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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]



As the year goes on I become more and more disillusioned with the system of student representation we have here at Victoria.

If you’ve been reading these editorials you’ll know I harp on a lot about that democracy bullshit.

Democracy needs people to care about it. It needs people to be involved. The latest by-election is a perfect example of how disengaged students are with the association, or perhaps how abstractly the executive operates from the students.

Fewer than 600 out of the 20,000 or so students who are members of VUWSA bothered to vote. We don’t know exactly how many people voted because the Returning Officer hasn’t given us that information, but that is a different story best read on page 9.

On Thursday afternoon MJO and I took a stroll around the Union Building and Quad and talked to roughly 50 students. The resounding response when asked if they knew there had been a by-election was “Huh?”

About a quarter of the students we talked to knew there had been an election but were unclear about what it is about and/or if they had voted. Many cited lack of awareness, saying there has been no effort by the candidates or the current executive to raise awareness.

Maybe it is time to rethink how students are represented at this university. All the transparency, openness and accountability doesn’t matter if people don’t give a flying fuck in the first place.

Maybe one thing to do is break the monopoly on representation and allow people to create and join associations which actually cater to their needs and beliefs. Associations where they not only get their money’s worth but they are actually represented and engaged with by associations they’re proud to be members of.

When an association fucks up, you find your needs change or you become embarrassed by the actions of its leaders, you can disassociate yourself from it. Conversely, if you like a certain association then you can join it.

We have a government which is ideologically opposed to compulsory student unionism, supported by a party which has already had a voluntary student membership bill in the ballot. It seems like a wise idea to start talking about ways to strengthen representation now than waiting till it’s too late.


About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (10)

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  1. Jackson Wood says:

    Sorry for the whole no commenting thing… Don’t know how that happened. Fixed now.

  2. unionism fail says:

    you’ve completely missed the point of unionism. it’s about collective strength and solidarity, something you’d lose with your “many associations” idea. The VUWSA levy is an investment. It’s also insurance. You put money in, you get more than what you paid back – because of resources and organisation. fail fail fail.

  3. MC Chris says:

    You put money in, you get more than what you paid back – because of resources and organisation

    lol fuck off

  4. oh says:

    maybe the fact that you didn’t bother to put the details about the by-election in salient contributed a bit too!!

  5. Matt says:

    “maybe the fact that you didn’t bother to put the details about the by-election in salient contributed a bit too!!”

    Wait, you’re being, like, ironic, right? That’s what those unnecessary exclamations marks indicate right? That far from being a complete fucking idiot, you’re actually… No wait. I give up.

  6. Adam says:

    “….it’s about collective strength and solidarity”

    Wow touching stuff. sob sob. That has got to be the biggest piece of pea crap I’ve ever heard. If your union’s strength requires that people are forced to join, then they are obviously of little interest to most people.

    If people were free to acctually vote with thier feet, then, perhaps, unions might have to actually try to be useful.

  7. West says:

    Apathy reigns supreme in all localised politics. It’s food for thought as to how we remedy this, and I certainly think it’s worth thinking about.

    But, at the crux of this, the students association is a vital service provider on campus and it would be a loss for students if we didn’t have it – be that due to a decrepit old Douglas, or by ‘breaking up the monopoly’. I would suggest that services like the foodbank would be gone if either were to happen.

    Latimer would pale in comparison.

  8. Tui says:

    Students’ unions aren’t really like unions. They’re like governments: you don’t have to vote, but you still have to pay your taxes. Geddit?

  9. Gibbon says:

    As a whole, maybe it would be a loss for students. For me personally, I have never received any benefit that I can recall from being a member of VUWSA. Therefore, for me, it would be no loss to see it go.

    Selfish, certainly – but why should I subsidise things I don’t agree with. (Worker’s Party, etc)

  10. Matt says:

    Does paying student association fees really mean that you are subsidising the Workers’ Party? Any more than if, say, an ACT “on campus” type wrote an article for Salient I would be subsidising them?
    As for the selfishness thing, well, respect to you for admitting it. I guess. So few libertarian types do. But I wonder if the fact that you think you haven’t benefited at all from VUWSA is more a lack of consideration on your part? I feel like I benefit from the fact that other students are able to access the foodbank, for example, even though I’ve never done so myself. It means that people who would otherwise be unable to study can do so, and, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing. That’s just one example, I reckon there are probably others…

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