“Let’s make VSM a Treaty claim”… Oh help us…
According to a press release put out today by the New Zealand University Students Association, Maori students have put a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal to say that the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill 2009 is a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi. They have submitted this “due to the negative impacts this Bill will have on Māori development and advancement”.
I have a couple issues with this that I am willing to post here. I do have more, but I will probably get a boot up the backside for mentioning some of them. Firstly, what is this to do with the Treaty of Waitangi? The Treaty has three written articles and one verbal article. The three written articles cover sovereignty, possession of lands etc and giving the Maori the rights of British citizens. The verbal article covers the freedom of religion. How are any of these articles relevant to VSM? If anything, if you link freedom of religion in with freedom of association, VSM is actually in standing with the Treaty.
Secondly, what is the Waitangi Tribunal going to do? They can’t stop Parliament passing the Bill, because that would be a breach of Parliamentary Sovereignty. They can say “oh, it might be a good idea to not do this…”, but that’s going to only have persuasive power, and (hopefully) not much of that even.
Lastly, it is not condescending at the best and racist at the worst to say that Maori students aren’t smart enough to decide if they should join the student union? If they have needs that are going to be met by the student union, they will join. If they don’t, they won’t. To say that Maori need to be forced into this decision it plain wrong.
Students associations will survive VSM if they are being managed efficiently, free from fraud and offer services that students want. If a student union is going to offer a room specifically for women that is only ever used by two or three women for example, that’s going to result in a poor return on investment and therefore the association is likely to run into trouble. However, if students associations create a student culture and foster this, and offer necessary services like advocacy, they will survive and come out of VSM stronger. I accept that some supporters of VSM are supporting VSM simply because they don’t like their local student association and hope it will destroy them. But I am clearly not of that mind. I would not be running for the Waikato Students’ Union Board if I wanted student associations to fail.
Posted on September 7, 2011, in New Zealand Politics and tagged Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill 2009, students associations, Treaty of Waitangi, Voluntary Student Membership, VSM, Waikato Students Union, Waitangi Tribunal. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.