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August 9, 2015 | by  | in Features News Splash | [ssba]

The VUWSA Executive Half Year Reports

Oh God, make it stop

At the end of June, each member of the VUWSA Executive has to submit a report on what they’ve been doing over the first half of the year. Normally they would all present their reports at an Exec meeting, in a three-hour orgy of self-congratulation and speechifying. So it’s probably just as well that this year the reports came in over a month late, and the Exec had to approve them by email instead.

But how are they actually doing? Well, Salient’s seen a lot of student politicians in its time. They are, shall we say, a special breed; or rather, several special breeds. There are the preppy kids. There are the party-political hacks. There are the CV builders. These types are all there this year, though Salient’s not going to name names. One breed mercifully absent from Exec circa 2015 is the quitter; this is first time in, well, ages (Salient couldn’t be bothered checking) where the Exec has reached the halfway point of the year intact. There are also no overt muppets, which we suppose is a good thing, but it does make Salient’s job less entertaining.

The general vibe of this year’s Exec is “talented, but boring”. Let’s focus on that “talented” part first. They may be self-important, they may be so “right on!” that Salient wants to barf, they may be the lowest-hanging fruit on the piss-taking tree, but we’ve got to admit it—this is the most talented Exec in years, perhaps decades. Half of the Exec get perfect or near-perfect scores from Salient, and everybody here is extremely smart, committed, informed, and, well, just lovely really (ugh).

But let’s also look at that “boring” part (as you knew we would). There is no fire, no bite. Executive meetings are a complete joke—a stage-managed snore-fest dominated by the love each member has for his or her own voice. Harsh? Perhaps. But when every Execcie delivers a fortnightly oral report (and Rick’s reports alone take up at least eight thousand kajillion years), there is no time or energy left for genuine discussions. This encourages the Exec to see themselves as administrators who perform functions, rather than representatives who debate issues.

The politics have been sucked out of student politics. We couldn’t tell you what half of the Exec really stand for, because like any good bureaucrats they bury this information beneath bloated prose and manufactured consensus. Fuck, they’ve even started using that heinous bureaucratic neoligism, “learnings” (as in, “we have applied the learnings from previous synergies and going forward will upsize accordingly”). Dear Exec: this is why Salient has to take the piss out of you to make Eye on Exec remotely readable or interesting.

Anyway. What follows is Salient’s attempt to make some sense of the Exec’s reports, and to give you our impressions of how well each Execcie has been doing. Surplus hours refers to the amount of overtime each Exec member has worked, based on their fortnightly work reports. Ratings are out of five.




Rick Zwaan

Salient can really empathise with Rick. He’s a smart, capable, extremely attractive guy who has clearly been fed up with many aspects of his job pretty much since the get go. This makes him grumpy a lot, and not much fun at parties.

Rick is emblematic (perhaps causative, although that would be a little harsh) of VUWSA’s excitement deficit this year. He dominates discussions on Exec, talking endlessly and moving anything vaguely contentious into committee of the whole. He does way too much bureaucratic work. His report is full of obfuscating language, whether this consists of broad and unquantifiable claims (“we’ve focused on maintaining and strengthening partnerships with Ngāi Tauira, PGSA and PSC”), or liberal use of an undefined “we” pronoun (“we help to ensure [the Student Services Levy] is spent effectively and in appropriate ways to support students”). All Salient knows is that he swept to victory on a promise of nap rooms, yet this hasn’t been achieved and doesn’t rate a single mention. SALIENT WANTS A NAP, RICK.

Having said that, though, Rick’s hot. Like, really hot. Salient first noticed earlier this year, while Rick was moving into committee for reasons of commercial sensitivity. The way he purred the word “committee”, his dark eyes hinting at something deeply mysterious, dangerous and sexy. The way Exec fell over itself to acquiesce. The way Salient trembled slightly with repressed passion. His big green jersey brings all the environmentalists to the yard. His Presidential jawline would make even Steven Joyce wet.

Most student-politician-y statement
“I’ve also raised concerns and provided perspective on proposals as they’re discussed and utilised links to the various other committees VUWSA is involved in to ensure concerns don’t slip through the gaps.”

Surplus hours: 160 (17%)

Average hours per week: 46

Overall rating: ★★★★



Academic Vice President

Jonathan Gee

Jono is lumped with probably the most thankless, invisible and frustrating position on Exec. After the President, it’s also the most important—after all, academic quality is kind of the point of the whole university thing.

For Jono there are no easy wins on offer, few headline-grabbing achievements—just a vague sense of battling inexorably against long-term forces far beyond his control. The Academic Vice-President is basically tasked with slamming his or her head repeatedly against the brick wall that is the steady defunding, creeping managerialism and academic watering-down of Victoria University.

It’s a wonder, then, that not only has Jono avoided dissolving into a cold blancmange of nihilistic despair, he actually seems relatively happy with his existence. From being the most articulate student voice on Academic Board (sorry Rick), to overseeing class representatives and various faculty groups, to reading hundreds of pages of documents in preparation for meetings, to side projects like the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet, it’s hard to fault anything Jono’s doing. But since nitpicking is Salient’s bread and butter, we’ll point out that Jono’s report is a bit light on specifics (though most of the reports had this problem), and that he’s somewhat prone to ostentatious remarks (see below).

Most student-politician-y statement (two-way tie)
“When I speak, the University must listen. Otherwise, they are ignoring the voices of the 20,000 students I strive to represent.”
“In every decision I have made in my role, I have always asked myself the question, ‘what is best for students?’.”

Surplus hours: 128 (27%)

Average hours per week: 25

Overall rating: ★★★★★



Engagement Vice-President

Toby Cooper

“Super duper” Toby Cooper’s report was easily the best of the lot, crammed with a huge amount of detail and specifics. Toby’s organised an astounding number of events and services this year, most of them concentrated during O-Week and Re-O-Week. If you’re under the impression (possibly from reading Eye On Exec) that VUWSA doesn’t really do anything, read Toby’s report and be impressed. Toby also delivered more perceptive self-criticism than most of his peers, even if some of his touted achievements—such as “ensur[ing] that VUWSA had a presence … at Karori campus at least once every two months”—probably qualify as under-achievements. (Once every two months? Really?!? Oh well, the campus is closing anyway.)

From his report it sounds like he’s doing too much, and although his number of surplus hours (three per week) is relatively modest compared to some of his peers, this is likely due to Toby under-reporting his hours, or just being crazy efficient. For example, for much of this year he’s had to help out a lot with VUWSA comms (VUWSA are now trying to recruit a full-time person for this role). This seems to be taking a toll—toward the end of last trimester he looked exhausted and close to burn-out.

Most student-politician-y statement
N/A. Toby writes and talks like a normal person.

Surplus hours: 81 (17%)

Average hours per week: 23

Overall rating: ★★★★½



Welfare Vice-President

Madeleine Ashton-Martyn

Madeleine’s report featured some heinous text-wrapping and frequent use of the phrase “I have lead”, implying she’s been stockpiling some serious heavy metal reserves. Aside from that, she’s thrown herself into a variety of causes with, at best, passion and conscience; and, at worst (as she herself acknowledges), gimlet-eyed obsession.

On the whole, this is a good trait for a Welfare Vice-President to have—but there’s a risk that, should she become the next President (and it seems likely she’ll have a tilt), her drive is such that she could end up riding roughshod over her Exec.

Having said that, Madeleine has been to the fore on a number of VUWSA’s most visible campaigns this year. While her main focuses have been on mental health and promoting intersectional feminism within VUWSA, the sheer range and variety of initiatives Madeleine has spearheaded is extremely impressive—running the gamut from puppy rooms to the Vanuatu Relief Appeal. She’s highly intelligent and articulate with a strong social conscience, and could be the person to re-inject the fire that VUWSA arguably needs.

Most student-politician-y statement
[From a list of “weaknesses”] “I find it difficult to emotionally disassociate from the work … though I think this just comes from a place of genuinely really deeply caring about all areas of this job and of VUWSA more generally.”

Surplus hours: 126 (26%)

Average hours per week: 25

Overall rating: ★★★★½



Campaigns Officer

Nathaniel Manning

As far as Salient can tell, the Campaigns Officer is basically a dogsbody that the other Execcies can call on for help when they have a campaign to run. As a result, it’s difficult to assess whether or not Nathaniel’s doing a good job, because those other Execcies then tend to take credit for the campaign, at best throwing Nathaniel a pity-mention in their own reports. According to his work reports Nathaniel has, proportionately, worked the highest number of surplus hours—which indicates either that he’s doing a lot of work for not much recognition, or that he’s not very efficient.

Nathaniel seems to have spent most of his time helping Toby with “Engagement things”, which might explain how Toby has managed to tick off so many achievements without racking up a huge surplus of hours. But whether these activities really qualify as “campaigns” is somewhat questionable.

Nathaniel was also responsible for one of the more surreal passages of these half-year reports, where he refers to he and Toby “borrowing a couple of laptops and a muppet”.

Most student-politician-y statement
“I have been the most active on the VUWSA Twitter account.”

Surplus hours: 141 (60%)

Average hours per week: 15.5

Overall rating: ★★★½


naughty rory

Clubs and Activities Officer

Rory McNamara

“Naughty Rory” is the closest thing this Exec has to a maverick, which is slightly sad because really he’s just a normal person. He’s also the only member of Exec to run up a deficit of hours in the first half of the year, although this is largely due to an internship in China over January and February—since the start of the academic year he’s posted a decent surplus.

Rory’s report was light on specifics, consisting of broad statements about his responsibilities rather than examples of actual things he has accomplished. This year he’s been trying to tackle two very big projects—bringing back the Capping Revue and fixing the management of clubs. Neither has come through yet, and either one, if achieved, would bump up his score considerably.

Most student-politician-y statement
“I feel I have contributed greatly to the Victoria University of Wellington and VUWSA, tirelessly working to improve the student experience.”

Surplus hours: -10 (-4%)

Average hours per week: 9.5

Overall rating: ★★★½



Education Officer

Ellen Humphries

Ellen’s report was one of the better ones, with plenty of detail and a refreshing lack of what linguists like to call “vague and unhelpful bollocks”. Salient doesn’t get to see much of Ellen because she can only make it to every second Exec meeting, and when she is there she’s pretty quiet—so it’s a relief to find out that she’s actually, y’know, smart and stuff.

Ellen is basically in charge of training and coordinating class reps and generally helping out Jono. She’s been doing an excellent job—she’s a strong, dependable worker, and other Execcies value her greatly and are quick to sing her praises.

Most student-politician-y statement
“I feel confident in the mandate I enjoy being able to represent my fellow students and bring their issues to the forefront of generally staff dominated meetings.”

Surplus hours: 48 (20%)

Average hours per week: 12

Overall rating: ★★★★½



Equity Officer

Chennoah Walford

Chennoah’s report contained lots of helpful context and historical perspective about the role of the Equity Officer, which was created out of a merger of various minority representative positions. However, it was also quite padded-out, frequently vague, and packed with phrases like “facilitating a two-way dialogue” and “the holistic business of the student association”.

Despite the turgid prose, Chennoah’s greatest virtues as an Execcie are her bullshit detector and sharp tongue, and she’s one of the only Execcies who actually challenges people during meetings or tries to stimulate genuine debate. She’s also done a lot of work this year creating Memoranda of Understanding with representative groups. Outside of that, though, there are few concrete achievements (at one point in her report she resorts to listing “numerous coffee catch ups” and “attending film screenings” as examples of her work), and her main problem seems to be a lack of follow-through.

Most student-politician-y statement
“Moving into the future, it is important that the Equity Officer retains strong connections with representative groups for meaningful and intersectional advancement of equity issues to occur.”

Surplus hours: 29 (12%)

Average hours per week: 11

Overall rating: ★★★




Jacinta Gulasekharam

Jacinta’s performing a role that, historically, has been largely swallowed up by menial tasks like minute-taking during Exec meetings. That she’s had the time to do anything else this year is thanks largely to VUWSA hiring a full-time Secretary, but also to Jacinta’s excellent work ethic, efficiency and organisation.

VUWSA’s tangled mess of policies is finally getting cleared up, and, for the first time in years, VUWSA actually looks likely to set next year’s budget before the end of the year. This might seem like a very basic thing for any marginally competent association, but for VUWSA it’s something of a milestone. Jacinta has also hounded the other Execcies into providing their reports on time (and is probably the reason their half year reports weren’t even later).

Most student-politician-y statement
“I would implore other first years to consider running for VUWSA for their second year to be part of a wonderful team and cause that grows you as a person.”

Surplus hours: 66 (28%)

Average hours per week: 12.5

Overall rating: ★★★★★


good rory

Wellbeing and Sustainability Officer

Rory Lenihan-Ikin

Rory Lenihan-Ikin, aka “Good Rory”, aka “Rory the GC”, is a bit of GC. He’s kind of like Jono, in that it’s impossible to find anything vaguely objectionable about him. This makes it difficult, for example, to write a snarky 200-word review of his performance for a student magazine. Instead, Salient has devised a concept for a set of campaign posters for Rory’s next election campaign, entitled “Vote for Rory, he’s a GC”. These include:

  • Rory riding a bicycle while being a GC
  • Rory turning off a light switch while being a GC
  • Rory planting a community garden while being a GC
  • Rory doing some composting stuff, and simultaneously being a GC
  • Rory running an organic food co-op while being a GC
  • Rory hugging a puppy and teaching it how to be a GC.

Salient is willing to negotiate with Rory over the prospective sale of this IP, and also over the terms of a potential new friendship.

Most student-politician-y statement
“A co-operative model of food distribution brings the focus to the supply chain.”

Surplus hours: 99 (42%)

Average hours per week: 14

Overall rating: ★★★★½


The Executive Awards

Longest report
Rick 4584 words

Shortest report
Naughty Rory 1229 words

Worst ratio of nap rooms delivered to nap rooms promised
Rick 0:1

The “Help, I Have No Life” Award for the most surplus hours worked
Nathaniel 141 (60%)

The Mike Hosking Award for most blatantly misleading statement (two-way tie)
Rick: Executive meetings “are a key way of ensuring the Executive is on track and accountable to our members”.
Toby: “the IGM achieved quorum faster than in previous years and connected with more members. This increase in member engagement means improved Executive accountability through the IGM.” (The IGM was held in the Hub and the Exec just pretended that a bunch of people who happened to be in the Hub at the time were “attending”.)

The GC Award for being a GC
Good Rory


*this article was amended on 11 August 2015.


About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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