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October 15, 2018 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Election Promises VS. Reality

President – Marlon Drake

  • End sexual violence
  • Healthy flats and a housing warrant of fitness
  • Student deals app
  • Helping mental health services

Marlon feels like he achieved all of his campaign promises in one way or another — all, that is, except the student deals app, which “is there in terms of the fact that it has been planned out and there are people who want to see it happen, but what it needs is investment”. The student deals app would just be one means of making students feel more connected with their city, offering incentives to buy local.
The March on Midland and #metoo blog have helped address sexual violence, as well as “safe Zone in Town” (during O-Week) and “Don’t Guess the Yes”.
For mental health, Marlon lobbied to get a Queer Support Coordinator, which he is “fucking stoked” about. The role will take more pressure off of main mental health services too.
The Presidential role involves a lot of lobbying — Marlon said his advocacy has helped end letting fees (by December 12) and raise “cross party” awareness of student’s housing concerns. He said the flat warrant of fitness is close to fruition, as well. “Mental health was a tough one for me,” Marlon said; it’s an issue he cares greatly about.
Like most other exec members, he found the workload massive. “This role is the most demanding, crazy thing that anyone could ever do. It’s been actually nuts, it’s been more than I expected in every single way.”
Personally, he is most proud of “seeing my team building a platform” and bringing back the Route 18 bus.
As his role winds up, Marlon wants to focus on better liaising with PSC (the Pasifika Students Council), V-ISA (international students), and Ngāi Tauira (Māori Students), who he thinks he could have done a better job of representing.

Academic Vice President – Simran Rughani (Resigned)

  • Increase equity, transparency and partnership
  • Decreasing the price of printing

Simran believes she fulfilled her campaign promises.
For increasing equity: “I introduced a student Equity and Diversity Representative on the Student Academic Committee, which increased equity,” a move she is proud of.
For increasing partnership: “I worked with the Pasifika Students’ Council and Ngāi Tauira reps at Academic Board to help them with the jargon and ensured that there was a rep whenever possible.”
For increasing equity, transparency, and partnership: “I consulted with uni in partnership with the aegrotat process, being a part of the review and learning about the process and trying to communicate that to students.”
She said under her watch the price of colour printing was reduced to 20c from 25c.
“Some of the goals I had initially set were a bit broad and there were too many to accomplish fully in my time at VUWSA.”
She’s also proud of improving consultation processes through the year. Her day to day consists of “lots of emails, reading agenda items, meeting with staff”. She said the challenges of her role include “attempting to do it to the best of your ability while also studying to the best of the ability”.
She said her health deteriorated and she felt isolated because she was always either “working studying or sleeping”.
She adds that it’s important to “have social connections, look after yourself, eat healthy, get out in nature, and make sure you look after you before trying to look after everyone else”.

Treasurer/Secretary – Jack Donovan

Jack couldn’t remember what his campaign promises were. “I think I just said accountability, transparency, minimising expense.” He felt like he had largely fulfilled his election promises.
“I’m working on some of them still, the stuff around transparency – I’m rewriting the work report policy because I don’t think it’s very good.”
At the end of the interview, he suddenly remembered another promise he had made – to invest more in student initiatives. However, student initiatives are “wild”, and as a risk averse organisation, the gamble versus potential rewards was not a viable idea.

Treasurer-Secretary is a 10 hour a week role. “But like all roles in VUWSA, 10 hours a week is 15, sometimes 20.”
Because it’s largely an internal role, much of what Jack does is invisible, like going through VUWSA’s invoices and checking them every week.
He’s tried “to be the devil’s advocate in the room […] It’s very easy to say yes to everything but you have to think critically”.
He has also supported other exec members with their programmes, whether that’s with administration, planning, or other forms of support. “I have fingers in lots of pies,” he said.
Like other exec members, he’s found that he cannot escape VUWSA when out of the office. “I was drunk in Sal’s once and these freshers came up to me and were like ‘oh you’re the VUWSA dude, man the name change is gonna suck!’ It’s 1am, let me eat my greasy pizza please!”

Wellbeing & Sustainability Officer – Ella Hughes

  • Create time banks to encourage volunteering
  • Have clothing bins on campus to limit impact of fast fashion
  • Have a map of sustainable options on campus to limit passive environmental degradation

Ella did not manage to do any of these things, telling Salient “I’m gonna get roasted”. Time banking requires “a massive amount of admin,” which is not something she’s good at. The clothing bins “would have required a lot of student labour for very minimal yearly engagement”. Instead, VUWSA hosted a number of op shops on campus and a clothing swap. The map “would have been a lot of hours for a not very tangible result”. Going through university staff members always takes a lot of time, and that was particularly a limiting factor.

Ella also gets a “lot of shit” for the community garden “which is dead”.
There is a plan of action – it just requires a lot of admin. She said she has learned not to make any promises because they’re so hard to keep.
Instead, Ella focused on sexual violence. She said that of all her accomplishments in the year, she was most proud of the March on Midland and Sex in the Hub, a pilot event that she hopes continues.
Wellbeing and Sustainability Officer is a 10 hour a week role, but ends up being more than that, she said. “The workload here is insane [but] it’s kind of optional.” Ella said that the hard working environment of VUWSA inspires the executive to put in their time. Also, “every staff member or even students expect that all of your part time hours will be directed in one space and suddenly you have 20 or thirty hours a week and you’re like ‘aw gawd’”.
One thing that work reports don’t account for is how VUWSA work mingles with your social life. Ella said that outside of work hours, many people wanted to talk to her about sexual violence. “I was at a BYO the other night and someone brought [sexual violence] up and I was like I’m happy to talk to you about this because I’m used to this but Jesus Christ I’m drunk and this is emotionally heavy.”

Education Officer – Rhianna Morar

  • Whakawhanuangatanga – closer relationships between university staff, support services, students, and peers
  • Make PASS available for both competitive and non-competitive courses
  • Train class reps to be more advocacy focused, and make students more aware that class reps are available for advocacy

Rhianna said she managed to keep most of her promises, though sometimes it was through different mediums. She said she worked closely with the Student Representation Co-ordinator, class representatives,, and faculty delegates on providing student consultation for programme/ course amendments to faculty boards and Academic Committee. She also proposed strategies to change the faculty representation system for some faculties.
“There is no such thing as an average work day at VUWSA,” she said. She said she had to take a lot of extra responsibility after the Student Support Coordinator and the Academic Vice President both resigned. “This resulted in my role being much larger and more time consuming than anticipated, and has taken quite a bit of time from my study.”
She said she rose to the occasion by stepping into a Vice President role, the NZUSA project team and taking a lead on “The Wait is Over”. During the Wait is Over campaign, Rhi said she worked 10am-10pm days to get everything ready for the rally for two weeks.

She thinks that she could have “learn[ed] to say no and put my studies first,” when she had VUWSA work to do.

Equity Officer – Paddy Miller

  • Put a spotlight on student representative groups
  • Promote Thursdays in Black and help students feel safe from sexual assault on campus.
  • A campaign against subtle racism

Paddy also wanted to learn how VUWSA works, which she definitely managed to do. Though Thursdays in Black wasn’t such a big priority, VUWSA did considerable work on sexual violence, and Paddy thinks that she was good at supporting the rep groups.
The campaign against low key racism didn’t end up happening because “issues of sexual violence and assault were the issues that students were truly passionate about.” Because Equity Officer is just a 10 hour role, there wasn’t enough time. However, she hopes that next year’s Equity Officer can look more into this.

“The most important thing I learned is that the role of Equity Officer changes year to year depending on what the rep groups need from you,” Paddy told Salient. In 2018, a lot of that was administrative and financial support, which was more or less what she expected.
Paddy is also very proud of Body Positivity Day, an event she created, which took place on 21 August.

“Students were really engaged and particularly the video that I made with Salient TV turned out awesome.”

“I think I could have handled the stress a bit better,” Paddy said. Intensive campaigns like March on Midland were especially full on.

“My mental health is a top priority and in whatever I do I need to take that into account.”
Like Ella, Paddy found that stories of sexual violence “carrie[d] over into [her] personal life.” She said writing and sharing personal stories of sexual assault (like the ones published in Salient) was incredibly powerful but also exhausting.

Welfare Vice President – Bethany Paterson

  • Create welcoming environment
  • Tackle sexual violence
  • Tackle mental health

Beth says that she spent almost all of her time tackling sexual violence — which isn’t a bad thing. “I thought I could either half-ass a lot of things, or whole-ass one thing. We had a unique opportunity to really slam home our work on sexual violence prevention, and I chose to spend my hours taking that opportunity.” Beth has been a mobilising force behind many of the VUWSA events this year — Stress Free Study Week, Sex in the Hub, the March on Midland, and the launching of the #metoo blog.
She says that she is most proud of their organisation of law school after the reports of sexual misconduct at Russell McVeagh. “We leapt to action so fast and mobilised the rally within about a week.” In the end, the welfare team created a portfolio of how-to-do sexual violence prevention work at Vic.
Of course, the hard grind doesn’t come without its less glamorous moments. Beth says that over the course of the year, Ella and her have had to develop methods to cope with thinking and talking about sexual violence all the time. “If we’d known some of these things at the start of the year, it would’ve made handling situations in this space a lot easier. We found that dance breaks, for example, are excellent in most stressful times.”

Campaigns Officer – Geo Robrigado

Geo didn’t set specific goals for this year, just overall broad goals, because “one year on the job won’t get you too much, that’s [why] I made sure that I campaigned on broad strokes”. He says that VUWSA was able to carry out those promises but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
He’s most proud of being the first Filipino to be elected into VUWSA. He says when he ran for the position, he “didn’t want to present myself as the first Filipino in VUWSA because I didn’t want that to be just tokenistic, and I wanted to be known more for what I can do, my merits and my skills”. Instead, he focused on experience and credentials and just let the first Filipino narrative speak for itself.

However, recently he says he “realised that being the first Filipino in VUWSA was both a strength and an achievement on its own… I was actually able to break the glass ceiling and pave the way for other Filipinos and migrants to become more engaged in the university”.
While he’s excited to be next year’s Academic VP and to see what the next executive is going to do, the biggest thing he really wants to happen is to get into second year law. “I’m sure a lot of fellow first year law students have the same question in mind,” he laughed.

Clubs & Activities Officer – Connor Macleod

  • Shifting clubs back to VUWSA

A lot of the responsibilities of this position is dealing with admin: emails, meetings, and ensuring that any activities occurring at VUWSA are supported. While clubs has not been shifted from Vic Rec back to VUWSA, there has been quite a bit more talk and stir about it. Connor acknowledged getting clubs back will be a multi-year process. “Getting clubs back turned out to not be black and white.”
That’s not to say that all of his work this year has been for nothing – the survey sent out to clubs asking whether they would prefer to be held under Vic Rec or VUWSA came back overwhelmingly in favour of VUWSA. Connor said that this proved that there is a greater need for clubs services. Throughout the year, once he realised that this was not something that could be done in one year, his goals changed to more long term, in “ensuring that once I am no longer in the role, the changes can still occur”.
He said that getting a clubs services review in the first place was a challenge. “In the meeting to argue for the change, I said there would be a shift of reputational risk for the University if VUWSA ran clubs, and got absolutely shredded for it. There was a lot of opposition for even just a review, and when it finally started, I was elated.”


About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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