A reader writes:

Because of the new legislation, the is no longer allowed to force students to join their union. Because the union no longer represents all students, as some students choose not to join (64% have not joined despite membership being free) the university no longer sees them as being representative of all students.

This has resulted in the WSU losing its default seat on the university council, and the university holding its own elections. The WSU has elected to stand a candidate in this election. There are three other candidates. Voting is done online, and the university has done a terrible job regulating and enforcing the election.

The WSU has found a way to get around the VSM legislation which stopped them forcing students to pay their fee’s by simply becoming a “service provider” for the university. This allows their fee to be charged to students via the student services levy, regardless of whether they join the union or not. As part of this agreement the WSU is funded to provide services such as student media – Nexus Magazine.

The student union clearly decided that the biggest election on campus was not news worthy and failed to run profiles etc of the candidates to inform students of their options, however, felt it was appropriate to have their candidate, Sapphire Gillard (the WSU President), promoted in the magazine with a full page. No other candidates were advertised.

The WSU also felt it was appropriate to have paid WSU staff campaigning throughout the election, with laptops set up, and posters advertising the WSU candidate plastered behind on a backdrop, offering cake (which the president apparently paid for herself) and tea, coffee, and hot chocolate (which the WSU paid for) to students who voted. This raises questions of fairness in the campaign, given some of the other candidates are WSU members.

What value to students get from this campaign?

Clearly this is not a service the university funds them for?

This is not the first time the WSU and Waikato University have acted unethically.

Students at Waikato voted three times to be voluntary in the 1990s. Then one year the university (when former UK Labour MP Bryan Gould was Vice-Chancellor) scheduled a fresh vote on whether to have WSU voluntary or compulsory. They gave only around three working days notice of the vote and scheduled it for study week when almost no students are on campus. Hence a small number of compulsion touts managed to make WSU compulsory again.

It is outrageous for WSU to use money granted to it from the university, to support their own candidate in an election, rather than allow a fair election.

My view is that if universities have enough money to help fund partisan election campaigns, then they need no more funding from the taxpayer.

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