Eight years of paying student union membership leaves me with some authority to comment on the reasonableness of the concept. I do not support VSM and do not have a problem with a small portion of my fees (less than a hundred bucks of more than five thousand) going to the union. I don’t feel trapped, captured or aggrieved in any way. I find the blatant disregard of the weight of relevant public opinion on this by NACT to be dismal…another example of an abuse of democracy. VSM is clearly unpopular amongst the existing unions (obviously), students (you know, the ones paying) and tertiary institutions (unions pick up a lot of pastoral care work). I too am aggrieved to such an extent that I will run for my union this year just to pitch in to deal with this very rocky transition period (if the punters elect me of course)….
VSM is likely to sharpen up the performance of unions and to make sure they make it clear what they do well and what they offer. That is not of itself a bad thing – but there are other ways to correct past poor performance that some of the NACTs noted, that falls short of decimating the system. I also appreciate the arguments for the freedom of association, they have substance: but what concerns me most is that the introduction of VSM will be practically divisive.
The union activities and offers are presently available to all students on campus (barriung opt-outs). They are centres of activity and an important part of campus culture. The University of Waikato’s academic year is peppered with events run by WSU including weekly free lunches, concerts, club events and ongoing direct support of the many campus clubs and associations.
To destabilise this financial base and ensure that WSU benefits are delivered to only WSU members is likely to be adminstratively difficult, reduce the opportunities for unifying the student body and reduce the funding available to many fledgling clubs that seek to bring about involvement by people perhaps not otherwise engaged in campus life. I see grave practical outcomes that worry me….so I’ll stay on after VSM. I’ll pay my $90 for 12 months, I’ll cruise down and grab a free pig in a blanket now and then, and enjoy the great night that is Club Awards… I hope that the food bank, the student advocacy and the pastoral care offers will continue and I hope I won’t need them. And I hope students after have that choice…but it’s looking grim.
There are ways and means of addressing the issues NACT are crowing about…but this isn’t it. The unions allegedly collapsed last time VSM came in…why are we forever repeating history under this government? The $90 I pay is lost in the more than five thousand dollars I pay in fees…I spend more time wondering what the rest buys me really….