I could have been certain that I’ve written about CIT charging “Student Association” fees, how horribly wrong it is, and how it should be illegal under VSU (Voluntary Student Unionism) before, but I can’t find any record of it, so I’ll provide some background.
CIT (Canberra Institute of Technology, for those of you who have been wondering) has a student union called “CITSA”, or “Canberra Institute of Technology Student Association”, they also charge all students a compulsory CITSA fee, without forcing anybody to join CITSA. From memory, this fee is around $60. I can’t remember the exact details of the VSU legislation which was passed by parliament last year, but I know that students are no longer allowed to be forced into a student union, the thing I’m not 100% sure about is if educational institutions are allowed to charge a student union fee, I think they can’t, and I’m 95% sure that they can’t, but as I said, I can’t recall the exact details of VSU.
If, for some strange reason, VSU does not cover this, then it is an outrageous loophole, and one the legal teams who drafted the VSU legislation should have picked up on very early in the piece. VSU is very important as it means I don’t have to be a part, by connection, of some strange angry chanting mob taking over Civic with five dozen different campaigns at once , most of which I would disagree with. I would be more than happy to pay a bit extra for food or drink in exchange for not giving a student association a lump sum every six months.
On this topic, I overheard some CIT (possibly CITSA) officials talking in Cafe Yala  the other day. Whilst I didn’t catch every word, and didn’t want to appear to be eavesdropping, I did get most of it, and the basic message of their conversation was:
- CIT is the only educational institution in the country to charge a compulsory student union fee
- The legality of it is unclear, and if possible would only be through a loophole
- They have already received at least one complaint by phone
- One complaint to a federal MP would probably be enough to bring the whole sordid little scheme crashing down
The officials in question saw me standing there near them waiting for my coffee, looking somewhat distant and focussed. It is surprising that they had that conversation at a reasonable volume in public and in front of, when I am known to carry a recording device with me, especially during lectures. The fact that I appeared to be concentrating on something else does not alter this, as I was nearby for plenty of time before I looked like I was concentrating on anything.
It is a pity that I didn’t turn on my digital notetaker as I would have loved to record that conversation, alas it didn’t really last long enough, and I didn’t want to scare them off by searching through my bag for any length of time, which would probably have made it harder for me to hear the conversation anyway.