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Law Students to be shafted in VUWSA Election

“Democracy, Law Students to be shafted in VUWSA Election”

Daniel Phillips (VUWSA Education Officer) & Bridget Fleming (Law Students’ Society President)

“Democracy is under threat in the upcoming Victoria University Student Association elections,” says VUWSA Education Officer Daniel Phillips. Though not seeking re-election in the upcoming vote Phillips is fuming over several decisions by the VUWSA Election committee that could see student participation in the upcoming elections plummet to an all-time low, “having already rejected a proposal to increase student participation by allowing students to vote by secure text message, the returning officer and the election committee have decided to cut the number of voting booths and nearly halve the hours they’ll be open. Students had 90 hours of polling time over the three-day election last year, this year they’ll barely have 50.”

This year’s election committee has as much money to spend on the election as there was last year. “I hate to think that there could be some sort of ulterior motive to their manoeuvres, but that conclusion seems logical when you look at what’s been cut—TXTvote, used in conjunction with a paper ballot, presented an ideal opportunity to increase the normally dismal voter turnout. Polling times for law and commerce students has also taken a massive hit, cut by more than half.”

"Last year law students were incredibly responsive to my calls to improve activities on campus, and the Law Students' Society has put a lot of effort into their activities this year. I'd bet on law students wanting to pick out candidates this year prepared to improve campus culture. But they have been disenfranchised by not having any polling booths at law school when they are there."

"Students are far too busy to have to walk up to the main campus between classes to vote. What’s more, law students have become accustomed to having polling booths open at the Law School for at least two days. They will wait for the polling booths to open—but the election is simply going to pass them by."

“It’s as if those running the election want to remove moderate candidates and moderate voters, likely to favour a student-focussed, activities-based Association, from the election equation. They seem to be setting the election up so that only those few strongly political students, with whom they themselves are aligned, will be able to vote.”

"The irony is that VUWSA is always purporting to be democratic and is especially critical of actions taken by the University it sees as undemocratic—yet when it comes to its own elections, all the evidence suggests the election committee views students’ votes as unnecessary and burdensome. If students don’t vote, they are less likely to have a stake in the organisation. That is the last thing VUWSA needs."

“I call upon the election committee and the returning officer to immediately rescind this unprincipled abuse of the democratic process—democracy must take precedence over political allegiances. If the election is allowed to continue as is, a massive number of students will find themselves shafted,” Phillips concluded.

Voting at Victoria’s Law School has been cut from a total of 14 hours over the first two days of the election to a mere four hours on the Tuesday. Victoria Law Students’ President Bridget Fleming has reiterated Phillips’ concerns: “the 1800 law students at Victoria will be particularly aggrieved at the election committee’s decision to only offer voting for law students for four hours.”

“Moreover, those four hours are on a Tuesday, at a time when only two of the Law School’s 29 second semester classes are being offered. It seems as if those running the election don’t want law students to have a say,” says Fleming, “we had thought that the Students’ Association at the main Campus was beginning to take law students seriously, but the decision taken by its election committee to effectively disenfranchise a large chunk of Victoria’s student population flies in the face of that.”

“Law students must not be disadvantaged," concluded Bridget Fleming, “VUWSA must ensure that the legitimate expectations of not just law students, but all students, of being able to choose who runs their students' association for the next year are met—or they run the risk of becoming totally irrelevant.”

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