OK, let’s get one thing straight. I don’t enjoy taking public stances on VUWSA issues. It makes me feel smutty and unethical. But sometimes I get angry. And the SGM made me very angry.
Firstly, as Monsieur Greenbrook-Held has already kindly pointed out, it was poorly organised. It should never have been held at Eastside because of the difficultly in reaching quorum. Also, the main drawing point – the motions about raising the levy – should have been left until the end of the meeting. People aren’t going to stay once the controversial stuff is over. And, really, who is in charge of the flyers? Highlighting your own hypocrisy is seriously dumb.
What was particularly galling was the meeting being hijacked by viciously ideological right-wingers and VSM supporters, a la Nicholas O’Kane, who got all demagogic and outraged about the proposed levy hike.
Don’t get me wrong here. Debate and discussion are important, indeed, the very foundations that democracy is supposedly built upon. I would have been just as disappointed had the motion passed unanimously without anyone speaking against it. But in order for there to be proper debate and discussion, those taking up such cause have to be properly informed.
Shall we have a brief summary then?
VUWSA is financially fucked. You think I’m exaggerating? It is only through not having to pay the $175,000 student union building levy this year that VUWSA escaped having a $300,000 deficit. Next year they are going to have to pay that money.
On top of that, other costs are rising. See, there’s more to VUWSA that the Exec. They hire other people. Nikki and Sandra in the Education Office, who look after students who get screwed around by the University; Brent, who looks after clubs; Dusty, who organises activities. If you’ve ever talked to a class rep about something, joined a club or gone to an Ori event, then they have touched your lives without you knowing it. They have to get paid.
VUWSA is expanding to meet its expanding constituency. It’s recently opened and expanded offices on other campuses. New staff have to be taken on to run these offices. More services have to be provided. Costs rise. VUWSA’s income doesn’t. In fact, it hasn’t been adjusted since 1998. Ever heard of inflation?
For much of this year it wasn’t clear, even to those who were directly involved, exactly how bad the financial situation was. When it did become clear, a slash and burn approach was taken. There’s a financial review happening right now, although what will happen to the recommendations once the final report is out is another matter. They were never going to be able to cut back enough most of the way through the year, and the extra money has to come from somewhere.
Let’s dispel some more myths. The Exec aren’t swimming in a pool of money. They get paid approximately $50 for what is supposed to be 10 hours work. Usually it’s more. I’ve seen Exec members work themselves to the bone for less than $5 an hour, on top of having a second job and studying. Three members of the Exec are paid actual salaries, the two Vice-Presidents and the President. VPs work 20 hours up and get paid less than I do for what is theoretically the same workload. The President works full time. But I’ve seen Nick here on Sundays, and late on week nights. Working for VUWSA isn’t so much a job as a lifestyle.
Which brings me to food. Sometimes, when the Exec used to work late they were given food. Not anymore. Sometimes, food is provided at functions for the dozens of volunteers who represent students on a wide range of boring boards and committees. It’s a nice gesture, and hardly going to put VUWSA into the red on its own.
Many of the critics of the levy rise proposal raised very good points. There are ways VUWSA can streamline and save money, and organisational issues that can and should be solved. In conjunction with a levy rise, it might just save the organisation from financial oblivion.
But here’s some advice to O’Kane et al: take a look at the bigger picture. Take off the blue tinted glasses and think practically about the issue. And seriously, jumping up and down, squealing and clapping your hands like a six year old girl who just got a pony for Christmas isn’t a good look. Grow the fuck up.