The Clubs and Societies Centre at Otago University stands as both an example of early 1980’s architecture and the value of student associations.
Demonstrating exceptional foresight, the Otago University Student Association provided the funds necessary to build the centre after the university decided not to put money into it. Decades of Otago students have benefited as a result.
The annual clubs day at the beginning of the year sees the centre filled to overflowing with students signing up to take part in the sports and cultural clubs that provide an important component of the student experience in Dunedin. It was always an enormous source of pride to me that these were student run clubs, supported by their students’ association’s staff and funding and it all took place in their students’ association owned building.
All that is at risk. Roger Douglas and the ACT party want to change the law so that student associations will be unable to provide the important services and representation that they currently offer by making their membership voluntary. ACT will argue this on purely ideological grounds that will gloss over the actual and practical affects their proposed changes will have on the ground. It’s also despite the existing democratic provisions that allow individual students to opt out and groups of students to initiate a referendum to make their association voluntary.
We only have to look across the ditch to Australia to see what an ideologically driven disaster VSM has been there. Australian students pay more for their services, have seen services and representation cut and have ceded control over student affairs to their institutions and many associations have collapsed entirely. Students in New Zealand will be worse off on every front and they will most likely pay more for the privilege.
Why would we destroy institutions that have provided such overwhelming benefits to so many New Zealanders for over a century which have and continue to play a critical part in our nation’s narrative and cultural framework? Would you seriously get rid of all of in order to appease a handful of ACT on campus members?
Here’s hoping that the National Party shows the same foresight that students have over the year by continuing to maintain and support the option of having universal membership of student associations.
You can influence their decision by making a submission online on the Douglas Bill. You don’t have to say much. It can be as simple as, ‘I joined a club at uni it rocked!’ or ‘My student association supported me when I needed it, don’t remove that opportunity for others.’
Andrew was the President of OUSA in 2000 and Co-President of the New Zealand University Students’ Association in 2001 and 2002.