Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Interview with Narthana Epa

Narthana Epa is currently a first year student of Science and Law at the University of Melbourne.

What does the government's VSU legislation mean to you personally, if anything? Are you financially affected by the $392 you were forced to pay?

Personally it means little to me in a direct sense as I don't pay it myself, however, indirectly it is an additional burden on my parents and hence on me.

Do you see the $392 up-front fee as a barrier to study for poorer students?

Maybe, it is not difficult to envisage such a situation, especially if the student is forced to pay it him/herself. $392 is a fairly large amount and I find it hard to image anyone recouping this amount through free barbecues. However free second hand textbooks to the disadvantaged would be a powerful argument against such a notion. However, such activities do not seem to be the main focus of the Union's operation despite the fact that many students find them worthwhile subsidising.

Would you rather spend the equivalent of the amenities and services fee on student services directly rather than having student politicians decide how your money should be spent?

Most definitely, there are a myriad of clubs and societies that are being subsidised by my fees that I would not have even heard let alone considered joining. Without sounding too selfish, I am not too pleased to fund activities that I will never benefit from. The Student Union does not provide welfare, it just provides various services most of which are recreational, and I don't see why I need to fund the recreation of my fellow students. I have no problem with the student union's existence - I just believe that it should charge the users of its services and not the whole student body. In short, I would not be too perturbed by fund[ing] genuine assistance to the student body, even if I do not benefit from it. It is the other operations that have no welfare benefit that I do not feel content to pay for.

Is there any aspect of the government's legislation you disagree with or dislike?

I'm not fully aware of the VSU legislation's exact provisions, but if it is true the general taxpayer is to fund university amenities as a temporary compromise, then I think that it is an unfortunate one. This is obviously a bigger breach of the user-pays ideal than Compulsory Student Unionism itself. People who are not University Students have zero chance of benefiting from a Student Union's activities (unless they are fortunate enough to enter into a very favourable contract with it for leasing student apartments) and therefore they should [not] be forced to do so through tax.


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