The end of voluntary student unionism

14 12 2005

I wrote this as a comment to Darpies blog who holds a conflicting but measured view on this issue- got a bit carried away and before i knew it had written a rant – so i may as well have it on my blog. 


Hi Matthew,
Firstly thanks for commenting on my blog – i’m glad you enjoyed it especially as you’ll probably be among the minority in enjoying such a long and dry entry. But i wanted to write it anyway because its an important paradigm shift for me. Thanks also for letting me know that things should improve in the years ahead, it’s comforting knowledge.

However i could not disagree with you more about VSU. The end of compulsory student unions is a dark day for tertiary education in australia.

 The student unions are what makes university fun! Without them university is just a degree factory. A true means to an end, something endured rather than enjoyed. University experience should be about more than jus tgoing to classes and reading the subject material and then doing exams and graduating. University is the time to have some fun and meet interesting people. This is exactly what the student unions facillitate – through the many clubs and functions which they hold – which i think you are implying are a waste.
I’m guessing are experiences with student unions have been different. One’s opinion probably depends on the experience of effectiveness of the unions at your university and one’s willingness to participate in their activities. They are only a waste if your not going to them.
Student unions facilitate fun and interaction with other students trhrough clubs and barbeques.
When first starting university and not knowing anyone university can seem daunting. Thestudent union had oranised camps for people to meet other students.

These are wild affairs where you really get to know your fellow students well. People you only met a few hours ago are suddenly dancing on tables, playing drinking games, running naked through the grounds and a whole lot of other crazy stuff –  and generally having an awesome time getting to know one anotherat the end of these you go home knowing that when you start uni there will be a few friendly faces waiting for you.

Otherwise how do you meet people at uni – contact with people is so fleeting it would be much harder to form anything more than aquaintances. Everyone has different timetables and lectures are very large in the early years – so its hard to really make friends.

They continue to faccilitate meeting and continuing friendships with people through clubs of common interest. I poersonally was heavily involved in the clubs – they provide for example scuba diving equipment which a student could not otherwise afford – so a group of students who enjoy scuba dinving can go out on the weekends and enjoy this activity.

This is now going to come to an end because even though unions provide a large overall benefit,students will think ‘why should i pay when i will not see direct tangible equal or greater $value benefit to myself’. It will not make financial sense to be in the union, it makes more sense to try and free load on the services it provides whilst not paying any money. A Because whether oen person pays or not will not make a difference – and following this common logic no-one will pay. And so overnight the unions will vanish.students aren’t going to pay if they are given a choice. This will be the end of the student unions – or if not they wil be merely a pale shadow of their former versions.

It’s true the unions squandered money. My favorite club has not passed an audit…  ever! But my experience of the arts society wasa plethora of free bbq’s, parties, booze cruises, tram crams, camps and other activities so that people can socialise at uni.  THey facilitated the friendships and good times for me and hundreds of others which far exceeded the monetary value spent. Can you put a value on friendship and a wonderful university experience? It can’t honestly be measured in monetary terms. Money given to the societies cretes these social connections for students and is money well spent.

They also provide free counseling for people who need it, and arrange other serives to make university more bearable for most people. You cannot measure the social capital which is going to be lost through this move. The mental health of students and the quality of university life will decline, whilst isolation and thedrop out rate will increase as a result of this decision. They help with student housing. Essentially killing the student unions kills alot of the fun in university.

I feel sorry for the students to come who will miss out on this. This is a dark day for australian universities.




2 responses

14 12 2005
How youuuu doing

Wooo. Go Tom. *Hoots and hollers*

14 12 2005

hey thanks for the response on my blog, so refreshing to find someone with a brain free of the teenie bopper mentality !!i dont doubt the important of the unions, what i was suggesting was they are used by a minority, and with the abolishment of compulsory unionism they will be forced to streamline their operations and come up with a product that people are going to what to have.i agree with you, i think they will become pale comparisons, but i beleive they will provide greater opportunities to mingle, as people joining will all have the same intentions, rather than be there by force.i must admit, i have been in university for 8 years now, never participated in any activities and i have never made any friends at the university in that time.but keep blogging, i syndicate your site and enjoy reading it, i will add a link to you

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