Disappointed with AUTSA during COVID? So was our AUTSA Vice President
A quick scroll on Facebook and you’ll notice that AUTSA isn’t the most popular kid on the block. The comment sections are barren with the exception of that one oddball mature student who doesn’t let us forget that they’re “very disappointed with our services.” And apparently, our new academic Vice president feels the same way. Michael Kanara is our newly appointed Academic Vice President, elected alongside our Community Vice President Amandeep Singh. When asked to summarize himself in just a few words Michael said “I’m Māori, I’m mature and I care.”
In a resignation letter dated 19th August 2020, Michael Kanara left his positions as the Disabilities Affairs Officer, Te Ara Poutama Officer and one of the Business, Economics and Law roles at AUTSA. In his letter of resignation he indicated that this was due to a number of reasons including:
• Incompetency to the SRC meeting process
• Incompetency to the AGM process
• Incompetency to the electoral process
• Incompetency to the financial process
• Lack of communication across all AUTSA internally • Lack of accountability for the above failures
In Kanara’s letter of resignation, he expressed that these sentiments are not unique to himself and are instead shared across a range of members within the SRC. In Kanara’s closing statement he says “until these factors are sorted out completely, I will be leaving my three roles vacant.”
Kanara returned to the SRC in September, around the same time elections had started. Kanara did not speak on whether the issues raised were resolved. However, he did mention that after taking some time away he was led to believe that actions were going to be taken to ensure that these raised issues would be resolved at some point. When asked what led him to believe this Kanara said “that it was more in the way that people in leadership expressed their authenticity for change.”
In October, Kanara ran for the role of Academic Vice President where he came in second place with 144 votes, behind Makere Te Kahu Harariki Wallace-Ihakara receiving 227 votes. With Makere Te Kahu Harariki Wallace-Ihakara opting to become the Māori Affairs Officer, Kanara was declared Vice President (Academic) by default.
As the Academic Vice president, Kanara’s concerns centre around academic success and retention. When we asked Kanara why he chose to leave the SRC he went on to say that last year was a tricky situation because of lockdown. Kanara echoes that he wanted to make sure that the processes of AUTSA were still being followed and the reason for his letter was to enhance that fact. He says that he has chosen to join AUTSA in a more high profile position this year as he wants to be “part of a solution not the problem.”
Kanara mentions that the biggest disappointment of AUTSA was the lack of communication and the failure to give updates on the lockdown situation. Kanara felt as if “students were supported during the first lockdown and the absence of that in the second lockdown was a concern.”
He says he was asked by quite a number of people to go for this role. He mentions that he was initially quite reluctant as he didn’t want the power to get to his head. However he recognises that he now has the power to address a lot of the failings of last year, which he believes is already beginning to show. When we asked Kanara in what ways can we see this change showing, he said that “this year we have the largest returning number of SRC members, sitting at three out of 22.” The three returning members are Kelsey Cornwaite, Sisifa Lui and Michael Kanara.
Every year AUTSA echoes that their primary goal is to be the voice of students and to keep AUT accountable. However, some members of the student body remain skeptical. Kanara sits in the same boat as a number of these students, hesitant to believe that our student levy adequately reflects the services delivered.
When we asked Kanara what tangible actions AUTSA are taking to alleviate the issues seen historically, he talked about transparency up and down, making sure that failings are learnt from, and making sure that those who do a good job are rewarded. And while all these things sound great in theory, what we are concerned about here at Debate is the implementation of accountability. What mechanisms are in place to keep AUTSA accountable and how can we ensure that our student levies are well spent? It’s good to see someone who shares the same concerns and intends to challenge AUTSA, however we will have to wait and see whether change occurs.
Kanara mentions that the biggest disappointment of AUTSA was the lack of communication and the failure to give updates on the lockdown situation.