Vuwsa admits: we are irrelevant
This Wednesday 20 September Nick Kelly and the other advocates of free education on the Vuwsa executive are going to have a second attempt at raising the compulsory Vuwsa levy by 20%.
In an attempt to justify this, Vuwsa have produced a poster detailing ten so-called services which the association claims will be under threat if the fee increase is not approved.
This poster is very informative. First, thanks in no small part to information circulated by student choice, Vuwsa has not claimed credit for providing numerous non-academic services at VUW such as the creche and the student health service.
Second, the list of 'services' says a lot about the executive's perception of the role of Vuwsa.
Of the ten 'services' selected, six can be categorised as relating to entertainment and leisure: funding for sports clubs; quiz nights; quad activities; student balls; Orientation fun; cheap bands.
Six are activities which require additional individual payment from the individual student so tend to be consumed by students who are already relatively well off: car parking; sports clubs; quiz nights; student balls; Orientation; cheap bands.
Six are activities which could be (and in the wider community are) provided on a commercial, user-pays basis: car parking; quiz nights; student balls; free bus (transport); Orientation; cheap bands.
One, SJS, is partially funded by Vuwsa but receives the bulk of its funding from taxpayers.
Only one, quad activities (and in some circumstances orientation and cheap bands), is an activity where it's not possible to exclude non-members.
All ten are services which VUW could provide, if it so chose, through the non-academic student levy. Whether or not VUW would wish to do this would depend upon the value VUW placed upon each service in contributing to the university's goals and objectives.
None of the 'services' relate to or even mention quality assurance, value for money, students' interests as tuition-fee paying customers, education or learning.
None of the 'services' relate to Vuwsa's primary goals, namely "promoting the interests" and "representing the views" of students.
Finally the political strategy behind the poster becomes clear when you realise that nine of the ten services involve activities which are funded by all students but are able to be accessed or required by a far fewer number. (I've included SJS in this definition but consider it to be a different case to the others).
With this poster, and other communications such as emails to clubs, Vuwsa is attempting generate support for the fee increase by communicating with the students who have some of their activities subsidised by others. Vuwsa message to them is: if you don't want to lose your subsidy and benefit, vote for the fee increase.
However Vuwsa hasn't answered the question: is it fair that students who
- are on lower incomes
- have no interest in or time for Vuwsa's leisure activities
- fully fund their own transport and food
should be made to subsidise the leisure, transport and food costs of others in order to obtain a tertiary education?
This poster confirms Vuwsa irrelevancy for most students. No wonder so few vote or turn up to meetings.