AUTSA's Class Rep System Continues to Not Exist
AUTSA is still not offering a class representative system to students, despite many other student associations around the country successfully coordinating such systems.
A proposal created by AUTSA (then known as AuSM), from two years ago, noted that the association felt it should be providing a structured programme, with one representative in each class the university offers.
Class reps at other New Zealand universities generally serve to advocate for students of the class they represent and to mediate solutions to problems students are facing.
Helping to coordinate communication between students and staff, they may also sit on committees at their respective university. AUTSA’s proposal included a plan to hire a full-time staff member, with the title of ‘Student Representation Coordinator’ to oversee the programme.
AUTSA General Manager, Will Watterson, told Debate the proposal had come at a time when the association was not performing optimally and felt it could not afford to hire someone for the role.
“The university had made it clear we had been underperforming…so we were moving into 2018 with clear expectations from the university to do more, not to have any more funding, but to do more with what we had.”
Watterson said the association had also been having issues with “supporting, managing and empowering” the current Student Representative Council (SRC) at the time and was wary of taking on more representatives.
He said the decision was made to get better training and support for the SRC before embarking on the responsibility of a class rep system.
The SRC is structured to provide five faculty representatives, however some of these positions currently sit vacant. Some schools within AUT are understood of have reps, but the system appears far from standardised across the university.
The lack of a formalised class rep system for AUT students contrasts strongly with several other student associations around New Zealand.
Debate understands certain associations are successfully managing between several hundred to a few thousand representatives at any one time.
AUTSA’s Strategic Plan for 2019 mentions the piloting of a ‘School Representatives’ program, but AUTSA Vice-President, Kurt Schmidt, told Debate the SRC has not managed to organise this effectively.
Schmidt also raised the question as to whether it was right for the SRC to be given the admin-heavy job of implementing a school rep system.
An AUT spokesperson told Debate the university never intended the SRC to implement a class rep system.
They said that the suggestion was made to AUTSA that it should investigate the schools that already had class reps successfully operating and either “tap into those reps” or “develop a system that mirrors the effectiveness that currently exists.”
The spokesperson said furthermore that AUT had previously suggested to AUTSA that it should explore class rep systems that were already operating within other New Zealand universities and develop a model to suit the university.
Other student associations, including Auckland University Students' Association (AUSA), Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (VUWSA) and The Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) all have paid staff who organise their representative systems.
Both AUSA and OUSA have one staff member each who works 20 hours per week to keep their class rep systems running effectively. VUWSA employs a full-time staff member with an academic focus who manages reps as part of their role.
AUSA told Debate it manages around 750 reps at a time, VUWSA manages over 1000 and OUSA has around 4000 (with some cross-over).
Schmidt said AUTSA does not have adequate funding to support a class rep coordinator long term, but it could have enough budget “that we could scrape together to pilot this position.”
Schmidt said that the Service Level Agreement between AUT and AUTSA, which will be renegotiated in late 2020, would ideally include funding for a class rep coordinator role.
AUTSA General Manager, Will Watterson, is also optimistic about the association’s ability to deliver a class representative pilot programme in the near future.
“With the help of the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) and some firm pushing from myself and the SRC I think we could have at least a pilot designed in the first half of semester two.”
AUT Pro-Vice Chancellor of Student Experience and Success, Desna Jury, is understood to be gathering information from the university after AUTSA brought up the absence of a formalised class rep system at a recent SAC meeting.