Alienating yoof

Don Arthur’s post about Miranda Devine’s latest ravings generated some comment box discussion about the extent to which the “yoof” vote might have been part of the reason for the Coalition’s strong election showing. Don’s post seems tacitly to assume that yoof still tend to vote Labor, but some commenters took issue with that proposition.

As far as I can see, none of the major opinion polls broke down their election eve voting intention results by age group, so your guess is as good as mine. But a letter in today’s NT News (written by a CDU law student Shane Dexter) suggests a focus of yoof discontent with which I completely agree:

I am writing to voice my disgust at the full-page ad taken out by the CDU Students Union in the Northern Territory News (October 8) attacking Dave Tollner and the CLP.

My compulsory amenities fees, paid every semester, are supposed to be used in furthering mine and other students’ experience at CDU, not to push a political agenda that does not represent the views of your “members”.

I am absolutely appalled that so much money was spent trying to influence an election campaign – that is not the purpose of a students’ union.

If I wanted to contribute to the Labor Party or the Greens or Democrats campaigns, I would sign up as a member of those organisations and be more than happy if my hard-earneds were used in such a manner.

When is the CDUSU going to start a petition to abolish compuslory unionism at CDU? (I thought it was already the law in Australia).

That would be a far better use of your time and money – and I know of many students who would sign on to such a movement.

Leaving aside the fact that most of the students to whom Shane refers are probably members of the CDU Liberal Club (presided over by frequent Troppo commenter Jacques Chester), and despite the fact that I would have preferred Labor to have won last Saturday, I share Shane’s sense of disgust. This is a clear abuse of the role of a student union. It’s also very ill-timed, given that the current vice-chancellor has required various university organisations including the CDU Student Union to justify why they should continue to receive guaranteed funding from compulsory student amenity fees.

The current Student Union President (yet another law student) recently wrote another letter to the NT News protesting against the V-C’s actions in that regard. But the Student Union is skating on very thin ice in demanding that it continue to receive guaranteed funding extracted from students under duress, if it then spends those funds on partisan political causes having nothing whatever to do with student services or activities. If I was still a student, I’d be protesting against compulsory student unionism as well.

Moreover, in these days of universal HECS payments, the vast majority of undergraduate students combine their studies with extensive paid work, in order to be able to pay their HECS fees. Consequently most are on-campus only at lecture and tutorial times and when studying in the library. They just don’t have time to take advantage of the social and recreational activities the Student Union organises. Those students don’t see much benefit for themselves in the services CDUSU provides, and their ambivalent attitude turns to outright hostility when they see the Student Union executive using their hard-earned amenities fees to campaign for the ALP.

I’m a little ambivalent myself about whether CDUSU should retain its guaranteed share of student amenities fees. I’m opposed in principle to compulsory unionism, and this fiasco with plugging the ALP reinforces my view. On the other hand, if compulsory student unionism was abolished, most social and recreational activity on campus would grind to a halt. The university would become even more of a sterile, unstimulating environment than it already is. But maybe my halcyon undergraduate days at Sydney Uni, when most of us didn’t have to scrabble for paid part-time employment because HECS didn’t exist, are gone forever. Maybe universities are irretrievably destined to be little more than strictly utilitarian degree factories. But I hope not. There’s more to life than work, study and striving for career, money and possessions. But I’d better stop now before I start sounding like Clive Hamilton.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

Ken – I don’t know where you get the idea that students work to pay HECS. More than three-quarters defer re-payment, and once you take out of the equation employer payments, parent payments, and full-time workers who are better off paying up-front and getting a discount, I’d guess that a negligible number of full-time students are paying HECS themselves as they go.

They work to fund living expenses, entertainment, mobile phones etc. – and of course student union fees.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

I’m not exactly sure why they work; I haven’t bothered to research it. However I certainly know most students DO work, either full-time or very substantial part-time jobs. And subjectively it seems to me that the proportion who work is much higher than it was when I was at uni. Your stats on the proportion who defer paying HECS are interesting. But I wonder why so many more choose to work than was the case when I was at uni (assuming my subjective perception is accurate)? Any ideas?

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

Didn’t see today’s paper, I’ll have to pick it up. I can tell you that Shane Dexter isn’t a Liberal Club member.

VSU has been a liberal student policy since the early 70s. Now it looks as though we might actually get it in Commonwealth legislation. Exciting times.

We too noticed the amount of ALP propaganda placed around campus. There are a number of reasons for its volume. Part of it was the student union’s support. Also, and possibly more importantly, the Young Labor group who control the CDU Labor Club all work in various NT ministerial offices. If it was anything like my time in David Tollner’s office, I’d say that this is a work environment which is supportive of student politicians.

On our side of the fence, we’re all working, mostly in jobs not conducive to much on-campus activism. I got the numbers for a booth on saturday and a flier drop on wednesday, but after that people are just busy.

Why do we work? There are many reasons. Some of us (including myself) have a moral objection to accepting government welfare. Some of us enjoy the sense of purpose which work can provide. Most of us just prefer the superior money available in part-time work.

I too studied at Sydney Uni, and it does have a tremendously rich student lifestyle, but in general it is not provided centrally by the two student organisations. It’s provided by students themselves in the form of hundreds of student groups; the SRC and Student Union just provide a supportive environment. This is less true of the CDUSU, which has been in some aspects highly unsupportive of clubs & societies. The funding model is not clear, and this year’s attempt to impose a straightjacket constitution required us (the liberal club) and some others to go in and educate them on what they were doing wrong. Fortunately I was able to call on the expertise of my colleagues interstate.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

I worked when I was at uni but it certainly wasn’t to help along the payment of my HECS debts. Why would I have wanted to then? I was also living with my parents. Perhaps students nowadays just can think of more ways to spend their money – that was certainly my reason.

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

The figures on what percentage of students work are not super-reliable, but the ABS found 45% and an AVCC survey found 78%. The two can be reconciled; the ABS used a reference week while the AVCC used a reference year. The differences do however highlight the casual nature of student work.

The AVCC suggested that figure was about 50% higher than it had been in 1984. I think the difference is mainly lifestyle expectations – when I started at uni (in 1984) mobile phones did not exist, the internet did not exist, and computers were just starting to become widespread. Lecturers did not expect word processed essays. All this technology is regarded as near essential by many students, but it costs a lot. Though my memory may be faulty – and I work at a uni with a wealthy student base – I suspect students spend more on clothes now than in the past and on eating out.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

The young male students I know are very different to me way back then. They are highly geared financially. Their work ethic is excellent – study then hold down 1,2,3 casual jobs. But bugger me they are materialistic, I thought I was bad. I *think* the parents are paying upfront but they may be deferring. They earn quite a fair whack of money by the sweat of their own brow and spend it on piss, fast cars (speeding fines, lots of them but they only care about the demerit points), the latest mobile phone (I’m talking $1000 plus, I thought I was hip just having a mobile) upgrading every 12 months, more piss, computers, playstation clothes, and piss.

Guild fees represents a night at Club Bayview so fuck that, they’ll keep the money thanks.

Sociologically, very scary.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

Just tapped out a reply and sent it. We’ll see if the NT News’ll run it. I expect they’ll wait for a reply from the student union and run them together.

yobbo
2022 years ago

James mobile phones and computers are so cheap now it’s hardly even a blip compared to what they’d spend on Piss. I personally could buy a brand new Athlon every 2 weeks if I gave up drinking.

Then again under my new laziness regime Im not sure I really quality as a “student” anymore.

Compulsory unionism at ECU is an absolute joke too. I attend Churchlands campus, there are no facilities of any kind yet we still have to pay our $50 “Amenities and Services” fee, which presumably goes to subsidise services on other Campuses. 95% of students at Churchlands are part-timers who attend at night.

mark
2022 years ago

Union-provided facilities at UC are pretty good; not as good, apparently, as at ANU, but that really goes without saying. Union memb… sorry, the “amenities levy” is more’n $50, though.

goetz von berlichingen
goetz von berlichingen
2022 years ago

I worked when I was at uni but it certainly wasn’t to help along the payment of my HECS debts. Why would I have wanted to then?

Because you get a discount if you pay up front – and you get a bonus for voluntary repayments.

adam ford
adam ford
2022 years ago

Students work so that they can afford to pay the rent, bills and buy food, because Austudy is a fucking pittance and anyway you don’t GET rent assistance on Austudy.

If the CDUSU has been spending union funds on partisan political advertising, wouldn’t it make more sense to police the spending of the amenities fees than to abolish the payment of them entirely? This whole “oh they rorted it so let’s fuck the whole thing off entirely” attitude mystifies me.

Don’t forget that SU fees pay for more than just social activities. Things like cheap printing for essays and assignments, and counselling services are also funded by that money.

adam ford
adam ford
2022 years ago

thought of more stuff that students need money for. textbooks. and other equipment that you need to study, like computers, software, internet access.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

goetz
I realise you get a discount but frankly if you think you’re going to earn a reasonable income anyway after you graduate, unless I had other reasons to work it alone wouldn’t have been sufficient motivation *at all*. The opportunity cost just didn’t add up for me.

Tony.T
2022 years ago

I can’t see the need for a student union anyway. Would a student coming in to uni for the first time notice if there wasn’t one there?

kent
2022 years ago

As a student, I don’t work part-time to pay off my HECS, but for the rest of life’s expenses. In any case, my student friends don’t even work. Youth Allowance and rent assistance for those under 25, plus a bit in the bank from them having worked full-time in their year off, is quite enough to live away from home on.

mark
2022 years ago

Tony, he’d notice the steep price of printing and suchlike, the nonexistence of a refectory, and the lack of such basic amenities as the uni pub (vitally important, that one).

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

The “pub” at CDU isn’t worthy of the name. There’s no subsidised printing. The food isn’t really that great. There’s a student rights officer, but rumblings about their efficacy and appointment.

If you show me a decent student union operation, I’ll show you a bunch of Liberal Students (and to an extent Labor Right) and people planning for VSU.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Jacques

The food at CDU isn’t provided by the Student Union, but by a private caterer. The catering was removed from the Student Union by the vice-chancellor before last. The food is better now than when the Union ran it, althugh the initial private caterer they got was absolutely shocking and served food that was almost inedible.

I assume the bar is still run by the Union, although I’m not sure. It’s only ever open in the evenings, and isn’t a very inspiring venue to say the least.

peggy sue
peggy sue
2022 years ago

because Austudy is a fucking pittance and anyway you don’t GET rent assistance on Austudy.

If start your course before you turn 25, you continue to get Youth Allowance, and rent assistance.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

I suppose I should have specifically mentioned “The Shed”, which is run by the Student Union. In its first year it produced fairly average tucker and coffee at vastly inflated prices, yet turned in a $70,000 loss which nobody can properly account for.

Ah, the joys of compulsory service provision.

If I can avoid it, I don’t eat on campus. I either get scoffee or I head to casuarina (like, I suspect, most students with a car or bike).

Graham
2022 years ago

Wow. And to think I worked while at uni just so I could afford food, rent, and the occasional beer. This was on top of Austudy. (c. early 90s, away-from-home) Didn’t stop me from becoming malnourished, though.

Remember that not everyone at uni is living in the bosom.

I tell you what, though, the uni union’s health service (actually, I’m not sure whether they were uni union or student union/guild) saved my arse a couple of times. In my first year, I had an asthma attack brought on by a lingering cold. Crawling down the hill, turning blue, trying to find the health centre was not fun.

mark
2022 years ago

That’s a bad case of tribalism you’ve got there, Jacques.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

I suppose it’s non-tribal to not question pissweak financial management, then?

mark
2022 years ago

“If you show me a decent student union operation, I’ll show you a bunch of Liberal Students (and to an extent Labor Right) and people planning for VSU.”

Because the only people who could possibly be doing a good job are your Liberal comrades, although you’ll grudgingly accept that your ideological bunkmates on the opposite side of the mickey mouse “divide” in student politics could perhaps be relied upon not to wreck the place also.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

I’ve studied at two universities and I keep an eye on the politics of a few around the place.

First of all, historical experience shows that nominally right-wing student administrations (Liberals & Labor Right) have done a better job of fundamental management issues than their leftist counterparts. The major exception in recent years was at MUSU, where Labor Right hacks drove the organisation into the ground with dodgy property deals.

Secondly, right-wing student politicians are far more likely to be studying either commerce (thus having a grasp of accounting principles) or law (thus better understanding legal consequences).

Thirdly, student politics at most universities finds Liberal Students and Labor Right students cooperating to fight Labor Left (NOLS), the National Broad Left, and now the Greens. This is because Labor Right also has a high proportion of law, commerce and economics students.

I’m sure that historically there have been leftist student unions that have been run with dispatch, economy and an eye to the accounts. But none that I’ve ever heard of or witnessed.

For a stark example, compare the Sydney University SRC (run by leftists) with the University of Sydney Union (generally run by a right-wing majority board, dominated by Liberals, Labor Right, and right wing indies).

The former is a rat’s nest of incompetence and waste. The latter is a national leader in the sensible management of student funds.

I am happy to expound the virtues of my “tribe”, when it has reference to the truth.

still working it out
still working it out
2022 years ago

I don’t think many people work while studying at uni to pay their HECS debt up front. It just doesn’t make financial sense when you’ll probably be earning much more after you graduate and its an interest free loan you only have to pay if you can afford it. I’d bet most of those who do pay HECS up front have it paid by generous parents.

Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson
2022 years ago

Given that most students are living below the poverty line and working untold hours just to pay for everyday living expenses while they complete their studies, i for one am extremely pleased that the CDU student union took out the full-page ad in the NT News.

The simple fact is the current education policies are a farce and would still be a farce no matter which political party was responsible. The abolishment of the text book subsidy, the HECS increase with no concessions or considerations regarding the age of the student and their reduced earnings span. This is particuarly important for regional universities such as CDU were the majority of students are mature age, usually studing part-time and are currently earning above the HECS threshold therefore the benefits take longer to earn while the increased costs start on enrollment day.

Given that the increase in HECS fees for future students will be a minimum of $5k for the cheapest degree if you use the number of new students enrolled in one year for example in 2000 there were 4,500 new students enrolled that means an extra $22.5m in one years enrolments alone. When you cost the price of the add paid by the CDU Student Union at say $3,000 by the number of students currently enrolled approx 15,000 it works out to be 20c per student which to my thinking is money extremely well spent.

What you have neglected to mention from your posts Jacques is that the CDU Liberal Club (along with other clubs on campus) recieves funding from the Student Union and this is certainly a greater waste of my amenities fee than the Ad in the NT News.

I noticed also from the recent elections for the Student Union that no one from the Liberal Club even stood as a candidate (have all the Liberal club members instructed that their compulsory amenties fee not be paid to the S.U, a little ironic with your club receiving SU funding , i guess this is because it is easier to sit on your arse and criticise everyone else than to represent and be accountable to the silent majority of students.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

Ian, to reply to your comments, as a matter of principle the University Liberal Club has never accepted a single dollar of student union funding. I cannot speak for Clubs at other universities, but as you suggest it would be hypocritical of us to do otherwise.

As to the recent Student Union elections, we did not run candidates because we were focused on the big show than the little one.

Furthermore there were no candidates who could give to student administration the time it deserves. We feel it’s better not to stand at all in such situations.

Finally, I do not “direct” the membership at all. We have an aggressively individualistic and democratic constitution, which you may peruse at your leisure.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

Just to nitpick your mathematics, the Student Union’s funding is derived from higher education enrolments, a figure which as much lower than the aggregated enrolment you quoted (it’s around 4000 I believe).

So strictly it’d be higher than you said. Not to mention that $3000 seems on the cheap side for a full page advertisement in the NT’s only major daily.