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Vic students vote to keep their national voice

Vic students vote to keep their national voice

25 September 2015

Media Release: New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations

Students at Victoria University of Wellington have voted to stay in the national student movement by a 45-point margin in a referendum held this week.

Students were asked whether their local association, VUWSA, should ‘withdraw membership’ or ‘retain membership’ of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations.

Over 72% of students who voted opted to stay, in what the national student president Rory McCourt calls an affirmation of Victoria students’ values and confirmation that NZUSA is on the right track.

“Vic students voted 2:1 to keep their national voice. Talking to hundreds of them in the last couple of weeks it was clear that they thought it was really important that the student movement was united and that we spoke with one voice on loans, allowances and student debt.”

“They liked that the national student movement has been standing up for them on things like our pitiful course-related costs loan, growing stress and anxiety on campus, and ballooning student debt. They liked that we’ve been competent, articulate and professional in our advocacy. They like that we worked with the Government to bring down Studylink call and processing times, rather than just throwing stones.”

“This result is confirmation that when we focus on the basics and do a good job for students they really notice. The next step is validating their renewed faith in us by building a movement that a growing number of students are a part of. We should not accept that the student movement’s days are done -not when we have so much still to fight for.”

"We'll also take on board the feedback of those who think there's improvements that need to be made to NZUSA. We want to build a national movement students can be proud of -including the 27% who thought VUWSA should withdraw. Expect to see further reforms soon."

Victoria students last voted on the matter in 2013. In that referendum 63 per cent of VUWSA members voted for to stay in NZUSA, with 37 per cent voting to withdraw. The 2014 student executive then overturned that decision and began to withdraw anyway. This referendum is thought to put the matter to bed.

Due to a resolution passed at the VUWSA AGM last month the result is binding and any future withdrawal from the national student movement must similarly be decided by a referendum of members.

The campaign to stay was low-cost and relied on talking to thousands of students. It picked up endorsements from NZUSA alumni Grant Robertson and Jan Logie, as well as support from across the political spectrum from NZ First MP Tracey Martin, and National Party pollster David Farrar saying he would vote to stay if he were a student.

Paul Smith, who is president of the Auckland University Students’ Association and sits on the movement’s national executive, says the result is heartening, and “shows that NZUSA retains a clear mandate as the national student voice. This is great news for students and an expression of national unity.”

“The real work starts now, and the challenge for all of us who make up NZUSA is to channel this momentum. We must and will continue to achieve important gains for students nationwide.”

McCourt says “Now that Vic is firmly back in the national student movement, we can finally direct our whole energy to fighting on behalf of students. With student debt hitting $15 billion in just five months, it’s time to get cracking.”

Preliminary Referendum Result:

Should VUWSA withdraw its membership of NZUSA, or retain its membership of NZUSA:

Retain Membership - 1251 (72.4%)

Withdraw Membership - 476 (27.5%)

Total - 1727


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