Salient.Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 32, No. 17 July 23, 1969
Opinion — Student Power etc
Student Power etc.
I Take it as axiomatic that students should always be on the lookout for ways of increasing their collective power relative to society's decision-making and opinion-forming processes, and more especially to the university administration.
I shall be brief: this aim, if thoroughly pursued, fits in with that of democratising student politics. I do not hold with the theory that Exec. members "represent" the mass of the students, for seldom do candidates oppose one another on clear-cut, opposing platforms. The issues are the personalities, who end up "representing" only themselves and a small group of friends.
The A.G.M.s, S.G.M.s, and S.R.C. provide all the direct democracy that is necessary. If the number of Executive portfolios is decreased, all that will happen is that, although the average student will have no more control over his own affairs, the university administration will have to take over more of the donkey-work and the principle I mention in my first paragraph will be contravened.
The myth one hears about Exec. members doing no work amid a continuous round of cocktail parties is a typical rumour—its source is a small fire whose smoke served to cloud the issue. The amount of work an Exec. member does depends mainly on his own intentions, for in most cases there is a fair bit he could do—Gerard Curry felt it necessary last Exec. meeting to critcise the infrequent attendance at meetings of some (unnamed) members, for example.
The House Committee Chairman, for example, which I have recently become, has less authority than he might have. Past holders of this office seem, for some reason, to have let their powers slide into the hands of the Hon. Secretary of the Studass, the Managing Secretary of the Student Union, the Studass Office Manager, the S.U.B. Caretakers, and the N.C.C. Chaplain to a large extent. There is at present no Quiet Room Committee, which should be a subcommittee of the House Committee, which at present has no members, although five applications have come in since the beginning of the year. Since the quorum is five, and not everyone can be expected to attend every meeting, I shall be calling for further applications.
I shall conclude by drawing together the threads of my argument, by referring to my earlier statement that the aim of increasing student power fits in with that of democratising student politics. An Exec. member, of course, with a lazy or non-existent sub-commitee cannot hope to make the most of his potential authority because of lack of time. He needs to delegate a large part of his functions to his subcommittee. So it seems to me that if a large number of students wants a democratisation of student poltics, their best pledge of good faith is to become an active member of one or more sub-committees—that is, if they don't all succeed in getting a post on Exec. or as a Student Representative to some part of the University administrative machinery—and to actually do some work towards increasing student power and using it effectively!
So many students are apathetic or disparaging in regard of student politics that it is only right that the power should go to those who are interested enough to go to meetings and, more especially, to do some of the administering.