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Stand up against ACT attack on students’ associations

Written By: - Date published: 1:43 pm, March 24th, 2010 - 66 comments
Categories: act, roger douglas, uncategorized - Tags: , ,

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 Campbell

Andrew was the President of OUSA in 2000 and Co-President of the New Zealand University Students’ Association in 2001 and 2002.

66 comments on “Stand up against ACT attack on students’ associations ”

  1. Bill 1

    Just a shame that an unnecessary parallel is suggested with regards a truly awful piece of architecture on the one hand and the value of student associations on the other.

  2. Lanthanide 2

    The student association fees are what, $25-40? Is ACT on campus really complaining over such small peanuts? Anyone who can afford to go to university, can afford to pay association fees, and frankly I see it as simply a fee you have to pay if you are a student.

    • Somewhat higher than that.

      VUWSA’s fee is about $140, Massey up to $175 (depending on the Campus), and Otago just under $190.

    • BLiP 2.2

      Its not really about the money. Its about preventing young people learning how a cooperative can achieve magnificent results on behalf of all members. ACT wants such practical lessons removed entirely from the education process, and society as a whole, so as to promote its individualism philosophy; fostering resentment towards collective enterprise is the means by which it goes about this. Economic liberalism can only succeed when society is so sufficiently atomised that the idea of working together is beyond comprehension.

  3. prism 3

    Freakish to see the ideology of the individual anomic person keep raising its destructive head. Being made to pay a student fee, that’s worse than anything that can be imagined, its fascism, no its communism, oh I don’t know. The move
    to wipe student associations was mounted before and some resisted, let it be again. Collectivism way hey!

    But this deja vu stuff from ACT. Wouldn’t it be good to whip out their wealth from under their feet so each in that party would single-mindedly have to concentrate on making their pile again and keep them out of politics. It would be like Sisyphus and his boulder. I don’t like the way they keep jumping out at one like a hideous head on a ghost train circuit, it’s scary.

  4. Bright Red 4

    Roger Douglas used to have a plan to revamp the entire economy.

    Now, he is reduced to mucking around with whether student associations should be voluntary.

    Kind of pathetic really

    • prism 4.1

      Gotta keep your hand in at your trade, keep up the skills eh Roger. I wonder if he follows his wife around criticising the way she makes the beds.

  5. MikeE 5

    And surely if the students associations are as Andrew claims, such great value, and as Bill claims easily affordable, not a single students association should have trouble attracting members if the become voluntary.

    The only reason they would have a problem, was if they were in fact, as ACT suggest, expensive, unrepresentative and poor value for money.

    If the associations are correct, they have nothing to fear from voluntary, transparent, non political membership.

    • Bill 5.1

      “and as Bill claims easily affordable”

      Did I? I thought I claimed that the Clubs and Societies Building was bloody ugly. Never mentioned the affordability of anything. Did mention value in passing. Made no claim about it. Value doesn’t mean money. Value, in the context of the post is to do with worth. Which has got nothing to with money either. In the context of the post the value or worth of good decisions being made was the point. The decisions that laid provisions for future generations of students. That was what Andrew was saying, is it not?

      And I said that the building is bloody ugly. I guess you might extrapolate that I’m claiming the architects or planners made some bad decisions. But that’s aesthetics. Meanwhile, do students find Clubs and Socs valuable? I guess they do. Does that mean it’s expensive? No it doesn’t. Is the building ugly? Yes it is.

  6. Rebecca 6

    You’re wrong Mike E. The evidence is that students support universal membership – they vote to retain it under the current system and very few try and opt out under conscientious objections. But its one thing to support the status quo and its another, year in and year out, to try and recruit new students – it costs money, at the beginning of the year students don’t know what the association does, its a transient population – and it costs members’ money to recruit and administer membership systems. The Australian system has shown that most student associations lose over 90% of members, and have to resort to a $0 fee like AUSA does. And many smaller associations have already folded, just as they would here.

    • Jared 6.1

      Actually no. AUSA receives funding through a services contract, we are voluntary in nature, not financially. The money gets taken and mostly given to AUSA regardless of your views. The reason why students on the right are pissed off is because the left have a far bigger base on campus, and have the ability to essentially run the student associations how they want. From putting out rewards for arresting condi rice to Princess Street trying their hardest to block a motion last year to make AUSA’s membership in NZUSA a contentious issue. Doesn’t help that most of the students are apathetic and don’t care about student associations. Students haven’t had the chance to vote for VSM or CSM, something the left have fought very hard to prevent.

      • Sam 6.1.1

        Tears are rolling down my cheek for you, it must be so hard being a righty at uni and not having much power or many like-minded friends. This just in: it’s called democracy.

    • What evidence Rebecca? If that was the case, why is NZUSA spending tens of thousands of dollars on fighting the bill?

  7. Nick Kelly 7

    Back in 2007 ACT on Campus at Victoria University stood a ticket in the VUWSA elections advocating VSM and as part of this they would no longer give support to the various campus clubs or societiies. The result was the turnout in the VUWSA elections more than doubled, and students voted by a margin of 2-1 (in some cases more like 3-1) against this ticket and their VSM platform. Various attempts by ACT on Campus to get enough signatures on their petitions for a referenda to be held have failed.
    ACT have failed to win the hearts and minds of students, but now are trying to push this through parliament.

    • peteremcc 7.1

      The A-Team never stood on VSM, they stood on reforming the current processes.

      The left won the next two elections and did exactly what the A-Team was planning.

      Oh, and the A-Team had nothing to do with ACT on Campus

    • peteremcc 7.2

      The A-Team never stood on VSM, they stood on reforming the current processes.

      The left won the next two elections and did exactly what the A-Team was planning.

      Oh, and the A-Team had nothing to do with ACT on Campus.

  8. Graham 8

    Excuse me? I thought you supported democracy on this site.

    ACT wants to make membership voluntary. They’re not trying to do away with the student associations, ban them, make them illegal, or “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” as Andrew rather hysterically claims.

    As MikeE points out, if the associations are so fantastic, students will flock to them in their droves. If they’re not, the students won’t. Simple as that. It’s called democracy, get used to it.

    [lprent: I thought you supported democracy on this site.
    If that is a query about this site, then I suggest that you read the about and the policy. The short answer here is that the authors and moderators do all of the work. Everyone else is a guest ranging from the respected to freeloading trolls, but all are subject to behavioral constraints in the policy.

    I have a separate answer on the legislation and the ACT party. ]

    • lprent 8.1

      It is really hard to see the democracy in some zombie in parliament forcing a change of rules on a body that they actually have little or no legal mandate over, university student associations – who already have an ability to make their associations voluntary by internal vote.

      In short this looks like the highly undemocratic ACT party imposing their will on others simply because they think that they have the power in parliament to do so. It looks to me like ACT on campus has already made several attempts to win a democratic vote and completely failed. So now they’re taking an undemocratic route to achieve the same thing.

      Looks like another round of the dictatorial habits of ACT arising again – exactly as they did on the super-city legislation, where the correct course of action would have been to submit their proposal to the people of Auckland.

      It really is no surprise. ACT talks a lot about ‘democracy’, but whenever possible, tries to avoid it ever happening.

      ACT: The party of petty dictators…

      • Bored 8.1.1

        You are (I am well advised by others on this blog) not supposed to use the “f” word or compare our fabulous Wodders with a certain “Benny M” . This draws ridicule even if he fits the bill spendidly. The accusitory word I am advised to use is “corporatist” .

        • lprent 8.1.1.1

          You notice how I carefully steered around those words myself in my comment. They’re just a short-hand.

          You can say exactly the same things without getting into godwin debates – which is what the restrictions are about. The words themselves tend to cause flames that have little to do with the content, and a lot to do with the word associations.

      • peteremcc 8.1.2

        “It is really hard to see the democracy in some zombie in parliament forcing a change of rules on a body that they actually have little or no legal mandate over, university student associations”

        Er, in that case, why did parliament pass a law that allows students associations to force people to join in the first place?

        This bill doesn’t force anything on anyone, it removes the existing law that forces people.

        Presumably you think that the government also forced people to not be conscripted to the military, even if they wanted to be?

        • lprent 8.1.2.1

          You mean the current law that already has a procedure for changing the method of association for both the individuals and the group? You can get a referendum to force a vote on the association, or opt out individually. Sounds reasonable to me…

          Just like the local government act that the dickhead minister of local government ignored by putting in new legislation for Auckland. The LGA would have required Rodney to put his bill up for a democratic referendum – which it would have failed because his proposals are unworkable. So he just put in a set of specific acts for Auckland to override any kind of opposition.

          This move by Douglas looks like the same kind of ignoring an established democratic procedure by the people affected in favor of a tyranny of the ACT minority.

          Acts of parliament are often there to provide a legal basis for organizations to exist that service a community need. The type of crap that Act has been pulling to destroy isn’t going down well anywhere. The sooner the organization is dead or ineffectual (ie next election), the happier I’ll be.

          • mcflock 8.1.2.1.1

            Education Counts website: 2008: 363,953 students enrolled in public tertiary institutions (202,017 EFTS). When it goes to the vote under the current process, the majority vote CSM.

            Elections.govt.nz: ACT votes in 2008 election: 85,496. Due to the vagaries of politics, the Nat need those few seats so much they’ll BJ roger douglas and Pita Sharples at the same time.

            Gotta love democracy.

      • Han 8.1.3

        Forcing students to pay for organisations that are POLITICAL in nature and claim to represent them is about as undemocratic as you can get.
        Student associations Continually FORCE ideals into the public arena on “behalf” of students. Anyone who thinks SA’s are not political is blind. anyone who thinks they represent students fairly is also blind.

        ACT are giving students a choice to belong or not belong to an association whats undemocratic about that?? and before you mention students can opt out, you probably never have been involved with people trying to do this…sure you can opt out..but the SA will then give your money to a charity of their choosing!!! its a joke! as are most student associations.

        Freedom of association is just as important as any other freedom. anyone who opposes this bill clearly thinks otherwise.

        • Pascal's bookie 8.1.3.1

          Don’t you get votes to decide who will be on the assoc, and who will decide what the assoc says and does?

          If not then yeah, that’s bad.

          Are you opposed to Birth certificates and compulsory registration on the electoral role? Goodness, how dare the state force you to be a citizen? For shame etc.

          And if it’s about the principle of association, rather than the money, why would the donation business stop you opting out?

          It just doesn’t make any sense.

    • Graham 8.2

      “I thought you supported democracy on this site.”

      My apologies, that was a badly-worded comment, aimed at people who comment on this site, not at “the site” itself.

      [lprent: good catch.. ]

    • Sam 8.3

      Nothing is more obvious that the hypocrisy of the right: you claim it’s about choice but this bill removes student’s choice about how their associations are run. That’s not choice, that’s being dictated to. If you want to leach off the hard work and the money invested by the students in your association (if it’s universal of course) then you still have that option, as frustrating as that is.

      The problem that you are overlooking is what has happened in Australia and what has happened at Auckland Uni – what your student association provides is not that clear until it’s all gone. The AUSA has to spend upwards of $40,000 a year marketing themselves when they could be actually using that money for doing good things for students. That’s a hell of a lot of money that could be used for scholarships and financial support of students, or decent subsidies on retail items to avoid the rip-off merchants who set up at unis these days.

      Use your brain for a moment, really.

  9. JD 9

    “The result was the turnout in the VUWSA elections more than doubled, and students voted by a margin of 2-1 (in some cases more like 3-1) against this ticket and their VSM platform.”

    So Nick what percentage of students actually bothered to vote?

    It’s so much more impressive throwing about figures like 2-1 than actually quoting the percentage of voters which given your claim could prove embarassing.

    PS Are you still driving buses?

  10. Waldo 10

    Personally I would have no problem paying some from of levy to fund clubs and similar activities. The problem with the Unions as they stand is the use of money for political campaigns and the incredible waste for which there is no realistic way of holding them accountable.

    It is wrong to require students to fund an organisation which then uses that money to campaign for issues and policies which might disagree with (funding J-day celebrations and contributions to the Nth Vietnamese army are two VUWSA examples which spring to mind).

    A person should not have to go begging to VUWSA’s true believers in order to be freed from this obligation. The idea that I should have to satisfy VUWSA that my conscience has been (or will be) sufficiently offended by their actions before I can be liberated from this organisation is, once again, simply inconsistent with my right to free association.

    Moreover, even if I do convince VUWSA’s powers that be that my conscience is worthy of their benevolence, my money is not returned, but provided to a cause of their choice. I would not be particularly satisfied with having my money taken from VUWSA to be given to Greenpeace.

    On a practical level, VUWSA executives are guilty of near criminal levels of waste and incompetence for which it is very difficult to hold them accountable. During my time at the University money was spend, not only on questionable political causes, but also ridiculous personal expenditure for which no-one was held accountable. One executive spent several thousand dollars on psychic hotline phone calls, while another took a trip to Australia on the student’s dime. These sums were not recovered. Many other abuses, such as the scandalous contractual arrangements with VUWSA staff, simply fly under the radar.

    Meanwhile, VUWSA executives protest at ANZAC day or wear t-shirts referencing their genitals on stage at graduations. Such actions draw national media attention, tarring all of the students at the University and doing nothing for the credibility of my qualification.

    During my time, Presidents (with the exception of Nick Kelly) tended to serve only one term and other executives would often resign a few months after being elected, or not seek re-election. In these circumstances, it is almost impossible to hold elected officials to account for massive incompetence or broken promises (I’m still waiting for my free printing Joel Cosgrove).

    It is very rare for an institution to have the power to compel others to join it and fund it. Such a power of compulsion should only be used against free individuals when absolutely necessary.

    I should not have to beg or campaign in order to be set free from the madness that is VUWSA.
    (Apologies for spelling, written in a hurry)

    • Galeandra 10.1

      Waldo & Co, your complaints would have credibility if you and like-minded others had resisted the failures you refer to by accepting opportunities for democratic responsibility yourselves. Did you vote, support candidacies, or stand for any exec positions?
      Captch: leg as in, do you have one to stand on?
      I have had a lifetime of contributing to a voluntary professional association which others have happily freeloaded off. There are powerful incentives for the same with student associations as others have pointed out.
      There is no dilemma here: the middle way is to demand contributions from all who benefit, and to manage the associations by direct participation from all those who are members. Anything else seems like nanny dependency where you want democracy and accountability but expect everyone else to do the work. You too have to commit time and energy as well as your financial inputs.

      • peteremcc 10.1.1

        In that case, we’ll get Rodney to pass a law forcing you and every other student to join ACT on Campus and give us $200/year.

        But it’ll be ok because you can always stand to be ACT on Campus President and vote in our elections.

    • 1. Nick Kelly served one term as VUWSA President.
      2. The psychic hotline money was repaid.

    • Waldo 10.3

      Galeandra
      Yes I did vote and, while I did not stand for VUWSA, I was on the LSS for a time. We did not engage in political advocacy, but did provide competitions and events for students which were paid for out of money that was given voluntarily by law students, sponsors and anyone else who chose to participate. This is as it should be. Freeloading was not a problem because people attended the events they were interested in and paid the appropriate fee for things that did not have full sponsorship. (Incidentally, if you had attended every event on the calendar it still would have cost less than $190.00)

      Peter is right when he demonstrates that it is not enough to give me a say in an organisation that I want no part of and who’s expressed views I find offensive. I should not have to demonstrate an absolute commitment to Marxism in order to avoid being conscripted into Act. And If I did demonstrate this commitment to Act’s satisfaction, it would be a little on the nose for them to contribute my money toward the Business Roundtable.

      Graeme
      The last I heard on the issue was that, some months after the misappropriation, the money had been promised but not repaid. I’m happy to be corrected if your information is more up to date.

      Apologies (and belated commiserations) to Mr Kelly.

      • Neilson 10.3.1

        Waldo

        The psychic hotline money was repaid in full by the acting exec member who abused a miss configuration (VUWSA phones were not supposed to be able to call any 0900 number at all). She was promptly removed from the executive.

        We caught the misuse, investigated it, and had the money repaid within one month.

        Waldo, are you saying that LSS, in your year, received no money from VUWSA. In the time I was on VUWSA LSS and VICCOM recieved the most money out of all the rep groups excluding PGSA usually around 14,000 (each) (approximately one half to one third of their total expenditure for the year – depending on the year)

        Regards
        Alexander

        p.s. I am always interested to note that much government legislation (from both sides) recieves reports stating that it is incompatible with the bill of rights. The latest example is the changes to benefits. If New Zealand believed that these rights (which is where ACT’s argument is based) may never be violated and are fundamental then parliament would have made the Bill of Rights Act supreme legislation or at least have included a section invalidating any law that was incompatible with one of the rights. Parliament has decided not to and is itself currently proposing “fair and reasonable” breaches of peoples rights.

        If these rights are so inalienable then I will be happy to see Peter McCaffrey (sp?) joining protests against these changes to benefits.

        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10634153

  11. Nick C 11

    Section 17 of the Bill of Rights upholds the right to freedom of association
    Clause 20 of the UDHR upholds the right to freedom of association and says that “No individual may be compelled to join an association”

    I thought lefties were supposed to like human rights? Obviously not when it doesn’t suit their political aims.

    • J. Andal 11.1

      You can opt out of being a member of a Students’ Association, at least you can with the Otago University Students Association. However, the compulsory fees are not refunded, instead they are given to a charity of your choice.
      Furthermore, you could argue that you chose to associate with the Students’ Association the instant you decide you want to learn at a tertiary institute, as you know full well it’s a package deal.

      • Clint Heine 11.1.1

        And how many students successfully opted out in 2009 J Andal?

        Zero.

        In fact I would love to see the stats from other associations about their opting out figures. Why do you think students don’t try and opt out when all their union fee goes to charity?

        Getting a degree and being forced to pay for an old badly set up resource building like the Clubs and Socs building shouldnt be part of any package.

        • felix 11.1.1.1

          Hang on CLInt, are you now saying it is about the money?

          Can you tell your mates that? They all seem to think the money isn’t important and it’s all about the principle.

          (Of course you and I both know the real reason)

          • mcflock 11.1.1.1.1

            and at the debate yesterday, the VSM crowd were asked ifthey knew of anyone who had been refused conscientious objection withdrawal from the association. They couldn’t.

  12. JD 12

    Did Joel Cosgrove ever repay that $1730 he owed the association? So glad that my freeloading ass paid for him to attend an essential research trip to Australia and produce a plagiarised report.

    • Nick C 12.1

      JD: You left off a 0. It was more like $18,000

      • Neilson 12.1.1

        Nick

        I hope you are being facetious, it was not $18,000, possibly closer to $1,800 but I don’t have the calculation in front of me.

        Regards
        Alexander

  13. Waldo 13

    Be a bit more generous. It may have been a very worthwhile trip.

    Perhaps that is where he learnt to shave swear words into the back of his own head? Or maybe that is where he developed the work ethic to work a gruelling 3 hour day?

    Maybe he was over there trying to get us a great deal on paper for that free printing and photocopying….

  14. JD 14

    At least Freemantle tried to put the word ‘worker’ back into Workers Party by making VUWSA employees actually turn up, a move which doomed her to being purged from their ranks so full props.

    • Waldo 14.1

      Quite right. Freemantle seemed hard working and capable. It was so depressing that the left sought to unseat her for daring to try to limit the number of paid leave days VUWSA staff can take when their pets are sick.

      An attempted coup against a member of the Socialist Workers Party of New Zealand for being too right wing. Only in student politics.

  15. Greg 15

    Quality students associations have nothing to worry about. Here at canterbury the students association effectively pays for itself through its business ventures, not a bad system! However could someone from Victoria please explain why compulsory student membership is a good idea? Seems like you guys get a pretty raw deal.

  16. JD 16

    We only got a raw deal because the workers party captured the association through the apathy of the student population. THAT is why Nicky Kelly has not posted the percentage figures of how many students actually voted in VUWSA elections. Because its a fucking embarassment to him claim that associations represent students.

    By corollary he also knows that if VSM were implemented then students would have to opt in to VUWSA to be members and which would decimate it because who the fuck would want to be represented by, as it stands, a bunch of self-serving socialist muppets.

    These guys are gonna be toast.

  17. Rebecca 17

    Re: your recent comments. Honestly, other than slag off recent VUWSA people (who have all been voted out anyway) there’s no argument here for a change to the current system. You agonise rather than organise – you stand, don’t get elected, and then try and impose an unworkable system on everyone, rather than letting students decide. If you vote against something your association does, you still have freedom of speech. Douglas’s bill would eliminate students’ rights more than it would enhance them – most students would lose the right to representation as there would be no students’ association to join.

    • thiscountryisfilledwithnutjobs 17.1

      “Douglas’s bill would eliminate students’ rights more than it would enhance them most students would lose the right to representation as there would be no students’ association to join.”

      They can represent themselves perhaps ?

      Why should they been compelled to join something that is populated with persons whom they hate ?

    • Jared 17.2

      Please don’t say the dismally low voter turnout is representative of the students in general or gives the elected a mandate. Usually around 1000 if not less at Auckland, considering we have around 37,000 students… well the numbers speak for themselves

      • Pascal's bookie 17.2.1

        It does cut both ways though Jared. If your mob were saying something that struck a chord, people would vote for your mob. They’d be as outraged about it as you are. But they don’t. If the electorate want your mob in charge, they have the power to put you there.

        Strangely, they don’t use that power.

        And please, don’t launch into another cry about ‘apathy’. That’s just another way of saying their lack of support for you is some sort of moral failing on their part.

    • You talk about students not wanting change and there being no argument for change… where do you get these statistics?

      The CTU seem to be doing well under voluntary membership. The EPMU are more relevant to their members as well.

      Students have more important things to do like getting a degree to want to stand up and get abused at the VUWSA quad for standing up for freedom of association. This bill is so simple, let the students decide whether or not they can join their student union.

      It must work, that’s why Labour made membership to the Law Society voluntary a few years ago 🙂

  18. JD 18

    “Re: your recent comments. Honestly, other than slag off recent VUWSA people (who have all been voted out anyway) there’s no argument here for a change to the current system. You agonise rather than organise you stand, don’t get elected, and then try and impose an unworkable system on everyone, rather than letting students decide. If you vote against something your association does, you still have freedom of speech. Douglas’s bill would eliminate students’ rights more than it would enhance them most students would lose the right to representation as there would be no students’ association to join.”

    1. I have given Freemantle the props that she deserved so how is that slagging VUWSA members off – unless you agree with psysic hotline calls, flag burning at ANZAC ceremonies and taking junkets to Australia.

    2. We’re not taking about freedom of speech but freedom of association as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and last time I looked forced membership in a student association was not a legitmate curb of that right necessary for a free and democratic society.

    3. Compulsory membership does not equal letting ‘students decide’ no matter how you spin it. Only by allowing students to opt in voluntarily would this be held true. How you came to this conclusion defies logic.

    4. Associations would not disappear, only those inhabited by self-serving parasitical career student politicians would.

    • BLiP 18.1

      We’re not taking about freedom of speech but freedom of association as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and last time I looked forced membership in a student association was not a legitmate curb of that right necessary for a free and democratic society.

      Here’s what National Ltdâ„¢ think about the Bill of Rights.

  19. Sophia 19

    “They can represent themselves perhaps ?”

    Sure they could I guess – but do you think its particularly easy for an individual student to take on the university bureaucracy? The good things about student associations is that have some degree of institutional memory and some level of influence that can back up individual students on issues of advocacy and the like. I don’t think that one student versus an entire university represents any real or meaningful choice.

  20. lonelyavenger 20

    Agreed. Every university student should also be forced to fund and join the Business Roundtable. Was freedom of association worth anyway?

  21. Andrew Campbell 21

    Thanks for the comments.

    As I indicated in the original post I suspected the battle lines would be drawn on pure idealogical grounds. While it is hard to avoid that, we are all idealogical otherwise I doubt we would be on this site, I was attempting to get people to consider the loss to both students and society of student associtions going voluntary.

    In practical terms students would have fewer servies, less representation and a poorer time in tertiary study. And why? Because a handful of people want to opt out. In my experience as a student preisdent I met far more peoplw who liked what OUSA and NZUSA did than opposed it. They were less vocal about the gratitude they felt towards their sport club getting a grant, their kid getting an allowance or the quality of their course improving as a result of student assocaiton intervention because they saw it in terms of the ongoing and vauable work of a well resourced student association.

    It is this important work, day to day, that makes an ongoing difference in ordinary students lives and it is what will be lost.

    • I suspect the Roger Douglas’s and the David Farrar’s wouldn’t be big fans of this, but could you support an actual opt-out as a compromise?

      The current system with conscientious objection does not go far enough to meet the human rights concerns, but I’m certainly of the belief that an opt-out system would be enough – making it opt-in would be one way to go to fix the current concerns, but a real opt-out system would also fix, in my opinion, the human rights objections.

  22. Darel 22

    I was the Student President at Canterbury in 1998 and 1999 when we opted for universal membership, got out of NZUSA, and adopted a service level agreement with the university which took the fee to zero and still took the money from students for the services the university thought ought to be part of a university whether we did it or they did it.

    Prior to the current legislation students associations existed because a council wanted one. The incorporated society legal form meant an AGM of members could disestablish the UCSA but the Council would more than likely just vest the authority in a new body to do the same thing. All attempts at disestablishment at AGMs failed.

    Ironically the VSM legislation made it harder for members to disestablish their students’ association.

    Amongst my beefs at the time was that I thought it was entirely a matter for Canterbury students to decide our form and functions, not Wellington MPs and not NZUSA.

    The old legislation made it a matter for Council to decide the terms of conscientious objection. As a matter of principle I took the approach that people could get their money back in 1998 (pre-zero fee), not paid to a charity, but then had to realise they couldn’t use the facilities that students, past and present, paid for. None took it up.

    Lastly, it might be interesting to note I had two pro-VSMers on my Exec in 1998. One changed his mind because Amnesty International published an opinion that universal student membership did not contravene human rights. The other decided that the UCSA was actually more efficient than the university at more of the services we did than the university would be because of a more flexible and lower wage structure and the huge contribution of volunteer hours.

    Disclosure: Yes I am a friend of Andrew Campbell’s but no we don’t always agree.

    • Waldo 22.1

      That is all good stuff Darel. A focus on service delivery, no compulsory acquisition of money, allowing people to leave without having to plead their case and opting out of the NZUSA are all principled steps. Yours sounds like the kind of Union I would choose to join. From earlier comments made by Christchurch folk it sounds like your Union would survive even if VSM passed.

      Like I said earlier, I have no problem paying for the services I use. I don’t even mind paying someone to provide services I might not use (disability support etc). My complaint is that the flag burning, ANZAC protesting fruit throwing hippies who run VUWSA, claimed to represent me and used my money to fund their campaigns. In order to be freed from that I would have to go cap in hand and justify my conscience to the VUWSA leaders. My money would not be returned, but rather given to a cause of their choice. The idea that my values or principled objections would have to reach a certain, subjectively assessed, level of righteousness before they counted as real, is an idea that belongs in the age of conscript armies and official state religions.

      And yes, I would object to conscription even if I got to vote in elections on who ran the Army. (You might even call that a “General Election” (pun)).

      The fact that VUWSA provided woefully bad services is beside the point. Overriding an individual’s freedom of association, like any breach of individual rights, should only be done where absolutely necessary. There is no justification in this article, nor in the actions and functions of the student Unions which reaches this threshold. It is not enough to give me a say in the running of an organisation I want no part of.

      It is good that you note that you would have let anyone who opted out to get their money back on “principled grounds”. Unfortunately, many of us were not so well served by our executives.

      I would not object to an opt-out approach. I for one would have stayed in when enrolling in first year and judged the Union on its merits.

      P.s I would be quite interested to know what voter turn-out is like in student elections (particularly in VUWSA)? Are any readers in the know?

  23. JD 23

    “It is this important work, day to day, that makes an ongoing difference in ordinary students lives and it is what will be lost.”

    Agreed.

    However how successful it is depends on student politicians and given the competency of VUWSA presidents such as Cosgrove with his clown-like antic together and a propensity for fraud like behaviour we should be given the opportunity not be be associated and represented with him as a human right.

  24. Darel 24

    Except there was and still is compulsory acquisition of money, but its on the university’s terms consistent with the Council’s view of its institutional autonomy as per s160 of the Act. Roger’s bill legislates against the Council’s ability to organise its own affairs in this area. So I can’t support the bill on that basis alone.

    In 1998 I was Finance Officer and we did enforce the “give the money” to charity rule. I processed less than half a dozen and the charities weren’t controversial – I can’t even remember who they were. But the “give the money” to charity rule was the university’s rule as per the Act at the time.

    The fact that I was an ANZAC Day wreath laying short haired white guy who was relatively right wing in student circles didn’t mean I didn’t appreciate that the UCSA was there for all students. That meant we funded and provided space for the Education Action Group and Act on Campus etc as a legitimate service of the UCSA. UCSA funds went, and going by the list of clubs still go, to a diverse range of cultural, political, sporting and religious focused groups.

    And yes, I saw my job as student president as representing all students. But the expression of that representation varied. So I could easily attack interest on student loans because I knew the support for that proposition was high. But most of a president’s job is uncontroversial and not party political, but important making sure that people with power think about students when designing policies and programmes.

    When you have a President who is an idiot, you roll them. You can’t roll an MP but you can easily roll a student President. And institutions have been known to get in on the act too. But you’ll have to take that one on trust but I’ve seen an institution institute the rolling of an incompetent student president. It was done with some class, though.

  25. Giarne 25

    I find it odd that many here have tried to get away by saying that they aren’t political and that students associations aren’t political and that this debate shouldn’t be idealogical. Pretty much everything we do in life it based, in some part, to our idealogical framework and political leanings. Sometimes we strike an issue that crosses political party leanings, but not that often from my experience.

    I was Student President at the Christchurch College of Education in 2005 and 2006. I did two terms because we were about to merge with UC and I had done a lot of the ground work till that point, and quite frankly, no one else wanted to do it as the 2006 year involved wrapping up our Association and creating a club.

    On apathy – I saw that as a take/challenge that our Exec had to take up. I said the lack of interest in our finances and duties meant we had to be more conscious of what we did, why we did and and how we did it. I think our Exec took the challenge on headfirst and we achieved a lot. Not as much as I would have liked.

    On voter turnout – It wasn’t ever huge at CCESA, or UCSA, or anywhere around the country, electronic voting system or not. But neither does our general election show a huge votoer turnout and certainly many of those who do vote don’t make an informed vote.

    On UCSA – I really don’t know where to start. I can’t defend them as a champion of Association in terms of mandate, achievements for students nor model of operation. Their elections are still mostly a shambles with still low voter turn outs from my memory, they exist on a service model to the University, and they are now abusing the system with the Student Services review, they are terrible employers, they have had their histories of scams and horrors, they are self-interested … and worst of all they have left the society that came out of CCESA to crumble by not giving the support they promised to Education students. UCSA didn’t even fight for CCESA to be allowed speaking rights at the 2006 Council decision to raise fees at the College of Education by 10%. They barely mentioned education students in their submission to Council and have even put in fee-setting submissions for 3-4% increases instead of arguing for 0% increases. Oh, I’m not championing CCESA entirely in all this either, we had our issues, I’m just saying that rose coloured glasses by one writer does not make a wonderful association out of UCSA.

    Seems to me National and ACT are happy to import crap policies from Australia. VSM, National Standards for primary schools … I’m sure they’ll amend employment law as soon as they fly that kite up and see how it flies.

    My experience is seeing a decent association (CCESA) constrained to death as a club under UCSA. The club doesn’t need or want UCSA funding, so this isn’t about hurt ego’s after funding issues, CCESA left them with enough to have events etc. The apathy of students, the fact they’d prefer to join a drinking club instead of a club which represents them, lack of support and encouragement from successive UCSA exec’s and staff, a lack of respect from UCSA for 95 years of CCESA history and their business model “affiliation” b-s has almost killed the club that was CCESA.

    Obviously I’m unhappy with the merger, and what how I saw UCSA behave in my time as a student at CCE. I’m also a leftie, a proud union member of SFWU and a worker for NZEI. I know some of the people in these comments from my time in NZUSA through CCESA. At the end of the day most people do their best, some scam the system. VSM won’t increase voter turnout, decrease apathy, or stop people from scamming the system.

    What does VSM offer for students?

    Who will represent students at a variety of academic/governance committees if there aren’t Students Associations with histories and a sense of justice – and who the heck will pay for that representation???

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