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September 23, 2008 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail – VUWSA Elections ‘09

VUWSA Elections ‘09

Students. That is what the S in VUWSA stands for. Yet I look at the campaign posters, the news stories in Salient, the candidates’ Facebook pages and the positions the candidates have taken and see little mention of students.

So far, the two main candidates have engaged in personal attacks (As I write this, mud is flying back and forth on the Salient blog). William Wu has been silent and when it was pointed out to Sean Connors that he was running the most mature campaign out of all the presidential candidates, he replied: “Oh. That’s sad.” His response muffled slightly by the panda suit he was wearing.

In 1899, the body that eventually evolved into VUWSA was born. It was born of the need to co-ordinate the various clubs that had sprung up among the students of Victoria College. The Hockey and Tennis clubs, the Debating Society and others became affiliated to the Association and grants were given to them so they could train and compete.

Later on, the Association decided to become more involved in student life and advocated for health checks, built a gymnasium, the Student Union building (SUB), and in cases even paying the legal fees of students who were arrested during capping pranks. It funded SMAD, Spike, Salient and other student publications. It has lobbied for better facilities for students; it has fought against the curtailing of academic freedom. One time it even stopped hypnotism in the SUB.

The point is that VUWSA has played an important role in the lives and bettering the lives of students for 109 years. It is my hope that it will continue to do so into the future. But the fumbling bumbling nature of the presidents for the past while has crumbled support for the current system and has increased support for voluntary student membership of student associations. This would be a death knell for Salient in its current format and the number and diversity of clubs that make up a kind of university civil society.

Nothing that the current presidential candidates have to offer has anything to do with students. The adversarial nature of the competition for president has devolved into this horrible competition where ego and ignorance battle to win less than 10 per cent of the student population’s vote. And we wonder why students are apathetic.

Having just been to the Candidates Forum that was at Mount Street Bar and Café just now (don’t be surprised if you didn’t know about it, I didn’t either till about 3 PM) my views have been consolidated. The arguing between Jasmine and Sonny, and their supporters in the Workers’ Party and Young Labour, respectively, detracted from the proceedings. It highlighted the need for a professional side to VUWSA that would not put VUWSA in financial jeopardy at the whim of any potential communist or neo-liberal president who may take the reigns of power.

The stakes at VUWSA are so low. With a budget of about two million dollars it’s not exactly a global corporation. The ways in which they can use that money are even more limited by the constitution and the bare reality of operating a non-profit incorporated society. It is often said that politics gets dirtier as the stakes get lower and this campaign is reminiscent of a documentary entitled Rats in the Rafters.  In ten years time I doubt that anyone that is currently enrolled will still be a student, yet it is the future students that the decisions today are going to effect. We need to take a holistic, well researched approach to any change, just as we need people on the exec who are willing to put party lines and ego aside to work for what is best for students.

How VUWSA can look forward in the future

It may sound silly but I think we should get rid of the president’s position. Look at the people who are attracted to the position: egotists with insatiable self images that no matter how much fuck-uppery they perpetrate call for MORE ATTENTION! So we get rid of the president’s role on the exec what do we do then? Well currently the prez is also the CEO of VUWSA. Among NZ student associations, we are alone here. There is no professional input but the musings of the muppets we vote in who change every year. So firstly appoint a VUWSA manager. Sonny has already proposed this change for Salient, but has not suggested it for the exec. Perhaps because it means relinquishing “power” in the president’s role, perhaps not. But for positive change, a VUWSA business manager needs to become a serious consideration.

The proposed manager would be kept in check by the exec, who would then hopefully work as a team (Jackson pisses himself laughing at this point) for students. Because that is what VUWSA is about. STUDENTS.

Another thought that comes to me as I sit in the Salient office: elections should be held in the 2nd or 3rd week of the second trimester with nominations opening in the week before 1st trimester ends. This would allow for adequate coverage by Salient, advertising from the candidates, candidate debates (that students actually know about), and not be in the lead up to exam period so you might get more student involvement.

So a parting cry: Instead of firing shots at each other these people should be working together. Either way the vote goes the next week, the losers will still be students and the winner will still be their representative. The candidates need to engage with students more. They need to find out what they want; they need to get them involved and not just through the websites, not just through Facebook but by actually going out and talking to students in the quad. By going to the Karori, Pipitea and Te Aro campuses and seeing what the students there want. They need to find a consensus, and they need to work for students. That was the spirit in which the students association of Victoria was founded and that is the spirit in which it should continue.

I don’t mean this as an attack on any of the current candidates. I just wish they would work together because  “united we stand, divided we fall.”

Note: I will be posting up video (hopefully it came out properly) of the candidates onto Salient TV later on tonight. Please watch them!


About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (11)

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  1. Mr Magoo says:

    The muppets are such fucking muppets.

  2. Michael Oliver says:

    These sound like pretty sensible ideas. So by virtue of that, they have no place anywhere near VUWSA.

  3. Chris says:

    Sound, sane and rational – clearly out of place!

  4. David says:

    At least with Connors as President you’ll get a load of entertainment for your forced $125. I think he is the only real choice here, although William seemed really nice the few times I’ve met him.

  5. Mr Magoo says:

    $130 next year?

    Wu is anti Salient/criticism of China. And Salient is a magazine for China critics. Put Wu naked on the next cover?

  6. Mya says:

    All good points JJW & Associates HOWEVER if we remove the self important wankery from VUWSA then how would the unremarkable social climb

    Oh and… Freebird

  7. Sean Connors says:

    In the interests of the student body and bipartisan reform, I pledge that I will work with my vanquished foes, to ensure that my dreams of inter-campus flying foxes and a standing army of student clubs become a reality. Also, ladies love cool Jackson – keep up the good work my friend, the Connors administration will treat you well.

    Sean Hussein Sidney Connors III esq.

  8. Annoy Mouse says:

    you’re my hero Master Connors III esq. If you are looking for a chief of drinktology or head writer of smut then I am willing to serve the Panda master

    Yours sensually, Annoy Mouse

  9. Sean Connors says:

    Annoy Mouse: My will be done.

  10. Adam G says:

    Intelligent, rational commentary on the sad state of the VUWSA elections? What is this madness? We have no place for you in our…our…insanitocracy!

    Oooh, Sean promises flying foxes. He’s just secured my vote.

  11. mrs. beaver says:

    These are really reasonable ideas Jackson. I especially like the idea of bringing the elections forward, so they are earlier in the year and there is more room for publicity of the elections so that the voters can really get to know their candidates and their respective policies. It would be far better than the current chaotic week-long poster run that the campaign period seems to be now.

    Plus it would generate more interest in VUWSA and the services they provide which is, to me, vitally important to the survival of the organisation. If more students realised that VUWSA is a body dedicated wholly to represent them, their views, and support their needs, more people would vote and VUWSA would start to actually mean something and start to make a very palpable difference to the general student population.

    So much needs to be done… but I don’t think it’s too late yet.

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