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October 1, 2018 | by  | in Editorial | [ssba]

Editor’s Letter

CW: suicide
I’m not angry that the uni is changing its name. It doesn’t faze me the slightest. Sure it costs a million dollars (likely more), but the uni thinks it’ll make more money in the long run. I’m inclined to believe them. One thing you can be sure of is that the uni cares about is its pockets.
Yes, the consultation was shit. The uni didn’t even try to ask what students thought. It couldn’t have been that hard to send a group email to the student body saying “do you want a name change?” And now that it’s still going ahead, with over 90% student opposition, it’s clear that “what the students want” isn’t a driving force behind their decision making.

I’m not even that pissed that fees are going up again. Resigned, more than anything. It happens every year. Costs go up, fees go up, and at least now the govt’s capped it at 2%. Small mercies.
But you know what I’m properly angry about? Students’ mental health, the very very little that the university is doing to support it, and the quite a lot that the uni is doing to harm it.
Kicking someone out of a hall straight after they tried to kill themselves is shit. It’s sending a very clear message: “if you need help, then we wash our hands of you.” It takes all agency away from the resident when they’re in their most vulnerable state. The pastoral care that a hall is expected to provide — the very thing that differentiates halls from flatting — isn’t there.
I’d like to talk about the university’s response for a minute. After several news outlets covered the story, they sent out a press release. It was ridiculous as fuck.

First, Grant Guilford says, “We cannot discuss individual cases in the media”. The very next thing he says is, “in the case in question, our staff met with the student and one of the parents to discuss the best plan for their health, safety, and recovery”.

Ok. So, obviously you can discuss individual cases with media.
He then says, “the University was given just a few hours by Radio New Zealand to respond to questions about the story”.
Salient had given the University over two weeks to respond to questions about the story. Do the questions we ask just not count, or something?
Also, if you simply cannot discuss individual cases with the media, however long you are given doesn’t matter then does it? By your own admission, you can’t reply anyway.

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. But also, transparency and accountability are so. goddamn. important. for an institution like a university.
At the start of the year, I interviewed Grant Guilford. He said that the he believed the function of universities was to hold power to account. He said that universities were the “critic and conscience of society”. The passion in his voice made me believe that he was for real. And part of me shares that vision. The academics, calling out the government — that’s there, and that’s cool, and that’s necessary.
I don’t know if he understands is that the university itself is a power. And it’s the smaller minnows like us that have to hold the uni to account. So Grant, if you truly believed that accountability is a value dear to your heart, hold yourself accountable. Make it easier for us to hold you accountable. Real students are really hurting because of your policies. That has gotta change.
Anyway, that’s why I don’t care about the name change. There’s other things I think matter more.


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