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Associations Misrepresent Students Over Scheme

Associations Misrepresent Students Over Savings Scheme Student Choice

Student associations around New Zealand have come out attacking the Government's tertiary savings scheme, claiming that students are against the idea despite having done no research at all to establish what students think. Recently press releases have been sent out by the New Zealand Students University Students Association (NZUSA) as well as compulsory associations from the Otago Polytechnic, the University of Otago, Waikato University and Victoria University (Wellington), all claiming that students oppose the scheme and are committed to working against it.

Student Choice spokesperson Glenn Peoples today asked whether it was honest or accurate for an association to say such things without making an effort to canvass students for opinion first. "If you look at what these organisations are saying, it's fairly clear what they are trying to make people believe. All throughout their statements are claims like 'students say,' 'students have rejected,' 'students think,' 'students are calling this the worst move in decades,' or 'students are promising action against this,' when in reality those associations firstly haven't even asked students what they think of the scheme, and secondly are populated by students who were forced to join by law in the first place. The cynical process is fairly clear. Students are being used as pawns to prop up the views of student politicians. They must be 'represented' by these people because they have no option but to join, but in reality the association leadership says whatever it likes, claiming that this is the view of 'the students'."

Peoples cites one example as particularly illustrative of the problem. "Take Victoria University student association for example. According to sources, the association executive itself debated the issue after NZUSA claimed to speak for all students, because there was a level of annoyance being expressed that students had not been consulted first. And yet the very next day without the association's permission, the president Jeremy Greenbrook was issuing a press release attacking the savings scheme on behalf of all students - without consulting them! How much more farcical could so-called representation be?" He added, "If these statements tell the government anything, they tell them that they can safely ignore the voice of student associations, since they clearly do not represent the people they claim to. Is that really the situation NZUSA wants to encourage?"

Peoples said that regardless of the merits of the savings scheme, the only way for associations to genuinely represent the views of members is for compulsory membership to end. "It's a basic liberty all New Zealanders have a right to enjoy. If you agree with the views expressed by an organisation, you can join it. If not, you are free to not join. It's simple really."

Student Choice upholds voluntary student association membership on the grounds of freedom of association


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