The A-Team’s threats of pulling rep group funding have prompted the heads of most rep groups to unite as a group, United Students. United Students is aiming to keep student representation, advocacy and support strong at Vic in the wake of the A-teams policies.
Disabled students’ rep group Can-Do President Rongomaiwahine Higgins called the presidents together, and says, “representative groups often form the basis of student action and communication within Vic. If something is wrong, if something needs to be resisted or done we already have the lines of communication in place and the structures to resist and fight for students.”
The group includes Can-Do, UniQ, PGSA and Ngai Tauira.
Ngai Tauira is speaking out against the A-Team’s policies, despite a recent promise to “not touch their funding.” Tumuaki Maryjane Waru suggests “a little social responsibility” should be added to the A-Team’s campaign.
UniQ president Laressa Donaldson agrees, stating that rep groups “exist for people and groups who need advocacy and support.”
Donaldson believes that taking away VUWSA financial backing for rep groups “shows a lack of respect and little appreciation for diversity.”
When Salient contacted A-Team Council Rep candidate Jordan Williams about United Students, Williams confused the rep groupwith clubs such as Debsoc and the Young Nats.
After some initial confusion over the difference between a rep group and a club, Williams completely disagreed with the criticism of the A-Team’s policies. Williams argues that the A-Team is for rep groups “but we are also looking out for what the normal … uh … sorry, I mean average student thinks.”
Presidential candidate and current Education Vice President Joel Cosgrove says this shows “the A-Team’s whole campaign is built on a lack of understanding of both VUWSA and students.”
Current President Geoff Hayward, who is seeking re-election, agrees that this highlights their lack of understanding and experience, “and students should be concerned.”
Can-Do told Salient identifying with a rep group “is not something you can necessarily choose” whereas membership to a club is completely voluntary. United Students is concerned about the continued existence of rep groups at Victoria if the A-team is elected.
Waru describes the A-Team’s attitudes as “foolish” and “wishful thinking” that students will want to give the A-Team’s proposed $25 refund to rep groups.
Williams argues that the best representative groups in New Zealand “look after themselves” with no funding from students’ associations, and “everyone wants to join them because they are so awesome.”
Donaldson believes that no financial backing from VUWSA will seriously limit the ability of rep groups to serve students. United Students cautions students “to think carefully and explore their options before they vote.”