OUSA has submitted in support of the proposed Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Students) Code of Practice 2021, but proposed several changes to the wording of the policy.
“OUSA considers the implementation of the Code as necessary, especially in addressing spaces that have historically been unregulated, such as Residential Colleges,” the submission stated. The Code is a regulatory framework proposed by the government following an inquiry in response to the death of Canterbury student Mason Pendrous in 2019.
The main criticisms put forward by OUSA are the tone and paternalistic language of the Code, which “reduces the inherent autonomy of students … it conveys an undercurrent of disempowerment of students and does not reflect a mana enhancing model of partnership between students and providers”.
While OUSA supports the sentiment, they questioned the language such as using “learners” instead of “students”, conjuring connotations of the type of drivers liable to rear end you in an empty carpark.
OUSA noted that the term “learner” is not “a term that mature or post-graduate students respond well to, as it has connotations with inexperience and immaturity” and that “it does not accurately reflect the reciprocal nature of teaching and learning and perpetrates a colonial contextualisation of education which New Zealand must move away from.”
Another problem the Code introduces is justification for the University’s recent willingness to discipline students for off-campus behaviour, something which the student population has routinely rejected. The OUSA submission specifically reiterates their earlier stance that the Code “must not empower tertiary providers to unnecessarily encroach on the private lives of students, especially off-campus.”
Additionally, the Government’s idea puts very little change into practice, giving universities and other tertiary institutions jurisdiction over exactly what they do. The massive document is extremely regulation-heavy, which means a healthy dose of bureaucracy and middle-management will be needed to even start implementation. OUSA also noted that it does not empower students’ associations, requiring universities to consult. “Consultation alone allows institutions to do the bare minimum, and often not truly listen and adapt to our opinions.”
OUSA is very cautious of an “overly prescriptive Code that will further empower providers to invade the privacy and independence of students beyond what are reasonable wellbeing and safety measures.”
The sentiment is that the Government is trying to put too much power in the hands of tertiary institutions in the name of helping students.