O hai, where ya been?

February 15, 2013

Apologies to anyone who looks here regularly, I’ve been having what’s euphemistically called ‘a holiday’ while I relocate myself & re-load the Master’s thesis project that got canned back in 2010 when VUW closed Gender & Women’s Studies School.

I’m just getting into the joy of new texts, a new library to strip-mine (joy of joys…) and meeting new supervisors, secondary supervisors and struggling with the concept that I know enough history to do an actual history paper at 500-level, as well as my thesis paper.

If anyone remembers, I was planning an herstory of radical feminist activism in Aotearoa/New Zealand, to be conducted by Oral History methods, covering the 1990’s through to oh, about 2010 .. that end date has morphed ‘cos many conditions in the world have changed, & I keep wanting to add more stuff.
I want to write about how globalisation affected activists here, about the 90’s neoliberal reforms, about hip mamas and random trollops, about the lovers and the fighters of the activist world, who happen to belong to us.
Along the way, I’m discovering, I am going to be dealing with some gnarly frameworks like post-structuralism, US and Euro definitions of ‘third wave’ feminism, and how that applies to the NZ experience, and possibly re-hashing some very old feminist arguments about ‘women and the left’, as those who became disillusioned with NZ political paradigms talk to me.

This where you, dear reader, may come in.
You see, many of the people I first envisaged interviewing have fled NZ since 2007, when I began to design this project. Some are more or less important than they used to be, some of us are sadder and wiser activists who jealously guard our privacy. There are many reasons why someone who might have wanted to participate, maybe doesn’t want to any more.

So this is a (very preliminary) callout to my sistas.
If you know someone (or you may even be someone) who was an activist in environmental work, indigenous rights, alternative political groups, outright radical feminist activity, labour organisation, advocacy for low-income workers or unemployed, you may be someone I’d like to talk to. There will of course be an ethics committee process to go through, but I wouldn’t be an anarchist if I wasn’t prepared to subvert that process by getting a little ahead of it, on my own terms.

You can comment here (all comments are moderated by me, so won’t show immediately. If you don’t want your comment published, say so, I’ll just contact you back privately) and let me know what you think of the project, what you might want to contribute or even criticise, and please, pass this around your networks.

FWIW, I operate at a level of ethical constraint higher than the Human Ethics Committees of most universities here in NZ. My protocol is that which is promulgated by NOHANZ, the National Oral History Association of NZ, based in the Oral History Archives in the Turnbull Library, Wellington. That can be viewed here.

Work that I do during this project will ultimately be archived at the Turnbull Library, in the Oral History Centre, unless participants specifically request their recorded contributions to be returned to them. Archived recordings can be set to varying levels of security, including ‘researcher only’, ‘public access’ and many variables in between. Recordings can be made unavailable for 50 years, in order that participants may be safely departed from this planet before their secrets may be examined, if so desired. Lotsa fun to be had there.


Media Advisory:
Meeting 4pm Thursday 18 August, MacLaurin Lecture Theatre,
Kelburn campus, Victoria University

The decision announced earlier today to sack two lecturers in Victoria University’s International Relations programme to make way for new “themes” in the programme based around Security Studies and the Asia-Pacific region will lend urgency to a meeting of staff, students, University Council members and MPs scheduled for 4pm Thursday 18 August at the Kelburn Campus’ MacLaurin Lecture Theatre 102.

“We can’t tell exactly who will be attending the meeting other than students and staff at this stage,” says Tertiary Education Union Organiser, Michael Gilchrist, “but we see the current changes as a watershed issue for the future direction of the university.”

“There is no question of a lack of funds or student demand in the programme. On the contrary, an additional investment is being made. But younger staff, attempting to raise a family and build an academic career, are losing their jobs.

“We are particularly concerned that the university’s Academic and Faculty Boards, representing students and staff have not been consulted and that recent resignations in the programme have not been used to avoid making staff redundant.

“Likewise, students see the alarming implications for the courses they are taught, the relationships they have with lecturers and their plans for progression within disciplines if changes in the wind of management thinking can have this kind of effect.”

**For further information please contact**

Michael Gilchrist 021 770 846 or 04 463 5058

Further information on the situation at Victoria is also available at www.teu.ac.nz

There is another meeting happening to discuss the change proposal and responses to the VUW Council, on Wednesday 24 August at 5pm, until 8pm, in the Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University of Wellington.

This meeting is being called to discuss, organise and coordinate nationwide resistance on campus.

Amongst other things, the university is under attack from the government, with VSM set to pass in the next month. It is also under attack from its own management, with lecturers being sacked and research shut down in Wellington; whilst key academic conditions are being taken from academic staff in Auckland.

Robbie Shilliam, a lecturer in International Relations at VUW, will speak briefly about general issues.

Joe Kelly, an ex-student, will speak about past experiences of occupations which have occurred at VUW.

We will then discuss how to most effectively build resistance on campus, and make some plans.

Please invite anyone you think might be interested.

The change proposal can be accessed here.

Next Wednesday at 12.30pm, the NEZI primary teachers’ union is holding a rally at Parliament to present its petition opposing the government’s imposition of “national standards”.

The government’s proposal means essentially exams for children as young as five, on a narrow range of subjects, to the detriment of their broader education and development. More info is available at:

The teachers are at the forefront of the union opposition to this government.
Come along and give them your support!

This week, I have made a momentous decision, somewhat forced by the inter-Faculty wrangles I referred to in my last post on feminism-in-academia.

As of Tuesday, I’m not a Master’s thesis candidate, although I have no intention of shelving my project to write a book on third-wave radical feminists in Aotearoa-New Zealand (that’s from 1990 – now-ish, for those who don’t recognise the terminology).

It’s been a long time coming, but I am now officially over dealing with the assortment of misogynists on the VUW Council who have been paring back the resources allocated to the School of Gender & Women’s Studies over the past 4 years.

First it was a discussion about removing the School from the Kate Edgar House, at 94 Fairlie Terrace, an old villa next to the Music School property – itself marked for demolition once the NZSM gets it’s new premises built on the Illot Green, next to the MFC, downtown. Oh, wait, the funding hasn’t come through for NZSM, has it?

But the VUW Council have already begun re-development on Fairlie Tce, having bowled 3 houses which belonged to the School of Education, whose staff were all peremptorily moved up to the Karori Campus in 2007 to make way for – a hostel for International Students!
Yes, a commercial venture based on ‘slit-appartments’, which have been built and turned into instant ghettos in Auckland, replete with drug dealers and so on, in a copy of student accommodation popular in Hong Kong.

Funnily enough, they’re having trouble finding post-grad international students ready to put up with the extremely small flats created in the hope of securing a mix of under- and post-grads in the hostel. It’s mostly populated by German and American exchange students, with a smattering of Korean and Chinese first-years.
Catering facilities are minimal, and a whole floor is dedicated to an open-air drying arena for laundry, surrounded by toughened glass plates to stop anyone blowing away in a stiff northerly..

In 2008, the results of a change proposal were to reduce the School of Education staff at Karori from 150 to 100, a net loss of 33% of staff across all categories. Staff members were approached by the AUS, the staff union on VUW campuses, but were told by the Dean of Education faculty Dr Dougald Scott, as well as by other senior staff, that speaking to the union would place them automatically on the ‘to be fired’ list.
Many staff did speak to AUS rep Michael Gilchrist, but were frightened of reprisals from both the external HR firm hired to do the redundancies, and the permanent senior staff.
There was ultimately no strong collective protest from the School of Education staff, and the job-losses went ahead as planned by the VCs on Kelburn campus.

Along the way, School of G&WS lost our Fairlie Tce rooms and ancilliary staff, as well as 4 of the 8 undergrad papers, and no guarantee from the VUW Council that undergrad majors currently in train would be able to complete.

Post-grads were given very short notice at the start of that academic year to pack up all their desks and resources, for removal to Karori campus. Space for study was not allocated immediately; PhD students who’d allowed all their work to be boxed up waited weeks, finally allocated a post-WW2 prefab, with no insulation or heaters, in which their desks and research were summarily unpacked by Faculty staff (campus care) without any discussion taking place directly with the post-grad’s involved. The disruption to research was undertaken with no apology or suggestion of compensation.

Some students opted at that stage to remove all their work from the university property, and work from home, or the office of an understanding employer.
Some of us petitioned other services on campus, receiving help from PGSA and Disability Services to be able to remain on Kelburn Campus with our work intact.
Eventually, near the end of 2008 second semester, a small house in Campbell St was procured for the G&WS post-grads – a two-storey property which was partially inaccessible to at least one of the PhD students, and due to students chosing to work off-campus, was much smaller than the amount of space needed to accommodate all of the currently enrolled post-grads.

Moving on to 2009, the resources continued to be straightened. Dr Leslie Hall was put on a one-year-rolling contract, with Faculty and Academic Board members commenting that ‘falling roll numbers meant that they could not guarantee G&WS papers continuance unless enrolments increased’. This was after a fight at the Academic Board in late December 2008 to keep the undergrad papers at the same level as 2008 (a reduction from 8 to 4 papers, remember?), which meant that the papers did not go onto the online enrolment website until about 6-8 weeks after the massive “Get online and enrol early” PR campaign had kicked off – creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that G&WS would attract few enrolments.

Late in 2009, as the School was ready to celebrate the graduation of one of our PhD candidates, the Academic Board again threatened not to list G&WS papers, citing ‘low enrolments in 2009’, and once more Dr Hall had a huge battle to keep her teaching contract, and to keep the undergrad papers on the prospectus. In early December, Dr Alison Laurie resigned from teaching, although she committed to continuing supervison of the currently enrolled post-grad’s for the duration.

Then the 2010 VUW Calendar was published, with no reference to the School of Gender & Women’s Studies under Faculty of Education, although Alison is still listed in the Faculty staff (but not Lesley…) There are no undergrad papers listed in the Calendar.
A perusal of the 2010 School of Education undergrad prospectus does show 4 papers, with Dr Laurie listed as teaching one, and the others ‘tbc’ – telegraphing to students, who can’t find these papers listed on the website, that the Faculty is not committed to continuing teaching Gend papers at this level.
Oh, and the Calendar, under MA statutes, mentions that there will be no more MA enrolments in G&WS from 2010. Gee thanks for telling me that my thesis enrolment cannot be continued, folks. When I enrolled in mid-2009….

I have had administrative support from FHSS on Kelburn campus frequently during 2009, as the Fac Ed office in Kelburn is not capable of offering full support to post-grad students, and it appears that FHSS (under whose broad mantle Fac Ed operates) has not been told that the lid is sinking on G&WS enrolements.
It also appears that Fac Ed admin are incapable of interrogating the Kelburn Registry database for information (as every other Faculty does), since they told me in late November 2009 that ‘they had no communication with me, and did not know I was enrolled’ – 6 months after Registry produced my course confirmation and fees demands, which my student loan duly paid. (WINZ being perfectly capable of interrogating the database & finding my enrolment and course confirmation …)

As I went through the process of filing my 6-month research report I realised with a sinking heart that most of the paperwork I’d done so far, applying for Ethics Consents, grants and scholarships, had been negated by the complete refusal of Fac Ed to acknowledge that I was actually enrolled for an MA thesis.
Having wasted six months of my research time, they then went on to try to patronise and bully me about the missing 6-month report. I quoted back the sentence they’d e-mailed me about their failure to find me on the student database, and suggested that their incompetence was not my
problem, and they would get the report when I had time to fill it out properly.

Along the way, I found a copy of the Minimum Resources Agreement (MRA), negotiated by PGSA and in force when I enrolled in mid-2009. It’s here on the PGSA webite, if you’re interested in the details.

Suffice to say that the Faculty had not met a skerrick of the MRA for the majority of students doing PhD’s through G&WS, and for none of the MA thesis researchers.

At this stage, I’m going to apply to have my tuition fees refunded, on the grounds of failure to provide the conditions of research set out in the PGSA agreement; and I may attempt to get compensation for the waste of my time and resources during the time leading up to my first 6-month report, when Fac Ed ‘had no record of my enrolment’ and thus denied my existence to any funding agencies to whom I had applied. There is also a group of concerned post-grad students who are meeting on-campus irregularly (as our conflicting time resources allow), to discuss grievances collated by one of our number.

This article is my first sally in direct action against the misogynist behaviour of the VUW Council, VC’s, Deans of FHSS & Education, and I hope it will be the beginning of another protest campaign to keep Gender and Women’s Studies alive on VUW’s campus, where our tradition of Women’s Studies courses goes back to papers taught by Phillida Bunkle and Jackie Matthews in the mid-80’s, when 20KP was the location of the Women’s Studies office. (Now PGSA office and study resource rooms.)

Most of you know I’m currently an academic feminist.

If it had been up to the VUW Academic Board, this would not be so.
At long last, Dr Lesley Hall has been confirmed in her position for another year, and the undergraduate papers in the School of Gender & Women’s Studies (GWS) will remain.

Great news, I hear you say.
Well, yes, but not for the mass of undergraduates who have been trying to enrol in papers that have not shown on the VUW enrolement website, nor have they been confirmed in any on or offline prospectuses so far.

It is a travesty of education policy to arbitrarily choose from one academic year to next whether courses will be continued, as the VUW Council have been wont to do with GWS over the past few enrolement seasons.
“Oh noes, we have falling enrolements, we must cut courses”, they say, when their late approval of courses has contributed to uncertainty about course provision – along with the mega-PR campaign encouraging undergrad students to enrol early online, where the courses don’t show.

So, if you, or anyone you know, had intended to take a Gend paper this coming academic year, jump back on the website and dump that Accy or Eng paper you chose instead, and create a huge paper trail of grumpy feminist students who want their courses back!

Rant over.

Tonite, and tomorrow afternoon, some students are graduating with majors in GWS, including (soon to be) Dr Alison Hopkins.
I shall be joining the other post-grad students in progress to congratulate Alison and the others, at our School pre-grad morning tea, then joining the procession in Lambton Quay as a ‘sidewalk photographer’ to record the achievements of those of my peers who have finished theses despite the distinctly unwelcome air we have studied in, as Fac Ed and FHSS fight over the living, breathing bodies of our postgrad students.
But I’ll save the ongoings of that argument for another post!

Here’s something pretty from back in 2008, when we first started complaining about the cuts to facilities for GWS.

2008 protest poster

2008 protest poster

I’m passing this around, in case any greenies are so inclined & qualified.

Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies (Confirmation Path)
National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

Applicants should possess a PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies or a cognate discipline, and have an established or emerging track record of systematic research and publication. They should also have teaching experience at the tertiary level. Given that Peace and Conflict Studies is a new programme, candidates should be able to demonstrate skills in academic curriculum development as well.

The successful candidate:

* Will have a research background in peace and conflict studies with a significant number of peer reviewed publications. Some preference will be given to those with advanced knowledge in conflict analysis and resolution.

* Will contribute to the research environment by developing/contributing to local and international research groups, by attracting postgraduate students, and by competing successfully for research funding.

* Will be expected to teach two postgraduate courses per year in the area of Peace and Conflict Studies and to supervise 400-level Honours, Masters and PhD students.

* Will contribute to the administration and development of the Centre in particular, and the Division of Humanities and the University of Otago in general.

The position is available from 1 June 2010 and it is hoped that the successful applicant can commence duties as soon as possible around that time.

Specific enquiries may be directed to Professor Kevin P Clements, Director, National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies,
Tel 03 479 4546, Fax 03 479 8084,
Email kevin.clements@otago.ac.nz

Applications quoting reference number A09/163 close on Friday 22 January 2010.

Job Description: You can download the Lecturer in Peace and Conflict
Studies (Confirmation Path) job description (12 KB in PDF format) at

Application Forms: Download the Application Form in PDF format at

or MS Word format at

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO): Download the EEO Form in PDF
format at

or Rich Text Format (RTF) at

Prior to applying for any academic staff vacancy, applicants should also read:

* Application Information for Academic Staff at

* Information for Applicants for Academic Posts and Conditions of Appointment at

AUS Status of Women Committee hosted a Fiesta day of events, in venues across Kelburn and Pipitea campuses, to mark the 115th Anniversary of Universal Female Suffrage on the 19th September 2008.

The events were varied, kicking off with a breakfast in the Staff Club to launch the Human Rights Commission’s NZ Census of Women’s Participation, with Dr Judy McGregor speaking on “If Universities were serious about EEO, what would they look like?”. This was a sellout session!

Followed up by speakers from the School of Gender & Women’s Studies in the first session, held in the Ian Gordon room adjacent to the staff club, discussing the place of Women and Gender Studies in a mass Tertiary Market, with input from Associate Prof Prue Hyman, grad Pia Titus, researcher Dr Anne Else, Shenagh Gleisner, the CE of Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and Celia Briar, a senior advisor in the Pay and Equity Employment Unit. Sobering but essential information was received by those who could stay on after the breakfast presentations.

Then we moved to a session of creativity, coffee & conversation – the all-important balance of life vs work time. Concurrently, a clothes swap was held in the Cotton Building Hallway.

Having de-stressed to a degree, we were then admonished to de-clutter in an inspiring workshop by Maria Dorothea from Christchurch, who is a professional organiser. Her workshop focussed on how to set aside time to de-clutter, and how to decide what to keep, and how to let go.
Basically boils down to: If you love it, keep it.
If it raises your energy to look at it, or it’s truly useful NOW, you can keep it.
Many archivists, librarians and researchers in the workshop found this to be ‘tough love’ to the extreme, as we made feeble excuses for keeping our outdated archives of research paraphenalia. The Beaglehole room was discussed as a repository of last resort!
Lunch was a breeze, catered by premise staff, and a welcome respite.

The group then broke, to travel down to Pipitea Campus, where cake and afternoon tea were served, and the seminars continued.
Financial Planning for Women from Alison Renfrew, a remarkable financial planner and courageous breast cancer survivor, was well attended by a variety of women, and two babies, just to skew the demographics a little!
She gave away a copy of her recently published biography to a lucky participant, and told us about the circumstances that allowed her to be treated efficiently in the private healthcare system, due to her prudent acquisition of effective insurance products. Another lively question time followed her presentation, covering many issues around financial planning for a variety of ages of women.

Then it was the Maaori Women Speak session, presented by Aroha Te Pareake Mead, who is a member of the International Union of Conservation of Nature, an NGO hosted in Switzerland, which is doing global work on biodiversity and other issues of sustainable development, as well as being on the staff at VUW lecturing in the areas of economic sustainability, and a past member of the National Maaori Congress in the 80’s and 90’s. She travelled with Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikahu, to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, where Te Arikinui signed the Convention on Biodiversity on behalf of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Her koorero to us was insightful and fascinating, and touched on recent Waitangi Tribunal claims such as the WAI 262 claim for indigenous ownership of biodiverse flora and fauna, negating foreign patenting of seeds or components of rongoa maaori.

The late afternoon break for wine and a quick refreshment was very welcome, and then the Candidates Forum commenced, introduced by Sandra Grey, one of the two organisers of the events. Maryanne Street represented Labour, Sue Bradford the Greens, and Katrina Shanks, for National. All spoke about their parties’ policies for women and workplace relations, and then the panel were asked questions from the floor.

Sue Bradford speaking

Sue Bradford speaking

Sitting MP's Katrina Shanks, Sue Bradford & Maryanne Street at the Candidate's Forum

Sitting MP's Katrina Shanks, Sue Bradford & Maryanne Street at the Candidate's Forum

Sue B highlighted the gains the Greens’ Private Members’ Bills have made in addressing youth rates, minimum wage, and conditions for mothers in workplaces and other areas. She also spoke about policy issues directly pertaining to students, around student allowances, interest-free student loans, and pay equity for graduate women starting out in the workforce.

This was a great end to a day of celebrating the rights women have accumulated in the past century, and gave direction to those of us who want to see improvements in some areas before the end of the next century!

Le Matt Juste

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