Message on behalf of TEU, urgent meeting at Victoria University of Wellington this afternoon.

Media Advisory:
Meeting 4pm Thursday 18 August, MacLaurin Lecture Theatre,
Kelburn campus, Victoria University

The decision announced earlier today to sack two lecturers in Victoria University’s International Relations programme to make way for new “themes” in the programme based around Security Studies and the Asia-Pacific region will lend urgency to a meeting of staff, students, University Council members and MPs scheduled for 4pm Thursday 18 August at the Kelburn Campus’ MacLaurin Lecture Theatre 102.

“We can’t tell exactly who will be attending the meeting other than students and staff at this stage,” says Tertiary Education Union Organiser, Michael Gilchrist, “but we see the current changes as a watershed issue for the future direction of the university.”

“There is no question of a lack of funds or student demand in the programme. On the contrary, an additional investment is being made. But younger staff, attempting to raise a family and build an academic career, are losing their jobs.

“We are particularly concerned that the university’s Academic and Faculty Boards, representing students and staff have not been consulted and that recent resignations in the programme have not been used to avoid making staff redundant.

“Likewise, students see the alarming implications for the courses they are taught, the relationships they have with lecturers and their plans for progression within disciplines if changes in the wind of management thinking can have this kind of effect.”

**For further information please contact**

Michael Gilchrist 021 770 846 or 04 463 5058

Further information on the situation at Victoria is also available at www.teu.ac.nz

Update:
There is another meeting happening to discuss the change proposal and responses to the VUW Council, on Wednesday 24 August at 5pm, until 8pm, in the Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University of Wellington.

This meeting is being called to discuss, organise and coordinate nationwide resistance on campus.

Amongst other things, the university is under attack from the government, with VSM set to pass in the next month. It is also under attack from its own management, with lecturers being sacked and research shut down in Wellington; whilst key academic conditions are being taken from academic staff in Auckland.

Robbie Shilliam, a lecturer in International Relations at VUW, will speak briefly about general issues.

Joe Kelly, an ex-student, will speak about past experiences of occupations which have occurred at VUW.

We will then discuss how to most effectively build resistance on campus, and make some plans.

Please invite anyone you think might be interested.

The change proposal can be accessed here.

Gang-rape cartoon in Orientation-week Salient

This week’s issue of Salient has a new cartoon by Grant Buist, a former friend of mine. I say former, because this is really going to be the last straw.

You see, the cartoon, which can be found on his blog, has a panel depicting a first-year student in a very short dress, struggling to keep her door shut, on a ‘rubgy player’ – with the caption: she “narrowly avoids impregnation by rugby team during Orientation”.
This cartoon purports to be a 21st century update of Hogath’s famous 18th century series of engravings, “The Rake’s Progress”(background here), and is proposed to run as a serial in this year’s magazine.

Buist has excused himself thus:

Actually, something good that may come out of this would be discussion of the issue I’m highlighting above – many 18-year-old girls get massively shitfaced during Orientation, and are preyed upon. If you look at the crime incident maps distributed by the police (which are sometimes reproduced in Magneto), you can see that many of Wellington’s sexual assaults are committed in dark alleys near Courtenay Place, where hopelessly drunk girls have stumbled while trying to get home. It’s entirely possible, considering how the Orientation issue of Salient is full of advice for first-years, that some girls may read this panel and think “Right. Something to avoid.”

Really, if there’s anyone who should be annoyed, it’s rugby teams.

So, it’s just ‘one more time round the block’ for the tired old argument that ‘girls bring rape on themselves’, and we should police women’s behaviour – not that rapists are criminals, and we should police men’s behaviours.

There’s another good post on the subject here.

If you also find this offensive, please tell the editor of Salient, Sarah Robson, editor@salient.org.nz, as she has already replied to one member of the VUW Women’s Group that she thinks it’s not a big issue. I guess she just doesn’t get the point.

Wassup with the VUW School of Gender & Women’s Studies?

Most of you know I’m currently an academic feminist.

If it had been up to the VUW Academic Board, this would not be so.
At long last, Dr Lesley Hall has been confirmed in her position for another year, and the undergraduate papers in the School of Gender & Women’s Studies (GWS) will remain.

Great news, I hear you say.
Well, yes, but not for the mass of undergraduates who have been trying to enrol in papers that have not shown on the VUW enrolement website, nor have they been confirmed in any on or offline prospectuses so far.

It is a travesty of education policy to arbitrarily choose from one academic year to next whether courses will be continued, as the VUW Council have been wont to do with GWS over the past few enrolement seasons.
“Oh noes, we have falling enrolements, we must cut courses”, they say, when their late approval of courses has contributed to uncertainty about course provision – along with the mega-PR campaign encouraging undergrad students to enrol early online, where the courses don’t show.

So, if you, or anyone you know, had intended to take a Gend paper this coming academic year, jump back on the website and dump that Accy or Eng paper you chose instead, and create a huge paper trail of grumpy feminist students who want their courses back!

Rant over.

Tonite, and tomorrow afternoon, some students are graduating with majors in GWS, including (soon to be) Dr Alison Hopkins.
I shall be joining the other post-grad students in progress to congratulate Alison and the others, at our School pre-grad morning tea, then joining the procession in Lambton Quay as a ‘sidewalk photographer’ to record the achievements of those of my peers who have finished theses despite the distinctly unwelcome air we have studied in, as Fac Ed and FHSS fight over the living, breathing bodies of our postgrad students.
But I’ll save the ongoings of that argument for another post!

Here’s something pretty from back in 2008, when we first started complaining about the cuts to facilities for GWS.

2008 protest poster

2008 protest poster

Students as workers Week Panel with Unionists at VUW

Despite the rainy night and the presence of a significant crowd in the Bar on campus, a good turnout showed to the panel discussion organised by Vuwsa and NZUSA on the topic of “The importance of students being collectively organised when the global economy carks it”.

Sue B, Peter Conway, Andrew Little speaking, Jordan King, MC.

Sue B, Peter Conway, Andrew Little speaking, Jordan King, MC.

The panel comprised Jordan King of NZUSA, MC-ing, with Sue Bradford MP, Green party spokesperson on employment and union issues; Andrew Little, President of the Labour Party and National Secretary of the EPMU; and Peter Conway, Secretary of the CTU.

Each speaker in turn gave some insights into their years as students – Sue in the 60’s & early 70’s at Auckland Uni, then again in the 80’s doing her MA, was involved in some of the great student activism efforts, against Vietnam War, Springbok Tours, and Anti-nuclear demos; Andrew and Peter were both at VUW, Andrew as President of Vuwsa for some of his time, Peter admitting to involvement in campus Folk Music and Communist clubs (…a heady combination!)

All three stressed the changes they’d seen, for the worse, in the amount of time students have to engage in clubs and politics on campus, due to the onerous requirements of work necessary to keep fed and housed, since the removal of universal student bursaries when the student loan scheme came into force in the early 90’s.

There was a lot of general discussion about the impact of the recession – which Sue B likened to a ‘phony war’ over the last 18 months to two years – which may this year begin to be felt by students, as job retrenchment begins to hit families who have been supporting their children at university, and as part-time positions dry up in the workplaces traditionally supplying casualised jobs to students.

Whereas factories and industrial sites have been gradually laying off workers as demand for consumption has eased over the past year, which has seen many unions negotiating better terms for staff, student jobs haven’t been as much affected yet; although the VC’s committees and TEC have been bracing for a roll-on effect as redundant employees register for tertiary education, to make the best of a shrinking job market by taking the opportunity to upskill during the downturn – a pattern of behaviour that is repeating the experiences of workers made redundant around the time of the ‘87 crash; to which there are many parallels in the current recessionary period.

All of the speakers stressed that the Government needs to be made accountable for the quality of the decisions that are being made around where ‘recession relief’ spending is to be done, and questioning whether big ticket projects such as roading or buildings should be balanced by investment in upskilling workers via tertiary institution funding, with suggestions that 2009 may be our “Winter of Discontent”.

A short but lively discussion concluded the evening, which carried on for about half an hour longer than the event had been advertised, resulting in some time-pressed individuals leaving during the question time.