Voluntary Student Membership (VSM)

A HISTORY OF VOLUNTARY STUDENT MEMBERSHIP (VSM)


On September 28 2011, retiring ACT Party member Heather Roy's Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill passed its third reading in Parliament. The Bill passed with the combined forces of ACT, National and United Future and took effect from January 2012. This means that students' associations no longer receive universal fees from students collected by their Tertiary Education Institution - in our case, Massey University.

So what does this all mean for you as a student?

Since enrolment 2012, students have had to choose whether or not to pay for students' association fees that will no longer be considered Compulsory Student Services Fees and therefore not eligible to be collected directly by Massey at enrolment. If students wish to join - this means reaching into their back pocket and shelling out for the fee directly and for the Association to now be caught up in annual membership drives fighting to persuade students to be members and collectively fund services - the ASA has since made membership free, but this does not solve the funding issue.

Effectively, VSM stripped the ASA of any budget beyond what it might be able to negotiate with Massey directly but this is very limited in size and scope and has had serious long-term effects on staffing levels, and even the ability for us to remain in our offices.

History has shown that removal of compulsory fees has had an immediate and detrimental effect on the level and depth of services that can be offered by students' associations (Australia, Auckland, Waikato, Unitec - all suffered), and it is likely that many services areas will eventually cease to be offered unless they operate on a User Pays basis. This is the underlyng ideological message from ACT and National - 'if you want it - you have to pay for it yourself'.

Imagine private Advocacy rates starting at $100 and progressing upwards; Orientations with Big Day Out entry fee levels - it's all on its way thanks to ACT and National. If it can't make a profit - it will go.

The University has indicated that it wants students' associations placed on a 'commercial footing' - which is ironic considering we have been more transparent and accountable for our members' money than the University has by way of the various pastoral care service areas that it finally has to put on students' tax invoices. The Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey has stated that while 'Massey is loyal to students it has no loyalty to students' associations' - doesn't that just fill you with warm fuzzies.

So here we are - another social support agency under the thumb. If you want the ASA to continue to exist and the quality/range of services to be maintained or improved you and as many other students as possible need to support it. Membership is now free however, so supporting the ASA simply means utilising and enjoying the benefits of our services.

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