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September 24, 2018 | by  | in Interview | [ssba]

VUWSA Presidential Race 2019

Tamatha Paul (21): 3rd year – BA in pols and IR; graduating at the end of this tri; From Tokoroa – south Waikato; No political affiliations


Bethany Paterson (22): 5 year of law degree – ecology and biology BSc; Christchurch; No political affiliations

The two candidates for the VUWSA presidency in 2019 – Beth Paterson and Tamatha Paul – have a lot in common: they’ve both been in VUWSA for two years, and they’re both passionate about helping students.
Policies aside, what really makes them tick? What will they be like as leaders, and as changemakers for Vic? Tam, as the first person in her family to go to university, says that she’s running for President because “students should only be worrying about one thing at uni – getting a degree”. She talks fast and with intent – there’s a “take no shit” aura around her.
Beth answers with her personal experience: she’s running for President because “when I came to uni, there were a load of issues I struggled with that I didn’t specifically connect to being ‘student problems’”.
There’s genuine enthusiasm behind her words when she says she wants to reconnect VUWSA with the community. “You shouldn’t need to wait until you’re on the VUWSA exec to know about it.”
As the connection between the students and the university, the President will have to front the inevitable conflict between the two. Beth assured me that she was no stranger when it came to conflict with the university: “the uni and the exec has not always seen eye to eye on the topic of sexual violence prevention, especially when we’re asking for resources. There’s always tension when students are pushing at a faster rate than the institution is willing to go, so I’ve been in some pretty tense meetings. I’ve got a good poker face, so I think I’ll handle it fine.”
Tam talked about the importance of having the two work together: “the President’s job is to frame the problem in a way to the uni why looking after the student’s wellbeing is so important, and the easiest way to do that is to hit them in the pocket. That means talking about how all these things – mental health, sexual violence, means students are dropping out, means less fees being paid.” She credits her time on the VUWSA exec (as the longest serving member out of the current executive, and staff, having been involved since the end of her first year in 2016), as having allowed her to build up a good relationship with the senior leadership team, and that she respects them as peers. “But in the end when it comes down to it – I will hard ground always have the students’ back, and I won’t be lobbied. I’m not afraid to call out bullshit.”

Both candidates are extremely well qualified, so it’s looking to be a pretty tight race. Their willingness to share their stories — Beth on sexual assault, and Tam on mental health, show the great strength behind both the policies and the person. Tam’s a powerful orator, unapologetic in her beliefs. The image of a Māori wahine, first-in-her-family-to-attend-uni at the helm of the student body, is some pretty strong symbolism, and she talks with the confidence of one that knows her worth. And judging from the very accurate and official method of counting the FB “Going” on their campaign event pages, she’s well in the lead (Currently 263 for Tam and 105 for Beth). But Beth’s style — although of the less showy sort than Tam’s — will resonate with many too. Her law school background would stand her in good stead for the nitpicky policy sides of student politics. And she’s nice. “Nice” sounds like those shitty fill-in adjectives, but the role of President requires you to form many positive relationships. Having tact, patience, and diplomacy will go a long way when change doesn’t come as fast as you hope.


What’s your opinion on the name change?
T: Personally not totally for or against name change, but I’m concerned with the amount of money that’s been spent – it could be put on better things like uh, maybe the fact that there are students literally dying? The only good thing that’s come out of it is that it’s shown how shit the uni is at consulting students.
B: Everyone I’ve talked to is against the name change, and feels pretty strongly on that. It’s more the question of whether the university has consulted properly on this, and asked what the thoughts of students are. I support the change with the Māori name, but nothing else.
If you could ask anybody for some advice on how to be a great VUWSA President, who would it be?
T: Maybe Marlon? He’s done a really good job to bringing VUWSA down to the student level. You’ve got Rory with his memes, of course, and Geoff Hayward the first and only Māori president. I’d love to ask him about identity and managing the role, and the role of Ngāi Tauira as Treaty partners.
B: I just watched Lord of the Rings last night, so I’m gonna say Samwise Gamgee – I bet he could give some real practical advice about friendship and love. A big problem in the VUWSA exec is burnout – I’d love to bring in some of Samwise’s kindness.

Three words to describe yourself?

T: Strong, steadfast, determined

B: Friendly, driven, passionate
Three words that other people would use to describe you?

T: Hmmm…. A word that’s popped up loads of times on this campaign has been Mana wahine. And I’d say strong, genuine as well.

B: Hardworking, stubborn, introspective
Which one of the seven deadly sins do you most relate to?
T: Um… oh god. Probably wrath? I dunno, a lot of the reasons I do the things I do has been connected to the way people like me having been treated. I’ve learnt to use that anger to motivate me.
B: Lust!!! Probably because I’ve been so involved with Sex in the Hub so sex positivity is on my mind right now.
What do you think is your opponent’s strongest point?
T: Beth’s very meticulous – she’s really aware on how to read and write policies, and how to be strategic. Yeah, I’m super upfront. Open book, no poker face – what you see is what you get.
B: Tam has a lot of really great qualities – but I think I admire her most for her bravery. She shared her story with the exec at the beginning of the year, and she’s really got guts.
Finally – what’s your campaign tagline, and why should people vote for you?
T: “Tam’s got your back” – I don’t care about internal bullshit. It’s about what we can do for the student community.
B: “Together let’s be big” – it’s all about going down to the community and building up. Without the people you can’t have effective campaigns or engagement and everything just falls apart.


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