New president says OUSA much changed

Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON
Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON
Worried that someone new would be overwhelmed by how much the Otago University Students’ Association had changed after the Covid-19 pandemic, Michaela Waite-Harvey stood for president.

As last year’s student executive welfare and equity officer, she experienced the disruption the pandemic caused.

"Covid-19 basically immediately halted anything we were doing ... [and] sent us all across the country back to our parents’ houses," Miss Waite-Harvey said.

She got a taste of it again when new Covid-19 cases were found in the community at the weekend.

With Dunedin in Alert Level 2, students back in the city and Orientation Week set to start on Monday, the association has been following the Government’s guidelines and planning accordingly.

"Students, like any other New Zealander at this time, should be following Level 2 guidelines."

The association reiterated the need to scan into places and stay home if sick.

"We have also, together with police, created QR codes for key streets in North Dunedin."

Since the pandemic started last year, the association was much more involved in the day-to-day running of the university, she said.

"There were so many projects that happened last year that I was genuinely invested in and if I hadn’t come back this year I wouldn’t get to see through."

Her goals for the year centre around student representation, sustainability and safety.

Having a student representative on university committees and the University Council was key, as was strengthening the association’s partnerships with Te Roopu Maori and the University of Otago Pacific Islands Students’ Association, she said.

When it comes to sustainability, last year’s executive got the ball rolling on some initiatives, including the Drop for Good Sale which will run again next week.

"We collected student furniture that would otherwise go to the tip, we’ve stored it over summer and now we’re going to resell it to students as a way to create that circular economy."

About 150 clubs were under the association’s umbrella, so making them a safe space was a priority.

This would involve giving club leaders more training, and working with Te Whare Tawharau, the university’s sexual violence support and prevention centre, and other prevention groups.

"Making sure that people are being safe when they’re out on trips, when they’re at events, when they’re going to a bar, and stuff like that.

"If those are safe spaces, I’d be really excited if that’s something I could leave behind at the end of the year."

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