AUSA say they will be challenging the university on aegrotat/compassionate consideration application fees. Their stance is supported by Labour MP Helen White, who says the fees are “utterly insensitive”.
At the moment, any student who is unable to attend an exam or test because of unforeseen circumstances can apply for an aegrotat/compassionate consideration (which would allow them to pass without sitting the exam or test). However, students are required to pay between $30 and $50 to have their application processed.
A separate application has to be made for each test or exam. On paper, this means students could end up paying the fee multiple times if they want compassionate consideration for multiple tests or exams.
Acting AUSA President Emma Rogers says “AUSA doesn’t support fees on aegrotats and compassionate consideration applications”.
“They’re not helpful,” Rogers said, “and we want to see them removed”.
Rogers says AUSA is currently communicating with the university to try and get the issue resolved. She says she is hopeful the university will listen to its students and remove the fees.
“Students are already going through a lot with this pandemic”, Rogers said, “[compassionate consideration fees] are just an added barrier” to learning.
AUSA’s stance on compassionate consideration fees is supported by Labour MP Helen White. In an interview with Craccum, she said the fees were “utterly insensitive”.
White, who works as an employment lawyer and has been involved with university issues in the past, said the compassionate consideration fees are something which has “concerned [her] for a really long time”.
White says the fees seem to stem from a misunderstanding on the part of many New Zealand universities – university executives often view tertiary education primarily as a business opportunity, rather than an educational facility.
White says this is wrong.
“[The University of Auckland is] not actually a company. They’re not there to make money, they’re not a business… They are there for higher education. They have a pastoral duty of care.”
“We really need to get back to what [universities] are, which is higher education institutions absolutely committed to deep thought”.
A University of Auckland law lecturer also publicly called on the university to remove the fees in a tweet.
The lecturer said the fees were “heartless at the best of times” and “border on irresponsible during a pandemic”. They asked for the university to “show just an iota of empathy”.
Craccum contacted the lecturer for comment but was unable to obtain one because the lecturer is contractually obligated not to speak to the media about university matters.
Craccum also contacted National MP Nikki Kaye and Green MP Chloe Swarbrick for comment. Craccum did not receive a response from either MP before publishing this article.
Craccum has been in contact with the university and understands it has already begun a review of the appropriateness of compassionate consideration application fees this semester. The results of this are to be released later.