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Move to strike off compulsory student union

Move to strike off Whitireia’s compulsory student union

Pro-voluntary membership group Student Choice has moved to have the compulsory Whitireia Independent Students Association (WISA), currently at the centre of a police investigation, removed from the register of incorporated societies.

Student Choice has taken this action to prevent Whitireia Polytechnic students from being forced to pay almost $200,000 to WISA in 2011.

WISA has serious governance problems. According to the Dominion Post almost $1 million in student money, taken by WISA, is missing. Membership of WISA remains compulsory and despite the possible loss of $1 million Whitireia Polytechnic students will still be forced to pay more money to WISA in 2011.

The problems at WISA have their root cause in compulsory membership. Under compulsory membership student unions have excessively high levels of income. As students are forced to join groups like WISA they don't take an active interest in these organisations. This gives a small number of people control over large amounts of money and makes fraud easier.

Student Choice opposes compulsory membership of student unions and supports the Freedom of Association bill, currently before the Education select committee. The bill, if passed, will make membership of student unions voluntary.

The Whitireia case is the latest in a long line of frauds involving student money: 2003, Massey Wellington Students Association lost $203,000 2005, Victoria University Maori students association lost $161,000 2008, Christchurch Polytechnic Students Association lost $175,000.

Fraud is the most graphic example of the abuse caused by compulsory membership. The most serious problem caused by compulsion is political misrepresentation where students are forced to fund political causes that they don’t support.

In the wider community voluntary membership has been shown to be the best way to deliver accountable and transparent incorporated societies. Voluntary membership means groups have to persuade people of the benefits of membership and ensure members’ money is used legitimately.


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