Despite being the oldest, and one of the most influential students’ associations in the country, people still opt to leave the Otago Uni Students’ Association (OUSA).
One of them — a third year student Otago student — opted out of OUSA membership in September last year by emailing the Secretary of his intentions. Unlike many who leave thinking they no longer have to pay the student services fee, this student left on ideological grounds.
Opting out means you formally leave the OUSA while maintaining your status as a Otago Uni student. OUSA President Michaela Waite-Harvey said that consequences include losing the rights under the OUSA constitution, such as voting in OUSA elections. However, OUxiting doesn’t permit you to opt out of the Student Services Fee or services provided by the OUSA, as they are managed by the University.
“Other reasons students have indicated for opting out in the past largely fall along ideological lines. Students may either disagree with the specific actions of OUSA or the type of institution that OUSA is,” said Michaela.
This student’s decision to leave came after Exec decided to take a pro-legislation stance on the Cannabis referendum last year. He’d been disillusioned with the OUSA for quite some time, feeling left out of OUSA decisions, and “[their stance on the cannabis] referendum] was the final straw.”
He believed that “it was grandstanding. Having an opinion for the sake of having an opinion. It proved they weren’t out for the students.”
His issues stem from a belief that OUSA often takes a partisan stance. He stressed that the OUSA should be an “old-school union” rather than a “mini-government,” and said “I think there is a way that I could be advocated for that’s non-partisan.”
“I haven’t felt impacted by OUSA because the times I’ve needed someone in my corner I’ve always found someone who can do better than them … I really did not see the benefit of remaining.”
He considered the OUSA to be overly bureaucratic and said that it inhabits a niche where most students are “apathetic” towards it. “Reading about [it] in Critic, it seems to be a bit of a circlejerk of the who’s who of student politics of Dunedin. There is a lot of confirmation bias.”
The leaver warns other students not to leave OUSA unless they know what they’re doing, and encourages OUSA to ensure more students are aware of what they provide. It took him leaving the association to fully “appreciate that membership is a privilege.”
“My advice to other people is to formulate your own opinion. Having a definite take — either being in it or not in it — is better than the apathy we have where everyone is opted in when they start but only 10% comes out for a referendum.”
“If they are going to continue to maintain their non-partisan stance, they need more dissenters so it doesn’t look like a circle jerk.”