Tuesday, September 28, 2004

President's Column - The Bain of My Life

Having just returned from NZUSA conference in Dunedin, I was supposed to write this President’s column on national representation. This is something that is so important coming into 2005 (being an election year and all). However, I abandoned that when I tried to log onto an SCS computer to write an essay, and was told that “my roving profile was inaccessible”. The person beside me said that it had been going on for a while, and, even when you do get to log in, the internet and the “H” drives are down.

OH THE HUMANITY!!! I suddenly became intrigued as to what a computer screen would look like after it had fallen from the fifth floor of the Cotton Building and hit the concrete below. (I have to apologise to my office-mates Steph, Lizzie and Eva who had to hear all about my annoyance when I returned to my office – love you guys, really)

A little bit of background; I have a 10,000 word essay on Charles de Gaulle and the European integration process due on Monday 11 October. Needless to say, I have left it to the last minute. So, this afternoon, armed with books, notes, and a big cup of coffee, I set off for the computer lab to begin writing; only to find disappointment.

This represents a recurring theme at Victoria University for me. The senior management team are focused on all sorts of high-level, fancy, will-look-good-in-glossy-brochures stuff, such as television advertising (is it just me, or are the “It Makes You Think” ads so lame? They make me think about transferring to another university), big building projects, and a WiFi system in the library; yet they fail miserably when it comes to the basics, such as an up-to-date library, paying staff a reasonable salary, and providing students with a reliable computer system.

To the university management, students are “clients” or “consumers”. We pay money for the university to provide us with a “service” (ie our education). This service includes lectures, tutorials, laboratory sessions, and accompanying resources (such as the library, computers, and anything else you might need to fulfil your studies). The amount of money you pay for this “service”, you would expect it to be pretty damn good, right? In fact, if you come back next year, you will be paying, on average, 4.5% more for this “service” than you did this year. Logically speaking, it should be better than it is this year, right? With the university making a $3 million surplus, things must be fine, right?

Wrong. The computer system crashes on a regular basis (I work it out to be about twice a week at the moment). The library is under resourced (how often are you let down when you can’t find the key text for your essay or assignment?). The lecture theatres are old and uncomfortable (pay a visit to Easterfield 206 sometime – they should start all lectures with a warning about deep vain thrombosis).

How are you supposed to be able to think when the university is holding you back like this? Simple – you can’t. If the university wants to get a better mark in PBRF (Vic came third this year, behind Auckland and Canterbury), you have to fund the basics. If the university wants some good publicity, how about providing students with decent resources, and then they’ll tell their friends about how good their “educational experience” was at Victoria.

As you elected representative, I am going to focus the rest of this year (I’ll be working right through to December 23) and heaps of next year on letting the university know that students simply are not satisfied with the resources they are being provided with. But, I’m going to need your help – if you ever have a problem with anything at Victoria (weather it be the computers, the library or whatever), flick me a quick email (Jeremy.Greenbrook@vuw.ac.nz). Your anonymity is assured.

But, right now I’m off to the bookshop to buy a pen and paper. My father tells me they’re quite reliable…

Cheers, PJ.
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