Wandering through the university you may have noticed the writing is on the wall…floor and web. Yes, those posters and counter posters and chalked walkways mean that campaigning for the VUWSA elections has begun. Voting starts this Friday, and while about 5 per cent of you vote, I reckon the issues raised in the current debate are of greater significance than they have been before. That’s because next year’s executive are going to make decisions that will have long reaching consequences. I’m talking about the cover story of Salient Five: The Campus Hub Project.
Next year the exec will liaise with Victoria University and the Union to determine how best to spend the proposed total cost of $60 million for redeveloping the Quad area. The exec through the VUWSA trust will contribute over $10 million towards the project. In this regard, the ability to work as a unified team and to integrate with the university bureaucracy will be essential.
Successful development of the hub project therefore favours candidates with institutional knowledge of Victoria’s culture. When I asked the University Council candidate from the A-Team, Jordan Williams, what he thought of the Campus Hub project, he didn’t know what it was. I am concerned that this naivety is not isolated, with the A-Team unaware of some of the implications of their policies. These include possible staff redundancies, a result of the notion of removing all affiliation and funding for clubs. This will undoubtedly also lead to payouts, which may end up being considerable due to redundancy payout requirements in the collective agreement.
Perhaps more of a concern to me is the ideological underbelly of the A-Team. There is no doubt in my mind that they are silent proponents of Voluntary Student Membership, with close ties to the far right. If you consider what happened at Waikato University after they changed from compulsory membership to voluntary, then our association may find themselves in a situation where they can’t perform even basic functions.
That’s exactly what happened at Waikato University in 1999, three years after they become voluntary. With only 124 members, Waikato Students’ Union had been reduced to nothing more than a small club. Compulsory membership resumed in 2000 after 80 per cent of students voted ‘yes’ to a referendum asking whether membership should become compulsory again.
The A-Team also extinguish my romantic and perhaps also naïve vision for student politics- that as a watchdog over the powerful and often unchallenged forces in our lives. Next year’s students will still be living in a country where we have some of the most extreme flatting costs in the world, where we have enormous student debts and where our government hardly seems to care. Do we want to be represented by people who challenge this or who are complicit in the increasing dictation of market forces? After all, the A-Team state on their website that “the A-Team is committed to an a-political VUWSA.”
There are further concerns with this non-stance. How, for instance, will the executive be able to have a relationship with NZUSA, the overtly national lobby for students’ associations? Just a few days ago the A-Team stated that they are going to review their membership with NZUSA, indicating a possible relationship. This is a marked departure from their statement last week that they would immediately quit ties with NZUSA. Further, the exec will be called to consult with Victoria University as student representatives for the implementation of the TEC initiative, which begins next year. And do we really want a student body which says nothing in an election year?
Non-representation extends to students on an individual level too, with significant changes to the advocacy role of paid VUWSA staff members.
These are of course just my opinions and hopefully this issue allows you to judge the issues surrounding this election for yourself. Our cover story compares the policies of the three presidential candidates nominated and the foldout centerfold on page 32 contains information about each candidate the way they want to describe themselves. The pullout section contains important information about voting times and booth locations. Also check out SalientTV for campaign profiles and election highlights as they come to hand. Happy voting,