by David Clendon
An extraordinary story has emerged from the usually genteel environment of a University graduation.
Auckland University staff went to remarkable lengths, including physical restraint, to try to prevent a graduating student (who also happens to be a member of University staff and the national co-convenor of the Young Greens) from receiving his Master of Law degree with 1st class honours.
His offence? Vernon Tava was wearing a discreet yellow rosette, which had on it the letters TEU (short for Tertiary Education Union), and the words ‘Staff and Students Unite to defend our University.’
Most of the University academic staff seated on the stage to honour their graduates were wearing the same rosette, which makes it all the more remarkable that several attempts were made to bully Vernon into removing the ‘offending’ item or risk not being allowed to graduate.
The rosette is of course symbolic of the ongoing campaign to retain core working conditions for academics, with the support of the student body, who understand very well that if staff are not adequately supported and resourced then the likelihood of students receiving a high quality education are much diminished.
I had the pleasure of speaking to a rally at the University last week on this very issue, and saw first hand that the determination of the staff and the support of the student body is very real. The University should be listening to the genuine and well-founded concerns of the staff represented by the TEU, rather than resorting to cheap bully boy tactics.