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May 3, 2010 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Vendettas, VSM and VUWSA

Submissions on VSM bill begin

Approximately 65 million years ago, an asteroid hit the Earth and became the catalyst that contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs. Some believe VSM (voluntary student membership) could be that asteroid for students’ associations nation-wide if Sir Roger Douglas’ Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill is passed.

Last Wednesday, the first hearing for submissions on the bill was held by the Education and Science Select Committee.

The Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill would impose VSM on all students’ associations, a move which student politicians say will reduce the quality of student representation, advocacy and support.

Sir Roger Douglas, the bill’s sponsor, opened proceedings and argued that students should, like any individual, maintain the right to choose what associations they are a member of.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard questioned if Douglas had the support of National for the bill. Douglas said he had not talked to National but understood “caucus will make a decision at some point” on the issue.

New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) Co-President David Do spoke in opposition to the bill.

“Students do not want or need this bill,” Do said. Do cited several services and support systems—such as Student Job Search—that have been funded by students’ associations around the country. NZUSA said these services are at risk if VSM is put in place.

“This bill is an ideological solution in search of a problem. It is bad policy to impose such upheaval and chaos when there are many bigger issues facing the tertiary sector and New Zealand at present,”Do said.

Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) President Max Hardy spoke against the bill which would have a severe impact on the services VUWSA provides.

Hardy said the services currently provided by students’ associations would need to be provided by the university, which could mean higher compulsory levies for students.

Hardy said the higher fees—without a student body to represent student interests—would be “taxation without representation”.

Hardy challenged the select committee members to consider the alternatives.

“If this committee is going to support this bill, they need to explain how a situation where students are taxed but have no say at all where their money goes is somehow better for individual or collective rights, than a situation where students pay a levy and have democratic control over how much it is and what it pays for.”

David Farrar provided a colourful submission supporting the bill. Farrar argued that without freedom of association or VSM, there are no safeguards or accountability mechanisms to ensure advocacy and democracy were followed. Farrar believed the best idea would be to take up a voluntary regime, and inform students upon enrolment.

Act on Campus, the Young Nats and Student Choice all presented cases for VSM. University Sport New Zealand and the Pasifika Students’ Council spoke against the bill.

Hardy was pleased with the quality of the anti-VSM submissions and hopes the anti-VSM momentum continues.

“VSM will create more troubles than those supporting it say it will fix.

“Students’ associations rely on thousands of hours of volunteer labour to supplement their income and provide high-quality services.

“This is something universities could not budget into their levies, nor would they have an incentive to find volunteers, they would just charge higher levies if they are forced to take over essential student services.”

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh said the University lodged a submission against the bill.

“I believe that, despite the problems that student unions have sometimes, overall, they contribute much to university communities and most importantly to the student experience.

“To ensure no conflicts of interest, it is essential that many of the services are provided by a student body rather than the university, such as advocacy support for students with academic grievances.”


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Comments (10)

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  1. Jenkem says:

    Good article. Nice to see at least one of the student magazines providing something approaching balanced coverage on this issue.

  2. peteremcc says:

    So balanced that it takes quote and explanations from all those opposed to the bill and simply states that a few groups spoke in favor.

    Also, comparison to an asteroid strike and the loaded language of “impose VSM on students associations”.

    Good work Salient! Not!

  3. Jordan King says:

    Peter, give this guy a break.

    The story accurately reports who presented on Wednesday and who was for and against.

    Given that the NZUSA, and VUWSA submissions were substantial and took up a considerable chunk of the committee’s time I don’t know why you are suprised that they got an appropriate level of coverage.

    It’s not a conspiracy, you can relax.

  4. peteremcc says:

    Jordan, if you want to base it on substantially, surely Salient should have covered those who were given 20 minutes and not those who were given 10 minutes?

  5. Nicola Wood says:


    “Good work Salient! Not!”

    Not! Did you get that one from Rick Giles?

  6. s says:

    Super sleuth Wood is on the case

  7. smackdown says:

    nicola wood, private eye

  8. Angela Mabey says:

    Of course VUWSA is going to get more lines in a story about this subject as this article was written for the Victoria Student Magazine.
    The article submitted to the ASPA news wire had less VUWSA content.

  9. bob says:

    good work by this writer. very well written and was a very interesting read. Peter like to see what you would write

  10. James says:

    I am forced to eat my hat, I swore this debate would be decided by who could shout everyone else down, but from reading your article it seems that rational, reasonable, arguments are being presented. I hope you write more on the debate in the future.

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