Student leaders propose alternative to extreme ACT Bill
Student leaders are today calling for National to adopt a proposal which guarantees every student the right to freedom of association whilst ensuring that strong independent students’ associations can continue to provide credible and effective student representation and cost-effective services. This proposal is a fairer alternative to ACT’s bill to end universal membership of students’ associations.
“Unfortunately, debate on the Bill has been bogged down in an ideological quagmire, with students stuck between the extreme positions that get all the attention – ‘compulsory’ membership, that means some students must be members of organisations they don’t want to be, or the opposite approach which means there is no requirement to have student representative organisations at all, or any ability for students to ensure there is one,” said NZUSA Co-President Max Hardy.
NZUSA is today releasing a practical proposal which would improve the current law which governs students’ associations and provides an enduring solution.
“This is a fair, balanced, and reasonable solution to ensure students can exercise freedom of association while allowing students’ associations to continue to be an independent advocate for students, hold institutions to account, drive a focus on teaching and learning, and provide the wide range of services, experiences, and facilities that students use, need, and enjoy on a daily basis,” says NZUSA Co-President David Do.
The main features include:
• Students will automatically become members of their students’ association when they enrol at a tertiary institution.
• Students may opt-out of their association at any time and for any (or no) reason.
• If students opt-out within the first four weeks of term, they would receive a full refund of any association fees.
• Membership processes would be administered and promoted by the institution rather than the students’ association.
• Associations would improve their governance and operations through a Code of Practice for democracy and accountability.
• The proposed law would come into effect in 2013, ensuring enough time for the sector to make adjustments.
“This practical proposal would do what ACT claim they are trying to achieve with their current Member’s Bill. Students will see this proposal as a fair and sensible alternative, the proposal has widespread support from students’ associations, and echoes suggestions made by submitters during the Select Committee process,” says Hardy.
NZUSA has offered to discuss their alternative to ACT’s Bill in further detail, but no alternative has yet been agreed to by National or ACT.
“This Bill is not in the public interest and should be replaced with fairer alternatives, such as what we have proposed, that ensure the best outcomes for students. We are calling on National to adopt a practical, pragmatic solution and provide the sector with an enduring solution that offers stability and certainty,” concludes Hardy.
NZUSA is the national representative body for tertiary students and has been advocating on student issues since 1929.