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March 8, 2010 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Campaign to protect students’ associations launched

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The battle to save New Zealand’s students’ associations was kicked off with the Save our Services campaign launch in Wellington last week.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA)-driven Save our Services campaign brings together a number of organisations who oppose Roger Douglas’ Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill.

The bill would impose voluntary student membership (VSM) on all students’ associations.

The current law allows a student body to hold a referendum to decide if they want voluntary or compulsory membership of their students’ association.

VUWSA President Max Hardy says it was reassuring to see so many community groups supporting students’ associations.

“The VSM bill takes away students’ rights to choose, it means students no longer have a say over what happens with the future of their student associations.”

Save our Services spokesman and Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) Administration Vice-President Joe McCrory agrees that the bill takes away the students’ right to decide.

“Auckland students voted for our association to be voluntary in 2000 and 2003.

“That was student choice, but the Douglas bill will restrict students and take that choice away.”

McCrory says AUSA has only survived due to an agreement with Auckland University that could be revoked at any time, and the assets they were able to build up over 80 years of universal student membership.

“Smaller associations that don’t have the assets like bookshops and bars won’t survive.”

McCrory says that at an AUSA special general meeting in 2008, the students approved a motion to campaign for a move back to compulsory student membership.

VSM devastated student associations in Australia when it was brought into law in 2005.

McCrory says that two major studies, conducted independent of students’ associations, showed the negative impact of VSM.

National President of the Tertiary Education Union Dr Tom Ryan does not support the bill.

“We believe the current law, which lets students decide for themselves, works well and is fair.”

Jacqualene Poutu, Tumuaki of Te Mana Akonga, (National Maori Tertiary Students’ Association), raised concerns that the bill would exacerbate “existing equity barriers”, and would “fragment the small voice Maori students have”.

Green’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Gareth Hughes says the bill will endanger essential student services.

“They have a hand in almost all the services that make tertiary study great for students, and they provide a safety net for them when things go wrong.

“A move to VSM would severely cut their funding and their ability to provide these services in the future.”

Labour Tertiary Education spokesperson Maryan Street says the bill puts valuable services in jeopardy.

“Students’ Associations provide representation at the highest level of tertiary institutions, advocacy services and additional services and events which contribute to a good student experience.”

Also offering support for the campaign, Peter Conway of the Council of Trade Unions commented that the VSM bill would result in a weaker voice for students which “in an MMP environment would have bad outcomes for students”.

To find out more, visit the campaign website

Here you will find info on how you can get involved. You can sign a petition, fill in a form to email to MPs, or make your own submissions to the Select Committee, which close on 31 March.


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