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Author Topic: Silence on campus?  (Read 303 times)

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Offline Daily News

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Silence on campus?
« on: 16 Jul 10, 07:30:pm »
Many of the sharpest weapons in the nation's GLBT rights battles have been forged on the university campus, but the future of the groups where queer students have always found solidarity, support and debate is now under threat.

ACT MP Sir Roger Douglas is seeking to make student union membership voluntary through a private member's bill (the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill).

There are fears that if it passes it could lead to the demise of queer student groups, because a voluntary regime would basically guarantee a dramatic drop in student union membership and therefore a huge fall in their funding.


The current situation
At most associations, students automatically become a member when they enrol and are entitled to the benefits of full membership. They usually pay an association levy, which can be added to their student loan.

New Zealand University Students Association president David Do says student associations can provide the range of services they currently offer because almost all students are automatically members.

"Students can individually opt-out of membership on conscientious objection and financial hardship grounds. This is in the law already, though the process varies amongst institutions," he says.

Do says students can collectively decide, by initiating a referendum, on whether their membership is ‘compulsory' or voluntary.

Auckland University students opted for voluntary membership in 1999, and membership then fell from about 33,000 students to just 3,000. That went back up to above 20,000 once the nominal membership fee was waived.

The overall impact on students
Do says the bill will devastate important student association services to students – welfare and academic advocacy, student representation on institution committees, financial assistance, legal help, counselling services, student social events (including Orientation week), student clubs and societies, campus recreation facilities, and university sports, among others.

He says NZUSA believes if the law is changed it will hurt the quality of tertiary education, harm the quality of the tertiary experience and cost both the Government and tertiary institutions more in the long run.

"Similar legislation was implemented in Australia in 2005. It greatly weakened the student support services that student associations offered, damaged the quality of education many students received, and cost the Government over $NZ120 million to introduce. On some campuses, services previously provided by the student association disappeared."

The impact on queer students
Do says if the student union membership becomes voluntary, the education and experience of queer students in tertiary education will be significantly harmed, through significant funding cuts to UniQs.

"This threatens the ability of UniQs to provide proper pastoral, academic, and social support for queer students as they undertake tertiary education," he says.

"The bill also attacks the queer student voice and their ability to have democratically-elected collective organisations on campus, by removing the existing right of students to determine how to organise themselves."

What the UniQs say
A number of UniQs took part in the submissions process to the Education and Science Select Committee.

UniQ Otago's spokesperson on voluntary student membership Richard Girvan says the group opposes the bill because of its 'false pretences'.

"It is a solution to a problem that does not exist; students are not calling for Voluntary Student Membership and already have the means to enact it if they do."

Girvan says passing the bill would be disastrous to those who rely on the Student Associations, especially minority groups like UniQ Otago. "The support services provided by OUSA are vital to queer students, especially to those who are questioning or are victims of homophobia and harassment."

Girvan fears without such services some students could succumb to isolation and depression and even drop out. He says it would also destroy the voice of queer students.

Holly Neilson from Askew Waikato says without a student union the group would lose its safe room, pride week and all of its funding, "meaning we would be forced to rely on fundraising which is quite hard for us as we do not have the manpower to pull off such feats."

"Over the years as a group Askew has struggled to stand out at university, and we are finally beginning to get into the swing of things, and give students the help they need when they come out as homosexual students," she says.

UniQ Victoria points out that an October 2009, a report by the University of Auckland found that in the last 12 months more than a third of same/both‐sex attracted students in NZ secondary schools had seriously contemplated suicide, and around half had deliberately harmed themselves. It says in conjunction with this, queer youth were found to have higher rates of substance abuse, STIs and mental ill health compared to students identifying as heterosexual.

It says while the research concentrated on secondary school students, it cannot be viewed as irrelevant to the welfare of tertiary students. "Welfare issues do not end at secondary school, and UniQ feels that we provide an important resource for queer tertiary students. We are especially mindful of first‐year students who are often living away from home for the first time."

UniQ Victoria says many queer students come to the Wellington campus from rural centres. "Universities are places of learning, but they are also places of exploration, investigation and self‐discovery. This is true of all students, but it is especially pertinent for queer or questioning students."

"Queer students new to university are often escaping from intolerant environments. Their tertiary education experience plays a vital role in affirming the equality of their sexual identity."

The groups points out that it provides services and support networks that help students with this transition. "For example, UniQ Victoria's queer mentoring programme provides an excellent support network for new students struggling with their sexual identity. If student association membership was made voluntary, the ability for services (such as the mentoring programme) to continue would be deleteriously undermined."

It says it would also affect its relationships with outside organisations such as local group for queer secondary school students Schools Out and the New Zealand Aids Foundation. "With a less effective UniQ and with our organisation limited, Schools Out will be deprived of an important source of support, and the Aids Foundation will lose an important method for both recruiting volunteers and providing safer sex information to tertiary students."

UniQ Victoria is also fearful the bill will undermine the voice of queer students as a group in society. "The battle for social inequality is patently still not over, and a strong queer voice on New Zealand university campuses has often been the catalyst for social equality in New Zealand."


Offline SiCRa

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #1 on: 16 Jul 10, 07:52:pm »
After three and a half years at university I am still waiting to see any evidence of the 'pastoral, academic, and social support' that UniQ supposedly provides. Granted this could be isolated to the Canterbury UniQ. The only thing I observe at UniQ gatherings is gossip.

I will not deny that Queer students require and deserve support at university, but why must this be run by a student led group with poor regional organization? Adult, Maori, Disabled students receive support from University run programs, why is this not so for queer kids?

This also begs the question of what is UniQ Canterbury doing with this 'funding' they receive?

Also, it's not like UniQ is going to be the only victim of the EA Bill.

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Kaytu

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #2 on: 16 Jul 10, 11:22:pm »
I don't know how things are in Christchurch but Uni-Q Wellington has been active and supportive for many years.  Part of that support is responding to people's requests for information and assistance.  I don't know if you ever contacted Uni-Q Canterbury for support.  Feedback on another thread said they do respond to requests.

Offline irishkiwi

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #3 on: 17 Jul 10, 09:57:am »
In a free country shouldnt people be allowed to choose if they want to belong to a group or not?

I choose to be a member of the teachers union - but I do not denounce anyone who chooses otherwise and them not belonging harms me not one bit.

Those people who would not join a student union would be the same people who would not have supported gay rights on campus anyway. The only loss I can see to the union is the loss of these peoples fees.
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fluffycatsdad

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #4 on: 17 Jul 10, 02:48:pm »
Those people who would not join a student union would be the same people who would not have supported gay rights on campus anyway. The only loss I can see to the union is the loss of these peoples fees.
Not true. Given the choice, I would not have chosen to be a member of VUWSA (Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association), yet I would definitely support gay/queer rights on campus.

If this bill does pass, I will not enrol as a member of VUWSA, because, as far as I can figure out, they are just a bunch of whinging complaint-mongers who make Communism look right-wing.

Kaytu

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #5 on: 17 Jul 10, 03:34:pm »
There are some people who say they don't want to be part of society or pay rates or taxes for local or central government services.  They still use roads, benefit from rubbish collections, health systems and many other parts of a social infrastructure that exist around us because we pay for them collectively. Students are often poor and given a choice they would forgo paying for services and representation.  But they may lose more than they would gain.

Many students at university have bought lunch at a cafe, used toilets in students' association buildings paid from from student levies, and benefitted from having student advocates to argue for fee subsidies and for student health services as minor examples of behind the scenes services.  Services purchased in advance from regular small payments work out cheaper than paying individually.  Once a person has paid a student services levy for 5 years they can then apply to get a discounted rate because they have paid for their building contribution. 

If Students' Associations  - which are like unions - weren't funded then students wouldn't have the base to support representatives trying to ensure they get a fair go from education providers and funders.  Who advocates with Governments for limits to fee increases?  Who raises students awarenss of issues at election times?  Who makes sure that Governments know the impact of their actions on students?  Do Students Associations have much power with Government?  Maybe not but without them students would be more vulnerable to the Government razor gang that sees them as worker units only.

Offline irishkiwi

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #6 on: 17 Jul 10, 11:19:pm »
Not true. Given the choice, I would not have chosen to be a member of VUWSA (Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association), yet I would definitely support gay/queer rights on campus.

If this bill does pass, I will not enrol as a member of VUWSA, because, as far as I can figure out, they are just a bunch of whinging complaint-mongers who make Communism look right-wing.

Fair enough - Ill adjust my comment.

Many of the people who wouldnt join would prob do nothing about gay rights on campus.
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Offline irishkiwi

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #7 on: 17 Jul 10, 11:25:pm »
There are some people who say they don't want to be part of society or pay rates or taxes for local or central government services.  They still use roads, benefit from rubbish collections, health systems and many other parts of a social infrastructure that exist around us because we pay for them collectively. Students are often poor and given a choice they would forgo paying for services and representation.  But they may lose more than they would gain.

Many students at university have bought lunch at a cafe, used toilets in students' association buildings paid from from student levies, and benefitted from having student advocates to argue for fee subsidies and for student health services as minor examples of behind the scenes services.  Services purchased in advance from regular small payments work out cheaper than paying individually.  Once a person has paid a student services levy for 5 years they can then apply to get a discounted rate because they have paid for their building contribution. 

If Students' Associations  - which are like unions - weren't funded then students wouldn't have the base to support representatives trying to ensure they get a fair go from education providers and funders.  Who advocates with Governments for limits to fee increases?  Who raises students awarenss of issues at election times?  Who makes sure that Governments know the impact of their actions on students?  Do Students Associations have much power with Government?  Maybe not but without them students would be more vulnerable to the Government razor gang that sees them as worker units only.


I understand this, however freedom of association is a right in NZ, and (keeping in mind Im a union member -rather high in the ranks at the moment to boot) I cannot see forced association as an acceptable thing.
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Offline rjs131

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #8 on: 25 Jul 10, 09:09:pm »
Was this the most biased article ever written? was there any attempt to say why voluntary membership is needed? Is there any attempt to explain why voluntary membership is being introduced? Any attempt to explain the pathetic voter turn out at university elections? Any mention of how the student associations, being far left are not representative of students. Did the NZUSA explain how they arent elected by students? DId the NZUSA explain they are one of themost far left organisations in NZ and officially backed the Alliance as "the choice of students" when that party only gets 1% at most of the popular vote. Is that the same David Do that is a high ranking labor party official, no he didnt mention that so of course he will oppose this bill as it would cut off the NZUSA funding as no sane student would support its funding.

Maybe some balance in the article would have been nice

Offline kawaiigardiner

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #9 on: 25 Jul 10, 10:03:pm »
When it comes to the voluntary nature of it will it mean that students can still throw it on top of their fee's? I wonder because if one has to front up with the cash straight away then it might put people off where as if it can be thrown on top of the fee's individuals might be more open to voluntarily joining a club.

UniQ in Wellington is pretty cool and quite active; I have to admit though I haven't hung out much but from my limited experience its a pretty fun atmosphere.

Offline Daily News

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #10 on: 29 Sep 11, 10:16:am »
The national student union is slamming what it sees as the "disdain" the Government has for students in supporting the passage of a bill which is predicted to have a heavy impact on queer university groups.

ACT MP Heather Roy's Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill passed with the support of National and United Future, after days of student protests.

Uni-Q groups across the country have expressed concern making union membership voluntary could significantly undermine their ability to support queer students, and ultimately could spell their demise due to a lack of funding.

"Many students and campuses will see their associations collapse under this new system. Others will see associations dependent and beholden to tertiary institutions," says NZUSA co-President Max Hardy.

"[The] vote symbolises the real disdain this Government has for students," adds his co-President David Do. "In reality, National has shown none of its supposed pragmatism. Instead, National has chosen to enable the extreme ideology of a discredited fringe political party. By ignoring the overwhelming opposition, arguments, and evidence, National has shown its real colours."

Labour is promising to repeal the bill when it's next in power.

honestbob

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #11 on: 29 Sep 11, 05:32:pm »
Many students at university have bought lunch at a cafe,

You mean the racketeering in prices that goes on? No thanks!

Offline The Doctor

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Re: Silence on campus?
« Reply #12 on: 29 Sep 11, 07:15:pm »
I by lunch ocasionally. The Long Black Cafe, at unitec is actually pretty well priced.
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