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Friday, 27 February 2009

My Conscience Cannot be Bought with a Jelly-Shot

On Monday a new University year begins for thousands of New Zealand students. If you are a student, you probably don't even realise that when you paid your fees to enrol at University, most of you joined a political organisation; a political organisation with strident viewpoints on all sorts of controversial hot potatoes that speaks out publicly, lobby's NZ and international governments and claims you share its views.

I am talking about your campus student association and the fact that in New Zealand membership of it at most universities is compulsory.

That "free" alcohol available during Orientation week, those free condoms and dental dams, that gay pride week, the feminist meetings promoting abortion, the of trashing Christianity, the trespassing and occupying of buildings, the protests and demands and all those posters and press releases that sound suspiciously like they were written by Green and Labour party members are all supported, paid for and made on behalf of you.

At Auckland University yesterday, whilst on a campus tour, I was urged to go and join the Auckland University Students Association (AUSA). (AUSA is the only university student association in New Zealand for which membership is voluntary as students there managed to navigate the impossibly difficult method available at law to get rid of forced subscription. However, funding is not voluntary; AUSA's funding is compulsory.)

The enthusiastic recruiter told me and the group I was with that we should join because "you'll get a free jelly-shot and it will cost you nothing." He looked really confused when I was clearly not tempted and seemed very unimpressed when I pointed out to the group that while they wouldn't have to hand over any cash because they had already paid, their membership enabled AUSA to 'legitimately' claim to speak on their behalf on any polarising political and ethical issue they choose to, such as, abortion, euthanasia, terrorism, war, environmentalism, the status of[insert terrorist/communist/liberation organisation], etc giving the false impression to the media and society that all students share their controversial viewpoint; the power they wield and its influence on society is staggering. Your membership also ensures that the University will continue to force all students to fund them if it perceived that AUSA had wide student support. The University is aware of how apathetic students are so it counts support as membership. (The recruiter was even more unimpressed when every member of the group, including those that had begun to eagerly step towards the sign-up table all immediately saw my point and refused to sign up.)

Compulsory membership and compulsory funding of student associations is another issue that this government needs to address. It is not acceptable that these organisations can falsely claim legitimacy on behalf of all students, speak on their behalf on issues that have nothing to do with education that the rest of society is split on and violate the consciences of many they 'represent.' When their policies include campaigns to actively educate the student body that viewpoint X is right/wrong they are forcing some students to fund and endorse campaigns against their own beliefs.

Compulsory membership and funding of political organisations, regardless of how wonderful some of their non-political services might be, is a violation of freedom of conscience. Forced membership of a political organisation is a violation of freedom of association; both are rights protected under both New Zealand and international human rights legislation yet violated by the New Zealand government to this day.


  1. How interesting that student union membership is still compulsory. Maybe it's because 1) it's politically useful, and 2) the outside population doesn't really care as it doesn't affect them.

    And, most students aren't at university for long enough to get agitated enough over it to change it.

  2. I agree with this. There are even are other difficult situations as well though I am not sure which is worse. In the above situation one has to become a member regardless of your desires then contribute cash toward causes you find morally abhorent. However at least there is a desire not to be part of it and if you were kicked out of the association it would be a good thing.

    Other associations may be compulsory to be a member of just to perform one's duties. Legal associations, medical associations and colleges, education associations. Here membership may be compulsory to perform one's work by law. One does not generally wish to not be part of these associations yet they feel compelled to have policies on things that are political or controversial. For example I imagine a few paediatricians are peeved that their college has a policy against parental smacking.


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