Student freedom

Written By: - Date published: 8:34 am, December 22nd, 2010 - 107 comments
Categories: act, activism, education, national, public services - Tags: , ,

Student unions are great. They provide excellent services, they enrich campus life. They provide an introduction to politics, management skills, journalism skills and much much more. But young people are idealistic, and idealism means Leftie politics. So much older, much greyer, much meaner politicians, who should by rights be leaving the politics of the young to the young, want to stamp out the student unions.

The cover story for the attack on students is “freedom of association”. It’s a bollocks argument, as this truly excellent article by Chris Barton in The Herald makes clear. Let’s work through some highlights.

Students pay high price for freedom

Universal or voluntary membership? That was the question put to tertiary students in 1999 after the National Government passed a law insisting they choose how they should belong to their student association.

Auckland took the voluntary path. It didn’t go well. In 2000 numbers plummeted – just 3000 out of 28,092 students agreed to pay the $30 joining fee. By 2002 the numbers were still dismal – just 2700 out of 31,502 had joined.

Its mandate slashed, the Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA), with a proud legacy of serving students since 1891, was down, but not out. In 2003 it staged a miraculous comeback, getting 20,000 students to sign up. Membership has stayed around that level ever since. The reason: joining is free. Except the services AUSA provides aren’t free at all. In the first year of voluntary membership there was a $92 rise in the University of Auckland’s “student service levy” from $75 to $167 and it’s been increasing ever since.

Today, a full-time undergraduate student can expect to pay $542 in compulsory levies, which are used in part to contract AUSA to provide services such as catering, advocacy, representation, support for sports, cultural clubs and societies, plus events and entertainment.

So on the voluntary path students are paying the same. But they pay to the University instead of direct to their own organisation.

This is how [National and ACT] want the tertiary student world to be – free to associate or not. Which is why the Government is soon to pass the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill, outlawing universal membership and forcing all tertiary institutions to follow Auckland’s lead.

Never mind that all other tertiary institutions have voted under the 1998 law for universal membership and want to keep it that way because of the detrimental effect on student services.

Never mind too that, as happened in Auckland, somebody – most likely the institution – has to pick up the tab. And that students, while they may be guaranteed the freedom not to associate, will still have pay – whether by membership fee or levy. …

But while AUSA has managed to carry on, what happened at the University of Waikato shows how things can go terribly wrong.

The Waikato Students’ Union (WSU), representing 10,000 students, was the first to opt for voluntary membership, beginning in 1998. That year, membership revenue fell dramatically from $593,827 to just $23,253. In 1997, in preparation for the changeover, the Union’s Campus Movies service was halted and its assets sold.

In 1998, more assets were sold off, including Campus Travel and the student radio station, Contact FM. In the second year, membership revenue fell to $3,442 and the WSU had a trading loss of $130,934.

Losses continued in 2000 when another referendum was held which voted to return to universal membership. In 2001 with $539,901 in membership revenue, WSU started to rebuild services.

“Voluntary membership completely devastated our services, student culture, and ability to support students,” the WSU said in its submission. “It has taken a decade for the WSU to rectify the effects of an ideological policy.”

The voluntary path devastates services and impoverishes campus life. Now let’s get to the heart of the right wing cover story:

“Only full voluntary membership of students’ associations will solve the principled human rights issues and practical accountability and responsibility issues that compulsory membership violates,” Act MP Heather Roy told Parliament during the bill’s second reading. She cited the Bill of Rights Act 1990 which “protects the rights of individuals to determine whom they associate with, and which political ideas they associate with, and to do so without compulsion or undue influence”.

What she didn’t say was that the select committee received legal opinions – including one from Sir Geoffrey Palmer – indicating that universal membership, because of its opt-out provisions, does not breach the right to freedom of association.

Membership isn’t compulsory because students have the option to conscientiously object. The Human Rights Commission also told the select committee “that students’ freedom to not associate is protected sufficiently under the current Act”.

Freedom to associate is already protected. There is no foundation for the right wing attack on student unions, it is pure ideology. And it will do nothing but damage:

But for groups like the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) the bill presents nothing but problems – for the students, the Dunedin community and the taxpayer – due to the infrastructure costs and having to replace essential services OUSA would no longer be able to provide.

“The bill claims to be solving a problem that does not exist,” OUSA said, pointing out the association was not designed to service the best interests of only a proportion of students, rather than the whole. It said it did not have the infrastructure to exclude some but not others from its services. As well as creating inefficiencies OUSA said the bill would create the problem of some “freeloading” on the system and “an irresponsible attitude” discriminating against students “based on their choice of association”. …

AUSA is also concerned that its existence is reliant on the continued benevolence of the university – an arrangement that it feels compromises its independence and its core role to act on behalf of students.

“The university could pull our funding at any time if we were to act in a way that [it] disagreed with.”

All of which makes it difficult not see the bill, as Green MP Gareth Hughes told Parliament, as “an ideological problem in search of a solution”, designed to reduce students’ ability to organise and stifle critique of Government policy.

So to sum up, freedom of association is already protected and the cover story for the attack on student unions is nonsense. Students are still going to pay the same, but to the universities instead of their own organisations. They will lose a lot of freedom, most of the learning experiences that student unions afford, probably a lot of services, and leave themselves at the whim of university administrations. Hey students – does that sound like a good deal to you? Don’t forget to thank Act and National at the ballot box…

107 comments on “Student freedom”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    A certain forty-something right wing blogger and National Party pollster has an unhealthy interest in this issue. One canonly imagine he finds tearing himself away the intoxicating presence of so many young women [deleted – r0b] just to hard.

  2. John Dalley 2

    Yes he does have an unhealthy interest in the VUSA doesn’t he. an only imagine he was ostracized [deleted – r0b] that it has clouded his judgement,

  3. r0b 3

    Sanctuary, JD, I’m no big fan of DPF either, but please keep the personal comments within reason. Thanks.

  4. AndyB 4

    damn, you guys are all class. well done, hope you feel better now after your obsessive wee outburst.

    • r0b 4.1

      Don’t be too precious about it AB. The filth that DPF allows on Kiwiblog leaves me without an over abundance of sympathy for him.

      • AndyB 4.1.1

        arn’t you supposed to be above all that name calling? you could say that you are now just stooping to his level. anyway, have a merry xmas standardites!

        • r0b 4.1.1.1

          Me personally? I try not to go for personal insults, though I slip up sometimes in haste and anger. The blog in general? We’re all grownups here so discussion can be robust, but we writers try to keep things within reason.

          Anyway, Merry Christmas yourself. I’m off to pack the trailer…

        • lprent 4.1.1.2

          I’m never ‘above’ name-calling. I just don’t like it to be pointless name-calling and I see that r0b cleaned up some that I’d have considered pointless.

          When I’m moderating I go for quite deliberate personal insults periodically as an alternative to banning. I consider that they can be an educational experience.

          They’re usually aimed at people with a history of thinking that that pointless insults are a good idea – and usually who don’t seem to like it when they’re not the one doing the kicking. Sometimes they’re aimed at people gaming the system (typically by not participating in the debate through one reason or another) to demonstrate how personally painful it can be when the operators take exception to people screwing around with their site.

          Sometimes I get it wrong as I did with NX the other day. But that is the breaks when you’re moderating so many comments, have an aging memory, and are distracted by other things.

          Of course when I’m not moderating, it can just be that I’m just in a grumpy mood. And I’m a grumpy old(ish) man with a low toleration to fools.. But there will always be a point to go with the insults.

  5. Nick C 5

    The article you sited is just complete and utter nonsense. Freedom of Association is not already protected: The opt out system is completely flawed: you dont get your money back if you opt out, and the student association is the one that gets to decide whether or not you can. Also the referendum process is a farce: Since when should I have to have a majority of people approve before I get civil rights?

    Students are currently the only people in society forced to join a union, or pretty much forced to join any association for that matter. Compulsory membership is a relic of the past and I suspect the only people who miss it will be the left wing politicians who cut their teeth using other peoples money.

    • burt 5.1

      But without compulsion the unions won’t have as much money to donate to the Labour party !

      You simply need to understand that Helen rOb thinks lefty politics should be allowed to use force to extract money from people with very little money because it serves the Labour party.

      • Bunji 5.1.1

        Ermm, which student association donates to the Labour party burt?

        And Nick I think you’ll find that doctors and most medical professionals, lawyers and many professional disciplines have compulsory associations. A student association isn’t so different. The Nacts just want rid of them because they put “union” in their name.

        • burt 5.1.1.1

          OK, so high earning qualified people may be required to join a professional association and that’s the same as students borrowing money to pay compulsory fees to a politically motivated group of Labour party interns…

          You really show how stuffed and self serving the left wing desire for command and control is Bunji when you compare Doctors with Students… but I guess there are really no arguments to support compulsory student associations so it’s no surprise you need to make up such a pathetic one.

        • Nick C 5.1.1.2

          Student associations are VERY different. Professionals are made to join these organisations for self regulation of the profession as an alternative to government regulation. They don’t engage in political advocacy, and arent service providing associations. Student associations have far more in common with the local rugby club than with the medical association.

          Also I think you will find that there is a trend away from compulsory professional associations and there arent many left. E.g. the last Labour govt made membership of the real estate institute voluntary, and at the time Minister Clayton Cosgrove had this to say:

          “We haven’t had compulsory unionism for 20 years. Why should I as a politician tell you or anybody else what you should belong to? If you want to join the footy club, the workingmen’s club, the institute—go for it. It’s your choice and you should have that right.”

          • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.2.1

            “We haven’t had compulsory unionism for 20 years. Why should I as a politician tell you or anybody else what you should belong to? If you want to join the footy club, the workingmen’s club, the institute—go for it. It’s your choice and you should have that right.”

            Link please.

            Just to wherever you got that quote from. Maybe its just my ears but that sounds like it was made up.

            • burt 5.1.1.2.1.1

              Colonial Viper

              How is this one;

              NZ Parliament – Education Freedom of Association Amendment Bill – First reading

              I just searched the entire quote CV, found it real quick.

              • Colonial Viper

                Credits due to you mate, and to whoever does your research. Fine work.

                • burt

                  Google deserves the credit CV, not me.

                  • mcflock

                    so can you provide a source for your claim that students’ associations make donations to the labour party?

                    • burt

                      I don’t have a link for that, it’s conjecture based on student associations donating resources purchased by compulsory student fees to be activists for the Labour party.

                      If the associations were mandated as required to be apolitical I would support them being compulsory and endorse their role. Currently they divert funds taken by compulsion from their stated purpose (the benefit of all students) and use them for political activism. It’s like anyone who wants be part of ACT on campus needs to also support Labour on campus by stealth to do so.

                    • mcflock

                      “it’s conjecture based on student associations donating resources purchased by compulsory student fees to be activists for the Labour party.”

                      So evidence for your claim that students associations all donate to the labour party is of students associations donating resources to “be activists for the Labour party”? Where’s your evidence for that, even if it were possible for a club to be an activist?

                      Oh, and students’ associations are mandated to BE political, generally through referenda and SGM motions. If students told an association to lobby the government for lower/no fees and the executive refused, they really would be as horrible and undemocratic as you guys imagine. But all policy comes from the membership, it is not imposed by the executive.

                    • felix

                      Sorry mcflock but if any org has ever been described by the word “union” then that’s all the proof burt needs.

                    • burt

                      Thank you felix.

                      mcflock,

                      Clearly we will need to agree to differ. I simply can’t agree the all should be forced to pay fees to support the views of activists for a party currently polling less than 35%.

                      If the association is so crash hot people will join it voluntarily, what is so wrong with that? Why does socialism need a sheltered workshop for the minority paid for by all.

                    • mcflock

                      What the hell are we differing on?

                      Either students’ association fund the labour party or they don’t. If they do, then there’ll be evidence.

                      And given that students’ associations have to be run democratically according to the rules of the incorporated societies act, if an organisation or its leadership consistently have a particular leaning (debatable), then that reflects the democratic desires of the membership.

          • lprent 5.1.1.2.2

            They don’t engage in political advocacy, and arent service providing associations

            Wrong.

            All you have to do is to look at submissions to select committees. Every professional body I’ve been involved with offers services ranging from education to certification and often to insurance.

    • r0b 5.2

      Well Nick C, various legal opinions, including one from Sir Geoffrey Palmer, and The Human Rights Commission (“students’ freedom to not associate is protected sufficiently under the current Act”) happen to disagree with you.

      • Nick C 5.2.1

        There is debate over it I agree. The New Zealand Law Society put in a submission in favour of the bill, and there was a legal opinion by Mary Scholtens QC saying that it does breach the right to freedom of association. Of course neither of those were mentioned in the above article.

        But it seems to be that when you ignore the legal side of it: the opt out process is a complete joke and so is the referendum process. How they hell is anyone supposed to get 10% of students to sign a petition when the average turnout at the elections for these things is around 5%. And that is despite the student association having access to the email of every student, and having online voting.

        • mcflock 5.2.1.1

          “How they hell is anyone supposed to get 10% of students to sign a petition when the average turnout at the elections for these things is around 5%. ”

          Ah, the old “students are being forced to join, but 95% seem not to give a damn either way” gambit.

  6. A 6

    This article is a bit simplistic. I’m not sure about the others, but the Waikato move to voluntary unionism was caused by the previous actions of union officials. The only reason that the VSM movement came about was that students had en masse voted “no confidence” in the slate of candidates. The VSM movement arose very quickly as a response in the subsequent rerun of the election, and was to my knowledge very well funded by outside donors, but it probably wouldn’t have happened if student voters had not already signalled that they were completely fed up with the union.

    The reason that students were fed up was that the union had become consumed with identity politics and was perceived as being mostly run for that purpose. Most students at Waikato weren’t particularly against gay rights, but a majority objected to the union appearing to be operated as a gay rights organisation to the detriment of its wider responsibilities, and doing so at a time where the interests of all students were under heavy attack by the government.

    In the end, the students shot themselves in the foot, because VSM turned out to be a waste of time, but it would never have happened at Waikato if not for the selfish actions of student politicians more interested in their own careers and pet projects than in representing the student body.

    It’s also the case that NZ universities changed in ways that made traditional student politics obsolete. Financial pressures on students have caused them to become much more conservative, and to have less time for extra curricular activities. The leisure time that sustained traditional student politics is gone, as many students work half time jobs just to get by. Student unions failed to do anything substantial about the massive financial burden being placed on students, and, after that, what’s the point of them?

    NZ universities are becoming less institutions of intellectual inquiry, and more like vocational training centres.

    It’s a shame, but there you go.

    • Nick C 6.1

      The article also never mentions the circumstances behind the referendum to make it compulsory again. It was held during exam time, and called without notice by the University vice chancellor.

      • A 6.1.1

        They had to do something. VSM just doesn’t work.

        • Jeremy Harris 6.1.1.1

          So sneaking it through when students were busy trying to secure their futures via exams was moral..?

          • felix 6.1.1.1.1

            Gee you must be furious at the immorality of the Nation govt’s announcements this week then.

            • Jeremy Harris 6.1.1.1.1.1

              I’ve been disappointed with most things the Nats have done over the last 2 years but not for the same reasons as you…

              Have I attracted my very own troll..? Who must comment on my every utterance..?

              • felix

                I respond to quite a lot of idiocy, yours is nothing special. Don’t flatter yourself.

                I notice you didn’t answer my question either: What do you think of the Nat/Act govt sneaking their announcements on ACC and Whirinaki (and releasing the OIA’ed documents relating to the Hobbit) 4 days before Christmas?

                Is it as… what was the word you used…. ah, that’s right, “moral”. Is it as “moral” as what you describe above?

              • Jeremy Harris

                I wonder why you think I’m a fan of the National or ACT party, curious indeed…

                No, dumping unpopular or potentially unpopular media announcements just before Christmas isn’t moral, it seeks to limit public debate… But let me ask you these questions:

                – Do you think they are the only political party to do this, or is it only immoral when parties you don’t like do it..?

                – Will you be protesting as loudly during the next Labour government when the release potential unpopular documents, reports and/or stories in the days leading up to Christmas, or will you be a proposterous hypocrite..?

                – What does this diversionary questioning have to do with VSM..? Or are cheap smears all the debate you’re good for..?

                • felix

                  “I wonder why you think I’m a fan of the National or ACT party, curious indeed…”

                  Because I see through you.

                  “- Do you think they are the only political party to do this, or is it only immoral when parties you don’t like do it..? “

                  I didn’t bring morality into it old bean. Your problem not mine.

                  “- Will you be protesting as loudly …”

                  Jeremy dear, it was you what was protesting – that’s why I asked. If you think I have some hypocrisy to answer for then point it out old chap, otherwise I’ll think you’re just meaninglessly parroting my questions back at me, having made all kinds of assumptions about what you imagine I might imagine.

                  “- What does this diversionary questioning have to do with VSM..? “

                  I was questioning your character. But if you were really concerned about going off-topic then you wouldn’t have asked the questions above now, would you?

                  “Or are cheap smears all the debate you’re good for..?”

                  No cheap smears from me here, Jer. Best step your game up quick smart though, your mask is slipping and before long everyone else will notice too.

                • Jeremy Harris

                  Well I see you have descended deep into a mire of paranoid trolling…

        • Madeleine 6.1.1.2

          “VSM just doesn’t work”??? The whole point of VSM is to give students choice.

          30% of the Waikato campus had chosen to become members voluntarily by the time the sneaky referendum held with little notice during exam time in which less than 1% of the campus voted in was conducted.

          Funny how the choices of less than 1% were respected more than the choices of the over 70% who chose to not join…

          • NickS 6.1.1.2.1

            …And here was me optimistically hoping you’d be a little less stupid than what your comments over at Ken’s blog indicate.

            Not that I’m that surprised.

            Funny how the choices of less than 1% were respected more than the choices of the over 70% who chose to not join…

            Given both the paucity of population info (aka students views) + the fact that results of the referendum weren’t latter reversed, thrown out or challenged, it’s possible to strongly infer a lack of support for carrying on VSM at Waikato. i.e. a significant majority in the 70% were either indifferent or, given that VSM union fees aren’t covered by student loans, might not have had the money to join the union amid other possibilities.

            So basically, you’re assuming of the go that the 70% who didn’t join were against CSM, without any evidence to back it up other than your own biases and inability to critically think. Which is ironic given the style of blogging seen on your’s and Matt’s blog.

            • Matt 6.1.1.2.1.1

              Nick S I see you follow Ken’s tactic of impunging peoples intellectual integrity.

              But you write Given both the paucity of population info (aka students views) + the fact that results of the referendum weren’t latter reversed, thrown out or challenged, it’s possible to strongly infer a lack of support for carrying on VSM at Waikato. i.e. a significant majority in the 70% were either indifferent or, given that VSM union fees aren’t covered by student loans, might not have had the money to join the union amid other possibilities.

              Actually, your ignoring the facts here. In 1995 a pro VSM ticket were elected in on 25% of the vote, the highest ever voter turnout at Waikato till that time this was held during term time.. In 1997 a second referenda on the issue lead to a 26% voter turnout breaking the previous record and was in favour of voluntary again this occurred in term time. Then in 1999 a third referenda gained a 35% voter turnout and an 80% vote in favour of VSM. Then in 2000 in a vote held during the holidays, with less than a 10% voter turnout yielded a compulsory result.

              So the picture is actually quite different to what you say. Had a pro VSM vote been achieved in this way on the back of previous referenda like this I doubt the standard would claim it was an accurate representation of student opinion.

    • Rebecca 6.2

      While there’s some truth to your analysis about the issues at WSU, the other key element to the VSM moves at Waikato was the involvement of ACT on campus people who exploited the dissatisfaction as a way to make Waikato the poster child for VSM. In most other cases, when elected officials become isolated from student concerns they just get voted out. This whole VSM thing is being driven by a very small number of ACT people who have an ideological objection to students associations and collectivism in general.

      • Nick C 6.2.1

        Here is a history of what really happened at Waikato University. You can judge for yourself what it means.

        http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2009/09/fisking_jacinda.html

        • Rebecca 6.2.1.1

          I don’t need to judge events according to David Farrar supposedly “what really happened”. I was around and saw for myself, thanks.

          • burt 6.2.1.1.1

            That is good news, can you share with us where DPF was wrong so that we may all have a more accurate recollection of events.

          • mcflock 6.2.1.1.2

            Oh, but Farrar will tell you that what you actually saw is not what you remember or indeed can match with contemporary sources.

          • The Voice of Reason 6.2.1.1.3

            Me, too, Rebecca. I was writing for Nexus (the student paper) at the time and got to see the ACToids in their pomp on a daily basis. Calling them intellectually lightweight would be giving them too much credit, particularly the little twerp who kept calling me a ‘statist’ and even went as far as telling me that, as a lefty, I was actually a fascist. Having stood in the forest south of Moscow where the Russians stopped Hitler and felt the weight of history beneath my feet, I was only too happy to tell him that I knew the difference. Quite why I didn’t thump him, I’ll never know.

            They were fronted by a couple named Matt and Maddy, who may have been religious nutters, too, which also detracted from what little charm they had. Their whole argument seemed to centre around how badly the union was run, even though it was them running it for the most part.

            Just for the sake of balance, I should point out that while the Nexus editor at the time was also of that camp, he seemed to me to be more than careful to make sure both sides of the debate went into the mag. Possibly because he realised that without funding from compulsory union membership, there wouldn’t be a paper for him to edit.

              • The Voice of Reason

                Save me, Jebus! Fifteen years later and they’re still unsufferably smug. I hope they’re wed now, coz at the time Madeleine kept saying they were committed to being virgins till marriage. She seemed utterly convinced about it. Matt, er, less so, if the rolling eyes were any indication.

                • NickS

                  Were they rather arrogantly pseudo-intellectual back then too? Because their blog just drips with inept smugness that can only come from a ideologically driven separation from reality. Even more so when Ken over at Open Parachute points out politely the issues with religious truth claims.

                  • A

                    I wouldn’t class Matthew as a pseudo-intellectual. He’s heavily into contemporary philosophy of religion, particularly the area called “reformed epistemology”. For people with no familiarity with that particular philosophical nook it will look rather weird, but the work of people like Alvin Plantinga is AFAIK respectable stuff philosophically speaking (not that I agree with any of it as an atheist) and Matthew is neither abusing nor trivialising it.

                    That said, I think it’s a hopeless cause and a philosophical dead end, but some people like it. At least they are attempting to engage in rational argument, instead of burning people at the stake. 😉

                    • NickS

                      Plantinga is only “respectable” within theology related areas 😛

                      His Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism is “interesting” in the sense of showing how willing Plantiniga is to ignore obvious evidence that contradicts his arguments, but also shows how little Plantinga understands evolution. Which clueless twits then merrily spout, thus leading to pulling out the age old deep uncertainity cluebat and leaving them dazed and confused. That’s if they pick up the consequences contained within.

                      So to me, Plantinga represents some of the worst aspects of modern western scholarly philosophy, namely the tendency to believe that a shallow understanding of an area is a perfectly good basis on which to argue with or against it, and also merrily ignorant of the fallacy of such a tendency.

                      At least they are attempting to engage in irrational argument, instead of burning people at the stake. 😉

                      ‘fixed 😛

                      Though I’ll admit that Plantinga is worth reading on epistemology because his ideas force you not only to think, but also work out exactly why he’s wrong. In a way that’s much more effective that reading the latest dreck from Dembski and co.

                    • A

                      I think you’re being unfair. Plantinga is a well-known philosopher of religion, and that isn’t quite the same as theology.

                      I disagree with most of Plantinga’s arguments, although I’ve never bothered to read anything he wrote about evolution (since I don’t really care about it), but he is hardly alone in being wrong among philosophers, or to be honest, anyone who argues about religion. I’m a pretty militant atheist, and yet I find Dawkin’s arguments to be somewhat wanting, and Sam Harris seems to me to be somewhat of a fake. Protestant philosophers of religion also tend to be disadvantaged by the fact they aren’t Catholics, who in my experience are smarter.

                      Though I’ll admit that Plantinga is worth reading on epistemology because his ideas force you not only to think, but also work out exactly why he’s wrong.

                      Yes, that is pretty much what I meant. You could say the same of Richard Swinburne or many other defenders of religion in academic philosophy. They know how to play the game and will always offer an argument. That to me is worthy of respect compared to the fundamentalists who simply scream at their opponents.

                      I don’t see why philosophers of religion who mount interesting arguments for positions I think are incorrect should deserve greater opprobrium than philosophers of mind or ethicists or interpreters of Kant who do the same thing. Plantinga’s arguments are certainly less egregious than, say, Gail Fine on Plato.

                      People who attempt to argue against evolution have bitten off more than they, or possibly anyone, could chew. But objections that don’t kill a theory make it stronger, so there is some residual value in what they do.

                    • NickS

                      I think you’re being unfair. Plantinga is a well-known philosopher of religion, and that isn’t quite the same as theology.

                      It comes from being a regular lurker on Pharyngula (and Evolving Thoughts) and a science student 😛

                      That and Plantinga mostly focuses on Christianity in terms of his work on philosophy of religion 😛

                      I disagree with most of Plantinga’s arguments, although I’ve never bothered to read anything he wrote about evolution (since I don’t really care about it), but he is hardly alone in being wrong among philosophers, or to be honest, anyone who argues about religion. I’m a pretty militant atheist, and yet I find Dawkin’s arguments to be somewhat wanting, and Sam Harris seems to me to be somewhat of a fake. Protestant philosophers of religion also tend to be disadvantaged by the fact they aren’t Catholics, who in my experience are smarter.

                      Agreed, I’ve seen myriad shockers in History and Philosophy of Science and tend to avoid philosophy of mind/[insert area of philosophy that overlaps the sciences here] material that ignores or mangles research in the name of a pet theory. And any philosopher that can’t grok how to communicate ideas effectively.

                      Also, Plantinga’s a theistic evolutionist, his EAAN’s purely anti-“naturalism”, but sadly that hasn’t stopped the usual suspects from attempting to use it against evolutionary biology.

                      As for Dawkins and co, they’re useful starting points for those without an interest in philosophy, rather than an update of older work from the mid 1900’s.

                      I don’t see why philosophers of religion who mount interesting arguments for positions I think are incorrect should deserve greater opprobrium than philosophers of mind or ethicists or interpreters of Kant who do the same thing. Plantinga’s arguments are certainly less egregious than, say, Gail Fine on Plato.

                      That would be because I rarely encounter them, mostly since I’m only interested in Philosophy of Science and related areas 😛

                      People who attempt to argue against evolution have bitten off more than they, or possibly anyone, could chew. But objections that don’t kill a theory make it stronger, so there is some residual value in what they do.

                      Not really, internal criticism and competition for funding are historically the main drivers of the changes in evolutionary theory over the last 50 years. Well, and new methodologies 😛

                      About the only benefit imo is related to Philosophy of Science issues, in which Philip Johnson’s framing of science as “naturalistic” actually drove work into cluebatting him and working out the finer details of what naturalism is to science. Everything else is noise and is a smaller aspect of public outreach. Except in the USA, where it’s more or less damage control. I’ll admit though, Dembski’s mangling of Information Theory has had some benefits in forcing those combating him to examine the aptness of IT to biological systems, but I feel that already did occur to some extent before made an arse out himself.

                • Madeleine

                  “I hope they’re wed now, coz at the time Madeleine kept saying they were committed to being virgins till marriage.”

                  Your fascination with our sex life is really interesting and all but I am not sure what it has to do with voluntary membership of student associations?

            • mcflock 6.2.1.1.3.2

              It’s nice to know that different crops of university ACToids are all the same – idiots and nutbars all.

          • Matt 6.2.1.1.4

            To be clear Rebecca, are you saying you witnessed the sale and purchase agreement being signed for the shares in Campus Travel, Contact, and Campus movies?

            As a former director of some of those companies I don’t recall you being at any meetings.

            Or are you saying you were at Waikato at the time and heard about it from someone else?

            • Madeleine 6.2.1.1.4.1

              I was on the boards of some of those companies too… I am pretty sure your memory was correct there Matt, no “Rebecca” was on them with us.

              [lprent: You’re trying to read meaning into a psuedonym? All handles on here should be regarded as pseudonyms – there is no checking done unless someone complains about theft of their ‘identity’ or there is clear evidence of an attempt at identity theft. Even then we will just warn and force a change of handle. I’d ban for repeated attempts because it wastes my time. See the policy on privacy. ]

              • Matt

                lprent, perhaps then Rebecca can tell us who she is then, seeing she claims to have witnessed all the so called assets sales which occured, and seeing two other directors tell a different story. In most cases there were only 2-3 student representatives on these companies. The financial records also seem to agree with Madeleine and my recollection.

                • lprent

                  If he or she chooses to do so, then that is their choice. However there will be no demands for that to happen. If there are then it becomes my problem.

                  If there is one thing that the likes of whale oil and the incessant roar of the lunatic right (and sometimes the left has) taught me attacking all and sundry with threats of retribution in real life. It is that there has to be a place for people to talk about current and recent affairs without retribution or bullying. It is here on this site, and I’m prepared to be as nasty as is required to maintain that. I simply don’t like bullying or bullies.

                  Argue all you like. Just don’t overstep the policy bounds or attract too much of the moderators attention.

                  But it is really hard to do (or not do) asset sales without leaving a documentary trail. I suspect that following that is the course that carries the least risk of annoying me, and convincing others. Linked documents usually beat hyperbole hands on.

      • A 6.2.2

        I think you missed my comment:

        The VSM movement arose very quickly as a response in the subsequent rerun of the election, and was to my knowledge very well funded by outside donors, but it probably wouldn’t have happened if student voters had not already signalled that they were completely fed up with the union.

        The outside funders were, as far as I know, ACT and suchlike. However, there were two elections. In the first, no-confidence won. It wasn’t until the rerun that the VSM ticket was established under the moniker “Student Choice”. If the first election had been successful, there would have been no Student Choice ticket.

        More to the point: Matt and Madeleine were somewhat peripheral players in the initial VSM drive, which was led by Ben King and Rick Marshall, IIRC. Matt became WSU President after VSM had been adopted. Jo Muller was WSU President when it was adopted. I remember because she gave me a pizza at the vote (I turned up for the free food).

        • Rebecca 6.2.2.1

          Were Ben King and Rick Marshall not associated with ACT, in addition to the very special Flannagans? That was my recollection.

          • A 6.2.2.1.1

            The former were as far as I know. But King and Marshall didn’t run in the first election. I heard that some lecturer in the politics department encouraged them to run after the first, failed vote. Whether outside influences were also involved in the initial decision I do not know.

            A friend of mine who used to move in those circles told me that after the election campaign he had been shown a room full of unused pro VSM campaign materials that would have cost in the tens of thousands of dollars to produce, and that was just the leftovers. So, whatever happened, it appears they found big money to back their campaign.

    • NickS 6.3

      NZ universities are becoming less institutions of intellectual inquiry, and more like vocational training centres.

      This.

      Though the sciences and the arts seem to have not been as badly impacted, albeit in my biochem and organic courses we were focused a lot on medical issues, such as human diseases, drug mechanisms and R&D.

    • Vicky32 6.4

      “NZ universities are becoming less institutions of intellectual inquiry, and more like vocational training centres.

      It’s a shame, but there you go.”
      To a large extent that’s true, although there will always be students who make time for political issues…
      Deb

  7. Bright Red 7

    I think this will backfire on the Right.

    Their goal is to gut what they see as the Left’s political breeding ground (forgetting where many Right politicians got their start). In fact, they’ll make student politicians work smarter. Just as complusory unionisation started to produce lazy, bloated organisations, so complusory student unions are too wasteful too often. What emerges from their ashes will be a lot more lean and mean, as it was with the trade unions.

    And if Labour finds itself looking to a wider pool than former student politicians then that’s not a bad thing either.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Yeah a sharp analysis there Bright.

    • Nick C 7.2

      I agree 100% Bright Red. Once students have a real means by which to hold their students associations accountable, they will have to work harder and smarter in order to attract membership. The evidence shows that these compulsory organisations are, as you say, bloated, lazy and ridden with waste and fraud.

      As for this backfiring on the right, I disagree. Heather Roy has said all along that one of the aims of this bill is to improve the performance of student associations through greater accountability. Its many on the left, such as NZUSA who dont think this will happen.

      anti spam word: compulsory. Lol

      • mcflock 7.2.1

        “work harder and smarter in order to attract membership”.

        Sounds nice until you realise that most advantages of student membership aren’t restrictable to just some students, not others. It just doesn’t work. Like if the uni improves the way a paper is taught based on students association complaints, but only improves it for association members?

    • burt 7.3

      OMG – giving people a choice in supporting the socialist breeding ground is going to gut it. Oh well, obviously it’s not viable without compulsion.

      Now I understand why the lovers of compulsory fees extraction from people borrowing to live get so irate about voluntary membership.

      • Bunji 7.3.1

        The problem is a classic prisoner’s dilemma. Every student stands to benefit greatly from the student association’s many services. But under voluntary membership you can choose to pay or not pay for those services. The rational choice is not to pay – particularly if, as you say, you are borrowing to live. But if nobody pays, there will be no services, and everybody is much worse off.

        • A 7.3.1.1

          Yep.

          Unfortunately, the right try to pretend that this doesn’t exist because it invalidates most of their program. Shame for them that markets wouldn’t work if it wasn’t true.

          • O2B 7.3.1.1.1

            After reading Bunji’s comment, I wonder if the RWNJs ever look at game theory when discussing ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’? I think the ‘free rider problem’ applies to VSM. I’m just thinking about things like student carparks, orientation, magazine, the cheap drinks at the bar etc. All non-essentials really, but it sure made student life more enjoyable. And difficult to police in terms of who paid their membership and who didn’t.

            By the way, a lot of the technical proof of theorem stuff I don’t really understand with game theory, but I do sure find it interesting…

            • Nick C 7.3.1.1.1.1

              Name some services that

              a) Suffer from genuine free rider problems which couldnt be remedied by membership cards, user pays
              b) Couldnt be provided under VSM

              There arent many. The sort of advocacy services which which you have named are typically done by volunters

              The ones that cant are taken up by the university (who already run the most important services like student health, student support, probably because they dont trust the SA to run anything important), or the university can contract out the provision of those services to the students association if they are the best people to provide them. Then they will have to actually be accountable for the quality of their services for once. The current democratic process is a joke because almost no one votes.

              • A

                The various clubs are one. The associations for minorities such as homosexuals, Maori and Pasifika are others.

                All these things have significant positive externalities as they make a campus a more diverse, interesting and vibrant place.

                • There were clubs before there were students’ associations. They invariably run with volunteer organisation now, and while they can apply for grants, they generally operate on userpays basis.

                  And if you think those who run UniQ, and the various Ropu around the universities are going to give up and abandon their membership, then you have a rather poor view of humanity…

              • Bunji

                It’s going to add significant costs checking id cards for use of the student union / bar / special events / free newspaper. It’s pretty much impossible to stop those free-loaders listening to your radio station.

                Things like advocacy are very hard to charge for at time of need (especially if your doing the advocacy on hardship grants…).

                Similarly it’s hard to only represent those students who have paid when you’re organising campaigns for lower fees etc. And if you succeed I’m sure the freeloaders won’t refuse the cheaper costs you’ve managed to get.

                • Nick C

                  What if I dont want lower fees, or any of the other things that student associations are advocating for? Lower fees mean less resourses to fund my education. Higher govt subsidy means higher taxes in future.

                  One of the greatest evils of compulsory membership is that people who get elected gain the right to lobby on your behalf for views which you may detest. Do you own a small business? If not, imagine you did. Imagine that they were forced to join the business roundtable because your business was free riding off the advocacy that the business roundtable provides.

                  • felix

                    Of course you’re quite right. In theory there could be many, many students in NZ who desperately want to pay more fees, but we never hear those views because there’s no one to speak for them.

                    Meanwhile, there isn’t.

                    • Nick C

                      Felix your regular posts here often come off sounding like the musings of a disgruntled old man. How would you like to be forced to join Grey Power? After all you are probably free riding off the advocacy they provide towards getting higher pensions, gold cards and the like.

                      [lprent: Please don’t mention that. My parents are threatening to give it to me as a xmas present. I’m not that freaking old!!! ]

                    • felix

                      I don’t believe I’ve commented one way or another on the merits of CSM/VSM.

                      I’m simply highlighting the absurdity of your last comment. And I maintain that it is, while theoretically valid, quite an absurd argument and does nothing to strengthen your case.

                  • mcflock

                    Nick, if you don’t want lower fees then you can take a motion to the student meetings. If other students agree, then the exec will lobby for higher fees. If they disagree, then you are in what we call a “minority”, which means you might not get what you want. That’s called “democracy”.

                    But then the students’ association will provide other things that you DO want, like maybe a well-maintained gym or support for a cultural group. That’s what we call “diversity”.

                    And if you absolutely cannot abide existing in that students’ association, and do not wish to avail yourself of any of the internal mechanisms it might have for you to opt out of membership, then you can go study at another university with an association you agree with, or voluntary membership. Nobody is forcing you to buy that particular degree.

                    • Nick C

                      Well i’m sure you wouldnt mind if I forced you to join the business roundtable then. If you dont like their advocacy of flat taxes, go to their next meeting and advocate for them to support progressive taxes. But if the majority who happen to turn up at that meeting disagree with you then you still have to fund an organisation which supports flat taxes. Would that be ok? It’s called democracy.

                      If I wanted a gym I could pay for it myself. Meanwhile I dont see why those who do go to the gym should have to cross subsidise those who dont.

                      The opt out process is a joke. You dont get your money back and its up to the students association to decide whether your objection is good enough to warrant you opting out. As for not having to go to university, thats an absurd thing to argue. I am going to pass a law that says everyone who recieves superannuation has to join Grey Power. If you dont like it, simply choose not to recieve superannuation.

                      Face it, the case for Compulsory Membership is intellectually bankrupt.

                    • mcflock

                      Lolz! A variation of the “it’s like if you were forced to join ACT!”

                      No, it’s not. We’re talking about a narrowly defined population with a strong common bond and common circumstance. Secondly, because of the many commonalities, most improvements for members cannot be restricted from non-members. Thirdly, I am not a business owner. If I chose to be/remain a business owner you might have some call on the grounds of commonality, but I didn’t so you don’t. I would therefore not have the choice option that students have of going somewhere else. Fourthly, the supposed benefits of BRT membership are not very diverse, whereas students’ associations provide everything from media to counselling to recreation, and indeed political “lobbying” is a very small part of the job. So it is easy to say “I get no benefit from BRT membership”, but to say “I was a student for 3 years at a university with ‘compulsory’ membership and saw no benefit” is a very tall order to make.

                      Basically, your BRT analogy is arguing what if everyone was arbitrarily forced to join an organisation that was solely political in nature. This is not the same as students’ associations, where everyone has the option of gaining a specific strong commonality and its concomitant association membership.

                      As for you not wanting the students association gym, big deal. I suggest that if you went to university you received some significant benefit of membership, even if you didn’t know it. All association benefits are wide and diverse, but I only know about some of Otago’s.

                      Nice straw man about the “not going to university”. Shame I never said that. There are at least half a dozen universities in NZ alone, most students move town to attend them anyway, and their courses are largely interchangeable. If you absolutely don’t like OUSA and can’t manage a basic bureaucratic process, then moving to Christchurch or Auckland rather than Dunedin would n’t be too much of a marginal cost.

                      Again, your superann argument is idiotic. It’s more like “if I wanted to buy a unit at that particular old people’s development, I’d have to join the body corporate or residents’ association.”

                      It’s not student association membership that’s “intellectually bankrupt”, but the only thing that might be is your interpretation of association membership.

              • mcflock

                back in my association, the advocacy volunteers were recruited, trained and rostered by paid staff.

                And if almost no-one votes, then most people aren’t opposed, by definition. Oh, wait – democracy only counts if people are forced to vote?

                This is the bit I love – where supposed lovers of “freedom” start talking about how democratic processes are completely misleading and need to be overruled.

                • Nick C

                  “We’re talking about a narrowly defined population with a strong common bond and common circumstance”

                  Thats a good reason for an individual to choose to join a students association, its not a reason for compulsory membership. They simply attend the same institution, to what extent that is a strong bond is entirely subjective. If they think it’s a strong one that is an incentive to join. Besides why not have compulosy union membership then? Workers at the same firm would probably share a similar bond.

                  “Because of the many commonalities, most improvements for members cannot be restricted from non-members.”

                  Had that discussion earlier; there arent that many and if there are the association can adapt.

                  “If I chose to be/remain a business owner you might have some call on the grounds of commonality, but I didn’t so you don’t.”

                  But for those businesses that do choose to remain business owners, you would advocate compulsory membership of their local chambers of commerce or business association?

                  I agree that student associations provide a diverse arary of services; thats not an argument for them to be made compulsory. If anything it shows that they shouldnt be. It shows that even if they were originally designed as compulsory to solve a spesific collective action problem they have far exceeded their mandate and expeanded into providing services which could more efficiently provided by the market.

                  “I suggest that if you went to university you received some significant benefit of membership, even if you didn’t know it.”

                  I currently attend university. And theres a variation on the “you’re too stupid to see how awesome the services we’re providing you are” arguement.

                  “If you absolutely don’t like OUSA and can’t manage a basic bureaucratic process, then moving to Christchurch or Auckland rather than Dunedin would n’t be too much of a marginal cost.”

                  It would be a huge cost if id already started my degree. But it is beside the point. CSM is a failing system everywhere, its not a case of ‘find the uni with the best SA’.

                  “It’s more like “if I wanted to buy a unit at that particular old people’s development, I’d have to join the body corporate or residents’ association.””

                  Nothing of the sort. Its about the fact the government is intervening in this area. If there was a piece of legislation which said: “anyone who moves into an appartment block must join their body corp”, that would be stupid

                  • mcflock

                    A commonality is not subjective, it is fact. They don’t have to love each other and sing koombia – not that type of “bond”. And no, it’s not like “bonded by handcuffs”, either (well, maybe the leather ones one might wear at certain clubs, in that one doesn’t have to walk into those clubs 🙂 ). They are students at the same institution, subject to the same academic and disciplinary regulations. Other commonalities between large numbers of students are that they use common resources like unversity computers and libraries, and down to groups of dozens or hundreds they have the same teachers, department administrators, and lecture theatres. These common bonds are not subjective, they are fact. If a student goes to their association rep and complains the lecture theatre is too cold, is the heating increased only for association members? No. If they complain and the paper is graded a different way, is that restrictable to association members? Not practically. If the library building is replaced and it’s the association rep on the building committee who points out an architectural idiocy from a student perspective, is a new library built only for association members? No. And can you guarantee the the company doctor (sorry, university-employed student rep) would advocate for students over the interests of the university? No.

                    And I said that for those businesses who do remain business owners, you *might* have some call to argue from commonality. Again you’re placing arguments in my mouth. Theoretically, if there were a number of common services that a democratic organisation could provide a tightly defined population (but could not be divided practicably within that population, i.e. to members not non-members) and that the benefits far outweigh the costs, and with only slight inconvenience people could avoid membership by choosing not to be part of that population, I don’t have too much problem with the concept of “compulsory” membership, especially if there is an opt-out clause for people other than dickheads. As defined democratically. But such a population would be WAY more specific than “NZ business owners” or “Manukau Chamber of Commerce”.

                    Doctors, commercial pilots and lawyers, i.e. professions tied with close specialties and high expertise – not a problem with compulsory fees and/or membership. And the current regime is not “compulsory unionism” – it’s more similar to the “closed shop” practise where workers vote democratically as to whether they want to have to associate with non-union members in their workplace.

                    The only government intervention under the current regime is to say “it’s up to each institution’s students to democratically decide whether they want universal membership”. The current bill says “to hell with what most students want, this is how it’s going to be”. It might be nice for a tory to be on the winning side by being anti-democratic, but I’m sure you’ll be pissed off when the govt does something undemocratic against you.

                    Actually, a diversity of services IS an argument in favour of collective membership if many of those services were not commercially viable and are therefore subsidised by the association. Such as free meeting spaces and grants for various social, cultural and sporting groups. And the diversity increases the chance that even you gain some benefit of membership. Apparently at otago act on campus bitched merrily about association membership, but still had a recruitment desk in the Clubs and Societies Centre in the last couple of years. So such benefits are felt by many diverse groups.

                    And, if you go to Otago full-time, AND claim you received absolutely no benefit from OUSA membership this year, you really are probably an idiot. From student representation on dozens of committees (where yes the student perspective IS sometimes needed), to class reps, to blind marking ,to mixed flatting (yep going back a few years there), to Critic, to social events, to submissions on everything from Campus Watch to library acquisitions, to various OUSA records being consulted in departmental reviews, yep. You got something out of it. Even if you just sulked all year at being horribly oppressed.

                    And you can cross-credit papers to other universities, so it’s not a complete loss if you choose to go somewhere the you’d feel happier. Students do it all the time.

  8. Swampy 8

    This is yesterday’s news with the same old meaningless arguments being parroted endlessly. It is largely about the gall of a group of student politicians who like Chris Carter have no idea how much the public at large loathe their sense of entitlement and their willingness to spend other peoples money.

    • mcflock 8.1

      But most students want compulsory membership. That is why Roger needs this bill – the “freedom” he wants to impose on students is not one they support when actually asked. Students spend student money as directed by students.

      It does not concern the “public at large”. It is a student issue that students have voted on, and they didn’t want what ACT wants.

  9. Swampy 9

    The article you quote is not “excellent” It is very self serving self righteous written by someone used to having students pay for everything. The cheek of it is shocking

  10. SPC 10

    It’s simply part of an ideological drive to convinve young people not to belong to groups and be part of a selfish individualism. Ultimately it’s about opposiing tax funding public services.

    • Nick C 10.1

      You’re mental. They can join the group, stand in unity and sing songs around the campfire if they want. This has got nothing to do with this immaginary battle that occurs in your head between ‘individualism’ and ‘collectivism’.

      • SPC 10.1.1

        Cheap diversion by playing the person – are you scared of the truth?

        Are you ignorant of the activity of ACT and “libertarians” on campus on this issue? The link to the low tax and tax is theft line is obvious.

        • SPC 10.1.1.1

          The underlying politics of the issue speaks to the campaign to engage in a step by step process to chip away at the existence of collective provision and reduce society down to one of consumers – where users pay. Where individual money determines access to provision rather than group membership.

          Why else would the right take one side on this and the left another? Denying this truth is not really engaging on the issue – as the issue is part of that wider debate.

          • Nick C 10.1.1.1.1

            Individual money does determine access to provision here. You have to pay the $140-$180 membership fee to access the services. It’s only a question of whether you should be able to choose to pay that fee or have to pay it; to choose to be a member of this group, or to be forced to be a member in order to fulfill your vision of collectivism.

            “Why else would the right take one side on this and the left another?”

            I cant speak for why individuals on either side of the political spectrum choose to support or oppose what they do (refering to people as individuals who can choose their own political views must be really cutting?). Certainly I know plenty of people with left wing political views who dont support compulsory membership (Bright Red who commented earlier appears to). Anyway here are some of my theories:

            1) Student Associations are dominated by left wing students (probably because the majority of politically involved students tend to be left wing). This means that left wing people tend to benefit most from having access to the extra money CSM brings
            2) Often student politicians go on to be left wing political leaders, and are thus able to define the left’s position on the issue
            3) Student associations tend to advocate for left wing things, such as more handouts for students (which I dont see why you support since its incredibly regressive government spending, students go on to be very rich).

  11. Matt 11

    “That year, membership revenue fell dramatically from $593,827 to just $23,253. In 1997, in preparation for the changeover, the Union’s Campus Movies service was halted and its assets sold.

    In 1998, more assets were sold off, including Campus Travel and the student radio station, Contact FM. In the second year, membership revenue fell to $3,442 and the WSU had a trading loss of $130,934.

    Losses continued in 2000 when another referendum was held which voted to return to universal membership. In 2001 with $539,901 in membership revenue, WSU started to rebuild services.

    Interesting, the WSU’s own financial statements from the period, show the fixed assets of the association remained constant for the period. The thousands of dollars in assets sales ( or millions if you believe the comments of some labour MP’s) simply are not supported by the WSU’s own documents.

    Last time the WSU made comments to this effect I rang them and asked for the documents demonstrating these asset sales. Seeing I am a life member they are obligated to provide such information. Oddly enough they told me they had lost them all, they claimed they had no records from the period. Funny because, I kept copies from the period and they suggest fixed assets remained constant. Given WSU has lost its records, and even if they did have them, records are not kept after 10 years anyway, one wonders what an executive in 2010, based these submission claims on?

    But of course that’s never stopped them or other Labour supporters from telling lies.

    • mcflock 11.1

      So according to you WSU never had interests in a radio station, Campus Travel or a bar?

      Or do they still own them and not notice?

  12. Matt 12

    Actually Mcflock, The WSU did not own or have interests in a bar. Another Company campus services limited which shared a building with the WSU did. The court records of the case in 1999 will also tell you it was closed when the police lodged a complaint against its liquor licence due to patron violence from the pre VSM period and the council on the basis of this testimony refused to renew its liquor licence. I was at the case in question and remember it vividly and unlike the WSU courts keep records.

    As to Campus travel, the radio station, the WSU retained its shares in those companies throughout the VSM period I have no idea what occurred afterwards.

    Campus movies, t was still running in 1999, I remember being shown the equipment and having meetings with the person who was hiring it to run movies for that year.

    I do know that in 2000 the WSU began making false claims of illegal asset sales. As did the Labour party. My lawyer wrote to the WSU at the time and asked them to provide evidence, they stopped publically making these claims and never provided any. In 2003 it was made again on their website, when my lawyers again asked for evidence they took the website down. In 2006 when I asked again for evidence i got told the files were lost. So I’d take what the 2010 executive said with a huge pinch of salt. I am sure I can get hold of these files from my lawyers of the time and the relevant correspondence if I need to.

    Like I said the actual financial records show there were not massive asset sales from the period. I have kept copies of these records precisely because the WSU has consistently lied to the contrary.

    Two other things worth noting here, First, under WSU rules to sell off assets in the hundreds of thousands is illegal, hence by making these claims the standard is suggesting illegal activity on the part of others, when making serious claims like this the burden of proof is on the accuser, its up to the standard and the WSU to verify these allegations before they publish it.

    Second, the people who say they went to waikato and remember this all happening face a serious credibility challenge. One can only remember what one actually witnessed. To remember assets sales they would have actually had to witness the sale, that is seen the sale and purchase agreement signed. Of course if this had occured very few waikato students would have witnessed it, what waikato students remember is the perception of what occured, what Nexus wrote, what the buzz and grapevine of the time was saying, what NZUSA and other groups were claiming in press releases and so on, hence this testimony is really heresay evidence, not eyewitness testimony.

    I am one of the few actual eyewitnesses from this time. Farrar’s post which is derided above here was actually drawn from eyewitnesses, which he asked for comment, not student perception.

    So I’ll ask the Standard again, what evidence do they and the WSU actually have that these claims are accurate. Where are the records showing this? 15 years old the WSU’s records have disappeared. The financial statements show assets were not sold. Moreover, the court files will verfiy what I said about the bar. On what basis then are these claims being made?

    If they can’t do this perhaps they can explain why they think its Ok to accuse others of criminal activity without evidence?

    • Madeleine 12.1

      The WSU might have ‘lost’ all their financial records from that time (which makes it a lot easier to get away with making things up of course – no records to check) but we, being familiar with how student politics works, had the foresight to make copies before we left… we have NOT lost our copies.

    • mcflock 12.2

      Oh, fiendish lies like this?

      A news articles which specifically states that the frequency for the radio station was subleased out by WSU in 1998? Not technically a “sale”, but definitely “crap they had which they no longer have”, i.e. WSU using the frequency rather than just being an absentee landlord. I especially like this article about “student choice” champion Bryan Sinclair http://wikibin.org/articles/bryan-sinclair.html, which suggests that as president of WSU he orchestrated the sale (sorry, “sub-leasing”) of the frequency and had interests in the company that sub-leased it. If the boot were on the other foot, you guys would be jumping up and down about that.

      Anyway, here is a link to a touching story about the “unsold” radio station going off air. But they retained shares in the companies that no longer transmitted over the frequency – although according to the companies office it has been struck off the register (www.companies.govt.nz).

      That’s ten minutes worth of googling from the companies office and various newebsites. As for the radio station, it would appear that technically it was not “sold”. The frequency was subleased, the company became a non-functioning shell of its former self, and student content was replaced by commercial radio tripe. A rather phyrric victory for you, there.

  13. Matt 13

    Mcflock,

    I was referring to the lies by Maharey in Cracum 2000 where he stated publicly that about a million dollars of assets held in trust which were illegally whitled away by the leaders of the WSU. I am sure its not hard to find this article by Steve Maharey in the Cracuum archives.
    Do you think accusing people of illegally stealing a million dollars is a trival thing Mcflock? I have still to see the Labour party offer any evidence for this claim? Why not?

    I was also refering to the WSU’s claim in 2000 that campus travel was sold illegally and used to pay the presidents salary? Again I am still waiting for WSU to provide evidence for this one.

    I also am refering to the WSU’s claim in 2003 that under VSM numerous laptop computers were stolen. Again still waiting for the evidence? I am sure I can find a whole lot more of claims like this that student unions and Labour have made in the past.

    While you suggest no one has lied, I also note you failed to mention the bar which you refered to as an example of a sold asset above. In fact the court records show it was closed due to its liquor license being challenged by the police. If you dig out the records you’ll see patron violence was alleged towards many of the activists who had pushed for compulsory membership, it was after all there watering hole. Why then did the WSU in 2003 claim it had been owned by the WSU and closed due to VSM? Why did AUSA also make this claim in 1999?

    I note also you do not contest the issue of Campus movies, which like I said was running in 1999, contrary to the above. So again where is the evidence campus movies and the equiptment was sold as stated in the article above? Again where is the Standards evidence for this claim?

    As to contact, so we are agreed the WSU did not sell its assets. as the standard suggests above. This is important because to do so would have arguably been illegal. So, the standard above suggests falsely that several people engaged in illegal activity. I take it then the standard will alter this comment above? or does it think its Ok to accuse people of illegal activity without evidence?

    Turning to the sale of the business the sources you cite do not state it was sold off because of VSM as the article above suggests. Actually the business was sold to another because the company was in severe debt from before the move to voluntary membership, many of the debts had not been correctly disclosed till latter. In fact much of the companies ran by the WSU were on the verge of bankruptcy before VSM ever came in a fact the vice chancellor and the directors of the business of Contact quite candidly admitted to me in 1999. Perhaps you can show me the evidence that VSM was the sole or major cause of the sale of campus travels business?

    So I’ll ask again, where is the evidence for the claims above?

    I note in an earlier comment you state
    So can you provide a source for your claim that students’ associations make donations to the labour party?. Here you quite justifiably demand people provide evidence before they accuse student association leaders of certain activities. So why does this principle suddenly not apply to those you disagree with.

    The fact is the Standard above repeats false claims, and this is not the first time that student unions or Labour activists have done this as I note above there is a history of this. Please provide the evidence I have been asking for it for 15 years. If you cannot then admit you think its OK to accuse people of illegal activity without evidence.

    • mcflock 13.1

      I don’t think anybody mentioned a trust in this thread, which is what I’ve been reading. So don’t respond to allegations that haven’t yet been made. After all, I now only have your word for it that people have alleged that money went missing while y- oh never mind.

      Just a bar, a travel agents and a radio station. I chose the radio station at random, given you have provided absolutely no sources other than claiming private copies of financial records you claim to have made when employed by the students’ association (hmmm at that – do you mean more than the public documents like budget and annual reports?). You claimed no asset sales, yet subleasing a freq for $$$ and no longer having a radio station is materially no different to outright sales. Especially if the broadcasting hardware of the student radio company was sold by the student-owned company to the incoming commercial station (or to anyone else? Or did they just put everything into storage for a few years?).

      But that was all completely coincidental to VSM, was it?

      And you’ll note I did pop out for sources other than people on this webite, including the MSM and official companies office records. But you provide not one link or reference.

      If it’s all so easy to look up on teh interwebz, why not bung in an href? I don’t particularly give a damn. That’s why I only looked at one of the three mentioned cases, and none of the additional cases you’ve just brought up. Although, according to that fine 30sec source Wikipedia, an “asset” is anything “tangible or intangible” owned or controlled that has a net positive value, and for not-for-profit organisations it includes such things “to provide services”. Sounds like a student radio company to me. So if the business was sold, you’re a liar? Or do you define “asset” differently to the commonly understood meaning? In which case you’re – well, just shy of being a liar but definitely in misleading jerk territory.

      • Matt 13.1.1

        Mcflock
        Your correct, no one mentioned a trust in this thread, however in your previous comment you dismissed as frivolous my allegation that people have lied about this so I provided one. Steve Maharey while a government minister made a claim that a million dollars of assets in a trust were illegally sold. That’s one clear lie, I also provided several others. So clearly the “labour movement” or at least a significant people in it have a history of lying on this issue. I think accusing people of serious criminal activity is quite serious.

        “To your comments you state “ just a bar, a travel agents and a radio station.”
        Here you appear repeat the claim that the bar was an asset the WSU sold, I pointed out this was false and I pointed out court records can back this up. So repeating it only shows you are quite willing to tell lies. I note also you omit to mention campus movies which is what the standard said above, again where is the evidence for this? If it’s a mistake then simply admit it is.
        Also where is the evidence that the assets the WSU had in campus travel were sold due to VSM?
        And while your at it, why not show the evidence that I am or was an Act member at the time or Act funded our campaigns and so on? As this has also been made in this thread.Your quite adamant people should “provide evidence” before saying student unions fund labour, where is your demand for proof in this instance?
        I chose the radio station at random, given you have provided absolutely no sources other than claiming private copies of financial records you claim to have made when employed by the students’ association (hmmm at that – do you mean more than the public documents like budget and annual reports?).
        Three things, First, Actually I did not cite “private copies of financial records you claim to have made when employed by the students’ association” I cited WSU’s official audited statements from 1999, a pretty authoritative source. Second, I cited several other sources, court records, eyewitness accounts, and so on. Finally, as I pointed out the burden is on the standard to substantiate these claims, where are your sources for all the above claims? You seem to think that if don’t prove not X then X, I have no proof your not a child molestor does it follow I can say you are?
        ” You claimed no asset sales, yet subleasing a freq for $$$ and no longer having a radio station is materially no different to outright sales. Especially if the broadcasting hardware of the student radio company was sold by the student-owned company to the incoming commercial station (or to anyone else? Or did they just put everything into storage for a few years?).”
        Err no, the WSU owns shares in the company, the shares are the WSU assets, what the company owns belongs to the company not the WSU. And there is a material difference because it’s illegal to sell WSU assets without an SGM. You may think there is no material difference between accusing another of a crime and accusing them of lawful activity, I doubt very many people would agree.
        ”But that was all completely coincidental to VSM, was it?”
        Yes, if the debts would have been there regardless of VSM they were incurred before it. You seem to think that if something occurred after VSM it occurred as a result of VSM, and the burden is on others to show it did not. I had children after VSM came in, can I claim they caused by children to come into existence. Do I need to spell the post hoc erg propter hoc fallacy out to you?
        ”If it’s all so easy to look up on teh interwebz, why not bung in an href? I don’t particularly give a damn. That’s why I only looked at one of the three mentioned cases, and none of the additional cases you’ve just brought up.”

        Exactly, one examination showed you it was not an asset sale, and provided no evidence it was caused by VSM. Nor did you provide evidence for any of the other claims. That’s quite correct.

        “Although, according to that fine 30sec source Wikipedia, an “asset” is anything “tangible or intangible” owned or controlled that has a net positive value, and for not-for-profit organisations it includes such things “to provide services”. Sounds like a student radio company to me. So if the business was sold, you’re a liar?” Err no, first the radio station was a stand alone company which WSU had shares in. Second your conflating a company with the business of a company and that’s not the same thing. The WSU owned shares in the company, the company owned the business, and as I stated the sale was not the result of VSM it was to pay off debts the company had incurred from previous years.

        ”Or do you define “asset” differently to the commonly understood meaning? In which case you’re – well, just shy of being a liar but definitely in misleading jerk territory.” I see so when you make claims without evidence of a serious nature and fail to provide evidence I am a jerk. Nice Orwellian move but sorry it does not wash.

        Why doesn’t the standard just admit they made a mistake, and move on. why is accusing others of criminal conduct so important to you?

        [lprent: From the policy

        Attacking the blog site or attributing a mind to a machine (ie talking about The Standard as if it had an opinion) is not allowed. See here for an explanation of who writes for the blog. You will often get the sysop answering you, because he considers that those are comments directed at him personally. He does like to point out in a humiliating manner that machines are not intelligent. Programmers know exactly how dumb machines are.

        Quite simply anyone who attributes a mind to a machine must be too stupid to answer. Either that or doing one of those amusingly idiotic debating tricks that I call dogwhistles where rather than dealing with the facts of the case they try to smear a label over a more general target. You and Cameron seem to have a lot in common. ]

        • mcflock 13.1.1.1

          Matt,

          I until now had never heard any allegation relating to trusts or laptops or whatever. Rest assured, I believe your denials. Not that I give a damn either way. Bringing it all up when all I was talking about was a radio station is just fucking stupid.

          You have not made any attempt to “cite” anything. You have not linked to anything. All you have said is that you or your lawyer have photocopies, while waxing on about the only “witnesses” were those who saw various contracts being signed. Are those contracts in the audited accounts? If WSU have lost them then they might like a copy.

          I have hyperlinked to various articles from the MSM and also mentioned the companies office, which provides a nice search engine by company name and their database gives a list of documents they hold.

          So, when all is said and done, at the same time as VSM but purely coincidentally to VSM, a student service (student radio station) provided at a loss by a company that had at least some WSU control (majority shareholder? maybe you could actually cite for once) was sold off (okay by the company – the herald quote didn’t say who sold it). But you say folks said to you that it was going to happen anyway (that’s some pretty impressive referencing right there). And you really really really want people to know that you never did anything illegal (fine okay I believe you. Feel better?). And nobody can prove otherwise.

          Does that sum up your position?

          Oh, and what exactly did “The Standard” say?

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