Monday 20th May, 2019
James Heath, President
No seriously, come to the Capping Show. The Capping Show is the world’s second longest running student revue - starting way back in 1894 when OUSA was only 4 short years old.
There are a few special traditional things about coming to University, from wearing robes to studying in buildings from the early 20th century, and coming to a risque show from the heart of Otago student subculture is one of them. Bonnie Harrison, our Finance Officer and Capping Show actor says “It’s better than an SGM - 5 stars” and, with the opening night last week selling out, people seem to think so too.
Tickets are still on sale with the FINAL shows this week - just search up “Capping Show 2019” into Facebook and you’ll find it - but get in quick before it’s all gone!
While you’re buying your tickets, tell the DCC what you think about parking.
This week (Tuesday) submissions close for the Tertiary Precinct parking changes - where the DCC (city council) are looking at converting 185 parks around the Uni from free to paid.
If you’re reading this before then; submit. Let them know your thoughts and help us get the student voice to our council. If you’re reading this after, it’s not too late. Get in touch with me directly (email@example.com) and we can add your thoughts into our oral submission to the Council in the coming months.
You’ve likely heard by now that this year are Local Body Elections - but it’s important that OUSA and students engagement with these councils not just during election time. This means submitting on changes like this and bringing our voices to the councils that run Dunedin.
If we’re not around the table, we’re on the menu
Monday 13th May, 2019
James Heath, President
As we head into winter, it’s as good a time as ever to mention mental health.
Not gonna lie, this can be a pretty shitty time of year.
The days are shorter, nights are colder, and our exams are coming closer and closer. If it’s not the weather, it might be the stress, or even the fact that everyone around you are being affected by this, which might bring you down too.
This is okay.
No matter to what degree this might affect you it’s okay to let it affect you. Good mental health isn’t about constantly being happy, it’s about being aware of when the environment around you might challenge you, taking care of yourself accordingly, and understanding that your emotions will be your emotions.
I’ve said this before in speeches and this column, but I’ll say it again; if you ever struggle, in any way; this does not make you weak, this does not define you, and you are not alone.
OUSA is here to help. A lot of people read this and gloss over it, not genuinely appreciating that we are actually here for you. Yes, you - the student reading this. We exist for you, we work for you, and if you’re unsure whether or not you should bother us, if don’t know if your issue is big enough, or if you’re not 100% it’s the sort of thing we deal with – you’re exactly who we’re here for. You.
It’s good to be back writing these columns, and getting a chance to put down on paper some of my thoughts, but it’s important for this not to be one sided. If you have any feedback, ideas for future pieces, want to hear from any other OUSA Exec members, or just to say hi – flick me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I do get emails from students, so why not you too - I’m only an email away.
Monday 6th May, 2019
Jack Manning, Colleges Officer
College residents - do not sign a flat.
Well, not never, but at least for the next few months. Last week, Cutlers ran a tender campaign for The Debacle flat, where College residents - do not sign a flat. Well, not never, but at least for the next few months. Last week, Cutlers ran a tender campaign for The Debacle flat, where applicants were told to give them their “best offer”, instead of knowing what the going rate would be.
OUSA strongly condemned this practice. While Cutlers has since taken the advertisement down, I still thought I’d share my thoughts on rental tendering.
There are loads of reasons to find this questionable, so I’ll only focus on a few. Firstly, this sort of tender process, intentionally or not, puts members of residential colleges at risk. There’s a learning curve to flatting, from knowing a fair rent price when you see one to selecting your hour of power. Unfortunately college residents don’t have - and shouldn’t be expected to have - this experience, and are more prone to being taken advantage of.
If a flat’s cold and damp, don’t spend something like $170 a week per person - it’s not worth it even for the most “notorious flat on campus.”
Secondly, this practice, should it be repeated, could set a dangerous precedent for Otago, as potentially driving the average rate up making flats in Otago less accessible and affordable. There are obvious consequences from this, from less money for flat dinners to having to buy the 12 pack of Mavs instead of the full coffin. But there’s also more to it. Less money means that financial burdens hit that much harder. Next time you have to pay a power bill or visit student health, the last thing you want is to have to worry even more about the finances.
We have so much more negotiating power than landlords would like, and as someone giving them money, you have the right to negotiate and get a deal on a flat that works for you. Vote with your wallets.
Finally, just chill. It’s way too early to be worrying about signing flats.
Monday 29th April, 2019
Kerrin Robertson-Scanlon, Welfare Officer
I write this as we look back on a successful SGM which saw Pasifika students’ representation restored to OUSA by overwhelming majority. This gives me hope for students’ will to the right thing. With that hope I look to resuming the semester with Rape Awareness Week.
What more ‘awareness’ do we need with the recent coverage around our residential colleges? Institutional critique looks to address policy and processes, but this can’t be our only response. As an executive we can and will do the behind-the-scenes work, because re-traumatising survivors who speak up, and failing to prevent further harm is unconscionable. However, it’s our peers who are quicker to ostracise vocal survivors than friends who cause trauma. Even if we improve everything in our colleges, the 39% of women, 13% of men, and the majority of gender minority students who experience sexual violence prior to university still deserve a community who contribute to their healing rather than isolating them.
Challenging our misconceptions around sexual violence shouldn’t wait until someone we love confides in us. This means learning which ‘prevention tricks’ teach us more about blaming survivors than keeping anyone safe. We must also grapple with the fact that most assaults are committed by partners, friends, and acquaintances. Attending events like the What I Was Wearing Exhibition on Monday 29th-Tuesday 30th April is a good starting point.
Supporting survivors so we can build safer systems for reporting isn’t the only reason. We need to focus on their long-term wellbeing and reinforce their value, instead of leaving them feeling like we’ve skipped justice to discuss prevention. Specialised support organisations like Rape Crisis Dunedin are key to this healing, but still rely on donations. Taking up their call to learn, and to donate, is part of doing the right thing for our community, especially this week.
Monday 15th April, 2019
Will Dreyer, Education Officer
James’ reign of domination over Critic columns has come to an end. Do not believe his lies, he did not give up the spotlight easily. He liked how it made his hair “pop”.
Welcome to a new era.
I’m Will, your Education Officer this year! My PSA of the day is for all you First Year Health Sci students out there: do NOT use Med Entry or Crimson Consulting for UCAT. As far as I’m concerned, they are a huge fucking waste of money that would be much better spent on bread that costs more than a dollar and some actual fresh vegetables (and of course the best value for money beer, Bavaria).
Let me walk you through it.
For those that don’t know, the UCAT is the University Clinical Aptitude Test, which students who want to progress into Dentistry or Med have to do. It’s one part of the admission process and helps work out whether a student has the appropriate professional behaviour and abilities to be a doctor or dentist. Because of that, people get real fuckin stressed about it and MedEntry and Crimson prey on this.
For example, Med Entry offers help for a starting price of just over $200. At this cost, you gain access to “questions, guides and more.” If you want more services, you pay more. If you’re feeling extremely baller you (or more likely your parents) can indulge in the Diamond Package, which for a first-time user of the service comes out at an easy $1970.
Here’s the catch though. UCAT has never before been run in New Zealand. This is the first year it’s been done here, so how the shit can they be any help? UCAT themselves have said they do not endorse the use of any material from commercial companies such as these. Who better to listen to than those who actually run UCAT?
Furthermore, when I spoke to John Reynolds, the Director of the Health Sciences First Year Programme, he said that "some students have been told that it is essential for them to undertake >400 hours of tutorials from a company to be successful... these claims are inappropriate, inaccurate and are designed to put undue pressure on our students to coerce them to purchase resources." It seems to me that these companies are simply preying on student stress and insecurity.
What I think really hammers the point home and really makes Crimson and Med Entry seem like a real waste of money, is that UCAT actually offer free tests, tutorials and guides. Why spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on a service that is not recommended by UCAT when alternative free resources are provided by UCAT themselves? Food for thought, nē?
On a different note, if you’re a tutor could you please get in contact with me at email@example.com – we’re building a list so we can try to get to the bottom of these tutor pay issues. For all students out there, if you have any issues don’t hesitate to flick me an email, myself and the rest of the team are here for you and here to help.
Monday 8th April, 2019
James Heath, OUSA President
We’re already a quarter through the year - that’s terrifying.
For us at OUSA, this means Quarterly Reports - the two most bureaucratic words since administrative management or fiscal constitutions. We write these up four times a year so you know we’re on track, doing our job, and can be held accountable.
What a first quarter it has been.
From the strong opening of now OUSA-owned-and-operated Starters, the “best ever” O’Week “in the University’s recorded history”, taking control of the University Book Shop building, international headlines around our Drug Testing initiative (which was, according to Critic Te Arohi, “OUSA at its best”) and (so far) making our way through this year drama-free with a strong number of additional wins under our belt; I’m pretty proud of what the OUSA team has achieved this quarter.
It has been hectic, challenging, and everyday I’ve felt incredibly privileged to be in this position.
In this week’s Critic - Te Arohi you were going to see their write up on our reports - but they’ve decided not to. Anonymous reports say “the Exec are doing too good of a job - we can’t write anything funny or mean,” “leave our office,” and finally “forget the reports, we’re too excited for the upcoming SGM on the 17th April in Main Common Room at 12noon!”
Critic - Te Arohi officially declined to comment.
Regardless, we do take feedback seriously and never pretend we're perfect or have it right - I encourage you to reach out, tell me where we're going wrong, and help us improve. I’ll be dropping a few copies of my report around main campus for you to take a read.
For those of you going to Hyde, stay safe and have a great time - I’ll see ya there!
Dear “Cares about other exec members too” who wants to see other exec members in these columns,
We've talked about this as an Exec earlier in the year but we just haven't got around to doing it. It’s been offered to all Exec members and, now that we’re heading back into a routine, you might start to see some faces on here other than mine. That's it really..
Monday 1st April, 2019
James Heath, OUSA President
The aroha sparked from tragedy cannot be snuffed out by complacency.
Here at OUSA we’re starting to look at how we can bring our communities, from all walks of life, together over the coming months and we encourage you to do the same. The day of writing this article I’ve had meetings with brilliant students wanting to organise concerts around diversity and food drives for our recent refugees - let’s keep them coming, let’s keep on the same page, and let’s keep going forward. There’s also no rush. There is no end date.
This week we’ve also started to see responses building from Critic Te Arohi piece into Sexual Assaults in Knox College. As this story begins to develop, it’s important for me to emphasis that OUSA is a voice and support for all our students – we are here. Critic Te Arohi has started a wider conversation that our community needs to have and we are here to empower, but not take away from, the voices of our students.
This week I will be reaching out to leaders in our community to work out how OUSA can continue to work towards making our campus a safe place for all. We also can’t, and don’t want to, do this alone - so reach out to me or Kerrin, our Welfare Officer, if you want to get involved or share your thoughts. I also encourage any students to reach out to our Student Support team – they are trained, anonymous, independent, understanding, and ready to be there for our students.
This is what OUSA is here for.
Monday 25th March, 2019
James Heath, OUSA President
Writing an article this week was the last thing on my mind - and what a week it has been.
As we all know it started with tragedy - a deep, gut wrenching, and awful tragedy that flipped our worlds, and the worlds of our Muslim brothers and sisters, upside down and inside out.
But regardless of how it started, most importantly, it ended with unity.
The pure, raw, and beautiful love that has been shown - vigils, gatherings, powhiri, prayer, flowers, bake sales, scarfs, and to hear the Muslim “call to prayer” echo through our campus - make me so proud to be a member of this community.
I only ask, do not let our response to what has happened start and end in a week.
The aroha sparked from tragedy cannot be snuffed out by complacency. Words right now are meaningful but if we do not follow them with action over the coming weeks, months, and years then they are meaningless.
Members of our community, no matter their ethnicity, religion, or walk of life, should always feel like members of our community. Jokes, snide comments, and pretending that “this is not us” - you are blind to the damage you can do and betray the love that our community is showing right now. Let this be a time to remind ourselves to give nothing to racism and everything we can to inclusion, acceptance, and a sense of community.
It is also important at this time to briefly touch on mental health. No matter who you are, this can be tough time and it is okay to be not okay. We are here for everyone in our community - it has been said before, it will be said again, and it could never be said enough.
I want to end by acknowledging the leadership shown by our Muslim brothers and sisters - such as the likes of Hamzeh Obeidat and Naser Tamimi - the President and Vice-President of the Muslim University Student Association. Thank you for letting me turn to you for advice over the last week and to all the brothers and sisters, students and non-students, who have provided us with guidance. You have allowed this momentum to be directed in as right of a place as we can find.
I only hope what we have done, and will continue to do, was and will be what is needed and more.