Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Interview with Nicholas Liau

Nicholas Liau is another first year student of Science and Law at the University of Melbourne. These are his personal opinions on voluntary student unionism.

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, I was not severely affected by the union fees which I had to pay on enrolment. However like many of the things we have to spend money on at the beginning of uni, like textbooks and course materials, this fee is another added burden and unlike the other purchases, I don’t see where my money is going when I hand it over to the student union.

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

In comparison to the fees charged by the university (say around $6000 a year for a science degree) the union fees are relatively small. However with no loan scheme to cover the fee, many poorer students would find it hard to raise the funds to pay the fee upfront. While this probably won’t completely preclude students from attending university, it does make life harder for these students.

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?

I have little problem with the union deciding how to spend my money if I can see how it is relevant to me. For instance, it is clear that our taxes go to paying for education, road maintenance, healthcare – all services which are used by ourselves, and which clearly benefit others in the community. The union’s main contention against VSU is that our union fees are like taxes and pay for services which benefit everybody. Yet I don’t see how these fees go into services which I myself use. For instance, to play soccer this year for the university would have cost me $220 plus the cost of a uniform and gear, despite the union fee. To play soccer for an outside club would have cost just $150 including uniform. In short, it seems as though our fees are not being spent prudently given the outrageously high cost of joining supposedly subsidized clubs.

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

I have no specific disagreements with the legislation but despite what I have said [above], I do fear that it may bring an end to many clubs, as is argued by anti-VSU activists. It would be a sad thing to see clubs shut down because of VSU, as they are an integral part of university life. Hopefully these clubs will survive by charging more for membership, which was the intended effect of VSU. This way clubs will still survive, and students will be able to choose how to spend their own money.


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