OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Set it on fire, then

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  • BenWilson,

    In another anecdote, a female friend of mine proudly bragged that she had scored $500 from AUSA just by going into the office and crying about how hard her life was. No further investigation was made, they just handed her the cash. She was actually proud of this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    VSM is irrelevent to almost everyone. Probably 90% of students don't care one way or the other. The only people who seem to care are Actoids and Labourites.

    Act and Labour have spent most of the past year pointlessly fighting over an irrelevency. This in hindsight might have been a mistake, both of them are polling way lower than they should typically expect to be.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    As a member of the community and taxpayer, my interest is in the facilities and institutions in the care of student unions. I see a range of benefits in, for example, student media. I think students owe the rest of us some duty of continuity in those things.

    OTOH, the real-world experience for the likes of bFM has often been a struggle against whoever ends up on this year's student exec. Debbi Gibbs' bFM Historical Society interview has some striking stories in that respect.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to NBH,

    Graeme, perhaps a better analogy than Rich’s upthread would be the various compulsory regulatory bodies for professions and trades (such as the health regulatory authorities, the Teacher’s Council, the Plumbing, Gasfitting & Drainlaying Board, I believe the Law Society etc.).

    To be a practitioner in these areas you have to belong to these organisations, pay often quite significant fees etc. This is the case even if you disagree with their stances and decisions around regulation and standards, their lobbying activities, and the like. Do you have a problem with those arrangements from a freedom of association point of view?

    I do have a position. I support the legislative amendments made over the last few years that have made membership of these organisation voluntary in recognition of the fact that compelling membership of such bodies would be an unreasonable limit on freedom of association.

    Lawyers are not now required to be members of District Law Societies. Lawyers are not required to be members of the New Zealand Law Society. Doctors are not required to members of the New Zealand Medical Association.

    Doctors are subject to regulation by the Medical Council etc. Nurses are subject to regulation by the Nursing Council (but don't have to be members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation) etc.

    I have no rights-based concerns with government regulatory bodies, or practicing fees. No-one is forced to be a member, and that's the way it should be.

    Would I have a rights-based concern were Victoria University to devolve various student disciplinary matters to a student-body-organised council (like, for example, that at Haverford College, or the University of Virginia? Absolutely not. Indeed, if done properly (I'm not sure I'd take that bet), it could bring about an excellent avenue for student involvement and student democracy.

    And when the "student government" you're fighting to protect actually looks something like that, and doesn't breach fundamental human rights by forcing students to be members of something they don't want to be a member of, get back to me :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    were Victoria University to devolve various student disciplinary matters to a student-body-organised council

    Oh, while we’re at it, why not have sororities and fraternities? And wierd patriarchy-boosting secret societies? And professional athletes given a waiver of academic requirements and paid ten times as much as professors? And a college motto in fake ancient Greek? And a secret language, with words like frosh, varsity and upperclassman?

    Also; have undergrads study an interesting, diverse, but ultimately useless range of disassociated topics, ensuring that three further years of expensive postgrad study is required before commencing any professional career.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Gregor Ronald,

    I work in e-learning admin at a university. When we want to set up new systems or major projects, we always invite someone from the students' association to represent the student view. How will we do this under the new regime? Put an ad on the noticeboard in the caf?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Russell Brown,

    As a member of the community and taxpayer, my interest is in the facilities and institutions in the care of student unions. I see a range of benefits in, for example, student media. I think students owe the rest of us some duty of continuity in those things.

    Absolutely. And that some students' associations, despite knowing that VSM was coming sooner or later, haven't spent the last decade ensuring that they were at least partly prepared for the changeover is a massive indictment on them. You have every right to be pissed. Because it didn't have to be this way.

    I know that a VUWSA president was funded to go to Australia in order to see what effect the VSM on their students' associations. I suspect, but don't know for certain, that NZUSA presidents may have done the same.

    Why that president didn't make use of that trip not just to gather evidence of the problems of VSM, but also to research how New Zealand Students' Associations could be better prepared and ensure continuity, I don't know.*

    A change like this is always going to be tough, but students' associations could have spent the last two years at least (and probably more) not only fighting VSM, but also preparing for it. The eggs-in-one-basket approach they seem to have taken was always incredibly high-risk, and certainly reckless. The community, and the students who have gone before, have every right to be livid.

    *p.s. I actually do know why: the trip was little more than a holiday, and the president involved was ultimately asked to pay the money back to VUWSA that it spent subsidising the trip. The short report he ended up writing months after he got back, was apparently plagiarised from some website, with basically no reference to anything he actually saw. It may not surprise you that this was the "I heart my penis" guy.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Gregor Ronald,

    When we want to set up new systems or major projects, we always invite someone from the students’ association to represent the student view. How will we do this under the new regime? How will we do this under the new regime? Put an ad on the noticeboard in the caf?

    Given that they almost certainly only ever presented the "view of a student" and not "the student view", I'm not sure much will change.

    Send out a call with the university's weekly email newsletter? And if it doesn't have one, might that no be a reason students don't get involved in the university more broadly?

    Also, why do you assume there won't be a students' association? I know that at my law school, the Law Faculty sought input from the (voluntary) Law Students' Society on issues (and occasionally put up notices as well). I know that when the Government is considering amending a technical law, it seeks input from the (voluntary) New Zealand Law Society, and often from the (voluntary) New Zealand Bar Association or the (voluntary) Criminal Bar Association. When the New Zealand Transport Agency is considering amending something or other it might seek input from the (voluntary) Automobile Association, or the (voluntary) Land Transport Forum.

    If you want the views of some students, there's nothing stopping you from asking the (voluntary) students' association, and also allowing any random student to have a say. You could perhaps ask colleagues at Auckland University how they do it, because they've been operating with VSM for a while now.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I don't get how Graeme gets from Russell's comment to his own. I don't. There was and is nothing inevitable about voluntarism.

    bFM? It doesn't take kindly to being told what to do by its sole shareholder. Perhaps it's stronger because of it - I wouldn't know, I kept well away from those turf wars. It worked, perhaps it could have worked better, but it was pretty much an oddity; something that was a self-funding standalone entity. Graeme piles on associations, but most of their functions run well, and go on working no matter who is in charge from year to year.

    As for bad presidents and executives; there's a fairly tight reign over most of these, because of incidents in the last two decades. The institutional structures are pretty strong. Which is why you have people being detected for fraud and prosecuted, and Mr Penis paying back his holiday. But that doesn't get you good leadership. What gets you good leadership is having the best people there, and the best people only step up if there's sufficient prestige associated, and that comes from having a large engaged membership of the student body, and associations with untarnished images. Otherwise, you only get opportunists who see a quick CV boost, and ideological dregs.

    I (and I presume Keith) don't know what do about those problems, but think that this law is a large ideological reaction to them. Graeme suggests that the solution to those problems is to abolish them, and let them fend for membership, and others suggest that these problems are not significant in context.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Gregor Ronald,

    Put an ad on the noticeboard in the caf?

    Who runs the cafes?
    I thought the Student Unions often controlled these...
    Perhaps a coloured triangle system could be introduced to identify Student Union members who can access these facilities, or a two-tier pricing set up?
    Ditto for Student Health clinics...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I agree with this, but that’s the problem: it wasn’t reformed. The SAs themselves haven’t historically taken sufficient action against their own, and the profligacy, nepotism, clownishness and offensive idiocy have continued as a result.

    That's a silly argument. We don't do that with other sectors of society. The Act party can't open their mouth without ramming each other's feet in. There they are, making laws, holding ministerial warrants, no one is doing shit.

    You can make a solid argument that people shouldn't be forced to join a student union because they shouldn't be compulsory bodies. I don't agree, but it's a valid argument - Graeme makes it here reasonably well. You can't argue on practicalities, because we don't dismantle other compulsory organisations because they do stupid things. Appoint a commissioner? Sure. Skin them alive come the next election? Absolutely. Rip their guts out? Just here it seems.

    Not meaningfully. Voter turnout is around the 6% mark. Most students don’t know they’ve joined. It’s just a single entry in a long list of fees when you pay your tuition.

    Feel free to make up random facts as gospel.

    A change like this is always going to be tough, but students’ associations could have spent the last two years at least (and probably more) not only fighting VSM, but also preparing for it. The eggs-in-one-basket approach they seem to have taken was always incredibly high-risk, and certainly reckless. The community, and the students who have gone before, have every right to be livid.

    Well that's simply not true. Students associations have had mixed views about Labour's delaying tactics over the past months. I know some have spoken about the possibility of asking them to let it go through as a lost cause anyway, to allow them the time to prepare for 2012, but not enough to force it to be an change of position.

    But the students association I'm involved with has spent a lot of time trying to prepare for VSM. Largely they've been held up waiting for the legislation to pass, at which time they can get the university to commit to them. But I've spent hours working with them trying to update their constitution to make it workable under a VSM environment. They've already let staff go, they've build up some income earning assets to try and carry them through and continue to run an office and provide some basic services.

    There's a lot said by people on the outside looking at how ineffectual Students Associations have been from their perspective, which is fair enough. If you can't see from the inside however, you're really only seeing half the picture.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • NBH, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Lawyers are not now required to be members of District Law Societies. Lawyers are not required to be members of the New Zealand Law Society. Doctors are not required to members of the New Zealand Medical Association.
    Doctors are subject to regulation by the Medical Council etc. Nurses are subject to regulation by the Nursing Council (but don't have to be members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation) etc.

    But Graeme, my point is specifically with regard to regulatory bodies such as the Nursing Council, Medical Council, Teachers Council etc. (clearly my understanding of the Law Society requirement was incorrect, so I'll withdraw that part). Practitioners in these areas are required to be members of these organisations - they are fully-funded (in most of the cases of which I'm aware) by their members through a levy that all practitioners are required to pay. These organisations then regulate practices within their professions/ industries in the interests of their members - even when significant bodies of opinion within their membership disagree - and provide input on behalf of their profession (i.e. lobby) to officials and within relevant consultation processes.

    In other words, members of these organisations are forced to belong to them even if they are virulently opposed to the agendas of these organisations - and there are public examples of this such as the existence of the "2nd-level nurse", or the massive stoush that's gone on in the plumbing industry. In fact, to stay in the health space, the situation of the various Medical Colleges get even murkier, as these are not established as statutory bodies under legislation, and yet membership in them is required to practice within a medical specialty.

    I think the term 'union' here is clouding the issue a little, as you refer to in your point about a student-run disciplinary body. Would you have a problem with a legislative requirement that all public tertiary institutions develop arrangements for independent, student-funded systems for the representation of student interests to the university and the management of student welfare, support & disciplinary systems? That, in essence, is the equivalent to a compulsory regulatory body of the type you mentioned you're okay with.

    And for the record, like (I think) many, I'm of the opinion that there seems to be a need for serious change within the system of student associations we currently have - there are far too many Joel Cosgrove's in the system as it stands, and as Paul Williams mentioned upthread, it obscures the really valuable work most associations do. But attacking them in this way is not going to lead to that reform - if anything, it will simply see a continuing decline in quality as revenues start to dry up and a vicious cycle around membership starts up. Reform is what we need in this space, not destruction.

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Why that president didn’t make use of that trip not just to gather evidence of the problems of VSM, but also to research how New Zealand Students’ Associations could be better prepared and ensure continuity, I don’t know.*

    NZUSA spent quite a bit of money getting data on the Australian situation - both to lobby against the change and to indicate what the landscape would look like if it goes through. PriceWaterhouse I think did the work.

    The short answer to the second question is - you're screwed. Australian student associations have been reduced to as little as 3% of their pre-VSM income in some cases, and operate almost none of their services that they used to run. Their independent advocacy is being funded by the institutions and there's evidence that this lack of independence has made it in some instances of a hushhush complaints service.

    There are moves to roll back the law in Australia it's been such a disaster for clubs, sports, services, student life.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    This is typical of Actoids and the Right in general. They get themselves into Parliament by fair means or foul, getting their mates, National, to throw the race in Epsom I would regard as foul and then proceed to tell us we need less Government. Whilst sucking up greater and greater amounts of public money on salaries and expenses they go about screwing the tax base so as to reduce their input into the public purse.
    So, hey, here's an idea Actoids. If you don't like big government with the ability to care for the less fortunate members of society, if you don't like having to put your hand in your pocket for something that may not be of personal advantage to you and your ilk, go live in Somalia.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I seem to remember a speedboat went missing from the waterskiing club, with no signs whatsoever of forced entry. $30,000 odd worth of equipment just disappearing isn’t a good look for anyone wanting to force people to join their organization.

    AUSA has a tremendously difficult history, they've had tremendous problems with a couple of life members who have been incredibly destructive. I believe several years ago one of them refused to leave an executive meeting when asked and urinated during the meeting. There's been assault charges brought against them. The speedboat comes from one of their time on the executive.

    Ironically, they're also VSM advocates.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    I seem to remember a speedboat went missing from the waterskiing club,

    More than likely an Act on Campus member taking "Their" property back.
    ;-)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Who runs the cafes?
    I thought the Student Unions often controlled these…
    Perhaps a coloured triangle system could be introduced to identify Student Union members who can access these facilities, or a two-tier pricing set up?
    Ditto for Student Health clinics…

    I can't speak for every university, but, at Victoria:

    the cafes operate on a contract to the University.
    Student health clinics are run by the University.
    Student Learning Support, Student Accommodation Service, Maori and Pasifika staff support, Te Rōpū Āwhina (a support type group for Maori science engineering, architecture and design students), te Herenga Waka (the VUW Marae), Te Pūtahi Atawhai (Maori student mentoring scheme), the Chaplaincies, the Creches, Careers Services, Counselling, Student Financial Support, Disability Support, the Facilitation and Disputes Advisory Service, the Physiotherapy Clinic, the Gymnasium (I'll stop here): But that would be, in order: the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, and the university.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to NBH,

    In other words, members of these organisations are forced to belong to them even if they are virulently opposed to the agendas of these organisations

    People are forced to fund them. They are not forced to belong to them.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Lew Stoddart, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Kyle, what is done in other sectors is irrelevant. If you want to save them, you do what will save them. I'm arguing a lesser reform imposed by a Labour government could have obviated the oblivion SAs now face. It's not a very contentious argument.

    Perhaps it would have failed, but then at least Labour would have made a positive attempt to fix the well-documented problems within student associations. But they preferred to pretend the rot wasn't happening, bet against the Douglas bill being drawn from the ballot, and then make a great show of dying in a ditch with months of idiotic procedural games which were never going to prevent the bill's passage, because we have a parliamentary system that is pretty filibuster-proof.

    L

    Wellington, NZ • Since Aug 2010 • 109 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    go live in Somalia

    A random Actoid took very unkindly to that passing suggestion recently and tossed off a post at solopassion declaiming my name. I'm from The Standard, apparently. And Somalia's a great place.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Because it is the state and the state can’t legitimately do that.

    You're conflating what the kinds of conditions the state can set with whether the state can set conditions at all.

    You’re argument “don’t want to be a member of a students’ association, then don’t go that university” is pretty stark

    Well strengthen the opt-out clauses then.

    The ban on unreasonable limitations on the freedom of expression

    WTF? Since when did this change from freedom of association to freedom of expression? But while we're here, freedom of expression is sacrosanct except when it's not. (Defamation, hate speech, inciting, etc.)

    It’s about forced membership of an organisation that you might not want to be a member of

    OPT-OUT CLAUSE.

    You're going to ask why opt-out clause rather than VSM, right? Because it solves the Free-Rider Problem by making opting out cost the same.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    for the record, like (I think) many, I'm of the opinion that there seems to be a need for serious change within the system of student associations we currently have - there are far too many Joel Cosgrove's in the system as it stands, and as Paul Williams mentioned upthread, it obscures the really valuable work most associations do. But attacking them in this way is not going to lead to that reform - if anything, it will simply see a continuing decline in quality as revenues start to dry up and a vicious cycle around membership starts up. Reform is what we need in this space, not destruction.

    This would have been a great and important conversation to have several years ago, when all of these points were still obvious and salient, and the massive flaws in the existing system didn't make it effortless for the unions' political enemies to destroy them.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    The blatant intellectual and moral dishonesty of the radical right using public institutions to gut them is remarkable.

    However, like Lew, I'd rather the sound and fury expended in a never-could-be-successful parliamentary defense of Student Associations had been deployed in other areas that more strongly affect the lives of needy New Zealanders.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to NBH,

    (clearly my understanding of the Law Society requirement was incorrect, so I’ll withdraw that part)

    I should add that lawyers must all pay money to the New Zealand Law Society for it to perform its regulatory function (they also pay money to fund the Legal Complaints Review Officer). The NZLS has a membership process for its duel representative role (that bit is voluntary). In this respect it is like the others you list (e.g. the Medical Council), so from your perspective (simplified by me as: if you pay it money, you're a member) it is probably how you imagine.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • NBH, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    In other words, members of these organisations are forced to belong to them even if they are virulently opposed to the agendas of these organisations

    People are forced to fund them. They are not forced to belong to them

    That is the finest of fine distinctions, and one can make exactly the same argument about student associations (except that students are forced to neither because, as Keith has been saying: 'opt-out clause').

    And cheers for the clarification re: the NZLS. :-)

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 97 posts Report Reply

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