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Student politicians trash SIT's zero fee brand

Student politicians trash SIT's zero fee brand

The student politician-promoted reimposition of compulsory student association levies at the Southland Institute of Technology (SIT) has undermined the institution's ability to brand itself as 'zero fee', Student Choice spokesman Glenn Peoples said today.

Student politicians from the New Zealand University Students Association (NZUSA) and Dunedin associations pushed a return to compulsory membership in a referendum completed at SIT this week. A majority of students who voted in the referendum opted for compulsory membership, but the turnout and actual margins have not been announced. In a referendum held in 2001 SIT students voted overwhelmingly for voluntary membership.

As a result of this week's vote, students enrolling at SIT must now pay a levy to student politicians even though the institution promotes itself as charging 'zero fees'. The new compulsory fee is not yet known but could be $100 per fulltime student, in line with the compulsory association fees at many polytechnics. This could add $400,000 a year to the cost of attending SIT. The new levy will be collected by SIT at enrolment and then handed to student politicians.

Legislation enabling compulsory membership referenda was introduced in 2000 by tertiary education minister Steve Maharey.

The hypocrisy from student politicians is astounding. The same people who this week have been complaining about fees and the "shame of debt" have now imposed an unnecessary new cost on SIT students.

Ironically student politicians claim the compulsory fee will be used to fight tertiary fee increases and student debt. The new fee will add to total debt as compulsory association levies can be borrowed under the student loan scheme.

The action of NZUSA and the Dunedin associations show student politicians are not interested in the legitimate representation of students; all they want is students' money.

Students should be allowed to make an individual decision about association membership, rather than having membership forced upon them by referenda.

Glenn Peoples 03 473 8638

Student Choice upholds voluntary student association membership for all students on the grounds of freedom of association.

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