OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Set it on fire, then

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  • Idiot Savant, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Well, no - but I've yet to see anyone convincingly make the case that student unions are equivalent to nation states with any conviction.

    I think you should read up on their history. From the beginning, they've been about the student body governing itself, and exacting concessions by waging war (by strategic rioting and/or threats to depart) with both their Masters and the town that hosted them (some, BTW, even organised themselves into "nations"). Its always been about government; its just that nowdays the stakes are a lot lower.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1664 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tony Siu,

    Tony, yours the the argument that I best relate to. But it's late and I'll have to tell you about that tomorrow.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew E,

    Heh. All this reminds me of the time, 20+ years ago, I got elected from my UK uni to go to the annual conference of the National Union of Students. Besides being labelled an 'ecological trotskyite' (the meaning of which I'm still trying to figure out), I realised the largely useless nature of the political side of the SU's when half the people running for the exec of the NUS were boasting of having held sabbatical positions for something like 5 years, as if this was a reason for taking their commitment seriously, instead of thinking 'Geez, time to graduate and get a life doing something real to change the world'.

    174.77 x 41.28 • Since Sep 2008 • 199 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Tony Siu,

    Now with the lost of AUSA funding, costs like airfares, motel and entry fees from long form debating tournments

    Luxury! When I was occasionally debating in the early '90s, there was possibly a travel subsidy, but participants wore some of the costs themselves, and accommodation usually involved being billeted on the floor of someone's lounge.

    Must be getting old.

    Speaking of which though, I was startled (and my 25yo self would be shocked) to find myself agreeing with Keith that VSM is largely a sideshow -- and that the current debate is pretty much the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible (as Oscar W once said, albeit in a different context).

    It may just be that the PA demographic trends more 40 than 20, but if a left-leaning forum like this one can't work up a decent head of steam about VSM, then it is presumably largely a dead issue for most people.



    And if principles are things you have even when they are inconvenient, it is interesting to see ACT framing this as a "libertarian" issue, when they have embraced the thinking of that well-known moral philosopher Laura Norder when it comes to cannabis, despite the best efforts of Don Brash...

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Andrew E,

    A study in scarlet...

    I realised the largely useless nature of the political side of the SU’s when half the people running for the exec of the NUS were boasting of having held sabbatical positions for something like 5 years, as if this was a reason for taking their commitment seriously, instead of thinking ‘Geez, time to graduate and get a life doing something real to change the world’.

    aaah, the David Caygill years at U of Canterbury.... still, look at him now - a real PowerMan!

    and Joel Cosgrove was the clever dick who chose his favourite "I (heart) my penis" teeshirt to wear in the front row of a graduation ceremony - classy stuff! </sigh>

    Though I have never been to University, I think the SAs help with the socialisation of students/people and I can't see the current model of University management stepping in to fill that void, and I suspect it can be a lonely place for the shy, hell if National gets back in we'll be lucky if they don't sell the universities, or at least turn them nto PPPs.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Andrew E,

    Besides being labelled an ‘ecological trotskyite’

    Does that mean you kill only the cutest baby seals with an ice pick instead of a club?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    What annoys me about all this is that it is just another attack on the universities being the 'conscience and critic' of society. When Victoria wanted to close the Gender and Women's Studies programme last year, the Students' assn helped us fight it. We lost but at least we had resources to challenge the decision. Similarly there are now cutbacks to many of those programmes that encourage critical thinking such as politics, policy, education, criminology, and the library. Generations of students have learned journalism and activism skills through university newspapers and other media - this will now be diluted or lost. VUW's Post Graduate student's assn is also very active and has its own conference every year.

    This is in addition to the cutting of student and staff reps from polytech boards last year. The agenda is to make education just another commodity for individuals to buy, and dumb down democracy. Stephen Joyce has a lot to answer for.

    I've been to a VSM university in Australia. Only a fraction of the students pay the levy. There is only basic very health and other support. There is no student university life on campus. People come for their lectures and go again. It was all very bleak.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    When Victoria wanted to close the Gender and Women’s Studies programme last year, the Students’ assn helped us fight it. We lost but at least we had resources to challenge the decision.

    Yes, quite so. There are some broader, serious questions about the role of a university, which are the site of an ideological struggle. Students associations haven't been the sole site of that conflict, but they have contributed.

    I think that Keith's argument is that this has been marginal to the experience of the populations they are supposed to engage. To the extent that any organisation's activities are meaningless to its members, the organisation can be seen to be a failure.

    Does this mean that those engaged with the university (on either side) don't understand society? Perhaps. I'm disturbed by it all, but I can't make out what or how I think things should look like.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    I think the easiest way to clarify thinking about VSM is to imagine that they were dominated by ACT on Campus and the Young Nats, instead of Young Labour, and that they protested and advocated for things those groups believed in. Asset sales. Mining in the conservation reserve. A flat tax.
    Now how would you feel about being compelled to join that association and fund the political activities of all those young ACT and National student politicians? I'm guessing you'd feel pretty damn angry. And the ACT and National students would defend their associations with statements like, 'But we're advocates for students! We are societies conscience!' Would that change your mind about compulsory student unionism?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 902 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Now how would you feel about being compelled to join that association and fund the political activities of all those young ACT and National student politicians? I’m guessing you’d feel pretty damn angry.

    I don’t think I would. They’re democracies. Nobody is being ‘compelled’ to take those positions – unless you believe that collective organisations should not exist. The mere fact that an organisation composed of its members collectively decides on a position does not make the organisation illegitimate. (Certainly not when the organisation has a range of very useful functions – as even the least well managed do, by way of institutional continuity).

    It’s an issue I’m familiar with in in other contexts. I have refused to join any worker’s union affiliated with Labour (and the ALP), in which I could not take a vote on the position. I don’t want to be forced to support Labour. I’ve been bereft of representation.

    However, there has been a breakdown in participation. Rather than take less drastic steps to address this, the Government in its ideological wisdom has taken the sledgehammer to the nut.

    ETA: my position on the Labour Party is because I think the role of a union is first to represent workers. If those workers believe that Labour best represents their interests, and an association is productive, then good. However, I think there are other parties that better represent workers, and hundreds of thousands would be better sent their way. It's a decision I think that members should be able to take, not high officials with cozy institutional relationships. (Which would be like having VUWSA affiliated to the ACT Party, without elections).

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    They’re democracies

    Not meaningfully. Voter turnout is around the 6% mark. Most students don't know they've joined. It's just a single entry in a long list of fees when you pay your tuition.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 902 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    If you don't vote, you can't complain.

    More seriously, there is an issue here. And it is not a matter of life and death, on the one side, but nor is it a matter of liberty over oppression on the other. It's something minor, in a small institution that is rather marginal to the running of this country.


    Most students don’t know they’ve joined.

    Yes, that is a problem. As I said upthread, if I hadn't actually been on the AUSA, I don't think I would know that such an institution existed, so spare is its presence at my satellite campus.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I object to the way some of the money I spend on phone bills, groceries and the like go to fund organisations like the EMA and the Business Roundtable. How about a ban on companies contributing to employers organisations?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4480 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Last week, the UoA Tramping Club realised it’s either going to raise its member fees, run less long form South Island trips or stop maintaining its club hunt/shelter out West Auckland because of the lost funding from AUSA. We are now in the process of turning down trips from international student that have extra costs (i.e. snow-based footware, specialiased tents) because we have no longer have means to fund them. Imagine telling an American student who flew here for the outdoor experience that he/she can’t go to Cook Strait because the club can’t fund the extra costs.

    It's interesting to place this against argument that Students' Associations are like local government or actual government.

    The overall principle isn't about the money, but this is still an interesting matter for discussion: it's sad for you and all, but is it really right that money is taken from students just as poor as you are to pay for your holiday excursions? Should my taxes or rates fund private tramping excursions? I guess I can see a role for a compulsory students' association in organising trips, or administering the assets of something like the UoA tramping club, but there's no way they should be regularly funding excursions.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3011 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    My parents were at Canterbury university in the 1930s. My father's cousin (same surname) was head of the Students' Association. It was one of the most important roles on campus. My father was editor of Canta. That was another, but not of the same status as President of the Assocation. But it was my father who got to interview Karl Popper.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I object to the way some of the money I spend on phone bills, groceries and the like go to fund organisations like the EMA and the Business Roundtable.

    I object to the how I'm prohibited from having a homephone unless I become a member of the EMA.

    Or, in other words, the principle is not about the money. If Auckland University wants to give some of the money it receives from tuition to a private organisation like the Auckland University Students' Association, or the Anarchists' Collective, or Tea Party, then I don't have a freedom of association, rights-based, philosophical objection to it.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3011 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    My father’s cousin (same surname) was head of the Students’ Association. It was one of the most important roles on campus. My father was editor of Canta. That was another, but not of the same status as President of the Assocation. But it was my father who got to interview Karl Popper.

    You mean before there was legislation requiring/allowing compulsory membership of students' associations? They have my sympathies: it must have been hell. However did they survive?

    I know that when Salient first started (30s, I think, although there were others before then), people had to pay to read it. Was it the same with Canta?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3011 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I'm not being entirely snerky here, Hilary, but if you were depending on VUWSA to resource opposition to the closure of the GWS programme I don't think your issue is with VSM but what kind of representation/advocacy is coming from tertiary unions and professional bodies.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    it was my father who got to interview Karl Popper.

    Anecdotes?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    However did they survive?

    Because only the wealthy went to university. And paid for their own ski trips.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • MikeE,

    Did I read the earlier post right, that someones argument FOR CSM is basically along the lines of:

    "If we don't have CSM we won't be able to force all the students to subsidise american exchanged students tramping/ski trips and that would look bad"

    gjsdflgjdklfjgkldfjgkldjsfg

    Kingsland • Since Nov 2006 • 138 posts Report Reply

  • NBH, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Graeme, perhaps a better analogy than Rich's upthread would be the various compulsory regulatory bodies for professions and trades (such as the health regulatory authorities, the Teacher's Council, the Plumbing, Gasfitting & Drainlaying Board, I believe the Law Society etc.).

    To be a practitioner in these areas you have to belong to these organisations, pay often quite significant fees etc. This is the case even if you disagree with their stances and decisions around regulation and standards, their lobbying activities, and the like. Do you have a problem with those arrangements from a freedom of association point of view?

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 94 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    the principle is not about the money

    So, why can't universities fund the student association out of fees? Individual students can then choose to be take up free membership or not?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4480 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    So, why can’t universities fund the student association out of fees? Individual students can then choose to be take up free membership or not?

    Because then there's no representative body.

    Now, the argument is that they're currently not very representative. But the solution to a body which is not sufficiently representative is to make it more so. Not destroy it completely. Unless you believe that a representative body should not exist. Which is the position of ACT, and apparently of Graeme Edgeler, who just made them equivalent in standing to a private anarchist club.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Tony Siu,

    I started my debating/public speaking from the uni debating club. Now with the lost of AUSA funding, costs like airfares, motel and entry fees from long form debating tournments will now be cover by law firms and other external sources.

    Did the Robinson Cup ever actually return? Last I remember Richie Watson (a well known student politician) kept the fucking thing, so I never did manage to get my name engraved on it. That kind of sense of impunity was pretty widespread, I seem to remember a speedboat went missing from the waterskiing club, with no signs whatsoever of forced entry. $30,000 odd worth of equipment just disappearing isn't a good look for anyone wanting to force people to join their organization.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8659 posts Report Reply

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