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AGM Votes for a Wellbeing Officer on SRC

Students have voted to approve two new roles on the Student Representative Council (SRC) at AUTSA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) held during re-o week.

The two new roles are a Rainbow Officer, intended to represent the LGBTQ community on campus and a Wellbeing Officer who will help support students experiencing mental health challenges.

These new roles have been created despite the SRC having difficulty filling vacancies within the existing council.

At the time of the AGM, Health and Environmental Sciences (HES), Postgraduate Studies and Te Ara Poutama (TAP) were all without a student representative, with TAP having sat vacant for over six months.

AUTSA President, Dharyin Colbert, told the AGM he was confident AUTSA would be able to find quality candidates to fill these new roles, as well as the vacancies.

“We are in an amazing position – maybe better than we’ve ever been – to make sure that we find the right people for the right jobs,” he said.

AUTSA General Manager, Will Watterson, told the AGM that a lack of engagement in the student community was a reason for the difficulties in filling the vacant roles.

According to Watterson, AUT has recently given the association access to student email addresses which it can use to directly contact any student.

“Whereas we struggled to fill vacancies before via word of mouth, we sent a direct targeted email to postgraduate, TAP and HES students and within 48 hours we had three to ten applications for each role,” he said.

AUTSA’s job is to represent approximately 30,000 students to the university and Colbert said that the AGM was a “beautiful example” of the engagement the association has. This comes after the previous AGM was cancelled, as it failed to attract the 30 students required to get quorum.

“We are doing so much better in getting in front of you and hearing from you,” he told the students gathered at the AGM.

Despite the two new roles comfortably passing a vote, several students expressed concern at the capability of the association to properly support a Wellbeing Officer.

Colbert said AUTSA wanted to implement the position as the high school leavers, who make up most of AUT’s demographic, have the highest suicide rates in the developed world.

“We need to do our part to help our students, we need to resource that,” Colbert said.

Some students at the AGM also asked what sort of training and support AUTSA would be able to provide a Wellbeing Officer, who like all SRC members, would only be expected to work around three hours a week.

While Colbert and Watterson did not provide any specific plan for the training or support that would be provided to a Wellbeing Officer, Colbert told the AGM that he was confident the association would be able to “find the right person and give them the right training.”

Also at the AGM, Colbert announced a restructuring of the leadership within the SRC. The association is now trialling a system of two vice presidents rather than the usual one.

“This puts us in line with the other student associations, we are the only association with only one VP,” he said.

As this is only in its trial stages, it will require a change to the AUTSA constitution if the association decides to make it a permanent fixture for 2020.

The new vice presidents are Divya Kataria, who was the International Officer and Angelica Tovia, the Pasifika Affairs Officer.

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