OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Set it on fire, then

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  • Keith Ng, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Well, Keith, perhaps you can explain to the group why “the public” was completely justified in passing legislation in 1915 to remove Professor George William von Zedlitz from his teaching post at Victoria?

    Sure, democracies do the wrong thing all the time. Doesn't that mean they shouldn't have the right to do it?

    I don’t really have any choice about subsidising New Zealand’s universities through my taxes

    That's a perfectly legitimate argument. But that's not about freedom of association (any more than an anti-abortionist is associated with abortions), that's about how you want your democratically elected government to behave. Which is my point.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 530 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The NZLS has a membership process for its duel representative role (that bit is voluntary).

    And rightly so. Being a representative in a duel sounds dangerous.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18521 posts Report Reply

  • NBH, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    This would have been a great and important conversation to have several years ago, when all of these points were still obvious and salient, and the massive flaws in the existing system didn't make it effortless for the unions' political enemies to destroy them.

    Well it's still an important conversation in my view, and I was just being explicit about my views there. But to be fair to NZUSA my understanding is that they are just as concerned about this situation as anyone, and do try to give their member executives some training - it's the individuals who get elected that cause these problems, which VSM will do nothing to resolve.

    Actually that's another point worth noting: while individual associations have their (in some cases, absolutely massive) issues, I think it's important to note that those same points don't apply at the national level. I've dealt with NZUSA in a couple of different professional capacities over the past five or so years, and have been quite impressed with the people I've encountered there. In particular, the current co-presidents seem to be very good value from my interactions with them.

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 90 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Being a representative in a duel sounds dangerous.

    I'd second that...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4555 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Statham,

    Given that the public owns these universities, why shouldn't it be able to make these conditions? .........

    Totally agree with this Keith, as it is exactly what has happened. The public, through their elected representatives, has decided that VSM will now be one of these conditions.

    All in all a great outcome for democracy, something that Student politicians are all very keen on if I remember correctly from my days at Uni.

    B

    Auckland • Since Sep 2011 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Ironically, they’re also VSM advocates.

    I don't think it's ironic. They were trying to destroy it from the inside. I think that is why ACToids can be such crooked bastards - because they inherently don't consider themselves part of the system. They don't even want there to be a system. So to fuck the system actually promotes their agenda.

    On a side note, David Garrett's recent contributions on Kiwiblog told a pretty sad tale about what a fuxor the guy is. It's pretty rare to see DPF have to redact comment after comment, issue demerits, and then finally ban someone, all in one thread. I don't think I've ever seen such an unpleasant mix of whining victimhood and vicious personal attacks, ever. Dad4Justice ended up looking mild. I'm not at all surprised he got his head punched in by a doctor in the Islands.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    as above, not so below (Cook Strait)...

    in order: the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, the university, and the university.

    the inverse seems to be the case at University of Canterbury - the UCSA has about $12 million in assets ...

    He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.
    What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4555 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    the UCSA has about $12 million in assets

    I thought they were the only association to own their own building/site? Gave a foothold in the property market to leverage. Solid income from venue hire and catering over the years, I recall.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16281 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Keith Ng,

    You’re conflating what the kinds of conditions the state can set with whether the state can set conditions at all.

    I don’t know that I’m conflating them, so much as ignoring one of them.

    Of course the state can set some conditions (e.g. “if you go to university, you must pass at least half your course if you want funding the following year.” or "you must be lawfully in New Zealand, with citizenship, residency or some sort of visa"), but it cannot legitimately set conditions that breach fundamental human rights.

    Well strengthen the opt-out clauses then.

    I’d be fine with that. The issue I took with your post was that you stated we had opt-out clauses. We don’t.

    A real opt-out clause would meet the human rights objections I have raised. I encourage you to read my submission on the VSM bill, where I said the same thing to the Select Committee. My position was and remains that the current law (I doubt the bill has the Royal assent yet, so I’m probably right in saying that) represents an unreasonable limit on freedom of association. A law change to allow full opt-out would mean, in my opinion, that the law around students’ association would be a reasonable limit on freedom of association, and would not raise any freedom of association concerns on my part. ACTonCampus probably wouldn’t be happy about it, but they wouldn’t have human rights law on their side.

    WTF? Since when did this change from freedom of association to freedom of expression? But while we’re here, freedom of expression is sacrosanct except when it’s not.

    As with the other examples I gave, this was an example. Wanting to attend a (public) university should be possible without giving up your right to freedom of association, and without giving up your right to freedom of expression, and without giving up your right to freedom of religion.

    Your argument seemed to at least imply that freedom of association wasn’t all that important. It happens to be a fundamental right protected in pretty much the same way as the other fundamental rights, like freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Using the other rights in my argument may help some people who don’t consider some fundamental rights to be anywhere near as important as others to see the point I am making.

    OPT-OUT CLAUSE.

    You’re going to ask why opt-out clause rather than VSM, right?

    No.

    Again, I’m not sure you understood where I was coming from. You seemed to imply that the current situation was an acceptable limit on freedom of association because there was an op-out clause.

    I would be fine with an opt-out clause. It would meet every legal and human rights objection I have raised.

    The problem with the view as expressed is that we did not have an opt-out clause. The status quo ante was therefore, in my opinion, an unjustifiable limit. Again, I encourage you to read my submission on the bill.

    If we had full opt-out, you might still be having this argument, but I certainly wouldn’t be having it with you.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    it cannot legitimately set conditions that breach fundamental human rights

    unless they are about unwarranted surveillance, of course :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16281 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    There was a large active campaign over several months to fight the closure of GWS, just as the more recent battles over the closure of other programmes are fought at every step. Many of us wrote submissions and gave evidence. What the VUSA helped with was organising meetings of affected students, compiling submissions for those who hadn't the time to do their own or didn't want to, and keeping everyone informed about what was happening as the decision went through the various parts of university management and governance, including reporting from council. All invaluable.

    I am pleased to report that I have just voted in the 2011 VUSA elections, including for the person who helped us fight the GWS decision. It is heartening that almost all positions were contested with many of them mentioning the uncertain future under VSM. I doubt whether any of them are over 22 years old. I do love young activists.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2009 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Keith Ng,

    Sure, democracies do the wrong thing all the time. Doesn’t that mean they shouldn’t have the right to do it?

    Well, yes. Some wrong things anyway. That's what fundamental rights are.

    Democracies don't get to torture. And they don't get to convict people of crimes without fair trials. And they don't get to unreasonably limit freedom of expression or freedom of religion or freedom of association.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Being a representative in a duel sounds dangerous.

    I’d second that…

    The job of a second in a duel was to do what they could in order to avoid the duel ever needing to take place. They'd meet with the second of the other side, and try to find a solution (apology, whatever) that would satisfy the honour of both sides. Not all that unlike lawyers :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Democracies don’t get to torture. And they don’t get to convict people of crimes without fair trials. And they don’t get to unreasonably limit freedom of expression or freedom of religion or freedom of association.

    Hyperbole much? An association with an opt-out clause doesn't really fit what you've described.

    And, in any case rights always conflict. Always. There are no such things as fundamental rights, rather ones with stronger claims on individuals and society. So there's a balance of rights, and we accommodate some freedoms against others, and some against interests. The right to meaningful democratic participation in the institutions that govern you, and the institutions that you participate in is one such right, a right that is discarded or ignored by VSM proponents.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to George Darroch,

    Hyperbole much? An association with an opt-out clause doesn’t really fit what you’ve described.

    Hyperbole? No. It was a statement in response to an implicit claim that democracies could do anything because they were democracies. My response had nothing to do with the general debate about VSM, but was directed at an assertion about the nature of democracy.

    [which the following also is]

    And, in any case rights always conflict. Always. There are no such things as fundamental rights, rather ones with stronger claims on individuals and society.

    I disagree. For example, I do not consider that the right of any person to life, could ever outweigh the right of any terrorist not to be tortured. The right not be tortured is an absolute right. No-one can ever lawfully torture another. Ever.

    Name a circumstance, no matter how outlandish, and I will proclaim that a democratic state could not legitimately torture someone in it.

    [back to VSM]

    The right to meaningful democratic participation in the institutions that govern you, and the institutions that you participate in is one such right, a right that is discarded or ignored by VSM proponents.

    This is based on a false premise, namely, that CSM provides meaningful democratic participation in the institutions that govern students. You'd need to back this up, because I haven't seen any evidence for it of late.

    It also ignores the possibility that meaningful democratic participation in the institutions that govern students could be provided in a way which does not infringe freedom of association: the university council and every other university board could be elected 50:50 by the faculty and student body (or 1/3 each by the faculty, students and alumni, or whatever). You just do not need a students' association, compulsory or not, to have meaningful democratic participation. If anything, a separate students' association could be seen as a means of separating students from the institution, rather than including them in it.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • NBH, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    This is based on a false premise, namely, that CSM provides meaningful democratic participation in the institutions that govern students. You'd need to back this up, because I haven't seen any evidence for it of late.

    I do have to agree with you on this Graeme - CSM by itself does and will not provide meaningful democratic participation in the institutions that govern students. What it does do, though, is establish structures that allow for meaningful democratic participation in those institutions. The relevant question then becomes how we can ensure that those structures work effectively, and as I said upthread, I agree that there's a lot that could be done in that area. VSM, on the other hand, works against that - for example, by (almost) inherently making associations' membership less representative of the student body as a whole.

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 90 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Kyle and others have made many of the points I would have but can I just observe that several Associations, including NZUSA, have reformed themselves albeit perhaps not as much as they might have. I had some involvement with changes at both Waikato and Lincoln which were intended to manage the risks around VSM. I was also involved in some of the changes at NZUSA though not the merger of the polytech and university national bodies.

    To say there's been little or no effort is mistaken (and Lew, the strength of your argument is, I feel, a little undermined by your lack of knowledge about the history of this issue and the efforts that many people and organisations have applied to solving the problems). To then conclude that, absent this, Students' Associations get what they deserve also ignores the obvious political motivation which is a key part of this.

    Ben said:

    In another anecdote, a female friend of mine proudly bragged that she had scored $500 from AUSA just by going into the office and crying about how hard her life was. No further investigation was made, they just handed her the cash. She was actually proud of this.

    Few SAs provide hardship grants and of those that do, most would have a more rigourous process than you describe.

    Regardless, I and others here have direct personal experience of many SAs helping students avoid unfair eviction from rental properties and residential halls, representing students in academic grievances, improving services and support for student who are parents, gaining national and institutional funding for students with disabilities, improving library services, successfully opposing class closures and mergers of departments, getting changes to allowance and loan arrangements, forcing institutions to adequately justify various charges... A handful of laughable or ridiculous decisions/actions by a handful of student politicians is just that.

    Finally, on the issue of the democratic merit of SAs and how it is measured, I agree that voting is a valid measure and by that measure, they do poorly. However, by assessing students use of services, facilities etc, you get a different picture. I know from the mid-90s when I was more actively involved, there were estimates that 60 per cent of students at some universities were involved in clubs/socs for instance.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2191 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to BenWilson,

    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

    In fairness, this incident happened before some (most?) of today's students were born. This is a bit like refusing to vote Labour because of Nordmyer's Black Budget.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 256 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to richard,

    This is a bit like refusing to vote Labour because of Nordmyer's Black Budget.

    Is that not a valid reason any more? Damn and blast.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Duel brakes...

    They’d meet with the second of the other side, and try to find a solution (apology, whatever) that would satisfy the honour of both sides. Not all that unlike lawyers :-)

    no place for sloppy seconds, then....
    and I guess that makes the second world war
    a colossal failure of diplomacy...
    ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4555 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Paul Williams,

    I know from the mid-90s when I was more actively involved, there were estimates that 60 per cent of students at some universities were involved in clubs/socs for instance.

    I'm pretty sure those will still exist. Indeed, the Vic Debating Society is older than the Vic Students' Association.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I'm pretty sure those will still exist. Indeed, the Vic Debating Society is older than the Vic Students' Association.

    Perhaps they will. I note from the third reading debate, the Minister now has final say on what student services and fees institutions can offer/charge, do you think they'll propose alternative calendars? Lucky students are now "free".

    http://inthehouse.co.nz/node/10887

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2191 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to richard,

    Actually Nordmeyer's budget was very fair and far sighted. He was just bashed by the tory media and the tobacco and alcohol lobbies..

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2009 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I can’t speak for every university, but, at Victoria:

    At Otago the Student Union was built using student association funds, and the building is half owned by OUSA. The gym is 40% owned by OUSA, but supported by a university levy. The bar is a joint operation between the university and OUSA. OUSA also own the University Bookshop 100%. And it built and supports the Clubs and Societies building.

    AUSA owns their whole union and bar.

    Perhaps it would have failed, but then at least Labour would have made a positive attempt to fix the well-documented problems within student associations.

    They're not well-documented. There are a bunch of media stories which continue to circulate, and every time a new one happens it gets good coverage and is pushed by Act activists. That's not documentation, it's slightly above urban legend.

    Find me any independent report on financial mismanagement in student associations in NZ. Research done by an academic or postgraduate student? Any sort of analysis of the proportion of mismanagement in student associations compared to other organisations.

    The only people that have done it are people in student associations, and the results indicate that the rate of it is no higher in student associations than other similar bodies, just that when it happens it gets a much higher profile because of the contentious nature of their structure and the fact that act and their activists get all over it.

    I thought they were the only association to own their own building/site? Gave a foothold in the property market to leverage. Solid income from venue hire and catering over the years, I recall.

    Both Auckland and Otago own their own buildings.

    I’m pretty sure those will still exist. Indeed, the Vic Debating Society is older than the Vic Students’ Association.

    The debating society will be fine. The rowing club however has much higher needs. The Otago club has helped develop a couple of recent world champions. If the institution doesn't take these things over (and if the government lets them with the current debate about what institutions can and can't levy students for) student sport and culture is in real trouble.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6151 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    rights always conflict. Always. There are no such things as fundamental rights, rather ones with stronger claims on individuals and society.

    I disagree. I do not consider that the right of any person to life, could ever outweigh the right of any terrorist not to be tortured. The right not be tortured is an absolute right. No-one can ever lawfully torture another. Ever.

    Name a circumstance, no matter how outlandish, and I will proclaim that a democratic state could not legitimately torture someone in it.

    Okay, this is a digression, but you (literally) asked for it, so…

    Circumstance: a “dirty bomb” is about to be exploded in a city, with many instantly killed, but worse, thousands will die a slow, torturous death. The authorities have one of the bomb-setting culprits. He’s determined not to cooperate, they have very little time to get information, so they try torture. It works and they get the location of the bomb and defuse it. Have they committed an immoral act? Have they breached a right that should not “Ever” be breached? Should they be tried for a crime? Should they be convicted?

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1122 posts Report Reply

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