Young Nats concerned over legitimacy of OUSA


A very low turnout in recent by-elections for the Otago University Students Association has led Southern Young Nationals to question OUSA’s legitimacy:

The Postgraduate Representative, Thomas Koentges, received a total of 83 votes, and the International Student Officer, Art Kojarunchitt received 64 votes. 166 people voted in the by-election for the post graduate officer, and 102 voted in the by-election for the international student officer.

“This number is not at all representative of either the postgraduate or international communities. We are concerned at the legitimacy these two have in making decisions about such a large amount of capital students pay into each year” Liam Kernaghan, Chairman of the Southern Young Nationals said.

“But this goes further than these two elections. OUSA elections, like every other student association around the country, are notoriously unrepresentative of the student body, and for the power which is vested into the elected officials. We don’t think it’s fair the 20,000 students who pay levies to OUSA should be bound to decisions made by less than 0.005% of the campus population.”

“Democracy only works when everyone turns up. When 100 people turn out to vote, you really have to consider the benefits of a ‘democratically elected’ compulsory union.”

If this is how few people bother to vote when membership is compulsory OUSA will have to work to show it is relevant to students once they can choose to join the association or not.

By-elections almost always attract fewer voters but the turnout at annual elections is low too.

Currently less than 10% of the entire student populace votes at the major elections every year. This says to me either the students don’t care for the OUSA, and in which case the OUSA should recognise the inherent rights to freedom of association, or the students don’t understand what the OUSA provides, and therefore should make a better effort to consolidate student support”.

The Southern Young Nationals are not “against the OUSA. We think they provide some fantastic services which benefit the vast majority of students. We’d just like students to have the choice to be part of it, rather than be made to”

“We strongly encourage OUSA to take proactive steps to building a fantastic organisation that can both better represent the student voice, and that can stand up in a voluntary environment.

OUSA does provide a good range of services for students, it is also has some good investments which reduces its dependence on student fees. But it has a problem if only 10% of its members are sufficiently informed or interested in the association to vote.

Labour student bribe on Monday?


The ODT’s front page story  says the government is putting $12.5m into the country’s first design institute which is to be established in Dunedin.

It also suggests Labour will offer another student bribe:

Miss Clark is scheduled to be in the city on Monday visiting the University of Otago, where she is expected to make a “significant” announcement about student funding.

. . . Students are expecting some help with either a universal student allowance or some adjustment to tertiary fees and the Otago University Students’ Association is tipping a packed common room of up to 500 students when Miss Clark speaks there on Monday.

The announcement of interest-free student loans trumped National on the eve of the last election.

The state of the nation’s books ought to preclude such tax-payer funded largesse this time, but the need to be responsible hasn’t stopped them before.

OUSA president-elect challenges disqualification


Otago University Students Association president-elect Jo Moore  is challenging her disqualification.

The grounds on which independent election arbitrator, Prof Paul Roth, of the Otago University Law Faculty, based the disqualification were:

He found Miss Moore had exceeded the $1000 spending limit imposed on presidential candidates – partly in respect of a party, during which beer had been provided and voting had taken place on a laptop computer.

The use of candidate-run polling stations, operated by a candidate personally or her associates, sometimes with “refreshments on offer” had “no place in a fair and impartial election process”, Prof Roth said.

Association election rules require candidates and their advertising materials to be 20m from any polling stations.

Given the proliferation of lap tops it would be virtually impossible to police that last rule.

There is a lesson to be learnt here for candidates in the general election though because rules about “treating” also apply to parliamentary elections. It’s okay to provide a cup of tea and a biscuit, but shouting an alcoholic drink at the pub comes under the category of treating and could cost a candidate her/his seat.

The promises of post-election treats with tax payers’ money comes under the umbrella of vote-buying policy and don’t count.

OUSA president-elect disqualified


Otago University Students Association president-elect Jo Moore has been disqualifed from next year’s presidency.

The association’s rules mean the next highest polling candidate Edwin Darlow will become president in 2009.

You can read ths story here.

OUSA president wants 4-day student week


Newly elected Otago University Students Association president Jo Moore is promoting the idea of a four-day week for students with no lectures on Fridays and departments closed to students.

Some departments, including commerce, already operated that way, although buildings were open to students, she said.

Not being required on campus on Fridays would enable students to study or take part-time jobs, would save on campus consumables and cleaning costs and would lower carbon emissions and be better for the environment.

Yes students might get part-time work and there would be a day’s less mess to clean. But if five day’s of lectures, tutorials and labs were squeezed in to four days would they need more staff and rooms?

I’m not sure about the environmental benefits either. Heating lots of individual flats would probably take more power than heating university buildings and if staff are at work the buildings will still need heating.

When I was a student one of the considerations when choosing a course was the timetable. But the popularity of those with late starts on Monday, early finishes on Friday or no classes at all on one of those days was purely coincidental. 🙂

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