By Rangipare Belshaw-Ngaropo
Sep 07, 2018

VC Neil Quigley Proposes Restructure That Affects Māori Autonomy on Campus


Last week, a friend and I shared insights into the lack of Māori content in Nexus. Admittedly, it was a surface-level discussion, however, we did manage to acknowledge that if Māori don’t read Nexus on the basis of lack of Māori content, then Māori are partially obliged to contribute to mediums where they feel underrepresented.

My friend and I then continued our discussion with a new finding,

‘Why are university Māori happy to advocate for things openly on social media platforms like Instagram, yet when there’s an opportunity to share with a different kind of audience, we steer clear of that?’

Does Nexus not provide enough social validation? Is a heart react on Facebook more satisfying than potentially reaching someone within your university community? Or, is putting an argument down on paper too outdated?

Whatever the rationale, it’s up to the individual to decide which category they fall into.

This is a thought-provoking introduction into the kaupapa of my kōrero.

Why?! Because it touches on something which I encourage in every context; Māori leaving the confinements of their comfort zones and reclaiming their mana motuhake. Whether it be the reclamation of our own narratives, like this, or the reclamation or assertion in support of our school, the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies.

At the end of Semester A, a proposal was released to the student body which spoke to a Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato restructure that would see the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies and the Faculty of Laws being diluted and integrated into FASS… for “administration purposes”.

The Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies only received faculty status in 2016 and makes the University of Waikato the only institution in Aotearoa to operate this way. An international point of difference, and all that.

But for the sake of my word count, I’ve provided a timeline of events to highlight what has happened in regards to the restructure up until now. I’ve also taken the liberty of depositing my own thoughts.

A Timeline

  • July 30: A proposal was released to the student body regarding the restructure and proposed “Super School”. This was released at 2 pm and submissions or feedback were due at 5 pm that day.
  • My thoughts: Lack of consultation. Lack of consideration to a body of tauira who contribute thousands of dollars towards the operation of our Whare Wānanga.
  • August 6: The VC provided a revised version of the proposal which acknowledged the concerns of Māori on campus (both staff and students) but alluded that he would be continuing with the intentions from the initial proposal.
  • My thoughts: Acknowledging is alright, but considering an option that benefits both sides is better. Treaty partners, amirite?  
  • August 7: A tauira and FMIS staff-led peaceful protest were conducted outside of B Block where the academic board met.
  • My thoughts: I have the utmost respect for those tauira who embodied tino rangatiratanga, refused complacency, and sung for hours outside in the rain in opposition to the proposal. But most importantly, in support of our faculty, our lecturers and our Māori autonomy. You are all your tūpuna’s wildest dreams.
  • August 17: Māori, from all faculties, congregated at Te Kohinga Marama Marae. A leadership team was established with the purpose of finding ways to move forward and keeping the Māori student body updated. PhD student and Te Waiora Co-President Truely Harding was appointed as the student representative.
  • My thoughts: The kotahitanga continues to astonish me.
  • Now: FMIS, Law and FASS students, staff and all affected parties await updates about the proposed restructure.

Here’s what concerns me:

Māori people are a minority in Aotearoa. Our reality is being forced to accommodate Western systems, ways of being and knowing. Within this university context of unfamiliarity, some of us tauira Māori find solace in the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies. FMIS is a faculty that represents our worldview, our language,and our value systems.

For some, it provides comfort in te ao hurihuri (this ever-changing world) as we navigate the intricacies of colonisation.

And here’s what excites me: 

The potential and capability of Māori are slowly being realised. While I was abroad, I was inspired by the mobilisation of a student body during the livestreams of the peaceful protest.

I saw the power of unity; the power of purpose. I saw glimmers of resilience that our generation is accused of not possessing. But let us never chose complacency again. Let us continue to advocate for fairness and rightness.

May we never stop asserting our mana motuhake. 

Because if not now, then when? If not us, then who?

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