Home' The Wellingtonian : September 8th 2011 Contents 8 THE WELLINGTONIAN, SEPTEMBER 8, 2011
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Future of student
unions in jeopardy
Free choice: ACT on Campus president
By EMMA BEER
Membership of student associations may
soon become voluntary and there are
suggestions that the associations may
The Education (Freedom of Associ-
ation) Amendment Bill was introduced to
Parliament by Heather Roy in 2009.
It is now nearing its third reading. If
passed the bill would end compulsory
Student association membership is
compulsory in most New Zealand
universities, and students are signed up
automatically at many tertiary
institutions, including Victoria and
Student associations are concerned
that if membership becomes voluntary,
people will choose to not sign up, mean-
ing associations will be unable to prop-
erly represent students.
Seamus Brady, president of Victoria
University Wellington Students Associ-
ation (Vuswa) said if the association had
to focus on signing people up, it would
take the focus away from what was
It would put at risk all those
structures for the ability to represent
every student voice.
You make a choice to enrol and join a
community so you should contribute a bit
to how that community functions,'' he
However, ACT on Campus president
Peter McCaffrey said that wasn't how the
It's exactly what every other club on
campus has to do. We have to actually
explain to people what we do and why it's
good. We don't force people to join an
organisation because they might realise
it's good later in the year.''
Mr Brady said another concern was
that although services could be picked up
by the university, representation
Anyone can provide services, but no-
one can provide student representation
like Vuwsa or student associations can,''
Mr McCaffrey said he did not expect all
students would join the association if the
fees remained at their current levels.
Realistically they're going to have to
drop their fees and they're going to have
to prioritise their funding.
If they try to keep running everything
as is, they're not going to have enough
money. But that doesn't mean that auto-
matically everything is going to collapse.
It means they have to provide
students with stuff the students want if
they want students to join. Which isn't
really that big a deal.''
Mr McCaffrey said student associ-
ations often saw themselves as the voice
of students. They apply that and say:
Well we are negotiating with the univer-
sity on behalf of students. We're saying
students want these things.'
The problem is it assumes that
students are one group, that they all
agree. And typically, it assumes they are
one big group of left-wing students.''
Massey University Wellington student
association president Alex Hema said its
biggest issue was the limited time they
would have to change over.
If the bill was passed, there would be a
maximum time period of four months to
change procedures, which was an
insanely short'' time.
Negotiations would need to be
undertaken with the university about
what funding could be given, and that
took time, she said.
If they passed the bill this month and
gave us until 2013, that would give us a
year to start putting initiatives in place.''
Mr Brady agreed: Throw us a bone
and give us a year.''
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