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March 16, 2009 | by  | in News | [ssba]

By-election candidates buy votes by the by

In an intriguing gathering of ideas and hopes, the candidates for the positions of Victoria University of Wellington Students Association Women’s Rights Officer and Publications Committee Student Representative pitched themselves to would-be voters at a special forum last Wednesday.

Both Kassie Hartendorp and Flora Wassilieff (Women’s Rights Officer candidate and Publications Committee Representative candidates, respectively) were running unopposed, but spoke candidly about the issues they felt pertinent to their would-be roles.

Hartendorp addressed the forum first, and held that her feminist ideals, while strong, were by no means exclusive.

“I’d like to start by saying, yes, I am a scary feminist. That’s what I am and I’m totally comfortable with that,” Hartendorp said.

“I think that it’s important to say that feminism is for everybody. The things feminists are for do benefit everyone.”

Hartendorp maintained that the role of Women’s Rights Officer was all encompassing and representative of all women at Victoria University of Wellington. She underpinned her address by highlighting her hopes for the coming year.

“My main cause is that I want to build and maintain an environment for women on campus,” Hartendorp said.

“I know NZUSA is doing a survey on student parents, so things to do with parents and women as parents are very important to me, and making sure [VUW] is an inclusive environment for them to study in,” “The Thursdays in Black campaign is quite big on the agenda. I would really like to strengthen it this year. I think the way this can be done is by having a regular stall [to buy merchandise] every Wednesday, as well as taking it to the other campuses,” she said.

Hartendorp addressed questions posed by guest speakers, Green MP Catherine Delahunty, and Minister of Women’s Affairs Pansy Wong.

Delahunty asked what Hartendorp considered her biggest challenge was in making women’s issues more visible at VUW.

“I don’t think it’s just women’s rights,” answered Hartendorp.

“As you already know, there is kind of an atmosphere of apathy on campus at the moment. I do, however, think issues on women’s rights and student issues in general need to be raised totally. We as a women’s group were thinking of tackling some of those issues this year.”

Wong’s question, which was unable to be delivered in person due to the Minister having to leave early for parliamentary question time, questioned whether Hartendorp considered a campus like VUW “filled with intelligent, confident women” to be troubled by issues of sexual harassment and violence.

“I think you can have many intelligent women in a space and it really doesn’t make much difference; it is about battling ideas. We are not isolated; we are part of wider society,” Hartendorp replied. “Sexual harassment and violence happens everywhere, and it does happen on campus, and we’re looking at different ways to address that.”

Publications Committee Student Representative candidate Flora Wassilieff then addressed the forum, and while she conceded a dearth of knowledge on the intricate mechanics of student politics, she was enthused all the same.

“I’m not too keyed up on all the knowledge about it, but I’ve been reading Salient for six years now, and I’m really interested in seeing that it continues running how it is,” Wassilieff said.

“My priority would be just to make sure that Salient keeps running how it is, and it continues to be the voice of the students.”

When questioned as to whether she preferred Salient maintaining full editorial independence, Wassilieff was favourable.

“I like that even though Salient is a VUWSA publication, it is not controlled by VUWSA. If the president was to be the one who signed off, it would seem like it’s the president’s voice being heard and not students’. I like that [Salient] is the free voice of the students,” she said.

The by-election will he held from 17 to the 23 of March.


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