Theft, stripping and the consumption of urine were on the agenda when the VUWSA executive attended the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) conference in Christchurch during the mid-year break.
A ‘New Zealand Cricket Turf Maintenance Facility’ sign was stolen from the Lincoln cricket ground, which was signed by each exec member who attended the conference, and presented to a VUWSA staff member upon the exec’s return to Wellington.
The conference was attended by students’ associations from around the country and included discussions on universal student allowances, quality in tertiary education, and building and maintaining relationships with students.
President Geoff Hayward says he was unaware that he was signing stolen property, and believed it to be a large floor tile. He was unable to comment on why the exec would be giving the VUWSA staff member a floor tile.
Lincoln University Students’ Association (LUSA) Vice President Brian Dunkley was making enquiries about the sign, and had no immediate comment.
A ‘debt monster’ costume was also stolen from Otago Polytechnic Students’ Association (OPSA) by VUWSA Education Vice-President Joel Cosgrove. Cosgrove laughingly described to Salient how he wore the costume whilst hiding in a cupboard before the costume was later returned. OPSA President Richard Mitchell told Salient the matter has been resolved and declined to comment further.
VUWSA Queer Rights Officer Rachael Wright raised eyebrows when she attended a formal dinner in a miniskirt and what she describes as an “amazing black faux-fur crop-top sleeveless vest”, with the words ‘safe space’ written on her stomach.
Wright says Barnard wrote the words on her stomach after heckling from other associations’ executives during her karaoke performance.
“Sehai [Orgad – President of Waikato Students’ Union] and one of the girls from OUSA [Otago University Students’ Association] started yelling at me that it was a safe space…and that I was being objectified, and all I’ve said about the matter really is that the point of having safe spaces is that women can express themselves how they want to without being objectified.”
Wright also stripped in a Christchurch bar and urinated on a street in front of the exec, before Activities Officer Bernard-Bernard Galaxy licked her urine off the footpath, sources have told Salient.
The exec also staged a walk-out at one point in the conference after Cosgrove was not given speaking rights to speak on a motion he had put forward, according to Environmental Officer Tushara Kodikara.
Kodikara says the exec were also fed up with only being able to speak through two chief delegates – Hayward and Ngai Tauira Tumuaki Maryjane Waru – which meant they were continually caucusing to tell the chief delegates what to say. The exec changed their chief delegates several times in an attempt to get around this – as Hayward says, “exploit[ing] a standing order so as to allow people to speak.”
Despite this, NZUSA Co-President Josh Clark says Cosgrove was granted speaking rights on numerous occasions throughout the conference, and says NZUSA’s main concern was that VUWSA were represented through their main delegates.
Kodikara says it was the defeat of VUWSA’s motion that ‘NZUSA supports the democratically elected government of Palestine’ which led to exec members walking out.
“NZUSA doesn’t support democracy and doesn’t support caucusing,” says Kodikara.
According to Barnard, the majority of the exec walked out, whilst she, Hayward and International Officer Genevieve Fontanier remained to hear the end of a motion. Fontanier and Barnard left shortly after, to find the rest of the executive outside eating the afternoon tea provided.
Mike Heine, spokesman for Student Choice, the campus group promoting voluntary student union membership, says he’s not surprised by the incidents at the conference. “We would expect nothing more from the current VUWSA executive who have been abusing their position all year.”
Hayward told Salient that no action would be taken internally, but students should hold the exec accountable if they “feel aggrieved” by the behaviour of their representatives.
Hayward says, “any specific issues were dealt with between exec members and associations, such as LUSA and NZUSA. I think it’s important that students know that every executive at VUWSA understands their responsibility to the students, but also we are responsible to ourselves.”
Hayward says the conference was otherwise “incredibly constructive”.
CORRECTION: The stolen sign was signed by each exec member who attended the conference, not by every exec member, as was previously implied. Education Officers Paul Brown and Stefan Tyler, and Treasurer Alexander Neilson were not in attendance, and did not sign it – News Ed.