Students have expressed difficulties to the Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) with the University not having emergency hardship funds available over the summer period. AUSA’s Welfare Vice President Ishie Sharma says their hands are tied when it comes to the allocation of the University’s student support funding.
The University’s emergency hardship grants provide support for all students in need of short term assistance. Emergency grants cover food, transport, accommodation, utility or medical expenses.
These grants are separate from the other student support awards, many of these that are listed on the University’s website request monetary gifts from donors.
The AUSA’s Welfare Vice President says that involvement from the student representative body in the allocation of support funding would help identify problems faced by students needing assistance.
“Unfortunately, AUSA is not a part of the decision-making bodies that make the major decisions about where the money goes, this is definitely a big part of the overarching problem.”
Ask Auckland confirmed that eligibility for the University’s Student Emergency Fund for general hardship support requires students to have attended their course for two weeks or more. This means that over the summer period, these funds are not available.
“AUSA is in the best position to advise the University on which barriers students are facing, in addition to providing practical suggestions to help these students in need.”
AUSA’s period poverty fund is also scheduled to have funding cut by the University mid-year, and they are now looking to apply for external grants.
Research led by the University of Auckland’s own Associate Professor Terryann Clark and Dr Terry Fleming from Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Health, found that “period poverty perpetuates inequity and cycles of disadvantage, particularly for our poorest communities and for Māori and Pasifika students.”
While campaigning for the Welfare Vice President role, Sharma stated one of her key policies would be for more hardship grants to be allocated with more inclusivity and diversity in mind.
However, she says there are many barriers to student involvement in decision making around student support funds.
“It is difficult for AUSA to influence these big decisions around funding when we are not included in the decision-making process. We are always advocating for us to be included in this.”
Recently, the Faculty of Arts has taken steps to support students directly for the first time ever, announcing a new emergency fund to cover short term emergencies of up to $500.
The fund is available to enrolled full-time and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Faculty of Arts experiencing financial challenges.
Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) and Arts Student Organisation Social Events Officer Natalie Dolan says the fund is more discrete and less invasive compared to the University-wide fund.
“For the hardship grant the University provides, you have to provide a lot of evidence, paperwork from your bank account, and personal details which is really gross and very intrusive.”
Dolan says the Faculty of Arts took the initiative to put together their own hardship grant that is more accessible than what is offered by the University.
The Arts GTA says it is necessary for Arts students to have this fund as they are often hit particularly hard by financial hardship.
“There’s a lot less paid internships and tutoring opportunities in Arts.”
The AUSA offers hardship grants of up to $250 for students who are facing short-term, emergency financial barriers.
“The Student Support Hub is also home to our Advocacy team who can help if students are facing issues with their lecturers, if they have trouble with their landlords, or even if they need general support.”
Sharma says the AUSA Student Support Hub is open at Alert Levels One and Two and encourages all students who need support to come and visit.
“From free sanitary products and condoms to emergency food parcels, we are here to help.”
Students can get in touch by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org