Viewport width =
September 8, 2008 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Upheaval at VUWSA, jobs in jeopardy, O-Week unsafe

A document publicly released by the VUWSA executive last Thursday has outlined a series of proposed changes to the current structure of the Students’ Association, including the disestablishment of at least three existing fulltime positions and radical changes to future Orientation Week events.

Titled ‘Consultation Document for a Revised Structure of VUWSA Business’, the proposal is reportedly designed to “improve VUWSA’s efficiency and effectiveness,” and attributes current problems plaguing the Association to “historical issues.”

Among such issues that have been subsequently identified is the “increasingly unsustainable” cost associated with Orientation Week, with organised events failing to attract sufficient numbers of students to justify the expenditure. Previous executives have similarly blamed Orientation Week costs as a major contributor to the Association’s ongoing financial woes.

This view was supported by a 2006 review of the Association’s finances conducted by Howarth Strategy, who subsequently recommended that “VUWSA concentrate on its core union business and scale back its fiscal outlay in respect of social, sporting and cultural events.”

Prior to this review, the ‘Team Victoria’ brand was developed to streamline these services, under three full-time positions – Advertising and Sponsorship Manager, Campus Activities Co-ordinator and Clubs Development Officer. Employed by the Association, these positions are at present held by Jon McQueen, Dusty McLoughlin and Brent Hayward, respectively.

Under the proposal, all three positions will be disestablished. It is intended that McQueen’s role as Advertising and Sponsorship Manager will be separated into two, with the formation of a Business Manager to overlook Salient operations and advertising, and the sponsorship component of the current position for events such as UniGames, to be under contract.

Similarly, the role of the Campus Activities Co-ordinator will be replaced by a position that will be under contract and limited only to the month in which Orientation events are held. According to the document, the position will comprise of “[negotiating] subsidised tickets for events held in the inner city during Orientation.”

The duties currently carried out by the Clubs Development Officer will in future be shared by the Association and the Union under the proposal. Effectively, all clubs will continue to be paid for by students, but control over them will be shifted to the University.

The proposal has justified the contracting of the various positions, citing the “high turnover of executive positions.”

“[As a result], VUWSA does not have the internal structures and mechanisms to successfully manage staff. Independent contractors to fulfil the specialist roles at specific times of the year would lower the Association’s financial risk and remove management issues.”

It is anticipated that McQueen, McLoughlin and Hayward will all be required to re-apply if they wish to hold the remnants of the current positions.

None of the staff employed by the Association were consulted in the formulation of the proposal. Despite being promised otherwise, McQueen, McLoughlin and Hayward were informed of the possibility of losing their jobs and provided with the opportunity of compiling a submission on the same day that the proposal was made public.

Such upheavals do not appear to be limited to these three positions, with the proposal hinting at the removal of Orientation Week events from the University as a response to a reported preference students had for external events held in Wellington and the inner city.

One recommendation eventuating from the Howarth Strategy report was that “VUWSA partner up or form joint ventures with Wellington carnival events (Cuba Street Carnival, Jazz Festival, Fringe Festival, for example) to provide discounted rates for students, and therefore reduce the number of directly organised and managed activities.”

Furthermore, the proposal declares that “a second phase of changes” will look at “shifting the focus of front office components to the administration division, and will also strengthen financial accountability and reporting practices.”

This second phase refers to a report prepared by BDO Spicers on the Association’s financial structure, which recommended entrusting more control of managing and reporting the budget to permanent staff than to members of the executive.

Also under review, the proposal continues, is “the opportunity to relocate VUWSA’s current IT support to ITS Services.”

VUWSA Campaigns Officer Sonny Thomas stressed “This is just a proposal. We want feedback from students, we want feedback from staff.”

He added that VUWSA could not sustain itself continuing in its current situation, with projected statistics indicating a decrease in future student numbers. “Every four years, [the Association] has a financial meltdown, so if we continue this way, it will be the end of [student] advocacy and representation.”

Thomas told Salient that the initial thoughts behind the proposal had been drafted between himself and VUWSA President Joel Cosgrove, Education Vice-President Paul Brown and Administration Vice-President Alexander Neilson. “We showed the VUWSA Trust… they liked the idea of change.”

“VUWSA needs change.”

VUWSA President Joel Cosgrove pointed out “If we just wanted to fire people and get rid of jobs, we wouldn’t be doing it this way [with consultation].”

“The proposal is to make sure than when I come back in [the future], VUWSA is still functioning and not crashing and burning. This is a big change but it’s not as big as it would be if we did it in four years’ time.”

He conceded, however: “I think VUWSA does fuck up and it’s the nature of the beast.”

The Decision Panel for the subsequent process – the next step which involves consultation with affected staff members – is comprised of VUWSA President Joel Cosgrove, Welfare Vice-President Melissa Barnard, Campaigns Officer Sonny Thomas, and a VUWSA Trust member, an external consultant and a staff member.

The executive has invited submissions on the proposal. While UNITE Union are at present negotiating to extend this deadline to ensure it complies with the 30 days’ notice stipulated under the Collective Agreement, the current deadlines are as follows: requests for oral submissions are required in writing to, by 24 September, and written submissions will be accepted until 3 October.


About the Author ()

Comments (24)

Trackback URL / Comments RSS Feed

  1. blogette says:

    Congrats to Sonny who has had the vision to recognise reality and has moved to actually make VUWSA sustainablle as an organisation.

  2. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Congrats to Cosgrove as a fanatic member of the workers party for once again trampling workers’ rights

  3. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Can they get rid of some of the fucking muppets please?

  4. Outraged liberal left wing student says:

    I cannot believe this. On one hand we have a President who has sold out his “Workers party” ideals. Joel is supposed to be all about the workers rights and cutting them a fair deal. Yet he, through his actions with dealing with VUWSA staff members, has continuously shown a blatant disregard for not only their feelings, but any professional courtesy.

    On the other hand we have Sonny Thomas, President of Young Labour, a party which started out, and still claims to be for the worker. Mr Thomas this year has spent more time distancing himself from Cosgrove than providing us with any palatable return for our student levies. He has postured in a lame duck way, and done nothing for us, then he delivers us this “consultation” almost as an after thought.

    Last years exec and this years exec, have done more for VSM than the direct actions of anyone who has ever campaigned for it. The steps that Thomas has taken here in this “consultation” paper are exactly the same slippery steps that are being used to relinquish control of state assets. As soon as we start letting things like O-week and sponsorship slip out of student control it make it easier for future people to prune back what VUWSA does even more. And then where are we, the students, left?

    If we are receiving fewer services, employing fewer people, and over all putting VUWSA at less financial risk, why is there no corresponding drop in our levies?

    Maybe VSM is a God-send for Victoria. How come our exec is seemingly the only one in the country that has a majority of muppets who don’t actually want to work for the students. They end up using VUWSA as a political spring board, and yes I am talking about you, all you party hacks, whether that is Joel Cosgrove, Sonny Thomas, Young Labourites or ACT on campusians or any of the other people who delude themselves that they’re putting themselves forward for any other reason that ego satisfaction.

    We need to cut the rot where it is doing the most damage: on the exec. We need to see exec members to be held accountable for their actions. We need to see fewer exec members. If we are going to have change, it needs to be done in a fair and equitable way, with proper consultation of the affected staff, and with all students.

  5. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Fuck yeah. Can we put the exec in a sack and toss them in the river?

  6. Concerned Student says:

    the only thing more outraging than liberal left wing students, are ignorant, liberal left wing students…

    Joel is actually standing up for students – his core constiutency. This proposal would set the organisaton up structually for the future. Something thats meant to have been happening for ages. John, Brent and Dusty said that we needed to ‘fix’ things before making radical changes. Well the problems run deep lads, and this proposal is gonna fix them once and for all. Piecemeal ‘fixes’ have been attempted since 2002, and they just aint worked.

    What steps has Thomas taken that are slippery? Prepared a good document and then asked for 8 weeks of student consulation? Thats pretty fucking democratic if u ask me. It seems that your reaction is purely ideolgical, your just as bad as the hacks u decry.

    Finally, the proposal does not remove any student control from anything, in fact, it strengthens it. Oreintation would be relocated, not removed – to town, where students fucking want it. Money would be freed up for food banks, welfare, and advocacy. Not the bomfunk MCs, or Juliet and the Licks…

    If u cut the exec what are you changing? Absolutely nothing. Except give staff more control and power… is it a coincidence you made that point? This proposal would do something. And about time too.

    Where need to cut the rot where its doing the most damage. Exactly. And thats with an organisational structure thats seen half a million dollars of students money flushed down the drain over eight years, by ineffeciencies, and structural mismanagements.

    And the workers rights line is bullshit. All staff are allowed to reapply for thier old jobs. Did you even read the proposal? Of course the staff are being consulted properly, thats why what was released is a fucking CONSULTATION DOCUMENT. Seriously… Get a clue.

  7. Outraged liberal left wing student says:

    No. I was thinking more like constitutional reform
    which would attempt to give a semblance of political neutrality.
    – hold exec members (past and present) accountable for fuck ups which they perpetrate while on exec.
    – Making the process of rolling exec members esp. president easier.
    – Decreasing the pay of exec members
    – decreasing the power of the exec members
    – retaining core functions of VUWSA to ensure that students can enjoy more than a watered down advocacy service.
    – Some form of psychological test to ensure candidates for election are of sound mind and doing the job for the right reasons

  8. sing bo bo says:

    hey hey hey, lets not get carried away here, joel cosgrove has never been able to make anything happen in the past, don’t kid yourself that any of these proposed changes will eventuate

  9. C3P0 says:

    “Apart from the usual potential liability of an officer committing any crime, such as theft, officers may also be personally liable to third parties for breaches of trust or fiduciary duty, where they act outside the society’s rules and objects, and for property conversion.” – Companies Office

  10. what says:

    Paul Brown GETS my VOTE, Paul For President

  11. Phil says:

    I just picked up a copy of the proposal from VUWSA and I have to say that I think it’s actually pretty good.

    It’s got a lot of scope and leaves everything pretty open for students to give input. I reckon having a lax students association that can change to meet student needs is a great idea.

    I also think that making more money and resources available for Education support is really good thinking. Not much that you can argue against really.

    More support for students, less waste – awesome.

  12. Jakob says:

    Looks like a good document, with a lot of neccessary changes that VUWSA needs to survive.

  13. Outsider says:

    The tragedy is that all of NZ’s major university students’ associations have managed to solve (admittedly to varying degrees) these issues by adopting a management structure/ executive governance mix.

    VUWSA is the only University model where the president is both representative governor and CEO. Thus VUWSA is the only organization without professional expertise or long term strategic vision. This means when faced with crises it has no structure in place to implement change or improvements over more than 12 months. Thus it considers the only solution to cut services rather than introduce a professional management solutions. Its loses its cafes, control of bars, buildings, radio stations, clubs, events and so on.

    Another solution is to develop a professional long term management structure that can manage operations yet still follow the governance will of elected student representatives. Their proposal for a management contractor simply means changing people over short periods of time with no historical knowledge, personal investment, or responsibility for any decisions.

    VUWSA has always equated professional staff as a threat to their autonomy. Their proposal preserves their out right autonomy but reduces their responsibilities to almost nothing. Basically Joel will be the king of a sand hill.

    Consider building a new association that seeks to grow and gather more services rather than less.

  14. blogette says:

    “salient” points outsider. no chance of any analysis like this though in salient. just inanities and more VUWSA-speak.

  15. Nick Kelly says:

    At last nights meeting of the Workers Party on Campus we unanimously passed the following 5 positions on the current change proposal:

    1. That the WP on campus oppose any attempt by VUWSA to shift student club administration and development from under Student Association control to that of the University management

    2. That the WP on campus support greater spending controls over VUWSA Orientation and Activities. However the WP on campus oppose any attempt to contract out this service and believe like clubs it should be under student and VUWSA control.

    3. That the WP on campus oppose any move to make Salient magazine run as a business

    4. That the WP on campus oppose the redundancies suggested in the ‘Change Proposal’.

    5. That the WP on campus support Student control of student affairs and believe that the Change Proposal goes against this principle.

    The WP on campus will also be expanding these points into a public submission on the Change Proposal.

    Nick Kelly
    Workers Party Wgtn Branch Organiser

  16. John A. Lee says:

    Does the workers party have any plans for the long term future of vuwsa? Any plans to make it financially viable? Any way of justifying full time positions which are only needed at the start of the year?

  17. Jackson Wood says:

    Was Joel Cosgrove at this meeting? If so how does he come to terms with the fact that he is a WP member and at the head of an executive that is making these changes? Also will Joel act on these positions?

  18. Michael Oliver says:

    Were people breathing oxygen at this meeting? If so, how do you “breathers” reconcile the fact that employers also breathe oxygen?

  19. Gibbon says:

    shit nick awesome you did all that yourself! I am so proud
    I know it must be lonely to be the only workers party member in the campus so I congratulate you

  20. Confused says:

    Nick Kelly (in comment above):
    “3. That the WP on campus oppose any move to make Salient magazine run as a business”

    Nick Kelly (letter to the editor, Salient 1 September):
    “One major factor in VUWSA’s budget issues has been the ballooning cost of producing salient since 2004.”

    How do you reconcile these two statements?

  21. It’s saddening to see ideolouges, once again, put barriers up to changes that need to happen at least in some form or another.

  22. concerned Student about concerned students says:

    What’s the point in paying tens of thousands of dollars reviews if you don’t pay attention to the recommendations? I welcome the change proposal for the following reasons;

    1. It attempts address the financial woes of the Association
    2. It takes into account recommendations from some very expensive professionals.
    3. I creates dialogue with or stakeholders to fix systemic problems and opens the door for better ideas to be presented.
    4. It builds creates a contractual partnership with the University.
    5. The proposal still delivers all the services we are constitutionally committed to.
    6. It frees up resources to better support essential education and welfare services.
    7. It’s empowering to students to be able to create short term contracts—if students expectations are not met there will be more accountability.

    Change is always going to be demonized; however it is necessary. Staff have shown in recent years that they are also getting more involved in the political side of VUWSA so maybe this is the shake up that VUWSA needs.

    Nick Kelly, you can’t just keep raising students’ membership fee because you lack vision and because you’re unwilling to address the current problems for fear of hurting someone.

  23. concerned Student about concerned students friend says:

    Wow Seonah Choi what a poorly written article it’s clear that your against the change proposal. This is more of a blog then news

  24. Michael Oliver says:

    Seonah’s a great writer and this is perfectly fine piece of journalism. Fuck off.

Recent posts

  1. VUW Halls Hiking Fees By 50–80% Next Year
  2. The Stats on Gender Disparities at VUW
  3. Issue 25 – Legacy
  4. Canta Wins Bid for Editorial Independence
  5. RA Speaks Out About Victoria University Hall Death
  6. VUW Hall Death: What We Know So Far
  8. New Normal
  9. Come In, The Door’s Open.
  10. Love in the Time of Face Tattoos

Editor's Pick

Uncomfortable places: skin.

:   Where are you from?  My list was always ready: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, puppy dogs’ tails, a little Spanish, maybe German, and—almost as an afterthought—half Samoan. An unwanted fraction.   But you don’t seem like a Samoan. I thought you were [inser

Do you know how to read? Sign up to our Newsletter!

* indicates required