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October 7, 2013 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The McCourt Report

We’re reaching the end of the 2013 academic year. Reflecting on the year gone, it’s important to take stock and appreciate how much your student representatives have achieved at VUWSA this year:

  1. We increased events. I promised last year that we’d have bigger and better events to make Vic a fun and vibrant campus. We’ve delivered on that with social events like the VUWSA House Party, through to new events like the Faculty Games, which had over 200 participants last week. Congrats to Science, who took out the top prize for this year. Thanks to Mica for making it happen.

  1. We’ve run the best public-transport campaign Wellington’s ever seen. Fairer Fares was a big deal. With over 2000 postcards collected, 500 emails to Councillors, over 30 individual media stories and an event with over 200 students: this campaign has blown everything prior out of the water. The best bit? Students have supported it hard from day one. In the next two months, I’ll be working alongside others on the Exec to deliver you something for 2014.

  1. We framed the Council and mayoral election: Notice how all the candidates are talking about student issues: cold flats, expensive transport and a lack of graduate jobs? Through working alongside candidates, we’ll deliver a rental warrant-of-fitness bill by March (don’t forget to get your vote in for Council. Tick the Fairer Fares candidates for Regional Council on our Facebook).

  1. We increased student engagement with local-body politics. Although John Morrison might have stopped our ballot boxes, we nonetheless had over 200 students special-voting on 25 September, there were scores of tweets to #vicvotes (in fact, it was trending in New Zealand), and we had over 250 students at the largest VUWSA event in recent history with the Mayoral Debate.

  1. We lifted revenue, cut costs, and are closing the deficit. We’ve been firmer under my leadership in negotiating with Vic in areas where VUWSA is making huge losses like lost property and welfare. We rationalised our communications spend, found better revenue streams for some welfare projects, and looked to make our contracted areas more efficient. We also introduced a membership card, which is a potential revenue stream. Remember: our income’s gone from $2.25 million in 2011 to less than $700,000. But that’s no excuse to run a deficit. By 31 December, the new Budget for 2014 will be set (a first in many years to have the budget set ahead of the year!), and we’ll eliminate the deficit. I’ll be proud to be the guy who got VUWSA out of the red!

  1. We saved student voice. The Student Forum not only undermined VUWSA, it undermined all student voices. It was built on the idea that a random group of students could supplant representative, accountable and authentic student voice. We took some big hits to pull out of the Forum. I’ve been admonished, ridiculed and sidelined by some managers in this process. Others, particular academics, have praised our courage and determination to restore what is right and what works. It’s been hard, but knowing VUWSA will return to the heart of student voice, that those students, all of them, who will follow me will have a real say in this place we all love—that makes it worth it. Thanks to Sonya for being brave with me.

  1. We supported the redevelopment of rep groups. From helping Lucy and her team in CanDo re-establish this year, or sewing the seeds for a new International Students’ Rep Group, or our efforts to tautoko Arthur Bird and the Mature Students’ Network: we’ve put in the time so a diversity of student voices are loud and clear. I’m particularly proud of our work with the new Education Society and NZEI to host an event that gave future teachers a taste of the issues in the sector. Thanks to Gemma, Ramon and Matt in particular for work in this area.

  1. We backed up our partners. We’ve worked to ensure more funding, support and recognition for Ngāi Tauira, the Pasifika Students’ Council and their affiliated groups. From fighting for a third place on University Council for a Tauira rep, to challenging the University’s equity commitment beyond funding targets: we made a difference.

  1. We made the University safer. Through working with the Council and the University, new lighting has been placed in the Mount Street Cemetery, by Boyd Wilson Field and Salamanca Road. It’s taken nagging emails, going through the archives, and making the most of our positive relationship with local councillor Stephanie Cook. If there’s one less physical or sexual assault, one less student worried about getting attacked: we’ve made a difference.

  1. We saved you money. Our work this year kept the Student Services Levy rise at two per cent. In the past, it has been between four and over-30 per cent. This is a real achievement, but we didn’t stop there. We found low-value spending where the University could make savings: like where they duplicate Student Job Search with CareerHub, or TradeMe Flats with Accommodation Services. We also made sure there was more money for Counselling Services to get waiting times down. Now that’s a big difference!

  1. We’ve represented your academic interests with professionalism and passion. From dodgy marking to University-wide grade changes: we’ve been strong on arguing for pro-student policy and processes across Vic. We’ve worked to gain the respect of the staff on those committees. Most importantly—we said what you told us to, every time.

  1. We stood up when it counted: Living Wage, Fairer Fares, Warmer Flats, Student Forum, University Council student representation, student allowances, Counselling wait times, fee rises, grading-changes implementation, deficit, Orientation. We’ve been honest about the challenges, and true to our values. This year’s Exec was the brave one. We made a difference.


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