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Guest Post: Corruption Rampant in Student Unions Throughout New Zealand

October 16th, 2009 by Madeleine

Andy Moore penned this guest post. It follows nicely on from ScrubOne’s:

“Free hamburgers and sausage sizzle, $5 jugs of beer” read the advertisement in the student magazine CANTA, a week or so before the University of Canterbury Student Association’s (UCSA) AGM. The quorum for the AGM is 120 students as established in the constitution, and it was pitiful to read the president pleading in his weekly column for people to come along. Of course they’d already attempted to run the AGM the week before, but hadn’t made the quorum. So out with the bribes and cheap beer and let’s try this one again. And where else to host the AGM than outside the student pub, in the amphitheatre? From a compulsory membership of 18,000 students, the UCSA was struggling to make up this poorly representative quorum by offering cheap alcohol and free food, only it wasn’t free because the students paid for it in their levy – yep, even the ones who didn’t attend the meeting. Oh, but perhaps I’m coming down a bit strong – after all, the agenda for the meeting was seeking to raise the quality of life for students. Ahem. Seeking to raise the quality of life for the students on the Exec, by raising all their salaries, including bumping the president’s salary up over the $50k mark. With a budget close to $9m ($1.2m from student levy in 2008) and aprox $400k expenditure by the Exec on a yearly basis it makes you wonder where all the money is going. All the while you’ve got growing frustration from students at steadily increasing food-costs on campus with only one cafe operating that is not owned by the University or UCSA.

Meanwhile in Wellington, pro-VSM students have got together, primarily from within the ACT on Campus and Young Nats groups, and outflanked the executive and other pro-compulsion students at Victoria University. As Jenna Raeburn says in her live-blog post, “a bunch of liberty lovers and I decide to exercise our rights as (unwilling) members of VUWSA and attend their Student Representative Council”. Ultimately, “The motion passes 45-35! [how does this work when there are only 63 people here??? where did these 35 come from?] VUWSA supports the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill.” You can read Jenna’s full account of the meeting here – as she says, “VUWSA can’t even count hands or run a meeting, and we subject tens of thousands of students to their antics and put them in charge of millions of dollars every year?” – and without consent of their constituents (students) at that! The ACT on Campus Youtube channel has full footage of the meeting which is a real eye-opener. Vice President of ACT on Campus NZ summarily congratulated VUWSA on their stance on VSM in an (albeit) tongue-in-cheek press release later that evening. However the VUWSA exec aren’t going to go down without a fight and so are attempting to illegally veto the decision made at the annual meeting that took place on Wednesday.

Roger Douglas’s private members bill to bring freedom of association into student unions will go a long way in addressing this snapshot of problems.

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