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Educating Student ‘Choice’

Educating Student ‘Choice’

Student Choice, largely an ACT Party off-shoot, issued an arrogant and demeaning media release dictating how National Radio's education correspondent Gael Woods should interpret their cause (15 Sept, Educating Gael: (#1) Representation And Legitimacy ). While their release was mostly an excuse to create a story where none exists, it will largely be ignored by public and media as such.

However, it does contain distortions and untruths that need to be corrected for anyone who does take an interest in this otherwise dead and boring issue.

Student Choice claims students’ associations do not reflect the view of students because “students haven't given their permission to compulsory student associations, these groups can't legitimately claim to reflect the views of all their members”. This argument, if drawn to its logical conclusion, expects that students’ associations can not hold a view on anything unless 100% of its members agree 100% with the proposed view. Associations have never claimed this impossibility, but merely the informed majority view of its members.

Further, Student Choice consistently fails to reveal that all students’ associations have conscientious objection clauses, whereby a member can opt out of membership if they are unhappy with its views. Perhaps Student Choice are being a little mischievous in not revealing this as it demonstrates that membership is not in fact compulsory as such, but more universal.

They also claim “Compulsory membership is offensive because it contravenes the principle of freedom of association.” This is simply untrue, and Student Choice has viewed legal opinions to this effect. Freedom of association simply grants people the freedom to associate with whom they choose to. Universal or ‘compulsory’ membership of students’ associations does not in any way preclude students from associating with whom they choose.

It is also claimed “Most students have never said that they want to join a student association or have student politicians speak on their behalf.” Again, wrong. As Student Choice is well aware the vast majority of students voted in favour of compulsory membership only a few years ago. In fact all associations other than Auckland University voted to be compulsory – and a referendum to change Auckland University back to compulsory has just ended this week.

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