Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Student Politics in Retrospect...

Well, for those of you who don't know (it was in last week's Salient, Critic, Chaff and Nexis), after having said I wouldn't, I had a stab at NZUSA Co-President. And failed.

Here's how it went. I decided almost as soon as nominations opened that I would run for NZUSA. First thing I did was sit down for a coffee with current Co-President's (and good friends) Andrew Kirton and Camilla Belich and tried to nut out how I should go about this. They suggested that I get someone else to run along side (it's a Co-President as opposed to a President - very Green Party, yes?), and that if I wanted to be taken seriously, I had to visit each campus.

The first suggestion was easy to fix - Joey Randall (former AUSA EVP) had told me that he would also like to run. We formed a semi-ticket.

The second suggestion was almost as easy to fix, with Joey running, touring the country was going to be considerably cheaper with splitting of costs. We set out on a four-day tour from Albany in the north, to Otago in the south. It all went really well, especially when on the day we set off, the price of petrol dropped 3c - I took this as a tacit endorsement from the oil industry, similar to the Bush administration, I guess.

This was unfortunately the high point. It all started going downhill from here.

First of all, the VUWSA exec decided not to give me all their votes. This, alone, fucked me off, but then I found out that they were going to be giving Joey all 11 (the voting system is a little complicated - happy to explain it over a beer), despite only one exec member who was present having met him. I love Joey - he is a good friend, and he deserved 11 votes, but giving him more votes based on only one exec member's sentiment, as opposed to 8 for me, who the exec have worked with all year? That's not justice, I'm sorry.

Secondly, Salient published these details in their "Eye On Exec" column, which meant that every other students' association in the country now knew how the VUWSA exec were going to be voting, thanks to the ASPA wire. No other association had published their voting resolutions. I'm not blaming Salient; it happened in a public part of the exec meeting - they had every right to publish it, and I had no right to tell them what should and should not go to press.

So I headed to conference (which was held in Christchurch) feeling very little confidence from my own exec, let alone the rest of the delegation.

Conference was pretty average in itself, although the social activities (organized by CCESA President Giarne Clarke) were great. It was my 7th NZUSA conference, and, to be perfectly honest, I wasn't in the highest of spirits.

The election is a painful experience. I have now attended three, and they have all been pretty horrific affairs. Each candidate gets to speak/present for 10-15 minutes, and then takes questions. Prior to this, the returning officer (the NZUSA lawyer) read out a letter from three NZUSA alumni. It warned the delegation about "certain candidates" dealings with their local roopu (Maori students' associations), and basically said that these candidates should not be elected. I can only assume this was directed towards me, and the VUWSA exec's dealings with Ngai Tauira.

My presentation wasn't great, and I took a barrage of questions ranging from my working relations with women and queer students, my opinion of the Treaty of Waitangi, to weather NZUSA's levy should be lower. I was never asked anything to do with actual education issues (which I pride myself on being pretty geared up to), fees, loans, allowances, accountability etc - things I felt were pretty damn important to an organization in NZUSA's shoes.

After the first round of voting, Joey had 59 votes, I had 30, Sandy from WSU had 29. You need two-thirds of the 73 votes to be elected. Joey was elected, Sandy and I had to fight it out for another round.

Second round of questions were much the same. This time, I got 32 votes, and Sandy got 33.

Just before the third (and final round for this election), we were asked to make a short statement. I stood up and went completely blank. The whole room was looking at me, completely silent, and I had absolutely nothing to say. All I could think was, I really really really don't want to be here right now.

Xavier from AUSA jumped in, asking if those that had a problem with me, please outline why they have a problem. This was followed with further questions regarding levies, and even a question basically accessing me of personally taking steps to get rid of Ngai Tauira.

After the questions, I left the room, sat down in the lobby, and started sobbing. The election had broken me. I didn't want any more to do with it, and I certainly did not want to be NZUSA Co-President. Joey came out and gave me a hug, as did several FedEx members.

The results for the third and final round were a little more encouraging: 29 to Sandy, 40 to me. I was still 9 votes short, and I probably could have picked those up fairly smartly in the second election, but I was done - I wanted no more to do with it.

That night, I got a phone call from Salient editor Emily in Auckland saying that they hadn't won the ASPA awards - we both talked about how shit life was at that point, and how much we were going to drink when we got back to Wellington.

After conference, I took two days off and road-tripped around the South Island with Phoebe and some friends for a bit. I did what everyone said I should do - get away from it for a bit and come back and give it another go. I returned to Wellington in the middle of the Salient embargo fiasco, which basically re-enforced my decision not to run.

I have since been lobbied quite heavily to re-run. This includes a certain VUWSA exec member who advocated not giving me any votes (or so I'm told on very good authority). My message to them - go fuck yourself.

Interestingly, the Vast Right Wing Conspirasy were my biggest supporters. I don't know if this really bodes well for someone who has ambitions of one day sitting on the Labour back-benches...
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