Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 20. 1972
Dissension Turns Nzusa Catatonic
[unclear: Dissension] Turns Nzusa Catatonic
[unclear: The] national student body almost committed suicide at its latest meeting as [unclear: t] recriminated over the defeat of expansion plans many had pinned high [unclear: opes] on. From the first day when the proposals for a National Union of [unclear: students] were rubbished to the last day when NZUSA found itself unable to [unclear: gree] on a President for 1973, the whole Winter Council was a rather nasty [unclear: affair].
[unclear: Most] of the trouble stemmed from the fate of the National Union of Students [unclear: roposals]. Victoria students had opposed the proposals at two S.R.C. meetings [unclear: nd] delegates had orders to press for the delay or abandonment of the scheme.
[unclear: They], together with the NZUSA people and most other delegates, still saw [unclear: he] implementation of the scheme as a near certainty. At a meeting a few [unclear: lays] before the Council, however, a Canterbury S.R.C. meeting reversed its [unclear: arlier] decision and came out against the proposals.
[unclear: ith] verbal support from several members [unclear: if] the Auckland and Waikato delegations, [unclear: e] Victoria delegates by means of cajoling [unclear: nd] threatening, managed to achieve a delay [unclear: t] the approval of the scheme until May of 1973. The opinion is commonly held that [unclear: his] delay has dealt a death blow to the [unclear: cheme].
[unclear: ertainly], the vote for a delay angered many, [unclear: ot] least the delegates to the STANZ meeting [unclear: which] was in progress in the same building. [unclear: They] had gathered in Christchurch with the [unclear: ssurance] from their guide and mentor ex[unclear: -ZUSA] Education Research Officer Lindsay [unclear: right], that approval of the scheme was im [unclear: inent]. When told that this was no longer [unclear: he] case their meeting lost much of its point [unclear: nd] they were understandably disgruntled. [unclear: hey] battled on for another few days how[unclear: ver] and by the end, having voted to doub [unclear: e] their levy they emerged quite strongly in [unclear: heir] own right. Certainly they remained [unclear: airly] united, with a few obvious exceptions [unclear: ho] walked out.
[unclear: lot] so with big bad NZUSA. A real con[unclear: ict] emerged in the proceedings at all [unclear: commissions] between those delegates [unclear: (primarily] from the South Island) who saw the [unclear: ole] of the student's association as [unclear: essentiay] that of a service organisation, and those [unclear: thers] who demanded a more political role [unclear: or] the body. It was often made clear that [unclear: large] contradiction exists between the [unclear: adical], even tentatively socialist policies which NZUSA is adopting, and the class interests of its members who are predominantly from upper income groups in our society.
Everything went wrong for NZUSA throughout the Council. Many important financial matters had to be deferred (including approval of the 1973 budget) due to the absence of the Treasurer. Errol Millar, who up till a short time ago was the Administrative Officer for NZUSA, was forced to be absent for personal reasons.
By Sunday, still two days before the Presidential election, likely candidates were beginning to canvass for support amongst the delegates. David Cuthbert had made it clear after the failure of the NUS proposals that he was unwilling to stand for a third time as President of NZUSA, and so left the field wide open. Jim Crichton from Canterbury declared himself as a candidate fairly early in the piece, so the remaining question was who would stand against him. Crichton didn't appeal to many of the delegates, particularly the more radical wing who regarded him as too conservative. Crichton is certainly something less than a charismatic leader, and was prominent in the fight against the adoption of the slogan 'Victory to the NLF' recently at Canterbury. Otherwise he was known as a possibly capable administrator.
The other early canditate was Peter Fletcher from Waikato. While there is no doubt as to his radicalism, Fletcher has for long been unable to convince many people that he is a capable organiser, though many wise-heads in the north have known him to carry through some pretty difficult deals. Fletcher handed round an amusing life history as his curriculum vitae, but the reaction was preetty much 'if it makes me laugh it must be joke'.
After a fair bit of lobbying around the place Gary Emms, the present Education Vice-President of NZUSA and ex-Massey President, announced that he would stand. Emms is well-known and popular, but the Soul Islanders especially tended to regard him as lacking administrative ability. Emms while he was visiting China last year stood for the 1972 Presidency against David Cuthbert.
Elections were held on Tuesday morning, the last day of the Council. Emms and Fletcher made short statements and answered questions from the chief delegates. Then Crichton arrived and announced in melodramatic tones that he was withdrawing from the election because of 'complete disillusionment with NZUSA'. He never really explained why he was disillusioned, or why the feeling had come upon him so suddenly. He gave the impression that it was mainly because he felt so many people were trying to knife him in the back. This reporter could only find a couple who weren't as a matter of fact, and they were aiming their knifes at me at the time. One was Crichton and the other one of his mates. Still, that's been going on in NZUSA for years now, and judging from Lin Piao's experience its fashionable all over the world.
Shocked by all this, the delegates proceeded to vote and most of them courageously opted for abstention. Victoria for the information of its students cast all its votes for Emms Emms received the most votes in the secret ballot, but failed to gain a majority which he needed for victory. Faced with such a vote of no-confidence Emms withdrew from any further ballots, and was followed in this by Fletcher.
At this point the feeling around the table was very tense, and most felt that it was hardly worth continuing with the formal business. All the delegates left the table and sat around in a large circle talking about NZUSA. It was a best session of the Council, with some blunt but interesting statements being made from a broad range of delegates. Nearly all registered some measure of dissatisfaction with the way NZUSA was headed, though at this stage most criticism was of a productive nature.
After a break for lunch however the mood had begun to get more backbiting and nasty, John Howell, President of Otago, whom I will depart from my normal impartiality to describe as a pious little prick, left the Council in a huff. Things straggled on until the late afternoon when delegates decided to return to the table to conduct what formal business was absolutely vital for the next few months. At this point David Cuthbert was leading the proceedings again and delegates followed willingly. It was clear that his firm hand left many of the delegates lost when it was withdrawn. Much of the trauma NZUSA is facing seems to stem from the impending loss of Cuthbert.
There's not much formal business to report. A special meeting of NZUSA will be held in Wellington in September to finalise the budget and to ratify policy (what can't be done by post. Otherwise two impending junkets were the major items on the agenda. One will go to Japan during finals this year on the pay of the Japanese Government. The trip is for two students and will be followed by a cruise down the eastern Pacific. It is not political in aim, but NZUSA hopes that whoever it selects to send will use the chance to forge some contacts with Japanese student associations. Many delegates expressed disapproval of the trip which they felt was an example of 'junketing' which was not available to most students. The other, and vastly more important trip which is coming up is a student delegation to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Sometime in November two New Zealand' students will join two from Australia and one from the University of the South Pacific on a tour there. Criteria for the tour and definite information will be widely circulated later, but it is clear that a high degree of political committment is regarded as essental by NZUSA leaders. The trip could be the most important event that has occurred for many years. NZUSA has agreed to back the tour financially.
So that was Winter Council 1972. We still have to elect a President for 1973 - a task which will be handled at the September meeting as well. Crichton is out for good now, having announced (that he will not stand again in the Christchurch Press) his own press release. No other candidates have appeared up to this point. NZUSA desperately needs a new President who is sufficient of a leader to take them through their present troubles and be a dominant figure if the rugby tour arrives in 1973. He or she needs some administrative competence but would be better off without getting carried away with it. Most of all he or she must have the ability to relate to individual students. If you know anyone like that, for Christ's sake make them apply.