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March 5, 2007 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Orientation control split between VUWSA and Union

‘We don’t want no trouble’ – Union

The Student Union and University have taken over some Orientation events from VUWSA after student misbehaviour last year.

Citing over-consumption of alcohol and a case of indecent exposure at last year’s O-Week events, the Student Union have taken over the halls’ Beach Party and first-year Orientation packs, raising questions about the relationship between the University-controlled Union and the Students’ Association.

VUWSA Welfare Vice-President Heleyni Pratley says: “there were lots of drunk people last year (at the Beach Party).” At the same O-Week event, two first-year girls exposed their breasts during a performance by 48 May.

“The halls were unhappy and blamed VUWSA,” explains Pratley, “[but] it’s not really us, it’s that they’re first-years and they’re going to get drunk.”

Arrangements for this year’s Beach Party were made between the Union and the Student Accommodation Services, in accordance with an interim agreement made last year between the Union and VUWSA.

Under the agreement, VUWSA was required to obtain approval from the University to add items to the packs. VUWSA opted instead to create their own Orientation packs, available for all students, rather than just for first-years.

The arrangements gave the Union responsibility for Orientation packs made up for first-year students after complaints were made last year by some halls about the contents of the packs that included advertisements for party pills and alcohol.

When contacted by Salient, the Union said: “VUWSA organises [O-Week]. We just support them. We provide the logistical side.”

This was echoed by Pratley, who says that there hadn’t been “a clarification of roles for O-Week,” and described a “divided managerial side of things,” where, for example, an O-Week gig is organised and overseen by VUWSA while the Union provides the necessary security and bar staff for the event.

Pratley also denied that the Union was “taking over O-Week,” and conceded that their increased involvement at this year’s events was partly due to their legal responsibility for the events held in the Union building In an email obtained by Salient, VUWSA offered to provide Harassment Officers at this year’s O-Week activities, but Union staff member Catriona McBean instructed volunteers to “comply with all requests made by [Union] staff”.

McBean also wrote: “We do not want your team ‘looking for trouble’.”

Despite this, Pratley says that the relationship between VUWSA and the Union “has gotten a lot better.”

VUWSA President Geoff Hayward agrees: “We’ve had one of the biggest O-Weeks ever. In spite of not having the Beach Party or the welcome packs, we’re also very happy… [that VUWSA and the Union] have a far more fruitful relationship than we’ve had in the past. The key issue was communication and that seems to have been resolved.”

However, last Thursday night Pratley told Salient that a girl was invited on stage at the Comedy show to show her breasts to the crowd to win a prize, reminiscent of a flashing incident at the Hall’s Beach Party last year.

Hayward told Salient that at that show, no security guards were employed and no safe space for women was designated.

“I’m bewildered and I’m sure there’ll be an explanation. It’s just strange that there was no one there… It took the Welfare Vice-President to come up on stage and do the job Union-employed individuals should have done.”

Seonah Choi with additional reporting by Laura McQuillan


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