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March 3, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

President’s Column

Most students enrolling for film papers this trimester will have only recently become aware of the change proposal being circulated around the Faculty of Humanities in regards to slashing the film school.

As covered in Salient, the justification for stripping back the Film school, namely a lack of postgraduates is shot to pieces when it becomes clear that the school has only started building up postgrad students numbers since 2003. Surely the acknowledged boom in undergrads should well lead to a boost in postgrads? That’s not going to happen, because a decision needs to be made now and it will not be made in the best interest of either academic staff or students, it’s the university middle management and those in their comfortable positions within the university who have something to lose and will make both students and staff pay in redundancies and the disappearance of the film programme as we know it.

Why is this being done? Because slowly and surely the universities are being starved of money by the government. Each year for something approaching the last two decades the current Labour government and it’s predecessor National government cynically under funded the education system in an attempt to undermine the quality and access provided by universities. By imposing a “corporate” management ethos, tied with historical under funding and arbitrary cost structures, the outcome has been to slowly squeeze the institution’s into an education factory not unlike the current model for secondary school education. Why does the film school pay the same amount per square metre for its run down space in Fairlee Tce as Commerce do, down at Pipitea? Because. Why does the Faculty of Education pay the same amount per metre for it’s space usage out at Karori as anywhere else in the university? Because these are the arbitrary decisions being made to slowly turn Victoria University into the equivalent of a tertiary Pak N Save i.e. Low range of “services”, a confused, worn down workforce and the requirement to pack your own bags. The best analogy I’ve had is that this is approaching a similar level to music students being told they’d only learn theory and not actually play any instruments.

Why are the university doing this? To clear off permanent staff and anyone with a decent redundancy claim, to save money through casualised and contracted staff and to limit student choice course wise.

Already there is a call to write submissions and put a student focus on this. The fact is that there already is a student focus. The empty white space in regards to student issues in the “consultation” document and the initial public announcement date being after the cut-off date for pulling out and getting a full fee refund, give a clear enough indication of where the university stand. The fact that both the change proposal decision panels for the Faculty of Education and the School of Film Studies contain the same two of four members (and Education is still ongoing) shows where the uni’s priorities are, experience in listening politely and ultimately ignoring is of benefit.

The Decision Panel (Faculty of Education) for the purpose of this process is:

Dugald Scott – Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education)
Annemarie de Castro – Director, Human Resources
David Mackay – Deputy Vice-Chancellor; and David Bibby – Pro Vice-Chancellor (Science and Architecture & Design).

The Decision Panel (School of Film Studies) will be:

Deborah Willis – Pro Vice-Chancellor & Dean, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences
John Davidson – Head of School, Art History, Classics & Religious Studies
David Mackay – Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Annemarie de Castro – HR Director

Because ultimately it does not matter if students and staff overwhelmingly oppose this proposal and voice their concerns. That is what happened to the mail room operations last year and that wasn’t even about money (apparently), the opposition was overwhelming. Why did it disappear as a separate entity? Because ultimately even if staff and students are opposed to this “proposal”, there will be another group of “stakeholders” whose views override. And that is middle/ upper management. The issue of redundancies and salaries being “too high” a liability is an “issue” left unspoken, but also very much felt.

In order to follow through these unpopular changes the university buys off a group of academics and managers whose future promotion and job security lies in toeing the line, relying on angry students and staff to leave instead of fight, taking their institutional memories and experiences with them, a sort of regular reliable amnesia, it is not a pleasant experience for those who side with uni management against their fellow staff members and students, but the pay packets buffer that a little.

The answer for students and staff is to fight back, as there is nothing left to lose bar our education, our degrees and our jobs. If we do not stop this Film School proposal it will be Media Studies and Languages next, every course that can be made to be uneconomic to run, will soon be made to cut back or cease operations, picked off one by one. We need to fight for the rights of current and future students by publicly keeping the university accountable to the workers who ultimately provide the majority funding to it, those who are not here but support the right for a progressive tertiary education, available to all those who want to take part in it.

On Wednesday from midday onwards at the Mount Street Bar in Kelburn there will be a Student Representative Council discussing this issue in the open (the only time so far that this has happened), anyone concerned about the issues surrounding film school should be there to air their views or have a listen to others. We’ll be marching to the hunter courtyard after that to make the University aware of what they’re facing.

Joel Cosgrove
Victoria University Wellington Students Association
Te Ropu Tauira o te Kura Wananga o te Upoko te Ika a Maui
Wk – 044636986
Cell – 0275636986


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Comments (9)

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  1. Graeme Burton says:

    Cosgrove – where is our free printing?

  2. It’s not available in jail, dick

  3. Jackson Wood says:

    Last year Joel ran for President on a platform of free printing for students. This is yet to happen. As an honours student (who does not get free printing from his faculty) I need to print shit out now but have no money on my SCS account. I move that we send Joel our assignments, drafts, blackboard notes yadda yadda that we need printed off, ’till he fulfills his promise. His email is, you can call his office on 04 463 6986 and dictate, or drop in and see him with your flash drive. I am sure he will be more than happy to help you out.

  4. Brunswick says:

    …Unless you’re a uniped.

  5. Jackson Wood says:

    Damn that Heather Mills!

  6. matt the truck says:

    The thing is.. I bet Joel would print your stuff out

  7. Jackson Wood says:

    Yeah… and good on him. It is what he should be doing :)

  8. Graeme Burton says:

    Whoa – free printing is almost certainly more available in jail than at Victoria University. Like every VUWSA president, Joel’s campaign was cynically based on grandiose promises that bear little relation to the meagre influence and credibility of the office.

  9. You make a good point – the corrections system surely has less bureaucracy than Victoria.

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