In a straightforward world, we would go to University, enjoy our higher education and leave with a piece of paper, some good friends, and some niche af knowledge. No one tells you about cramming assignments until 3am, the loneliness, nor how the physical and emotional support that was more accessible at high school is now distanced. Truth be told, it’s not uncommon to feel dissatisfied with what the careers counsellor at high school once promised you.
University is an intimidating place. Up to now, most of our schooling has been passive, with clear rights and wrongs. It’s wrong to wag classes. It’s wrong (and a straight up fail) to not include a topic sentence in your NCEA English essay. It’s wrong to question the teacher, or the guidance counsellor, god forbid, who has a worse sense than the psychics on Sensing Murder. But at University, it’s difficult to shed this tendency and instead adopt ownership over our own education.
It’s easy to forget how much debt we incur for a Semester’s study, let alone our degree. For a $5000 purchase, you’d expect us to be rolling around the AskAuckland floor, begging to speak to the manager following the slightest transgression. Understandably, uni consumes most of our time, so it can be hard to offer genuinely constructive criticism to the system. Thankfully, there are people to act on that on our behalf.
Usually, only until we get really fucked over do we turn to AUSA, asking for their support. But when time comes to engaging in their politics and voting in new members…A-who-SA? When we’ve got limited time and energy to give to ourselves and our education, why should we care about student politics?
Well there are lots of reasons to care. For one, you pay student levy, which is on average $962.20 for an undergraduate student doing eight papers a year. The University collects around $24 million in student levies a year, funding advocacy and legal advice, health and counselling services, financial and employment support, clubs, sports and cultural activities. And most importantly, without your student levies, there would be no Craccum.
It might feel like we are throwing nearly a thousand dollars a year at the University with no hope of being seen again, but student politics grants us decisions on where these resources are allocated and gives us some degree of agency in this stupidly bureaucratic University.
In fairness, the University of Auckland is not really built for strong student political engagement, at least in the traditional Victoria-University-of-Wellington sense. After class, we run home faster than kids do after the lunch bell to beat the traffic, and on the way, we try not to make eye contact with that once-was friend from high school and the Uber Eats brand ambassador ahead. In UoA culture, nothing binds us together more than an appreciation for Munchy Mart and our disgust for the state of our student facilities.
And that’s all it takes really—just to be passionate about something that affects you and others. Politics can be an intimidating word some, while for others it’s principle to the way they think and do. We’re sure you have something you really give a crap about, regardless of whether or not you identify with the ‘p word’.
Every person should feel welcome to participate and engage in politics and be able to productively deliberate and ask dumb questions without feeling patronised (looking at you, UN Youth nerds). If you’re thinking where to start, here two ways you can get involved next week:
Brian Gu (he/him) and Eda Tang (she/her)
Co-Editors of Craccum 2021