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VS who?

7 Jan

If you're up early on a Sunday to watch the lovely Jana Wendt, no doubt you've heard of VSU. Love it or hate it, it's here now. And before you lads and ladies grace the campus in March, it's a good idea to get a heads-up. Here goes...

Late last year, the Federal Government passed a bill called the Higher Education Support Amendment (Abolition of Upfront Fees.) Lots of big words, but what do they mean for us regular folks?

Basically, it means two big changes for uni students. The first is that we no longer have to pay compulsory subscriptions for our Union. It is now up to the Uni to fund this, or it can be bought by a private company. The most obvious change that we, as students, will have to deal with, is that we might not have all the facilities, entertainment and support networks that we have had in the past. Like Brendon has said, the Union is a major part of uni life, and without them, we might not have the kind of life students are supposed to have (ie fun!)

If the Uni does go ahead with compulsory subscriptions (which is illegal) they will have to pay a fine of $100 per student who pays the levy. With close to 40, 000 students, this would mean one hell of a bill for Gavin Brown...

So why would the Government do this? Basically, Brendon Nelson, the Minister for Education, thinks that studenst shouldn't have to pay for what they don't use. University bodies, like the National Union of Students (which is made up of representatives from universities all over the country, and is led by our very own Felix Eldridge) have campaigned against the bill because they feel that student life will be threatened by its implementation. That is, students will not have access to academic support, health and welfare services, legal aid, accommodation and employment help - even where we eat on campus (God forbid!!!)

In Western Australia from 1997 to 2002, a form of VSU was introduced where students could volunteer to pay for their subscriptions. If they did, they would have access to Union services. If they didn't, they were left out in the cold. This scheme did not work for two reasons: one, most people opted not to pay. Secondly, of those who opted to pay, at some time during the year, many needed the support of a Union service. These included legal aid, insurance for internships, applying for special consideration in times of hardship and medical help.

Personally, I am the proud owner of an "I LOVE USU" shirt: I think that uni is more than three years of studying. It's a lifestyle, and a great one at that. As for people saying that, "You should only pay for what you use": if the Government feels so strongly about us only paying for what we use, why don't they do the same for our taxes and rates? I don't have any kids, so why do I have to pay a part of my tax to the education department? And what about people who don't drive - let's cut their taxes for the roads.

VSU looks set to go ahead, though - and perhaps to the detriment of our lives as students. I'd like to hear what you guys have to say about it, whether you've been to uni or not. You don't have to agree with me (actually it'd be great if you didn't....we need some spice around here!), but get your voice out there!

Cheers,
Lauren

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