OUSA has circulated a letter to NZUSA’s National Executive following their rejected application for associate membership status. They want NZUSA to improve it’s application process and include a means to appeal decisions made at the National Executive.
The OUSA Exec applied for associate membership status on September 25 on the grounds of financial hardship. A demotion from full to associate membership would save OUSA just over $20,000.
The aforementioned financial hardship refers to OUSA’s projected $250,000 deficit for 2021. The deficit was increased by $50,000 thanks to a reduction in funding from Otago University via their Student Levy Agreement (SLA).
NZUSA’s National Council, which is made up of it’s different member associations, has 17 voting members. The application was heard and voted on at a National Council meeting on October 9. OUSA discussed the outcome of the vote in a confidential committee, so Critic cannot report on how the votes went, just that it ultimately was not in their favour.
It probably doesn’t help that in OUSA’s application, they explained that they would be spending a bunch of money on “a significant capital project and other crucial new initiatives”; have enough money in the coffers to cover the 2021 deficit; “will be retaining enough reserves to ensure a transition period of some length in the event of significant funding changes” when the new Vice-Chancellor is appointed in 2021 and their SLA may be at risk.
OUSA President Jack Manning said that their letter outlines OUSA’s findings from the process, and includes recommendations “to make the process more robust and ensure equitable outcomes”. NZUSA President Isabella Lenihan-Ikin said “Our members support the current process that is mandated by the constitution.”
Isabella said that applications for associate membership status are voted on by all member associations, and that these members “decided that on balance OUSA were not in a position of financial instability”.
Despite OUSA’s recommendations, Isabella said no members have suggested an alternative process for Associate Membership applications.
OUSA has not received a response to their letter from any member of the National Executive other than a notification of receipt, and they “don’t anticipate they will [get a response]”, said Jack Manning.
At the October 28 Exec meeting, Administrative Vice-President Georgia Mischefski-Gray said that the Exec would not be “communicating this letter” to students publicly on social media as the OUSA’s communications department does not have the capacity.
OUSA’s application for associate membership was submitted only a week after 81.2% of students voted to remain members of NZUSA with the understanding that it would be at full membership. However, it is worth noting that OUSA was only notified of the significant reduction in their SLA once the referendum voting had begun.
At the time of the vote, former OUSA Exec members took to Facebook to condemn the move. 2018 Administrative Vice-President Cameron Meads commented on Critic’s post about the application: “So OUSA is losing 75% of its national influence to save 0.5% of its annual budget. What an absolute disgrace and a smack in the face for student democracy.” 2017 Administrative Vice-President William Guy said “OUSA is a student *union*. It needs to retain full membership, that’s core to the mission of the Association. Anyone on the current Executive who supports this proposal doesn’t understand the purpose of the Association (despite the purpose never having changed in 130 years).”
One student commented “Two-faced shitheads. Don’t bother encouraging us to vote in your referendums if you’re going to ignore the consensus.”