seeking a second term, he stood for re-election for 2014. His campaign was a resounding success; as the only nominee, David secured another year representing students at the highest level of University governance. Salient sat down with David for a chat about Council, interacting with top University brass, and his hopes for 2014.


What have you done as student representative on Council this year?

Beyond [attending regular Council meetings], early on, with the collapse of the Student Forum, it became clear that a review was necessary. There was tension between VUWSA and the PGSA, which was clearly ongoing and had been there in previous years, so as a kind of neutral party I stepped in to chair that review. So, I have been Co-Chair of the Oversight Group, which is made up of both staff at Victoria and students, and chair of the Student Working Party, which has done the bulk of the work; and so throughout that, I have kept the process chugging along despite lots of interested parties and lots of things that inevitably slow this down. I helped us reach a consensus, I think, and tried to bring the different parties together, because everyone really wants what’s best for the University and students, so all that was really required was to try and bridge those divides and try to find common ground.

I think we’ve achieved that. Apart from the issue of the second University Council representative, all student representatives are on board, staff have been really supportive, and so that’s been good process there. A lot of my work is quite informal, building relationships with Council members, because it’s one thing being in a Council meeting and saying this is bad for students, or this is great for students, or we should do this; it’s better if you can help other Council members understand what are the issues for students, what are their worries and so that when they comment, when they think, when they make decision, they’re taking that into account. I think I’ve been quite successful in that regard.

Why did you decide to stand again?

Shortly after I came in the first year, I started thinking about standing for a second year, because the first four or five months was just getting to know the ropes, building those relationships, understanding how to best operate and contribute to the University Council and improve the governance of this university. I’ve done all that; I’m up to speed and I’ve got that experience, so I thought next year I don’t have to do redo that learning.

I can jump in day one, January 1st, and be an effective Council member straight away, and I thought there’s a benefit to students in being able to do that. That was my main reason, and also I think there’s a benefit for continuity in terms of ensuring the same things stay on the agenda… There’s always a loss of knowledge when you transfer from one student rep to another. I can help keep up the pressure on issues which are important to students, things like the quality of education. I think there’s a benefit for that. So those were really the reasons.

For two-thirds of this year you were the only student rep on Council due to issues with the Forum; did that make your job more difficult?

It was not the best… I think one of the limitations was that with one voice it’s very difficult to be everything to all students and to represent the myriad of views of that students have and the myriad of experiences and opinions, and so, being the sole representative, I tried, but I don’t think I was nearly as successful as I have been since Rory has joined the Council, because we can obviously both approach an issue from slightly different perspectives but still from the perspective of students. It also meant that in terms of Council Committees—I’m on two, Governance and Finance—Order and Risk was without a student representative for the year while there was only one student.

Will you be advocating for two universal reps, or one universal rep and the VUWSA President, when it comes to changing the current situation of the Forum and universal rep?

When I started this process of the review, I came in with a relatively open mind: I had known a few of the pros and cons of both positions, and I wasn’t really sure what was best. The views of the students through the survey have leaned towards a preference for one student elected at large and the VUWSA President. I am more than happy to support that position.

What do you hope to achieve next year?

It’s interesting because you can’t really come to Council with a strong agenda, because events and circumstances dictate what happens. When I arrived 1st January as a new Council member, I had no idea that I would be leading a comprehensive review of representation and consultation… I’ll be looking to carry through that implementation, make sure that the changes that we recommend to students are approved by the University Council and are implemented, because it’s no good saying we’re going to change things if we don’t actually follow through with it.

Something else I’d like to carry on pushing and keeping an eye on, and its good to know that the incoming VUWSA President Sonya Clark is also interested in this, is the idea of the quality of teaching and learning at Victoria. Something that came out of this year’s fee discussions was that (and it’s come out in the past) students don’t necessarily disapprove of fee increases so long as there is an increase in quality and benefits to students. We don’t really know as students whether or not that’s the case, and so, as I said at the meeting at the time, there is conception growing among students that the increase in fees correspond to static, or no increases, or decreases in quality, so I think we need to find out more. I don’t know for certain, I can’t tell, I don’t have that information to hand about whether tutorials have been cut as a result of frozen funding or what the impact of that has been. I think there needs to be more information available to students so they can make informed decisions, and so I’ll be pushing hard for that.

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Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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