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March 30, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

CSM: Worse Than a sexually transmitted disease!

With the regularity of a tatty Halloween prop brought out each year to scare the children, student politicians and student media can be relied upon to produce articles warning of the dire consequences of ‘voluntary membership’. When reading articles about the impact of voluntary membership of student associations, it’s helpful to remember one thing: compulsory membership is all about money. In particular, it’s about student politicians retaining uncontrolled access to your money.

Think about this. This year vuwsa received over $1.5 million in levies taken from students. This is very unusual income; it’s unlike any income received by other types of incorporated societies. vuwsa has not earned this income. vuwsa has not persuaded people to join the association and pay the fee. vuwsa has not sold its membership to individuals who have purchased membership because they want to access the services that vuwsa offers and believe the fee is good value for money. vuwsa never has to go out to students and ask them to become members.

Instead, students have paid the vuwsa levy because they must before they can receive an education at Victoria University. vuwsa free rides on people who want to receive a tertiary education. If you try to enrol without paying your $131.90 to vuwsa, your application won’t even be processed. Did I mention yet that the levy is set by vuwsa itself, with no legal limit on what it can be?

As you can imagine, this situation is extremely advantageous for vuwsa. The organisation knows it has a captive market. Even if it fails to meet the needs of individual members, wastes money and misrepresents students, vuwsa knows those same students will have to pay $1.5 million to the association if they want to study next year.

This ‘Compulsory Student Membership’ (CSM) creates a huge pool of money, but the lack of any direct relationship between individual members and the association means there are very low levels of active participation in the association. Instead the pool of money ends up being controlled by a very small minority who direct it towards areas that are of interest to them. The fact that vuwsa can do as much advertising for a meeting as they did for the IGM last week, including leafleting, adverts in Salient and offering a free barbecue, and still struggle to attract the required 100 people to a meeting that is going to spend $12 million dollars of student money is a perfect example.

This disconnection between individual members and the association, usually described as “apathy”, caused by compulsory membership has bedeviled vuwsa for years. The attempts to ‘fix’ vuwsa invariably result in some form of restructuring; the current ‘Change Proposal’ being the latest manifestation of this.

The truth is that student politicians have become hooked on the blank cheque provided by compulsory membership and prefer the comfort of a wealthy dysfunctional association to one with less income and a genuine membership-based structure.

Voluntary membership will always be presented as a threat by student politicians and student media who have become accustomed to easy money. But voluntary membership is no mystery; it’s the norm in New Zealand. Sports clubs have voluntary membership; churches have voluntary membership; political parties have voluntary membership; even the Labour Party, the Tertiary Education Union, the Vice Chancellors’ Committee and the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations have voluntary membership.

Students, like all other citizens, should be able to exercise their right to Freedom of Association, as guaranteed by the New Zealand Bill of Rights, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and by basic common sense. Should the government pass a law that allows the local tennis club to force everyone in the area to pay them $130 a year in the interests of public health? Or perhaps if ACT on Campus were to claim to ‘represent all thinking students’ we could convince the government to force everyone under 30 to be a member of our organisation?

Without voluntary membership, student associations will continue to have low levels of participation, will continue to provide ‘services’ unwanted by many of the people who pay for them, and will continue to misrepresent the views of many of their members. Arguments against voluntary membership are self-serving pleas designed to give student politicians access to your money without having to prove value.

At least sexually transmitted diseases occur through voluntary interactions between two or more people. Nobody can legally force you to get an STD from them, never mind force you to pay for the privilege.


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  1. Great Read Peter.

    Reeks a bit of socialism out of control…

  2. Clint Heine says:

    Well written Peter – 100% agree. I look forward to reading the feedback to this article!

  3. peteremcc says:

    Thanks, but hardly anyone seems to comment on the Salient website anymore.

    Must be that student apathy!

  4. nick keesing says:

    Up at AUSA, current president Darcy Peacock (who lists himself as conservative) has a soft spot for CSM. He is hoping to initiate a referendum to bring back CSM for Auckland despite CSM’s worsening losing margin with each successive vote. AUSA Vice president Jo McRory, partner of princes St Labour’s Sophia Blair is trying to stop him. You may ask why is the lefty trying to stop the conservative bringing in CSM? An upset Darcy filled in the missing pieces; Jo fancies himself as AUSA president next year and doesn’t want Darcy to get the glory of a successful CSM campaign for himself. He wants to save the referendum for his year. Myself and Mr Graham Watson agree; lets save the ‘glory’ for Jo.

  5. Ellen Adams says:

    As a part time student at Massey I find CSM incredibly frustrating. I am taking one paper a semester, which I pay for myself and my employer reimburses me for: but only for the course fees. I am forced to bear the cost of a fee to an association, which as a mature (well, 27), full-time employed, part-time, student has absolutely NOTHING (and I’ve checked) to offer me that I can’t get for myself as a wage and salary earner. I’m happy for true students who need assistance to be members but I just want the choice at the end of the day – not to subsidise empire building.

  6. Ponies and Rainbows says:

    Nick Keesing, you are a true nut case. Anyone who has seen what you have done in the past can pick that.

    Ever thought that maybe Joe doesn’t want the CSM referendum this year because Darcy Peacock is a ineffectual president and probably wont win? I’m picking that Joe thinks he can do a better job himself and actually bring CMS back.

    Who knows, or maybe that monolithic beast of an organization known as Princes St has some grand plan that is being co ordinated to ruin you and take over the world.

  7. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Why is Clint Heine still here?

  8. Norm says:

    Clint Heine hitting F5, hoping for new replies.

  9. Actard says:

    Clint: Heh heh heh heh… *heavy breathing* *whack* *whack* *whack*… Hey heh heh heh… *heavy breathing*… hey Pete! … *heavy breathing* *whack* *whack*… This dead horse… *whack-whack-whack*… is heh heh holding up really well..

    Petermcc: Dude? Didn’t you leave uni like five years ago – you don’t even live in the country any more

    Clint: heh heh heh… *whack* yeah… *heavy breathing*

    Petermcc: Let us cuddle.

  10. peteremcc says:

    So just to be clear…

    No one here actually has any arguments against my column, only attacks against the people commenting here?

  11. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Na your column was shit bro

  12. Liam Nub says:

    **wagz dick at column**

  13. Okay Peter, let’s discuss this

    I suspect that, despite high levels of both apathy towards and distrust of VUWSA, a referendum simply proposing vsm would not excite enough interest to win enough pro votes to outnumber the significant number of csm supporters who would mobilise. VSM on its own, being a ‘negative’ proposal to disestablish (to some degree) the association does not promote the sort of increase in accountability and services that could win a vote.

    However. If instead of simply proposing vsm, you had a referendum on disestablishing the association and replacing it with another, voluntary one, with a thoughtful and visionary business plan – for example, a students’ association not tied to one university, and thus able to bring together students of various institutions into one community, sharing resources etc – you could be on to something. This would require consiberably more planning and expertise than a mere vote on going voluntary, but it seems to me that if you can be bothered attempting to make a change, you may as well aim a little higher. And despite the inevitable loss of income from compulsory student levies, by cutting some of the waste (particularly the relatively pointless levy paid towards NZUSA for the privilege of attending a couple conferences a year – the VUWSA website lists the annual cost of this levy as $55,739, although that’s a 2002 figure) it’s not implausible to aim for an increase in presence and service-delivery.

    Now, you haven’t said in your column which form of vsm you support: opt-in, the more total form of voluntary membership promoted by student choice; or opt-out, which we supposedly have in an ingenuine form at the moment, and which many who don’t necessarily support opt-in would be willing to get behind.

    So my first question is, if you are really serious about this: what structure would you like to see a voluntary association take? If you can answer this question with a genuine plan, then you have moved the debate beyond the unimaginative vsm/csm chanting we’ve had for a couple decades now.

    p.s. my statements regarding vuwsa and nzusa are not intended to malign the people who put in hard work for these associations, but rather their structural flaws and lack of outcomes. That is all.

  14. Clint Heine says:

    Well if that is the best the “other side” can come up with I’m surprised we didn’t get VSM in years ago :)

  15. great scott says:

    you do realise that if the government legislated VSM, all student unions would disappear, not just Vuwsa, and believe it or not, other student unions actually do something for there students, yes there are issues in regards to participation, but they are not the result of associations being compulsory, its a result of students focusing on there studies, rather than worrying about who’s stopping your institution from hiking fees by 25 percent

  16. Matt says:

    So you’re admitting that no student will join or at least a majority won’t join? If you put it that way, how about I legislate that we all become members of New Zealand First to prevent it from disappearing. After all, Winston also provided representation and delivered on some of his electoral promises.

    Student unions do NOT stop fees going up either. And there are more than a few “issues” about participation which is running at about 10% nationwide. As a student I support being free to put my $130 elsewhere and not having to subsidise a radio station/newspaper to get my degree!

  17. Shitkicker says:

    “I’m surprised we didn’t get VSM in years ago :)”

    Speaking of which, didn’t you leave university years ago? And you’re still having wet dreams about VSM.. so sad

  18. Matt says:

    Says the guy who is too chicken to use his real name. Are you at University or are you just here to take the piss?

    Ohh you must have got money from a student association and don’t want your mates from stealing more from the students. No wonder you’re a chickenshit cry baby who cannot formulate an argument to save yourself. :)

    Over to you!

  19. Shitkicker says:

    Dude, this is my real name. I’m Irish. Are you racist or something? What a dick.

  20. great scott says:

    very different to that actually, see students wont join because they wouldnt know it exists (as a result of there being new students every semester) , so student unions would have to do the hard yards campaigning for members, and yes indeed this would naturally make some associations engange more with their students (CO-VUWSA-UGH), but the thing is a vast majority of student unions do have excellent inclusion of students, and have great turn out in elections, and do fight stop fee increases.

    The catch is we never hear about it due to the negative media that is thrown out as a result of penis loving, van pimping, over spending presidents that ruin the whole thing.

    In VUWSA’s case, Jasmine is doing a wonderful job turning things around, and i wish her the best of luck.

    And feel free to legislate people joining NZ first, they make politics entertaining, and i would hate for them to disappear.

    And one more thing, i dont know what you guys and girls have done in your lives, but in a nutshell, the world is bigger than VUWSA, dont just judge on what you have seen, look in to things a bit more huh

  21. Matt says:

    Shitkicker…well I am glad you live up to your name then :)

    GS – Thank you for at least arguing better than some of the people here who think slagging off people is the way to go here. I have to disagree with the nationwide student election turnouts though mate. Nowhere in NZ does it get higher than 15%. University councils are quite happy to support CSM as they know that only 15% max of students would ever get involved in asking for quality education.

    NZUSA campaigned for the Alliance many years ago and they have never supported National and yet more young people voted them than Labour last time. Why should students be forced to pay for a left wing political organisation? I would argue just as much if National were dominating NZUSA as freedom of assocation is more important in a free society.

    VSM will mean an association would have to earn membership from students. This isn’t expensive and associations should be able to do this considering that they have a captive customer base. VUWSA and other assocations have to show that they are worth joining. Even now under CSM they should be doing this.

  22. Shitkicker says:

    Fucking racists

  23. Shitkicker says:

    Hey hey, hold on. Has Peter had an STD??

  24. nicholas keesing says:

    Firstly to Shitkicker on my thoughts on racism;

    I had a conversation with long-time bugbear John Minto the other month at University. I said;

    ‘Everyone is racist, to a lesser or greater degree, but the important thing is to deny stereotypes, fight against presuppositions, take people for who they are when you meet them’

    The vitriolically leftist Mr Minto agreed with me.

    To Ponies and rainbows;

    1. You describe me as a nutcase; please describe exactly which DSM IV ailment I suffer from please; I can possibly get further financial assistance from the Key government.

    2. Darcy is only as good as his executive. He doesn’t get a vote unless there is a deadlock. Might I add that Joe McRory is hated by at least 3 AUSA staff for his arrogant and erroneous assumption that being AUSA vice president affords him authority over them. Darcy is a gentle man, respecting everyone, unlike Joe, perhaps you misinterpret this as weakness, an easy error.

    3. I’LL BET MONEY RIGHT NOW; AT ODDS of 5:1 maximum bet 1,000 DOLLARS with anyone who seriously thinks that CSM will return in the next two years at Auckland University, bets to be settled on the 31.12.2011.
    The losing margins in order for the three referenda have been 98, 2000 and at least 3000. Against the much weakened Princes Street Labour cell (several of whose past members are now my friends) we have a well funded, committed team of Labour, National, Green and other students ready to fight for the fundamental human right to freedom of choice. CSM is a dead (pony) in the water.

    My warmest regards
    Nicholas Philip Keesing

  25. Electrum Stardust says:

    Automatic SU membership is not quite the same thing as compulsory membership in Act, Labour or any other political party. A better analogy (though by no means a prefect one) might be the fundamental rights of New Zealand citizens to enjoy State-provided services, in return for a sum to be paid to the national coffers (i.e. taxes).

    Just as any NZ citizen can choose to cease being one, and become an Australian citizen instead, so can NZ students choose which uni to go to. In fact, all VUW students have already exercised thier freedom to choose— by not going to Auckland University (and becoming a member of their SU), for example.

    What sort of services are being provided by VUWSA, and how much VUW students should contribute, however, are still open to debate. Of course.

  26. Shitkicker says:

    So now you ACT wankfaces are saying racism is ok, as long as everyone’s doing it? Typical fucking neo-liberals. Fuck you and your New Zealand supremacy

  27. nicholas keesing, Clint Heine… seriously guys.

    Problem the first – Neither of you go to Vic
    Problem B – therefore this does not affect you and you are purely arguing along ideological lines, not because these are conclusions you have to after recent involvement with VUWSA
    Problem 1.666recurring – GROW UP, both of you should know better.

  28. Karl Bronstein says:

    oh and “AUSA Vice president Jo McRory, partner of princes St Labour’s Sophia Blair” when did Salient become Womens day.

    Go back to bothering people quarter your age and twice your intelligence Keesing.

  29. sam says:

    fuck u racists…

  30. nick keesing says:


    I was enrolled at Victoria University and gained a credit in biology 101. I read Salient religiously and knew it was somewhat twisted, but I still picked up every issue and gave it a go. As a past VIC student and currently at Auckland doing post grad, surely I should be allowed to post?

    I’m going to be heavily involved in informing students about the pitfalls of CSM. I have been involved in all 3 VSM campaigns. I won more than 98 votes in the Commerce department alone for our cause in the first referendum, the margin of defeat.

    Criticisms of my age are not surprising; you doing so does show ideological hypocrisy and rudeness. The good book Salient has preached for many years now that thou shalt not criticise race, sex, gender preference, age et al. As for my stupidity, I welcome robust public debate and the exchange of ideas. I’m really surprised and saddened that this forum (leading political student magazine in NZ) is so childish.

    If growing up (whatever that entails) means that I have to be as unintelligent and as rude as many posting here, then I’ll stick with my polite immaturity (I prefer to call it freshness).

    best regards

    p.s. Did you note that John Key complimented Helen Clark on her U.N. appointment? How nice…

  31. nick keesing says:


    ACT is the one party I’ve never voted for, I detest authoritarianism.


  32. Clint Heine says:

    Quite a lot of discussion going on here I see.

    Karl – so because I don’t go to Victoria I am not allowed to be concerned with freedom of association? That is a little silly don’t you think? Any member of the public can read Salient and therefore should be allowed to have an opinion.

    Electrum Stardust – “automatic” and “universal” membership are weasel words mate. NZUSA tried them years ago to distort the argument about compulsory membership. And you can not compare compulsory union membership with the state, especially as student unions are nothing like the state and have the same legal status as your local bowling club. This too is an old and misleading argument used many years ago. VUWSA does not print money nor provide health, education or welfare to every citizen. Comparing citizenship with union membership is going a little too far :) If this is the case then surely you will be supporting trade unions to be compulsory and you will be lobbying NZUSA because membership to them is voluntary too….

  33. Clint Heine says:

    Nick –

    ACT and authoritarianism is like chalk and cheese pal :)

    Socialism and authoritarianism on the other hand…!!

  34. Electrum Stardust says:

    As I said, the analogy is not perfect. Still, it is much better than comparing VUWSA to compulsory membership in, say, the Young Nats, Act on Campus etc. The functions are just not on the same level— one serves the entire body, the others only promote their own interests (nothing necessarily wrong with that).

    The important thing is that VUWSA does, and more importantly, should, provide services to all those students who might need them.

    And old arguments are not necessarily bad ones— the contrary may well be true. (And I suspect I’m not the only one presenting them here.)

  35. Electrum Stardust says:

    …”the entire student body”…

  36. Clint Heine says:

    Ok, so how about we compare compulsory membership to other likeminded organisations with the same legal status as a student association….bowling clubs, the AA for instance? I have to be blunt and say that VUWSA and other associations DO promote their own interests – and more often than not, the agenda of left wing politics. Why should National voting students (of which there were more than Labour voters in the 08 election) be forced to fund a political machine for the left. NZUSA are ideologically opposed to supporting National so why should me or you pay to join them? And why does NZUSA embrace voluntary membership of their own organisation?

    What services are you worried about losing at Victoria? Why would they go completely?

  37. Shitkicker says:

    So Peter DOES have an STD. Is it itchy or burny?

  38. Shitkickers Mother says:

    Have you taken your pills today yet son? Oh and that rash of your won’t get better if you keep scratching it.

  39. Shitkicker says:

    I’m a girl mum..

  40. Shitkickers Mother says:

    Could have fooled me with that moustache :)

  41. MikeE says:

    Auckland’s had VSM for years, and AUSA is hardly falling apart. It makes me laugh that the lefties all realise how shit their associations are, that they acknowledge that the minute it goes voluntary, noone will want to fund their little junkets.

    ITs simple, under VSM give the studetns what they want, and they will join, because they want to. The almight exec does not know any better than those who they claim to represent.

    Give peopel the choice of where they want to piss their money away, to the student associations mini hitlers, or towards their education.

  42. Dr. Peter Manglethwaite says:

    And we officially reach peak Godwin!

    50 Hitler

  43. Shitkicker says:

    Oh God, my mother is Paul Henry

  44. Shitkickers Mother says:

    Yes I am and you are a naughty naughty little girl. I will spank you but you would enjoy it you cheap slut!

    Where did the Godwin come from?

  45. Shitkicker says:

    You’re disgusting. I’m ashamed of you.

  46. Hank Scorpio says:

    carried away by a moonlight shadow

  47. Annoy Mouse says:

    “Kia ora, Petey, kia ora.

    Did you note that John Key complimented Helen Clark on her U.N. appointment? how nice” – That was quite nice wasn’t it. Maybe we should all hug it out and forget this foolishness. I’ll bring the crackers and heroin :)

  48. peteremcc says:

    Tristan, in arguing for voluntary associations I’m arguing for organisations that are on the same footing as every other incorporated society in NZ. In these voluntary groups the members determine the structure. It’s not up to me to write business plans for 40 odd student associations. The shape and direction of voluntary associations are determined by the people who decide to join.

    It’s odd that you think voluntary membership – which is found right throughout NZ and other democratic countries – is “negative”. What’s negative about asking ‘do you want to join this group?’ It might be negative if you’re primarily concerned about associations’ income.

    We have, however, put forward a model that allows for the ongoing provision of student services. Put simply it separates ‘student services’ from political representation.

    Voluntary membership is always opt-in. You decide to opt in when you decide to join the Labour Party, the SPCA or Greenpeace. Motorists aren’t forced to join the AA and then told they can opt-out by applying to a committee – that’s not voluntary membership.

  49. Willy Wepener says:

    Homophonic Penetration
    By Willie Wepener

    Carmichael Hunt. The name has a fleshy ring to it, a faintly disturbing air. You dream of an Australian dad with a keen sense of humour, the daughter perhaps called Kerri. A foreign member of the student body signing into a university club, entered ‘Fekal’, the unfortunate phonetic rendering of his name in the Queen’s English. Master Woodcock loved his teacher calling out his affectionately given school yard nickname of Penis Radiata. Said out loud at assembly, a laugh was guaranteed for all. There was even the unfortunately named Mr Lipshitz who offered bad spin, so bad that you couldn’t tell whether he was an off or leg spinner, but he was given no choice, it was his last name.

    Your choice of boy-name changes the way in which your progeny is received by society. You want to enable your boy-child so that more avenues open later in life. Homosexuality is in vogue, the backseat in the front door. It is dictated that sexual preference is due to the pressures of the hetero-normative world rather than the imperatives of biology. What are the phonological stigmata behind first names that push homo-erotic identification, and thenceforth the realignment of gender preference that you as a post-modernist parent should desire? We’ve helpfully identified these so that you can exercise fundamental control over your child’s destiny.

    There seem to be several ways in which this can occur;

    1. Boy-girl names; Jean, Val, Robin, Courtney.

    2. Famous icons of homosexual sub-culture: Quentin.

    3. Near identical phonemic construction with an obvious gay motif i.e. Enis

    4. Names that have other meanings associated with sexual parts, or homosexual culture i.e. Roger, Willy, Bear.

    5. Using abbreviations or suffix changes that feminise names, Matty, Bobbi, Gordy, Marco.

    6. Having the more feminine or less masculine version of a multiple-spelt name; Carl instead of Karl

    7. Affricatives, bi-labials and fricatives that make lisp-like sounds and nasals that mimic the ‘camp’ sound; i.e. Marcel, Xavier, Fabian. The more syllables the better.

    8. An anglicized name that has translated into a bottom-word or other sexual phrase, Anil, Fekal. De-Kok

    9. Downright ‘fag-enabling’ name choices; Alfonso, Theodore, Keanu.

    10. Names of homosexuals that you vividly remember, or that have been in the news doing homosexual things: Any!

    Studies show that name choice does subtly influence a person’s choices in life. Chuck, Harrison, Gary, and Mark are all more likely to play rugger; perhaps they may even beat a few gays. On the other hand, boys called Matty, Alfonso, Val, and Mary may well find themselves pitching for the local up-hill gardeners association, or at the very least voting Labour and supporting N.S.W. State of Origin sides; they possibly will enjoy beating each other…
    We hope the above aids you in the appropriate selection of a boy-name that you feel is enabling for the future!

    The word on the street is that you have to pretend to be gay to get a job at Salient. Shame that; the only thing in the magazine that is smokin is you on each other’s bones.
    Never mind.

  50. nick keesing says:

    Stage 1 of the death knell of NZUSA; it is a comin you parasites!

    I quote a member of AUSA after todays wonderful SRC meeting where students almost unanimously decided to have a referendum on whether we should remain members of NZUSA. Once the Wellington student politcos come up and attempt to subvert AUSA’s democratic process, we will be sure to win. Bugger paying these swine our precious money.

    Stage 2. defense of voluntarism and spreading the doctrine to Victoria, Canterbury etc

    Stage 3 law changes making it Illegal for compulsory student union membership, passed at a National level. No more bloated self-important student politicos and their culture of exploitation.

    I was just told that after the meeting, sophia blair rang up oliver, hysterical and in tears! saying that this will be the death of NZUSA.

    heart-warming wise words, stuff for a cold winter!!


    my best regards

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