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Queer student groups under threat

Fri 16 Jul 2010 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

The future of queer student groups is under threat from a proposed law which would make student union membership voluntary. Sir Roger Douglas' Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill is being considered by a Government select committee. UniQ groups across the country are concerned it could lead to their demise, as a voluntary regime would guarantee a dramatic drop in student union membership and therefore a huge fall in their funding. New Zealand Union of Students' Associations president David Do says if the student union membership becomes voluntary, the education and experience of queer students in tertiary education will be significantly harmed, through significant funding cuts to UniQs. "This threatens the ability of UniQs to provide proper pastoral, academic, and social support for queer students as they undertake tertiary education," he says. "The bill also attacks the queer student voice and their ability to have democratically-elected collective organisations on campus, by removing the existing right of students to determine how to organise themselves." UniQ Otago's spokesperson on voluntary student membership Richard Girvan says passing the bill would be disastrous to those who rely on the Student Associations, especially minority groups like UniQ Otago. "The support services provided by OUSA are vital to queer students, especially to those who are questioning or are victims of homophobia and harassment." Holly Neilson from Askew Waikato says without a student union the group would lose its safe room, pride week and all of its funding, "meaning we would be forced to rely on fundraising which is quite hard for us as we do not have the manpower to pull off such feats." UniQ Victoria is fearful the bill will also undermine the voice of queer students as a group in society. "The battle for social inequality is patently still not over, and a strong queer voice on New Zealand university campuses has often been the catalyst for social equality in New Zealand."    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Friday, 16th July 2010 - 7:26pm

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