Recently, the Tasmanian University Union has begun a campaign to justify its own existence because of Brendan Nelson’s probable introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism when the Coalition takes control of the Senate later this year.

A list of live music events at the University Bar has appeared on a prominent blackboard for the first time in years (most nights the space is blank).

University cafes and cafeterias have begun demanding student cards. Lame protests have begun to take place on campus with the slogan “VSU affected zone-no services.”

As a student at the University of Tasmania for many years these attempts at self-justification seem a little hypocritical.

Can anyone tell me why VSU is such a bad thing if the University Union has been overcharging students for years for mediocre services?

For example a coffee at Lazenby’s (The University Café) costs $3.00 at the student rate and $3.30 if you don’t have a student card (which doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t a student). I’m sorry but $3.00 is not cheap for a coffee. It’s the average price. And for $3.30 you would expect the best coffee in town.

The prices of sandwiches or pies also do not seem to be subsidised, although a glass of draught beer is slightly cheaper at $2.80 compared to the average of $3.00. Perhaps competition is the answer to ensuring that students get a generally fair price.

I have personal experience of VSU as a student of the University of Western Australia in 1996-97 and I can honestly say that there were numerous cafes and cafeterias still operating at that time, although I concede societies were probably more expensive to join.

It’s their money anyway

When I came to the University of Tasmania I was horrified by the authoritarian practice of withholding exam results from people who had not paid their Union fees. In what other situation would an organisation get away with this sort of bullying? Apparently there is a little publicised “conscientious objection” clause but this remains outside the knowledge of most students.

Could the TUU at least provide to all of its members a breakdown of its expenditure, given that it is their money anyway? How much goes to subsidising bogus societies, such as the “Reggae Society” which I joined in 1999 and never heard from again until someone mentioned that they had spent most of their money on CDs and not held any meetings?

How much goes to subsidise student politicians who are very vocal during elections but disappear for the rest of the year? (And they wonder why few students bother to vote).

Why has their been no live music in the University Activities centre, the largest and most suitable venue for live music, for many years, simply because student politicians decide to cave in to a small minority of disgruntled neighbours who complained about the noise?

I should point out that I am certainly no Liberal party stooge. I think that the practices of the University Union over many years have played into the hands of Brendan Nelson with his radical “reform” agenda.

It would be a shame if University Unions disappeared, as there would be no-one to represent students’ concerns against a ruthlessly cost-cutting Commonwealth Government.

Yet the TUU seems to have been very reluctant to be completely honest and to tell their members the whole story about VSU.

Jamie Rosewell is an Arts/Law Graduate of U.Tas. currently studying a Graduate Diploma in Journalism.