THE Federal Government’s proposal to allow universities to introduce a fee to fund rundown student services was not greeted with an outpouring of joy in the office of the University of Western Sydney Students’ Association.
After years of service across the university’s six campuses, the association is in the process of being wound up. The introduction of a $250 fee a student to fund sporting facilities, counselling, advocacy and other campus basics will make little or no difference.
By requiring that the new levy go to university administrations and not student unions, the Government’s proposal does nothing for the many student associations that do not have existing contracts or close relationships with university boards.
"VSU has meant a 100 per cent reduction in the services we provided because it has hit our finances and our membership," said the president of the association, Jacob Carswell-Doherty.
"The new levy makes no difference to this association; it is effectively a continuation of VSU."
The administration of UWS is introducing a new student organisation that will include some elected representatives and provide most of the services once delivered by the association.
But the university has already foreshadowed a "consolidation of space and staff" and some things will not be the same.
The association’s environment officer, Jennifer Henriques said: "We’ve been providing queer spaces and women’s spaces on all of the campuses and designated student representatives for those groups as well as indigenous students. The university has asked us to move out of our offices and close these spaces so they can build shops here."
The association is concerned that there will be no representation for these minority groups in the new organisation and that some of the student representatives on it will be appointed rather than popularly elected.
The president of the National Union of Students, Angus McFarland, said student associations at Macquarie and Southern Cross universities were in a similar situation. "Students at universities which are about to lose or don’t have student bodies don’t know what is going to happen," Mr McFarland said.
"The new fee is coming, but they don’t know how it is going to be spent. If students are going to be charged a new levy then students need to be at the table when it is decided how that money is going to be spent."