On August 14, during an Academic Board meeting, students and staff staged a peaceful protest in response to a proposal converting faculties to academic divisions. Nexus had previously interviewed the Vice-Chancellor in issue 18 to discuss what he believed the impact of dividing to be, however, to gain a better understanding of their concerns with the proposal, we met with representatives of Te Kahuinga Tumuaki, the Māori presidents of all of the Māori student roopu.
The intent of the peaceful protest was ‘...to support our members on the Academic Board, and our staff. We wanted to show that the Māori student body could come together and protest something that we feel passionately about and to get the VC to listen and hear us.
‘FMIS is a pillar in this institution where a large number of Māori feel safe and affirmed. They provide us with a safe academic environment for our cultural development, and if they are struggling to provide such functions, then we too, are struggling.
‘At the very least, for the VC to take the feedback he’s been getting into serious account (i.e. FMIS, LAW, Te Waiora, Te Kotahi Research feedback submissions).
‘We now know that we have support from Māori as well as non-Māori on campus. We have had other ethnic groups who have voiced their concern about the mana diminishing aspects of this re-structure for Māori.
‘“Division” has never been a Māori approach, we are now empowered to work together, both staff and students, and present a united front for a united outcome. The protest was just the beginning, and there is much to be said and done that as we write this, plans and strategies are being discussed.
‘An unintentional outcome is the support we are now receiving from outside of the university. We have students from other universities who have shared their support, as well as iwi and hapū who are proud to see the rangatahi of today still willing to fight for important causes.’
Te Kahuinga Tumuaki believe ‘lack of student consultation’ plays a major part in the issues with this proposal, along with ‘the VC’s inability to see things from a Māori perspective’. Further questioning ‘the vagueness/unclarity of the proposal…’ along with the potential actions that may come as a result, such as the centralisation of support staff (Māori mentors) and the effect on their senior lecturers.
‘It impacts us because the people who teach us matter, and they are struggling to survive as Māori in this place as it is, which means we, as Māori students, also struggle to survive. We just haven’t been provided with an understandable breakdown of how we will benefit from the proposed changes.
‘Another major issue is the Bachelor of Law degree; its reputation becoming undermined and diminished in this restructure is of great concern, because our Te Piringa—Faculty of Law—has such a strong Indigenous legal background we should be developing this further through how they believe it should be—collectively.’
Te Kahuinga Tumuaki believe the proposal shouldn’t have been confidential from the start; stating that due consultation with local iwi, hapū, and tangata whenua is essential and that students should’ve been given the ‘opportunity to be informed and be able to inform from the outset’. When asked if consultation has been adequate, the answer was a resounding ‘no’ followed by questioning the accountability of actions.
‘...it’s all good to meet for consultation, but is it genuine and authentic consultation that the VC will take on board?’
Te Kahuinga Tumuaki also spoke about how they feel this proposal could impact the mana of Māori.
‘It’s important to know that this is not just a matter of mana with one faculty, it affects many faculties in this uni. This was evident at the protest as students from different faculties turned up in support.
‘It’s removing the autonomy of all Māori by placing us in a division where decisions will be made for us, and not by us.
‘This is just another example of how indigenous people are continuously being oppressed in a “post-colonial” world. As Māori, we want autonomy here in this institution, and we deserve it. Our tino rangatiratanga is who we are, and who we are, are people of mana.’