The State of the Student Nation...or is it just Albany?

Students politics are dead and our student media is in terminal decline.
The most disappointing thing about university is the politics, or should I say lack of? I was raised with the idea that students held the power.They were the voice of the radical and idealists could still be heard loud and clear, where change was possible and protest a compulsory part of the process…yeah nah.
Thursday night was cold and blustery. Still, in the winter of my political discontent I hauled my arse off the couch and headed back to the Massey Albany campus for a debate. A real honest to goodness debate with representatives from each party talking to students about students. I was still quietly optimistic when I arrived onsite. The car parks were all full. Admittedly, they always are.
The debate had ben organised by the ASA (Albany Students Association) and NZUSA. I approached the building with trepidation and a sinking heart. The lobby was deserted. Oh well, what did I expect. I should know better by now. Lets face it just a couple of days prior Jacinda Ardern had visited and she had only managed to pull a crowd of twelve and she’s popular! I even know of a couple of students, mainly male, who would be able to identify her in police lineup. Okay, it’s true they probably couldn’t name her electorate or shadow portfolio but they know her face. The week before that the Politics Club had tried hosting a Pub Trivia event. No-one turned up at all.
I got to the top of the stairs and was greeted by the sight of at least forty students. On this campus, that’s a boomer crowd. Amongst them were a few of the people I had begged to join me. Straight away I was asked about the free pizza. “You said there was going to be three hundred pizzas Kate. Where are they?” Oops. Did I really say that? Surely not.
A mere hour and a half later the thing was done and dusted and I felt it had been a total waste of time. I had learnt nothing I didn’t know before. The pizza arrived. Not three hundred. More like thirty. People ate, mingled and left.
Therein lies the problem. Not a cross word, not a spontaneous outburst, not a single heckle. Not a controversial question, no-one interrupted. WTF?
I may not be a great fan of effigy burning but I would have given anything for a single FJK!

But what about the debate I hear you ask. Really? You want to know ?
Maryan Street from Labour owned the discussion and is also responsible for the best line of the event. Apparently she knows someone who is producing tonnes of high quality coke. Street has years of experience and a real interest in tertiary education. She was good.
Julie Anne Genter from the Greens was on message and well received. Albany Campus and a student discount on public transport sound like a dream team right? But what good is a cheaper service if the buses drop you down the road on every second blue moon? The Green message was good but like Labour there was nothing that was going to really get students fired up. The student portion of the missing million are still out.
The dark horse was Roshni Sami from the Internet Party. Though she was new and inexperienced, it came across as refreshing. Sami was also the one who managed to talk to a room full of students without sounding patronising. Unfortunately she did have a tendency to meander off topic. Fair play she’s only been at it for 4 weeks. Unfortunately in the pizza scoffing after match I was struck with a Tourette-like outburst. Straight after I congratulated her on a great performance, through a small mouthful of luke warm Dominoes, I followed my compliment with ‘ But you really need some media training.’ Shit. Her face tried valiantly not to fall. If I could have sucked the words back in I would have swallowed them with more cheese-less crust. I felt like I had just kicked a puppy.
Some media training is a good thing. Too much is not.
Mark Mitchell from the Nat’s …well lets just say maybe he shouldn’t venture out or speak without his Lusk and Slater mouth monitoring devices..but then that’s exactly where I’m up to in the book and I make no secret of my bias. He introduced himself by saying his name and telling us he was from Rodney. Then he told us where Rodney was. The audience is a room full of uni students. Not toddlers. Does he want me to call him Daddy?His message throughout the night seemed to be get your degree and get out. Go overseas and turn that degree into cash. Really. He then gave an analogy about getting a history degree and having to compete for the only two Historian jobs in the world. At least 30% of the audience were Arts students. Like me. Like Street.
So yes I want politicians to have some media savvy, but i don’t want politicians that are totally manufactured by spin doctors. I would rather them real, like Sami, not so desperate to be elected they need a team to make them palatable.
The truth of the matter may be that if we want students to show more passion for politics than pizza, maybe we need to encourage the chanting and the bonfires. Maybe we need politicians that aren’t the product of polish and PR but politicians that students can identify with and who can speak to the issues they give a shit about. The Internet Party is making a start and I will be keen to see how Roshni Sami stacks up in another four weeks.
In the meantime I’m going off out to check out some hoardings. #Fuck John Key.

Kate Davis is completing her B.A English & politics. Previously she has worked for the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective & currently volunteers as an advocate for Auckland Action Against Poverty.
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