Otago University Students' Association

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Otago University
Students' Association
OUSA logo.jpg
Institution University of Otago
Location Dunedin, New Zealand
Established 1890
President Francisco Hernandez
Members c. 20,000
Affiliations New Zealand Union of Students' Associations
Website Official Website

The Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) is the Students' Association of the University of Otago, New Zealand.

OUSA provides "representation, welfare, advocacy, recreation, fun events and media"[1] for its members. Via its wholly owned subsidiary Planet Media Dunedin Limited, OUSA funds a student magazine, Critic, and a radio station, Radio One.


OUSA was founded in 1890, and its colourful history has been documented in the book Ritual Songs of Defiance by Sam Elworthy,[2] published for the 1990 centenary.

As well as providing facilities and student representation on university committees, the students' association began to provide services and facilities for its members. The first Student Union building, providing meeting rooms, men's and women's common rooms and a cafeteria, was established in 1904 in Allen Hall, which is today the university's theatre department. In the 1960s a much bigger Student Union was built, and in the 1980s an adjoining building was added to house the OUSA offices, Radio One, Critic and Student Job Search. The Clubs and Societies building provides a home to over 100 student clubs and a variety of activities, with fitness and recreation opportunities provided at Unipol, jointly owned with the Otago Polytechnic Students' Association. OUSA also owns the University Book Shop and Student Job Search.

Over the years the Students' Association has had its share of controversy, frequently around risqué activities during Capping (graduation) week. In 1990, student parties spilled over into the infamous "Dunedin Riot",[3] which badly damaged public opinion of students at a time when student politicians were actively lobbying and protesting against the introduction of tertiary tuition fees. The arguments against tuition fees included researched predictions of massive graduate debt and increased "brain drain" – graduates leaving the country for lucrative overseas positions. OUSA and students' associations around the country protested vigorously – up to 5,000 people marched in Dunedin alone – but were unable to stop the fees which were introduced in 1991.

The introduction of tuition fees has led to an increased focus on quality of education, with improvements to the student representative system and more student input on teaching and assessment. At the same time, the growing student population has meant that OUSA services from recreation facilities to student media have become businesses in their own right.


Under the Education Act 1989, membership in OUSA was compulsory for students enrolled at the University of Otago.[4] However, since 2011 the Government made all students' association in New Zealand voluntary membership.


The Association is headed by an eleven-member executive led by the OUSA President. Members are usually elected each August and serve from January to December the following year.[5] The Executive consists of: The President, Administrative Vice-President, Finance and Services Officer, Welfare Officer, Education Officer, Campaigns Officer, Recreation Officer, Colleges and Communications Officer, International Representative and Post-graduate Representative. Weekly Executive meetings are open to all members, and Student General Meetings (SGMs) are held periodically throughout the year to consult with and engage the wider student body.

The current executive is as follows:[6]

  • President: Ruby Sycamore Smith
  • Admin VP: Ryan Edgar
  • Finance Officer: Paul Hunt
  • Welfare Officer: Payal Ramritu
  • Education Officer: Laura Harris
  • Campaigns Officer: Hamish Barker
  • Recreation Officer: Henri Faulkner
  • Colleges and Communications Officer: Jess McLeann
  • International Representative: Kamil Ebrahim Saifuddin
  • Postgraduate Representative: Kurt Purdon
  • Te Roopu Maori President: Mariana Te Pou

In September 2008, president-elect Jo Moore was disqualified from becoming the 2009 president after a complaint she came within 20 m of a polling facility during voting was upheld.[7]

In July 2010, the OUSA executive was controversially restructured. Initiated by President Harriet Geoghegan, the new executive would have ten members: President, Administrative Vice President, Finances and Services Officer, Education Officer, Welfare Officer, and five general representatives each holding a portfolio: Postgraduate Students, International Students, Campaigns, Recreation, and Colleges and Communications.[8] A referendum on the issue resulted in a 72.19% vote for the new structure caused a large amount of complaints, none of which were upheld, and divided the existing OUSA Executive.[9][10]

The OUSA main office is run by a General Manager (Darrel Hall), Association Secretary (Donna Jones)along with an Accounts Administrator and three part-time receptionists.

Clubs and Societies[edit]

OUSA Recreation Centre (previously Clubs & Societies Centre) in 2009

Many of the student clubs and societies operated under the auspices of OUSA have long traditions within Otago University. The Otago University Debating Society predates the association and was in fact members of this society who initiated the students' association in 1890. Other long-standing groups include the Otago University Tramping Club, the Otago University Rowing Club and the Otago University Medical Students Association. Today there are more than 100 clubs and societies affiliated to OUSA, representing the huge range of ethnicities, religions, politics, sports and interests of Otago students, from Otago University NORML[11] to Roleplaying to the Organisation for Global Nonviolent Action (OGNA).


  1. ^ Otago University Students' Association. "About OUSA". Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Sam Elworthy (1990). Ritual Songs of Defiance. Otago University Students' Association. ISBN 978-0-473-00899-4. ISBN 0-473-00899-8. 
  3. ^ W.S. McCallum. "New Zealand Student Politics 1980s–1990s". Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  4. ^ "Section 229A". Education Act 1989 No 80 (as at 01 February 2011). New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  5. ^ "The OUSA Executive". Otago University Students' Association. Archived from the original on 2008-07-30. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  6. ^ THE OUSA EXECUTIVE. ousa.org.nz
  7. ^ "OUSA president-elect stunned at dumping". New Zealand Herald. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  8. ^ "Elections – OUSA Otago University Students Association". Retrieved 2010-08-09. 
  9. ^ Hollingworth, Julia (26 July 2010). "OUSA Surviour contest turns nasty". Critic (2010/17): 8. ISSN 0111-0365. OCLC 173348156. Retrieved 10 August 2010. 
  10. ^ Hollingworth, Julia (9 August 2010). "Referendum: Will. Not. Die.". Critic (2010/19): 9. ISSN 0111-0365. OCLC 173348156. Retrieved 10 August 2010. 
  11. ^ "OUSA Clubs and Societies Wiki". OUSA. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 

External links[edit]