AUSA turns down scholarship as it is from a pro-life group

January 14th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Pro-Life Auckland writes:

I’m the President of Prolife Auckland, which is a University of Auckland club committed to advocating for the rights and personhood of unborn children. I’m aware from reading Kiwiblog that you’re personally prochoice, however I think you’ll agree that the issues around ideological capture and groupthink are much broader than that particular debate, and I get the impression that you are generally supportive of freedom of expression.

By way of background, our club is setting up a scholarship to help pay childcare costs for solo mother students. We’ll be fundraising for this in the hope that we can help at least one young woman per semester through her students – obviously financial circumstances can be pretty difficult following the birth of a child. We like to think that our “pro-life” philosophy is pretty holistic so we’re putting our money where our mouth is.

We wanted to offer the scholarship under the auspices of AUSA and to get their support in promoting it, so I approached them sometime in October with a proposal. Imagine our surprise when the official answer we (eventually!) received was that they weren’t interested in helping us to help solo mothers. Given that their entire function is to serve the student population, I think it’s appalling they are prepared to allow ideology to get in the way of student welfare. I also don’t think it’s fair for the student union to hold itself out as representing all students when dissenting opinions are suppressed. It just goes to show, I think, that student union membership should be voluntary.

Oh, and by the way, I find it particularly ironic that this decision was made with the full support of AUSA’s President, Paul Smith, who earlier this year at the Auckland Writers Festival made a speech in his capacity as AUSA President on the absolute right to offend and to freedom of expression. The debate is mentioned here: however further details can be found here: I quote:

“Paul Smith, President of the University of Auckland Debating Society, opened by pointing out that free speech is the cornerstone of personal freedom and democracy. He said that offense is subjective and that people have the option of not engaging with what offends them. Referencing marriage and gender equality, he said that offense can be a catalyst for change and that the veneer of protection against offense is often used as an excuse to shut down ideas.”

I’m pro-choice, but that doesn’t matter.  AUSA should not be refusing a genuine offer of assistance to students, just because they don’t agree with the views of the group.


What this means is that an Auckland student who may have been able to get their childcare costs paid for, now won’t be able to, unless Pro-life can work around AUSA.

Auckland University funding NZUSA

October 29th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

There is a very interesting Employment Relations Authority determination just published between AUSA and its former general manager.

The determination itself is basically about how AUSA almost went bankrupt, and the General Manager didn’t keep the Executive well enough informed. They were deemed justified in sacking him for this. They will be pleased their actions were justified by the ruling. In fact they seem to have followed better process than many other employers.

But what really struck me from the determination was this extract:

The Office of the Vice Chancellor (OVC) informed that in order to assist AUSA to be “a progressive and sustainable student organisation that delivers high quality services to students”, it was prepared to amend the 2012 Services Agreement to include funding of the NZUSA and SJS levies.

That is beyond outrageous. NZUSA is a political lobby group that gets involves with highly contentious non-core student issues such as asset sales. To have Auckland University agree to fund NZUSA is nuts. I can only presume that Auckland University has so much money it can spend some on funding lobby groups. well the Government should remember that the next time the university claims it needs more taxpayer funding.

Even worse, the Parliament of New Zealand passed a law mandating that membership of student associations must be voluntary. Having the university fund AUSA for its membership of NZUSA is a clear subversion of the law.

As I said, the easy thing for the Government to do is use this as an example every time the tertiary sector claims it has not enough money. What next – will Auckland University also start funding Greypower on behalf of its mature students?

Is Shadows in trouble

November 3rd, 2012 at 4:12 pm by David Farrar

Shadows is the Auckland University based bar – a legendary part of Auckland student politics.

Adam Rowland has FB’d:

The Food/Beverage side of AUSA has gone into voluntary liquidation. What will become of Shads now? Or can we expect a McDonalds in its place?

A look at the Companies Office confirms it is in liquidation. Bacchid own Shadows, the quad cafe and I think the catering service.

Grant Thornton were appointed by the AUSA Services Trust as liquidators on 31 October 2012.

No news of this on the AUSA website. I would have thought telling your members was a good idea.

AUSA President and Israel

September 10th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Students for Justice in Palestine has Facebooked:

In July, the AUSA President took a ten day trip to visit illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine. The trip was funded by the Israeli government which targeted two prominent young leaders from both young labour and young Nats and our AUSA president.

Students for Justice in Palestine call for an official apology from the President of our Students’ Association, Arena Williams, for her disregard for human rights, for visiting an apartheid country under an international boycott, for being unfair and bias on such a contentious issue, for not representing or consulting with students, for not adequately addressing student concerns after they had been raised directly with her, for not being direct, transparent or inclusive and for her disregard for New Zealand’s long history of social justice, especially since AUSA stood up against South African apartheid in the 80’s by supporting the international boycott movement.

Say NO to Israeli apartheid and NO to the normalisation of Israeli occupation. Instead of normalising relations with Israel we need to look towards the student unions worldwide who have officially recognised BDS policies as part of their constitutions.

Censure the AUSA President’s trip to apartheid-Israel.

Wednesday 1pm Quad.

I believe AUSA is better served by focusing on student welfare and education, rather than the Middle East.
However just like other employees, student presidents can take leave. And I see nothing wrong with people visiting Israel, as a guest of their Government. In fact I have done it myself. That doesn’t mean you automatically agree with everything Israel does. But it actually allows you an opportunity to learn more about their perspective, and debate issues and behaviour with them.
I’ve also been to Iran. That doesn’t mean I endorse their Government. What was good about Iran was meeting so many lovely Iranians, and realising that we should avoid conflating a country with a Government.

A victory for free speech

July 19th, 2012 at 8:07 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Anti-abortion group ProLife has been allowed to stay as a club within the Auckland University Students’ Association despite complaints the group was harassing vulnerable students on campus.

The association had received two complaints about pamphlets containing “misinformed” health information on abortions being distributed by the group, and of students feeling harassed.

The association held a meeting yesterday to decide whether the group should be disaffiliated.

There was heated debate during the meeting, which attracted about 300 people, and students eventually voted 225 to 117 to allow the club to stay within the association.

ProLife New Zealand spokeswoman Rachel Wong disputed the club had done anything wrong in the first place.

She said the association failed to communicate with the club after receiving an “anonymous” and “unsubstantiated” email complaint.

The Right to Know pamphlet carries the slogan: “Hands up if you’ve heard this before: Abortion is a safe, simple medical procedure.”

Wong said the pamphlets, distributed for two weeks in May, were not confrontational.

“For us, the main issue is freedom of speech. Clubs should be able to voice their opinions at uni and express their ideas.”

I’m very glad AUSA members voted against disaffiliating Prolife. A university campus especially should be tolerant of unpopular speech.

Some advice for Prolife though – having the right to do something, doesn’t mean it is a good idea to do it. Personally I think handing out pamphlets on the health risks of abortions to random female students is not a great idea. You have the right to do so, but I doubt that tactic helps your cause much.

Is there freedom of speech at Auckland University?

July 17th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Prolife NZ has said:

Prolife New Zealand (PLNZ) is alarmed at the fact that Auckland student club, Prolife Auckland, is this week facing the possibility of disaffiliation simply for engaging in an act of freedom of expression at the Auckland University campus. …

In May this year Auckland University student club ProLife Auckland, in a peaceful and non-confrontational manner, distributed a one-page leaflet titled ‘Right to Know’.

The pamphlet advocated for the right of women to know the common health risks associated with abortion and the alternatives available to them, so that they can make truly informed decisions when faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy. The campaign pamphlet was distributed by PLNZ clubs at universities across New Zealand and contained a link to a webpage with further information and resources.

On the basis of one single anonymous, unsubstantiated email allegation, claiming that the pamphlets contained ‘misleading health information’ and ‘lies about health procedures’, the AUSA called a Special General Meeting (SGM) to disaffiliate student club Prolife Auckland.

Not only was this allegation never properly investigated by the AUSA, and the AUSA deliberations regarding this matter conducted in secrecy, but Prolife Auckland were never even informed that an SGM had been called to disaffiliate them – they found this out by sheer chance a week after the decision had been made by the AUSA.

More importantly, the claims of ‘misleading health information’ still remain completely unproven, in fact the medical statements in the pamphlet are supported by reference footnotes to a number of reputable medical journals.

Since Prolife Auckland’s inception it has come up against unwarranted resistance and intimidation at the University of Auckland. This is in contrast to PLNZ’s other branches at Victoria, Canterbury and Massey University in Palmerston North, which have been permitted to peaceably contribute to the free exchange of ideas on campus without fear of reprisal – the cornerstone of academic freedom.

This attempt to ban ProLife Auckland and the complete disregard for natural justice in this case, only serves to further highlight the prejudice of an intolerant minority against the affiliation of pro-life clubs at the University of Auckland. Most alarmingly, it shows that certain members of the AUSA Executive are willing to deny students their human right to freedom of expression simply for peacefully expressing themselves on campus.

I am pro-choice, not pro-life (to use their term). If I was on campus and someone handed me a flyer informing me of the health risks of abortion, I would probably politely suggest they should procreate with themselves.

However I absolutely defend their right to not just hold their views, but to promote them. On a university campus especially, freedom of speech should be the paramount value.

AUSA should not be deciding if the pamphlets have “misleading health information” any more than they should decide if political party pamphlets are misleading. Would they disaffiliate (for example) Princes Street Labour if someone complained about one of their pamphlets. If material is misleading, there are a number of regulatory bodies that can be complained to. It is not a decision for a small group of student politicians.

I would comment to all AUSA members the words of Noam Chomsky:

“with regard to freedom of speech there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it and prefer Stalinist/fascist standards”

I hope that all those who disagree with the views of ProlifeNZ still defend their right to express their views and be able to operate on campus as an affiliated club.

Does AUSA believe in freedom of speech?

June 5th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Amy Maas at Stuff reports:

An anti-abortion club at Auckland University may be disaffiliated after students complained about being harassed by its members.

Auckland University Student Association president Arena Williams has called for a special general meeting next month, which could see ProLife Auckland being barred from associating itself with the university.

An announcement for the meeting said the association would consider whether the “Prolife Club be disaffiliated for propagating harmful misinformation [sic]”.

“Recently we’ve received complaints from students after [ProLife Auckland] handed out fliers at the campus,” said Williams.

“On the fliers there was information which some felt was pressuring them into making different decisions than they normally would.”

The “Right to Know” flier carries the slogan: “Hands up if you’ve heard this before: ‘Abortion is a safe, simple medical procedure’.”

Williams said it was “quite uncommon” for clubs to be disaffiliated, but said ProLife wasn’t being treated unfairly.

“The complaints we received were serious because it was about spreading information which could be harmful to student health.

“They were using something which was seen to skew peoples’ views and had included information that had no medical grounds.”

It is worth recalling that AUSA, while nominally voluntary, gets funded by all students through the university.

If handing out pamphlets that may skew people’s views is a reason for disaffiliation, then I can only presume Princes St Labour and Alfred St National are not affiliated? And including information not backed up by science must mean the Greens are a goner.

Williams said it was not appropriate for her to say how the distributed information was harmful.

Really? You’re proposing to kick them out, and won’t say how?

 “I think the issue is serious because the people who complained were being affronted.

“Some of the people they were handing out fliers to had already been through the horrible experience of having an abortion, so it’s very, very concerning.”

I am sure it is unpleasant. But freedom of speech is about defending unpopular and unpleasant speech.  Universities of all places should respect that.

Arrest Rewards

July 26th, 2008 at 10:13 am by David Farrar

AUSA has retracted its $5,000 reward for anyone who makes a citizen’s arrest of Condoleezza Rice. I suspect someone pointed out to them their liability if a student trying to “win” the $5,000 got seriously injured doing so.

The AUSA President, David Do, who offered the reward is an active Labour Party member and a former Princes Street Branch Chair. Maybe a journalist can ask Helen her view of her party members trying to get the US Secretary of State arrested? [UPDATE: David Do tells me he resigned his Labour Party membership last year]

I’ve been told that the even bigger dicks in VUWSA has gone and offered a $10,000 reward – if true this would be from compulsory student fees.

The Canterbury student politicians seem more sensible, quoting the UCSA Blog:

As a student association, is this really their core business? Does arresting Condi help students in any way?

It’s crazy shit like this, which casts doubt on the credibility of Student representatives/politicians, and really hampers the effectiveness of our core responsibility, which is to represent students at our respective Universities.

Meanwhile Whale Oil offers his own $5,000 reward for a citizen’s arrest:

Popular and competent blogger Whaleoil has followed the lead of the Auckland University Students Association in offering a $5000 reward for the arrest of a well known criminal who has recently entered New Zealand: Winston Peters.

Cameron notes:

“And just before Peter Low gets on the phone, the competition is not open to triad gangs,” adds Slater.

Heh. For the avoidance of doubt I will point out the post is satire, not a literal accusation of criminal behaviour!


July 24th, 2008 at 4:49 pm by David Farrar

The Auckland University Students’ Association has offered $5,000 reward to anyone who arrests US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to New Zealand this weekend.

What a bunch of halfwits.

The AUSA is in theory voluntary membership, but in reality Auckland University hands over a big dosh of money each year to fund them. That means either student money or government money is being used to find this reward.

All the more reason one should have true voluntary membership of student associations – no back door funding deals from universities as they have in Auckland and Canterbury. Let them be totally reliant on persuading students to hand over their money, and see how long such idiocy lasts?