Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: The Inexorable Advance

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  • Kyle Matthews,

    but if you want to play that I guess left-wingers only defend VSM because they're the entrenched special interest here.

    I'm not sure if you got that sentence the right way around. Left wingers defend VSM or CSM?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    But I don't oppose compulsory membership of students' associations from a free-market perspective. I oppose it from a human rights-based perspective.

    But, as I've noted upthread, there are compulsory non-Government organisations, with the statutory ability to regulate and levy. You can't vote in voluntary membership of Fish and Game regions.

    All kinds of activities are controlled by bodies that are at least partly compulsory, most of them Government, a few non-Government, and most don't have opt-out referendum clauses. What's special about this one?

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'm not sure why this distinction gets failed to be made when talking about student associations.

    Time to dig out the Pols 101 notes and start explaining what the government of a nation-state is, isn't, and how it's precisely not like a students association. When I get back from the Film Soc, that is.

    I'm not sure if you got that sentence the right way around. Left wingers defend VSM or CSM?

    CSM, but either way it's rather dishonest reducing either side to straw persons isn't it? It's a game everyone can play, but isn't really worth the bother.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Graeme, how about this: students retain freedom to associate or disassociate with their respective student association as is their whim, but there's not getting out of the compulsory donation to said association.

    Does that satisfy your human rights concerns, or is this really about the money?

    The money certainly can't be divorced from it - there is an additional indignity in being forced to provide funding to an organisation that publicly advocates your political opinions are not far short of evil. But it's certainly not the major problem. "Mere" forced membership of an organisation that publicly advocates your political opinions are not far short of evil is pretty bad in itself.

    If a university - or the state - wants to contract with a students' association to provide services to students, I wouldn't have a problem with that from a freedom of association perspective (and the separate debate about whether its appropriate for the Government to be funding political advocacy is for another day).

    NZUSA is pretty insistent that students shouldn't pay fees because education should be funded, as with everything else, through taxes. I'm not sure why they don't think the same logic can't be applied to fees and student services.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    But, as I've noted upthread, there are compulsory non-Government organisations, with the statutory ability to regulate and levy.

    Oh, explain to the group how students' associations are just like the Law Society. That one is really fun...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    I'm not convinced in Graeme's writing off of an local govt comparison. After all, the average taxpayer sends their "serious cash" to central government, but that doesn't make local government optional. In fact, the analogy seems to work quite well -- Students associations and local government both suffer from poor turnout, and money is spent in a fashion that does not always please their constituents. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if many VSM proponents are also small (local) government proponents.

    The idea of equating students' associations with ratepayers or shareholders associations also seems rather tenuous. Perhaps we should accept this argument after Graeme successfully has Bruce Sheppard or his nominee appointed to all NZX-listed company boards.

    More seriously, I think the discussion is really around the scope of activities conducted by students' associations, in the same way there is discussion around the scope of local (and central) government activities. Students associations do play a governance role in their institutions. Perhaps a more appropriate solution would be to reconstitute them in that light.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    These both ease demand on pubic services and, in some cases, benefit the economy.

    That is why they legalised it ,I am sure, and many that support the economy, do use the 'pubic' services.FWIW, I think it's a wonderful name for an old profession :)

    I'll get my coat....

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Time to dig out the Pols 101 notes and start explaining what the government of a nation-state is, isn't, and how it's precisely not like a students association.

    Did you miss it when I made that precise point?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    NZUSA doesn't tell students what they think any more than John Key tells me what I think.

    NZUSA speaks on behalf of "students" all the time.

    Helen Clark declared that New Zealanders had moved on from knighthoods, etc. I don't have a John Key one, but I suspect one will arise at some point =)

    By making things such as Student Associations voluntary you remove the passion. Without that passion all becomes grey.

    The anti-nuclear movement, the anti-Vietnam movement, and the anti-tour movement were all pretty passionate. The Labour Party is pretty passionate. Hell, the VSM movement is pretty passionate. I'm not sure that compulsion would have helped - and even if it would have it certainly wasn't needed.

    All kinds of activities are controlled by bodies that are at least partly compulsory, most of them Government, a few non-Government, and most don't have opt-out referendum clauses. What's special about this one?

    I'm not arguing anything is special about this one. I asked whether there was a compelling state interest in making student membership compulsory. I couldn't find one. There have been a couple of attempts in the comments - but I haven't found them particularly compelling. That some other organisation is compulsory and perhaps shouldn't be isn't a particularly good argument from a human rights perspective.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Oh, and another point on governance/representation. Until sometime in the early 00s, postgraduate students were not members of the Otago association. I'm not sure exactly how it went down, but now postgraduates are members of OUSA so that they can elect someone to represent them on all of the postgraduate committees &c.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    NZUSA speaks on behalf of "students" all the time.

    And John Key speaks on behalf of "NZers" all the time. That's not the same as telling them what they think, which was what you were bemoaning.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    The weakest advocates for the student voice across New Zealand are the voluntary ones.

    Yes, the weakest student voice emanates from those students who must volunteer to speak it.

    There are no practical benefits to VSM, only philosophical ones.

    It provides an enhanced degree of honesty as to what the students might actually be saying.

    Student politics is the politics of apathy, hardly anybody votes. The actual voice of any majority of students is best heard by pressing a mute button. VSM turns the sound down, CSM amplifies it 10 fold - but neither truly reflect the opinions of students.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Oh, and another point on governance/representation. Until sometime in the early 00s, postgraduate students were not members of the Otago association. I'm not sure exactly how it went down, but now postgraduates are members of OUSA so that they can elect someone to represent them on all of the postgraduate committees &c.

    The university agreed that postgraduate students should be represented through OUSA as being best for them. Previously they'd been represented through the university postgraduate office and a... it was kind of a postgraduate social club. The 1999 VSM referendum (which included all students including postgraduates) meant that OUSA could make them members legally. I think all postgraduate students were surveyed and their returns came back largely in favour.

    They pay half the levy of an undergraduate (which I argued was stupid, but OUSA were weak).

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    More seriously, I think the discussion is really around the scope of activities conducted by students' associations, in the same way there is discussion around the scope of local (and central) government activities. Students associations do play a governance role in their institutions. Perhaps a more appropriate solution would be to reconstitute them in that light.

    I certainly have no problem with students electing representatives to University Councils and Academic Boards, etc.. Indeed, the Education Act already provides for that in some measure in tertiary institutions without compulsory memberships of students' associations.

    Reconstituting students' associations into a different role, is, unfortunately, as problematic as making them compulsory. If the students at Victoria University want to band together to form the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association, I'm certainly not going to stand in their way to prevent them advocating whatever they want. If they want to be an advocacy/political organisation that is just as powerful a manifestation of their right to freedom of association as that right is represented by others in not joining.

    I just don't want them to be able to force others along for the ride.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    VSM turns the sound down, CSM amplifies it 10 fold - but neither truly reflect the opinions of students.

    I seem to have missed where you made an actual point.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I asked whether there was a compelling state interest in making student membership compulsory.

    But here's the thing. They're only compulsory where students have decided they want them to be - and they have the option of becoming non-compulsory should at any time they decide otherwise. If students want voluntary organisations, they get them. The 1999 National Government legislation had exactly that purpose.

    What we're talking about here is compulsory non-compulsion.

    A cynic would say this is because students haven't made the right decisions about their organisations.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I just don't want them to be able to force others along for the ride.

    And that is the point. It isn't a small group - a majority of students have decided that membership should stay compulsory.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Do I have a choice in whether or not I pay towards Rodger Douglas' income? No I don't but in spite of representing less than 1% of the population he seems to think he has a right to push his batshit ideas.
    The idea of voluntary Student Association membership is a perennial right wing, pseudo liberal, dogma, as is Union bashing. The old divide and rule tactic.

    The anti-nuclear movement, the anti-Vietnam movement, and the anti-tour movement were all pretty passionate. The Labour Party is pretty passionate. Hell, the VSM movement is pretty passionate. I'm not sure that compulsion would have helped - and even if it would have it certainly wasn't needed.

    And which one of those is an organisation that advocates for students?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    And that is the point. It isn't a small group - a majority of students have decided that membership should stay compulsory.

    1. It was no where near a majority of students.

    2. Almost no-one who voted for compulsion is actually a student any more.

    3. What other fundamental human rights are you willing to submit to simple majority rule?

    If a majority of New Zealanders voted in favour of child smacking would that make you support it?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    And which one of those is an organisation that advocates for students?.

    I'd have thought all of them.

    The idea of voluntary Student Association membership is a perennial right wing, pseudo liberal, dogma, as is Union bashing.

    I don't care why others support it, or whether it has a history of being a fashionable cause in this circle or that. I - almost certainly naïvely - argued that this shouldn't be about politics. I stick to that.

    Sometimes those historically of the left have advanced the cause of human freedom, sometimes those of the right. I don't care that Lincoln was a Republican - that he fought against slavery is good enough for me. Much smaller potatoes this time around, but I'm arguing for an idea, not a side.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    Yes, the weakest student voice emanates from those students who must volunteer to speak it.

    It was always darkly amusing watching naive young students who had voted for VSM suddenly faced with the consequences of their actions. "Hang on, where have all the student services gone? Why does everything suddenly suck?" It was like an inadvertent lesson in the benefits of unionism.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    If a majority of New Zealanders voted in favour of child smacking would that make you support it?

    If a political party campaigned on that premise and won, we would have to live with it, whether we supported it or not, until the next election at least. sometimes Democracy sucks, get over it.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    3. What other fundamental human rights are you willing to submit to simple majority rule?

    So why must I be forced to be a member of the University of Canterbury then? The VC says a bunch of stuff I very much disagree with all the bloody time on behalf of the University; isn't that a fundamental violation of my human rights?

    No, of course it isn't, because Universities are more than just degree factories; they're self-governing etc, and to do that they have to involve a degree of compulsion, that being a function of governments. Why the forced membership of the University is legit but forced membership of the UCSA isn't it beyond me*.

    (And it's utterly dodge to say that VSM has no connection to the fact the student unions are generally left. It's like saying that Paris I - XIII exist for purely academic reasons.)

    * Which, by the way, is an utterly incompetent lapdog of the administration, and currently appears to be so far up the arse of Peter Dunne it isn't funny, so hardly a hotbed of lefty radicalism.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    At this point in time you have a choice of attending a university with a fully functioning Student Association. Funded for students, by students. Or a university that doggedly toes the liberal line of freedom for those that grab it.
    If Douglas gets his way you will not have that choice. End of friggin' story.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    So why must I be forced to be a member of the University of Canterbury then?

    Keir - as I note in a comment above, if someone was proposing legislation that stopped the mandated university-membership of all undergraduates and graduates I wouldn't have a problem with it.

    I'd join voluntarily, but if someone wants to be a graduate (or undergraduate) and not be a member of the University, why would I want to stop them? It is, I suspect, a hangover from a time of much greater collegiality, and I further suspect, a time when universities were closer to religious orders. In a liberal democracy which respects the right to freedom of association it is probably past time that this was gone.

    Given you don't seem to support compulsory membership of universities why do you (I assume) support compulsory membership of students' associations?

    it's utterly dodge to say that VSM has no connection to the fact the student unions are generally left

    I don't believe I said that - was this a response to someone else? Because it's probably true. The support many on the right have for VSM will doubtless be influenced by their experiences under majority-left students' associations.

    I just don't care what their political stripes; merely whether they're correct. In this case I think they are.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

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