Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association
MottoYour Students' Association
InstitutionVictoria University of Wellington
LocationWellington, New Zealand
PresidentMarlon Drake (2018); Tamatha Paul (2019)
AffiliationsNew Zealand Union of Students' Associations

The Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (VUWSA) is the official student association at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. VUWSA was established in 1899 as the Victoria University College Students' Society.

Following the enactment of the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill, VUWSA moved from being a compulsory students' association to a voluntary one in 2012.

VUWSA funds the student magazine Salient, and student radio station Salient FM.


The Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (VUWSA) is a representative body for students enrolled at Victoria University.

The VUWSA offices at the top of the Student Union Building, Victoria University of Wellington

VUWSA executive[edit]

The VUWSA executive consists of ten positions who govern the association: the president, academic vice president, welfare vice president, engagement vice president, treasurer–secretary, campaigns officer, clubs and activities officer, education officer, equity officer and wellbeing and sustainability officer.[1]

Notable previous executive members include: Green MP Sue Kedgley, former Wellington Deputy Mayor and university Chancellor Ian McKinnon, Sir Tipene O'Regan, former Cabinet Minister Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, Professor Margaret Clark, and the Labour Party MPs Chris Hipkins and Andrew Little.

VUWSA Executive[edit]

This is the incoming VUWSA Executive as elected on 27 September 2018:

Executive Position 2019 Officeholder 2018 Officeholder
President Tamatha Paul Marlon Drake
Academic Vice-President Angelo "Geo" Robrigado Simran K. Rughani *
Welfare Vice-President Rhianna Morar Bethany Paterson
Engagement Vice-President Josephine Dawson Tamatha Paul
Treasurer-Secretary Delia Fu Jack Donovan
Campaigns Officer Finn Carroll Angelo "Geo" Robrigado
Clubs and Activities Officer Amelia "Millie" Osborne Connor MacLeod
Education Officer Rinaldo Strydom Rhianna Morar
Equity Officer Komal Mahima Singh Paddy Miller
Wellbeing and Sustainability Officer Samantha Mythen Ella Hughes
  • note: Rughani served as AVP in the 2018 Executive until August 2018.

VUWSA president[edit]

Tamatha Paul is the elected president for 2018.


The association employs a number of staff who work for students and assist the executive in achieving its strategic and operational goals. They are led by the general manager, who oversees the financial and operational functions of the association, and includes a student advocate who provides independent and trained representation in cases of misconduct within the university and grievances with bodies such as StudyLink, WINZ, landlords and the university, a student representation coordinator, who coordinates and trains the student representative system consisting of over 600 students ranging from class representatives and faculty delegates, along with conducting regular programme reviews and advising on university policy, an association secretary, an events manager, a communications coordinator, an advertising manager, receptionists, and an accounts administrator.[4]

VUWSA Trust[edit]

The association is supported both financially and strategically by the VUWSA Trust. The trust owns Vic Books, which is a significant source of revenue.[5] The existence of the Trust is not well known by students.

The trust was established in 1975, and built up a significant reserve of assets when membership of student organisations was compulsory. While VUWSA was still collecting membership fees, about 15% of its fees were passed on to the Trust, which had built up around $8 million of assets by 2006.[6] The Trust money was used to support students and clubs on campus, fund long-term investments such as the Student Union Building, and also serve as a backup fund in case VUWSA became a voluntary organisation.[6]

The trust has invested in the fit-out of the Pipitea campus gym, and has also administered the student trust scholarships, fitted out houses for disabled student access and supported Student Job Search.[7] Most recently, the trust made a significant financial contribution to the building of the recently completed Victoria University Hub on behalf of students.[8]

Since the introduction of voluntary student membership, the financial assistance from the trust has enabled the association to reduce its deficit gradually without rapidly depleting its cash reserves.

Notable clubs[edit]

Rowing club[edit]

The Victoria University Rowing Club was founded in 1927 and is run by an elected committee of members (Victoria University of Wellington students), which organises the training, regattas, attendance at Uni Games and various social events.[9]

Victoria University Rowing Club is located just down from Wellington’s Civic Square in Wellington Harbour. Victoria University Rowing shares its boat shed and training facilities with Wellington Rowing Club in a Victorian-style heritage building situated on the waterfront. Facilities include an erg room, changing sheds, a full range of boat sizes, and a secondary boat shed located in Wellington’s (often calmer) north-end.[citation needed]

The pinnacle of the university rowing season is the University Rowing National Championships. This regatta is held at different locations each year and pits university rowers at all levels against each other. The most prestigious race of the regatta is that for the Hebberly Shield; a tradition that dates back to 1928.[citation needed]

The club offers training and attendance at University Rowing National Championships for all levels of rowers from novice to elite.[citation needed]

Debating society[edit]

The Victoria University of Wellington Debating Society, formed in 1899, the society is run by an elected committee of eleven people (Victoria University of Wellington students), which organises regular debating grades, public debates, debating tournaments, and social events.[10]

The society meets regularly during term time and attends national and international tournaments during each of the mid-trimester and trimester breaks. The society also organises the prestigious Plunket Medal Oratory Contest, the oldest prize for public speaking in New Zealand.

Within New Zealand, it has won the Officers' Cup for impromptu debating at the New Zealand University Games sports tournament for the last sixteen years.[11] It is the current holder of the Joynt Scroll for prepared debating, and has now held the Joynt Scroll for the past 8 years. It has won this trophy more than any other university. It has won the NZ British Parliamentary Debating Champs in five of the seven years it has been held.

The society also has a long history of competing in international tournaments. Victoria won the 2010, 2011 and 2014 Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships and reached the Grand Final in 2007, 2009 and 2013, finishing as runner-up on all three occasions.[12] In January 2009, a Victoria team reached the semi-finals of the World Universities Debating Championships in Cork, Ireland, and it has had numerous speakers ranked in the top 10 speakers in the world.

The society has honours boards in the bottom foyer of the historic Hunter Building at Victoria University, which are maintained by the university. The original wooden honours boards were maintained and restored when the Hunter Building itself was restored and renovated in the early 1990s. The honours boards list by year Victoria students who have won the Joynt Scroll, the Bledisloe Medal for Oratory, the Plunket Medal, and the now defunct Union Prize.

Tramping club[edit]

The Victoria University of Wellington Tramping Club was established 1921, making it one of the oldest and largest sports clubs at the university. The club organizes day and weekend tramping trips to the back-country of New Zealand throughout the year. The social aspect of club activities are traditionally strong: 'Bush Ball' (a formal ball or themed party in a backcountry place in May each year) is the main annual social event.[13]


VUWSA was established in 1899 as the Victoria University College Students' Society.

Historically, VUWSA has had a reputation as a left-wing organisation. VUWSA has traditionally maintained a heavy involvement in New Zealand's social and political movements such as the Nuclear Free New Zealand Movement, the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq. In recent years, VUWSA has supported the campaign for the Prostitution Reform Bill, the Civil Union Bill, opposed initiatives to raise the legal drinking age to 20 years, and supported marriage equality.

Since 1937 VUWSA have funded student magazine Salient'. Since 2007 it has funded a station radio station, currently known as Salient FM.


During the presidency of Alastair Shaw between 1997 and 1998, "VUWSA re-introduced the position of women's rights' officer, made moves towards a genuine partnership with Ngai Tauira, and organised a series of mass mobilisations that brought the government's privatisation for tertiary education plans to a halt."[14]


In 2007, President Geoff Hayward and Education Vice-President Paul Brown signed off on spending $22,222.22 on upgrading the organisation's van, with work including tinting the windows, fitting mag-wheels and painting the van black. Subsequently, the details of the expenditure on the van were suppressed by the 2008 Executive. In 2009, the Executive and President Max Hardy apologised to the student body for the misappropriation of funds on the van, and it was announced that the broken down van was to be sold in an attempt to regain some of the original expenditure. Hardy said: "I think we can now put the shameful VUWSA van controversy behind us".[15]

Also in 2007, Salient revealed that acting Women’s Rights Officer Clelia Opie had spent over $4,000 of VUWSA funds on psychic hotlines. She was subsequently dismissed from the role.[16]

In 2008, President Joel Cosgrove courted controversy by wearing a T-shirt which said "I (heart) my penis" to a graduation ceremony in an official capacity. Cosgrove was attempting to promote sexual health for men, but his choice of clothing was widely criticised and labelled embarrassing.[by whom?][17]

In May 2009, President Jasmine Freemantle, who had run for president on a Workers' Party platform, was expelled from the Workers' Party. Furthermore, the Party called for her resignation as VUWSA President. The Party justified its actions by arguing that: "Her actions indicate outright rejection in practice of basic WP – and basic left-wing – principles."[18] Freemantle wrote a long blog post in response, arguing that: "The reality is that my expulsion from the WP says more about the current direction the Party than it does about my politics, or the work I’m currently doing in my role as VUWSA President."[19]

Campaign against voluntary student membership[edit]

In October 2009, Act on Campus orchestrated a special general meeting, and successfully passed a motion "that VUWSA actively supports the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill" by 45 votes to 35. The bill's aim was to introduce voluntary student membership. However, President Jasmine Freemantle subsequently announced that the motion had been declared null and void by the association's lawyer.[20]

Max Hardy (President 2010) at an anti-VSM protest outside Heather Roy's office in 2010

VUWSA actively campaigned against the passing of voluntary student membership in 2010.

Initial stages of voluntary student membership: 2012–2013[edit]

Passing of VSM legislation and impacts[edit]

Bridie Hood (2012 President) speaking at a protest

Following the passing of Heather Roy's Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill in 2011, membership of students' associations became voluntary from the beginning of 2012.[21] In response to the passing of the legislation, VUWSA held a Special General Meeting on 13 October[22] which approved a lowering of membership fees to $0. President Seamus Bradie said that "VUWSA wants to ensure that there are no financial barriers that may deter students from gaining independent representation and having a voice in issues that affect them". He also argued that despite the fact that the association would be funded in the future indirectly through the Student Services Levy which the university collects, the association would remain completely independent.[23]

The effect of VSM on VUWSA's financial position has been significant, with the organisation's income dropping from $2.25 million in 2011 to less than $700,000 in 2013. This drop in income has meant that VUWSA has run a deficit in both 2012 and 2013, funded from pre-VSM cash reserves and grants from the VUWSA Trust. However, VUWSA President for 2013, Rory McCourt, has suggested that the organisation could be out of deficit by as early as 2014.[24]

Salient has argued that although VSM has meant student associations are more stringent and careful in spending student money, the post-VSM environment has reduced financial accountability from the magazine's perspective. This is because the VUWSA Executive is able to move into committee when discussing contracts with the university, thereby barring the magazine from publishing any information about those proceedings. In contrast, under compulsory student membership, Salient was able to criticise and publicise any misspending or financial misdeeds.[16]

The 2013 VUWSA initial general meeting in the Memorial Theatre foyer

In September 2013, at its annual general meeting, the VUWSA Executive moved amendments to the Constitution so that non-VUWSA members would be able to vote in elections for the VUWSA Executive. This constitutional amendment, among others, were passed by the meeting. VUWSA President Rory McCourt argued the amendments were necessary because "[VUWSA’s] about serving all students, and serving them equally. We believe all students have the right to choose who their representatives are”. Salient news editor Chris McIntyre wrote that "VUWSA effectively has a mandate to speak for all students again".[25] The changes allowed non-members to vote in the 2013 VUWSA elections held in early October.

The turnout in recent VUWSA elections as a percentage of enrolled students at VUW.

University Council representation[edit]

After the introduction of VSM, in late 2011, VUWSA lost its seat on Victoria University's University Council as it was seen by the university as no longer having a universal mandate. Instead, the university created a new representative body, the Student Forum, and assigned the chair of that body to be on the University Council. VUWSA eventually withdrew support for the Student Forum, and an intensive representation review was conducted throughout 2013 to canvas student opinion on alternative arrangements. After the recommendations of the representation review were finalised, in December 2013 the University Council of Victoria University voted to give VUWSA back its seat on the council. President Rory McCourt commented: "There was much confusion when the Act Party’s Voluntary Student Membership law was introduced, but we’re heartened our University sees benefit in returning VUWSA to the heart of student representation at Victoria”. The move means that VUWSA is the first students' association in New Zealand to win back its seat on a university council.[26] VUWSA's representative will sit on the University Council alongside another student representative elected at large by students.

VUWSA after the introduction of VSM: 2014–2018[edit]

VUWSA's 2014 Annual General Meeting in the campus hub

In July 2014, VUWSA President Sonya Clark reflected on the impact of voluntary student membership two years after the change:

"If you’re not aware of VSM, this law shook the foundation of students’ associations in New Zealand. Our role as an independent voice suffered hugely – we lost our right to represent you on University boards and committees to a University-run Student Forum. Funding dropped dramatically as we moved from a universal membership fee to an annual negotiation of funding with the University that didn’t cover core costs. We had to close our satellite offices and cut right back on Orientation, events, Clubs funding and other services. The last two years have been tough."[27]

Despite the challenges Clark outlined, she was optimistic about the future of the association, noting that the finances are projected to be out of deficit and the relationship with the university has improved. As part of a process of self-evaluation, VUWSA engaged an independent reviewer to investigate relationships with key partners. The reviewer found that: "VUWSA tries to do too many things, that our reputation rests too much on who is the President at the time, and that VUWSA doesn’t speak enough for the ‘average’ student", findings that VUWSA agreed with.[27]

In September 2014, VUWSA President Sonya Clark announced that after a unanimous vote by the executive, VUWSA would be withdrawing from the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA), saving VUWSA $45,000 every year in membership fees. President Clark said:

"Students gave us the mandate to stay if there were significant reforms. There haven’t been. Now what’s important is having the conversation to make sure there’s a strong national voice on student issues, in a more effective use of $45,000 student dollars. We take our fiduciary responsibility with students’ money seriously."[28]

In September 2015, students voted in a referendum (at the same time as Executive elections) to rejoin NZUSA. 1251 students (72 per cent) voted for VUWSA to rejoin, while 476 students (28 per cent) voted to stay withdrawn.[29]

Increasing Engagement and Activism, 2018-present[edit]

In March 2018, VUWSA together with the VUW Law Students Society marched to the offices of Russel McVeagh in Wellington to protest the growing culture of sexual violence in law firms. In August 2018, VUWSA led a student march to Parliament demanding higher funding for mental health support for tertiary students.

In September 2018, Tamatha Paul became the first ever Māori wahine to be elected president of VUWSA.[30] She leads an executive where majority are people of colour.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The VUWSA Executive". Archived from the original on 20 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  2. ^ Boot, Sophie (7 October 2013). "VUWSA Suffers Electile Dysfunction". Salient. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  3. ^ Barton, G. P. "Frederick Archibald de la Mare". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved September 2014. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ "Staff Profiles". VUWSA. Archived from the original on 23 March 2013.
  5. ^ "Unashamedly retail: a new Vic Books". Booksellers New Zealand. 4 April 2013. Archived from the original on 22 December 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b Kean, Nicola (6 March 2006). "Fresh blood for VUWSA Trust: Former Exec members appointed". Salient magazine. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  7. ^ "About VicBooks". VicBooks blog. VicBooks. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  8. ^ "About the project". Victoria University of Wellington. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  9. ^ Victoria University of Wellington Rowing Club (Inc)
  10. ^ Victoria University of Wellington Debating Society (Inc.)
  11. ^ NZUDC[dead link]
  12. ^ Australs 2010 website Archived 25 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Victoria University of Wellington Tramping Club (VUWTC)
  14. ^ Hamilton, Stephen. A Radical Tradition. p. 206.
  15. ^ Robson, Sarah (31 May 2010). "VUWSA van to be sold". Salient. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  16. ^ a b McCarthy, Molly (18 March 2013). "A Salient Birthday". Salient. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  17. ^ Choi, Seonah (26 May 2008). "Cosgrove's penis embarrasses students, university – A big reaction to a small act". Salient. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  18. ^ Wood, Jackson (15 May 2009). "Workers' Party: WTF". Salient. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  19. ^ Freemantle, Jasmine (14 May 2009). "Jasmine Freemantle expelled from the Workers' Party". Blogger. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  20. ^ Easton, Paul (19 October 2009). "Student union blindsided". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  21. ^ "Voluntary Student Membership Bill now law". Radio New Zealand. 29 September 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  22. ^ "Special General Meeting – Thursday 13 October". Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  23. ^ "SGM passes $0 VUWSA membership fee for 2012". VUWSA website. 2011. Archived from the original on 10 February 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  24. ^ McCourt, Rory (7 October 2013). "The McCourt Report". Salient magazine. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  25. ^ McIntyre, Chris (16 September 2013). "VUWSA Clingy, Makes One Last Grab for Student Body". Salient. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  26. ^ Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (2 December 2013). "VUW students win back representation on university council". Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  27. ^ a b Clark, Sonya (13 July 2014). "Sonya Says". Salient magazine. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  28. ^ Boot, Sophie (25 September 2014). "VUWSA withdraws from NZUSA". Salient. Wellington. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  29. ^ "VUWSA to continue posting $45,000 deficit". Salient magazine. 27 September 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  30. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • S. Hamilton, A Radical Tradition: A History of the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association 1899–1999, VUWSA in association with Steele Roberts Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1-877228-72-9

External links[edit]