OUSA Prez: Does the University Really Care About Student Opinion?

OUSA Prez: Does the University Really Care About Student Opinion?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see the point in end of semester evaluations of your paper and lecturer if nothing ever gets done about it. Everyone seems to tell you it will be used to improve next year’s class, but does it really? Finishing the feedback cycle isn’t just a problem at the lower levels of the University. In my four years at Otago, I only had one lecturer tell us what the students said the year before, and how and why he has changed the paper because of that feedback. Trent Smith, ECON308, you absolute legend.

The University should be leading by example when it comes to consultation, student opinion and feedback. How many of you know how many CCTV cameras are going to be implemented? Exactly. You don’t. The University last year trialed student consultation for the first time on a large-scale project. There were ups and downs, and as useless as OUSA were, they still made a stand and fought for what the students wanted (OUSA opposed the cameras after referendum results showed 51% of students wanted that). Great start from the University. The thing that bothers me the most is that students have no bloody idea what the outcome was of the consultation, and therefore did OUSA really do anything? The University thinks it’s OUSA’s duty to tell students everything, even when it isn’t their project. I can’t say I’m constantly checking their FB or website for updates, but surely there is a way to finish off this feedback loop so students’ opinion feels valued.

In my opinion, Steven Willis, the University’s Chief Operating Officer is one of the best things to happen to student engagement and consultation at the Uni in the last few years. Everything he does revolves around how decisions will affect students. Kudos also to Rachel Currie, She set up a student engagement framework for staff to follow and although to the average student it seems pretty obvious that the University should be asking for our input, it’s a new thing for the staff. And we all know, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. There is also a new plan set up to engage with students around the Student Services Fee (SSF). It’s a legal requirement to consult with students on this. Look at the link on the online article and check it out for yourself.

Here are some key characters who I believe take student voices into account. Dave Scott, Proctor, likes to stay behind the scenes but he’s a champ if you need something done. Prof Harlene Hayne, Vice-Chancellor, works closely with the President to support them in their role and really values student’s opinions. University Council were amazing when during my first meetings I fought for what I thought was right. They complimented me on sticking to my values and putting up a good argument. That may not seem like a lot to most of you, but it’s not easy to express your opinion when working with people who have been on these boards for yeeeeears. 

However, while my experience has been positive, and my opinions appear to have been valid, I am the President of OUSA. My goal is to push the University to take a wider range of voices into account, because my voice is only one of many.

The University needs to be clear with students about what happens when they receive feedback. It shouldn’t be left to OUSA to ensure students know what’s happening in the University but it is up to us to spread the word of what the University has achieved. As students, we need to be thankful we have Harlene and Steve who forced open the doors for the University to ensure there was student consultation. But they are new to this. And OUSA should hold them to account.  

Remember, not all heroes wear capes.


Student Services Fee Consultation: http://www.tec.govt.nz/assets/Forms-templates-and-guides/Compulsory-student-service-fees-guide.pdf 


This article first appeared in Issue 3, 2018.
Posted 6:26pm Thursday 8th March 2018 by Caitlin Barlow-Groome.