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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, No. 1, March 1, 1976

Dirty Business

Dirty Business

The Students' Association executive has been split wide open over the unexpected dismissal of the office manager, Mrs Goodall.

A meeting of the executive on 10 February asked for her resignation after a long discussion in closed committee about the running of the association office.

The Key motion, moved by Vice President Steve Underwood and seconded by SRC Co-ordinator Anthony Ward, read:

"That the Executive is not satisfied with Mrs Goodall's performance as office manager and therefore resolves:
a)to request Mrs Goodall to resign effective from 12 March, and to communicate her resignation to the executive by 4pm on 13 Feb.
b)failing (a), to dismiss Mrs Goodall from 12 March, notice to be given from 4pm on 13 February.
c)that with receipt of Mrs Goodall's resignation an extra month's salary be paid as severance pay.
d)that Mrs Goodall be given the option of ceasing work at any date up to 5 March, with a weeks' prior notice without affecting salary payments to 12 March."

This motion was debated for over two hours and was finally passed 4-2 with one abstention. Those voting for the motion were Steve Underwood, Anthony Ward, Rae Mazengarb and Mike Curtis, those against were Gyles Beckford and John Henderson, with Anne Dwyer abstaining. Scott Wilson, Peter Aagaard and Peter Thrush were not present.


Although the matter was debated in closed committee, within 24 hours many people both on and off campus were aware of every detail of the discussion.

Rumours and counter-rumours spread far and wide and fairly soon the real issue was clouded by stories of personal vengeances and hatreds that located the association office in the midst of the 1920's Chicago gang wars, rather than on the edge of a dull university.

Fuelling the intrigue were all sorts of ideas on the reasons for Mrs Goodall's dismissal. I was informed of the 'facts' (which seemed to me more like a burst of rhetoric!) in a letter from Christchurch, which called upon me to 'expose this terrible injustice'. Other people, such as Publications Officer John Henderson, informed me that it was an ideological battle in which capitalist Underwood was imposing his will on the revolutionary masses (i.e. John Henderson and Gyles Beckford).

Accomodation Officer Scott Wilson summed it up at the last executive meeting when he commented on the 'cloak and dagger attitude that surrounded the whole affair' and he suggested that for the association's sake it would be better if it was brought out into the open.

Access to Facts

Even getting access to the motions passed at that executive meeting proved quite a task for there was no record of them in the minutes.

While the politics continued the real facts slipped further and further away. Why was Mrs Goodall asked to resign? Was the decision justified? Were there other alternatives open?

Salient interviewed Gyles Beckford, John Henderson, Steve Underwood and Anthony Ward, as well as seeking comments from other executive members.

According to Anthony Ward and Steve Underwood there had been 'problems' in the Association office for some time, both in the relationships between the office manager and other staff members, and between the office manager and particular executive members.

For the other side, Gyles Beckford and John Henderson both acknowledged that problems had occurred in the past, but Gyles said that he thought, on the whole, the office was running 'particularly smoothly' and that 'most people seemed to be happy in there'.

Reorganisation Needed

Steve emphasised his belief that 'the number of people in the office was in excess of that required to do the job' and because the association's wage and salary bills were too high, there would need to be some reorganisation. This could possibly have been done by maintaining the staff at three while at the same time reorganising the office duties and responsibilities so that efficiency was increased.

But unfortunately before any of these ideas could be implemented the matter came to a head when Mrs Goodall hired (without executive approval) a full-time telephonist at $90 a week.

Although, in this matter, she had greatly exceeded both her financial and administrative responsibilities, this incident did not seem to be the main point at issue. The executive voted unanimously on a motion that read:

"As there is no need for a fourth fulltime staff member in the Studass Office, and as VUWSA cannot afford this expenditure, that no appointment be made"

Drawing of a scarecrow being eaten by birds

quickly clearing the matter up by employing the fourth staff member, the telephonist, only for the duration of the first term.

Why, if this matter was tidied up with everyone's consent, did they proceed on with the motion to dismiss Mrs Goodall? What were the options open to them in solving what they saw to be quite a serious problem?

Alternative Options

Anthony Ward said there were three alternatives. They could have left the office as it was, they could have given the office manager a month to improve things, or they could have taken the action they did.

"I had been aware of a good deal of unease in the office for some time, but it wasn't until a couple of days before the executive meeting that I became aware of how serious the situation was. At that stage I realised that something would have to be done. It was a very reluctant action."

Steve acknowledged that one of the alternatives would have been to approach the office manager and tell her that he was dissatisfied with certain aspects of her work.

"Given the nature of the office manager this would not have worked and in fact would probably have split the executive, because what was said to my face would probably be different to what would be said behind my back."

He said the factors that made him opt for this decision were financial considerations, plus the efficiency, and the general atmosphere in the Students' Association office.

"There was a feeling of urgency about it. It had to be sorted out and had to be done quickly. It was not a thing that could be allowed to drag on."

And so the act has been done, with minimal mess to clean up (or so it seems!). Mrs Goodall is packed off home with her month's severance pay and the executive is in tatters. John Henderson, always good for a look into the future, has predicted that now the line has been drawn, executive members "will be at each other hammer and tongs all year."

However, Gyles, Steve and Anthony, along with other executive members, are quite happy to let the matter rest so that they can get back to the efficient running of the Association. But with so many questions unanswered, will the issue linger on to haunt them?