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July 17, 2006 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Australs and Politics.

In the last week of the mid-year break, Victoria hosted the Australs. The Australs are the world’s second largest debating tournament – the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships. Victoria University last hosted this event in 1999 and is now one of the only universities with the facilities and a strong enough student debating team in NZ to host this event. Vic Debsoc won the right to host this event last year, and VUWSA has been working with Debsoc to help them run this event. VUWSA was a sponsor of the event, and worked with the organisers to lobby the university to help out – we eventually got $20,000 and free use of the rooms at Pipitea campus.

Vic did very well in the competition – the top Vic team ended up coming 5th, which was an excellent result for Vic Debsoc. Two speakers from Vic were ranked in the top 10 speakers at the tournament (out of 234). Congratulations to the organising committee: Chris Bishop as Convenor, Gareth Richards as Deputy, James Clark as Logistics Officer, Polly Higbee as Women’s Officer, Eleanor Bishop as Treasurer, Ihma Shareef as Welfare Officer, Torie Olds as Tournament Liaison Director, Clodagh O’Connor-McKenna as Schools’ Officer, and Kevin Moar as Chief Adjudicator. You all did a tremendous job. This builds on our success in April of hosting and winning the University games. I believe that these two events were successes at least in part because we have such a strong students’ association at Victoria University. We look forward to events of equally high standard being held at Vic in the future.

Friday is the first day of the next byelection for two general exec positions. These will be for the positions of Campaigns and Activities officer. During an election for VUWSA exec members is a good time to ask: what are some of the qualities that a good student representative should have? The below are some things I believe that people who have a job to serve students should avoid doing. I confess to not being the original author of this list (though I’ve given it a rewrite to fit with this column).


* Try not to let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled argument because he is an old acquaintance, close friend, or an old colleague, don’t brush over a matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms. The result is that both the organization and the individual are harmed.

*Not indulge in irresponsible criticism in private instead of actively putting forward one’s suggestions to the organisation. To say nothing to people to their faces but to gossip behind their backs, or to say nothing at a meeting but to gossip afterwards is unprofessional, showing no regard at all for the principles of collective life but to follow one’s own inclination is unacceptable.

*Not let things drift if they do not affect one personally; to say as little as possible while knowing perfectly well what is wrong, don’t be worldly wise and play safe and seek only to avoid blame.

*Never hold one’s personal opinions over the view of the collective. You can’t demand special consideration from the organisation but then reject its discipline.

*Never indulge in personal attacks, pick quarrels, vent personal spite or seek revenge instead of entering into an argument and struggling against incorrect views for the sake of unity, or progress, or getting the work done properly.

*Never hear incorrect views without rebutting them – don’t just take them calmly as if nothing had happened.

*Never be among the students and fail to promote ideas or speak at meetings or conduct investigations and inquiries among them, and be indifferent to them, showing no concern for their wellbeing, forgetting that one is a student rep and behaving as if one were only an ordinary student.

*Never see someone harming the interests of students and not feel indignant, or dissuade or stop them or reason with them, but to allow them to continue.

*Don’t ever work half-heartedly without a definite plan or direction.

*Never regard oneself as having rendered great service to students, don’t pride oneself on being a veteran and disdain minor assignments while being quite unequal to major tasks, never be slipshod in work and slack in keeping informed.

*The last is to never be aware of one’s own mistakes and yet make no attempt to correct them, don’t take a liberal attitude towards oneself.

The above sets a pretty high benchmark and I don’t think I know anyone involved in student politics (be it exec, student media or whatever) that hits the mark all the time. But I think it sets a high standard for people serving students to try and meet. I think if too many of the above sorts of errors are happening students end up not being served as well as they are deserve. But conversely, if student reps do try to avoid these scenarios they can serve students very well.


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