Soapbox - 20

Dear OUSA Executive and members of the Wannabe political tribe,

Stop taking yourselves and the job you do so seriously. Having been a student at Otago University (barring a seven-year gap when I actually worked in the pharmaceutical industry, using my PhD and BSc (Hons) for 13 years, I have quite a few changes of administration inside of OUSA.
Many join thinking they will change the world, some join as a joke and end up getting elected, and others – well, I have no idea how they think and I would like to keep it that way.
   When you one day walk into the real world (rather than that yellowing ivory tower in which you currently stand– or is that a house of cards?) you will notice that you don’t get to act this way. You are expected to know what you are doing, and get along with co-workers. You will not make a lasting impact on the world; you will not have stopped a dreadful inequity to Homo sapiens. You are not a special unique snowflake! Indeed, you most likely did not make a lasting impact upon the students of Otago University.
   How many of us remember the names of the members of the Executive the year we joined OUSA? Let’s look at the OUSA Archives ( and look at the pictures. My first year was 1991. What I remember from 1991 was one Felix Geiringer getting himself wedged under the then-Finance Minister Bill Birch’s limousine as he made a slow speed escape from campus after telling students we were about to get a serious cut to our allowances. I think Mr. Geiringer later went onto be an Executive member, but honestly I can’t remember. But that year he was a fellow first-year, not an Exec member.
   What I do remember from my time as a Postgraduate (before we were part of OUSA) in the mid- to late-1990s is that we got shafted by OUSA a lot, and on one memorable occasion, an OUSA-sponsored sit in at the Registry involved an unplugging of all the computers as scholarships (and staff pay) were going through to the banks. The net result was that students who might have been sympathetic (our fees were skyrocketing too) and staff who definitely were sympathetic, got screwed over. Thanks guys, you really impacted me, negatively. I actually saw the whole thing go down from my lab window (Chemistry faces the Registry).
   But what lasting effect does an OUSA Exec member have? Well, thankfully some people who have wanted to stand on somewhat radical platforms (VSM comes to mind) don’t get elected. Indeed, check out this link ( and you will see where some Exec members end up. Thankfully very few of them actually end up in politics, and most seem to be able to act like civil Homo sapiens.
   Every Executive will tell you that the subject at hand is the worst threat to student kind since the black plague. Every election season, thousands of reams of paper, quarries of chalk, and whatever unit you use to measure bandwidth on the net, get wasted on hopeful candidates telling you how they will solve every problem you have, as long as you vote for them, and only them.
   But once they get elected, what do they do? Do they carry through in their promises? Do they actually do anything? What does (say) that divisional rep really do for you? I will give you a hint. Look at meeting minutes of their weekly meetings (or better still, attend one). Look at the angst; see various Exec members stare at each other warily, waiting for that dagger in the kidneys. See the general lack of co-operation. This is what you get with student politics. I say again, the Earth did not end when something happened; there are thousands students on campus, more worried how to pay bills, finish that assignment, or even what to do on Friday night.
   So if you want to help your fellow students just do your damned job, quietly, and leave the drama to your blogs.
   Slan leat (don’t let the door hit your rears on the way out),
    Gareth Thomas

Posted 2:51am Monday 23rd August 2010 by Gareth Thomas.