Freedom of association opens doors for Students

Published: Sat 25 Sep 2010 05:17 PM
Freedom of association opens door for genuine student representation
Freedom of association opens door for genuine student representation Media release: Student Choice, 24 September 2010 Categories: education, tertiary education
Pro-voluntary membership group Student Choice applauds the Government’s support for freedom of association for tertiary students and says the decision paves the way for genuine student representation in tertiary institutions.
The end of compulsory membership presents an opportunity for unions and institutions. They can either try to subvert the legislation by using student service fees to prop up student unions or they can fundamentally change their attitude to students.
For unions a change in attitude would mean treating students as customers and figuring out what they actually want and what price they’re prepared to pay for membership. For institutions it would mean no longer treating students as one group who can be represented by someone elected on a five percent turnout.
A change in attitudes would have far-reaching benefits for tertiary education. However the track record of councils and unions means most institutions will try to retain the charade of representation created by compulsion.
The abolition of compulsory membership of tertiary student associations has been long overdue. Compulsory membership has been a long-running disaster for students who have had their views misrepresented and their money wasted by unaccountable, illegitimate student politicians.
Student politicians have only themselves to blame for the demise of compulsory membership. Compulsion allowed associations to take students for granted. They took students’ money and spent it on a privileged few. They arrogantly claimed to speak on behalf of all students even though none had freely decided to join. They continually misrepresented the views of large numbers of students by only presenting one set of political views. Compulsion allowed associations to become lazy, arrogant and ultimately irrelevant.
Students have a lot to gain from the introduction of voluntary membership.

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