Palmerston North students have spoken out about the open letters of MAWSA President Tom Pringle and NZUSA President Linsey Higgins.
Pringle published an open letter in Issue Eight of Massive, describing the numerous flaws he saw with the NZUSA and student politics. NZUSA President Linsey Higgins replied to Pringle in the same issue of Massive.
The NZUSA is the New Zealand Union of Students’ Association, the representative body of New Zealand’s students’ associations. MAWSA is the Massey Wellington Students’ Association, the Wellington equivalent of MUSA.
Students spoken to by Massive indicated that they had no idea who the NZUSA or MAWSA were, with one student indicating that both had made ‘less than satisfactory’ first impressions.
A Science student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Massive:
“It felt like playground bickering with no real point behind it.”
They said that while there were some valid points in both sides’ arguments, the way it was done detracted from the overall message.
“As it was put, leaving post-it notes on the fridge is really not a good way to display integrity or transparency for this matter. Tom doesn’t have a very good grasp on democracy. Linsey doesn’t have a very good grasp on student opinion. I don’t really feel like I gained much from reading their arguments. It certainly didn’t inspire me to get involved with my student association.”
The student was particularly unimpressed with the open letter format utilised by Pringle, saying:
“[I have a] problem with the open letter. I’m inspired far more by actions than by your uppity ‘for the students’, self-important advertisement. If you want to see a change in student membership then go out and make that change. And don’t give me your bullshit about how hard and expensive advertising is. Facebook is free.”
There was some support for Pringle’s insinuation that New Zealand students are completely unaware who the NZUSA are.
Not one student approached by Massive regarding the feud had any previous knowledge of the NZUSA.
Science student Saskia Gilbert was surprised to hear that such an organisation existed.
“[I] never even knew something like that existed. I honestly didn’t know we even had people who talked to the government for us.”
Engineering student Zoe Foreman believed the NZUSA’s lack of presence in the student community was troubling.
“The fact that I haven’t even heard of this organisation speaks volumes.”
Foreman also expressed concerns over how the matter was handled, saying:
“[I personally think] it’s a bad look. It’s just like gossiping/bitching about your boss or superior to everyone but them, and then they hear about it and then reply in the same manner. It’s just not professional or the way you should approach confrontation at all.”
Foreman did have some sympathy for the points raised in Pringle’s letter, saying:
“Tom’s letter contains a few good points – especially the elitism he highlighted from the NZUSA. I do agree with Tom that the way the members are elected is sketchy, mainly because only a fraction of people vote for them.”
Foreman did agree with Pringle that there needs to be more pragmatism from students’ associations that appeals to the many.
MUSA President Nikita Skipper had no comment for Massive, saying:
“MUSA sees no reason to respond as this is between [the] NZUSA and MAWSA.”
MAWSA President Tom Pringle says that he is “happy to see students talking about these issues” following his letter.
“I have been overwhelmed by the response to my letter. I’ve had a lot of positive conversations and some critiques which I have taken on board. I’m stoked to see that my idea for national elections has been a popular one with everyone I have spoken to.
“I appreciate the fact that I have put out my message in an unorthodox fashion. I felt it was better to be open with students and put my thoughts out there, rather than keeping my thoughts behind closed doors. I hope that my letter is the start of a broader conversation on how students should be represented in New Zealand. Something needs to change.”
NZUSA President Linsey Higgins did not respond to Massive‘s request for comment.