Most students, when looking at the chance of not having to pay the on-average $300-a-year fee, would jump for joy and go down to the pub and have a few beers.
It’s not until you explain to them what they’ll lose when not paying that fee that they realise those extra schooners probably aren’t a good idea.
The federal government’s Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) legislation aims to prevent universities from forcibly collecting fees on behalf of student organisations. So why is this a bad thing?
The generated income from this fee goes toward funding many different facilities including childcare, clubs and societies, sport equipment, political activism, dental clinics and much more.
Without the ability to collect these funds, many student organisations will simply die.
While not everyone uses the Fencing Club or the Women’s Collective, it is generally accepted that by paying your fee you are helping out the majority of students, in much the same way paying your taxes to the state or federal governments helps out with roads.
And in the case of the federal government, buying more tanks to blow stuff up. I may not agree with the use of governmental spending, and I didn’t support the Iraq war, but I know if I didn’t pay my taxes, society as a whole would suffer.
If students do not pay their fees, the same will happen.
Tim Alderman in his letter to Reader Views (SSO 759) seemed to have a big issue with paying his union fees.
He leaves out the fact that you have to pay over $1,000 a year on average for textbooks, or that the federal government raised the price of degrees at most universities last year by 25 percent (a law degree now costs $100,000 at Sydney Uni).
Now that one-off yearly payment of $450 at Sydney Uni doesn’t seem so expensive, does it?
For the record, the textbook subsidy that was in effect up until last year was an initiative of student organisations fighting to keep more money in student’s pockets.
From a queer perspective, what does universal unionism do for us?
There are Queer Spaces around NSW and Australia that have been funded by these student organisations.
Not to mention the Pride Weeks and Sexuality Weeks that are a chance for those in their queer communities to express themselves more vibrantly and engage the straight community with what it means to be queer.
At Sydney Uni, the De-Manning Night ran six times last year. It was a queer night at the Manning Bar on campus starring Sandy Toggs, Freeda Corset and Sexy Galexy.
At UTS in 2003 there were drag shows including one by pre-Australian Idol star Courtney Act.
Funds collected also go into buying safe-sex aids, including condoms, dental dams and lubricant, which can be accessed by any student, free of charge, regardless of sexuality.
These services will not continue under VSU.
As Richard Hanson stated (SSO 760), any person who doubts the value of universal membership should just head onto their university campus -¦ to see for themselves all the services that are offered.
I also noted with interest upon reading Alderman’s letter that in his three years at UTS and after paying over $800 in union fees, he received absolutely nothing. I doubt that immensely.
I do not know of a single student who has never used even one facility that these organisations provide.
Has he never eaten food bought from a union eatery? Has he never used the gym or sports facilities at Uni? I think he’s blowing these things out of proportion.
But I digress.
While VSU will shut down many of the services at metropolitan campuses, it will devastate regional universities. Cities like Armidale, Bathurst, Lismore and Wagga, to name but a few, are all university cities.
The major employers in these cities are the universities. When VSU comes in, many of the townspeople will lose their jobs, be unable to pay their mortgages, and many will be unable to find new jobs, forcing them onto an already crowded welfare system.
For a federal government that prides itself on the lowest unemployment figures in years, this is a confusing step backward.
There is currently a Dial a Senator campaign in action, calling on people who oppose VSU to call their local senator or MP to tell them what they think of the legislation.
You can also get involved by attending the National Day of Action Rally at noon on the Sydney Uni front lawns on Thursday 28 April.
There will be a march through the city before returning to Sydney Uni for performances by Frenzal Rhomb, Tim Freedman (of the Whitlams), Wil Anderson and The Chaser Team, as well as a surprise drag show and a few political speakers including Jenny Macklin and Julia Gillard.
James Wilson is co-convenor of the Queer Students Network.