Victoria University has decided to have student representatives on their university council (which is a good thing), but has decided to appoint them themselves, rather than allow them to be elected.
The most controversial proposal is the removal of the ten democratically-elected student, staff and alumni seats, and their replacement with four appointed seats. A seven-strong Appointments Panel—made up of the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, two people nominated by Council, the VUWSA President, one Te Aka Matua (the Māori Advisory Committee) nominee, and one academic staff member—will appoint these and three other seats.
VUWSA President Rick Zwaan slammed the changes as undemocratic. He said the proposal “suggests that a panel of seven council appointees are better placed to choose a student representative than the 22,000 people this person would endeavour to represent”.
This is a bad idea. First of all the Vice-Chancellor who reports to the Council, should not be sitting on a panel that decides who will be on the Council. It makes the VC far far too powerful. And will a VC choose people likely to challenge how he or she runs VUW? Of course not.
Also the Appointment Panel will be dominated by the incumbent Council, so again is likely to resist candidates who believe things can be done differently or better.
Students fund 30% or so of the university. They have a vital interest in the governance of the university. The Council should simply run an election process with students, to decide their two reps.
A possible compromise is to turn the Appointments Panel into an Advisory Panel. They could interview and scrutinise the candidates standing and advise on which candidates they feel would be good members of the Council. But it would be up to the students to decide whether or not to take their advice.