Hey, SSAF, Where you at?

Hey, SSAF, Where you at?And Why Your Student Services Fee Isn't Money Anymore

Some claim it’s an unnecessary and burdensome tax, others herald it as a way back to the golden days of universities, the days before Voluntary Student Unionism and the collapse of student activity and vigour and the subsequent crumbling descent into a void of ‘Managerial Paternalism’. But what’s all the fuss over SAFF really about? Nucleus reporter Helen Taylor works and studies at UNE, and she set out to find out what SSAF is, where it goes – and why it’s important to look at it not as dollars from your wallet but as an investment in student culture.

Students have a long history of contributing to their universities, both actively and financially. Before 2005/6, university students paid a compulsory unionism fee, and the union provided services, food outlets, shops, events, activities, representation, media, support, etc. With the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU), most students chose not to pay – meaning that the student culture and activity that they supported took a huge blow. UNE, being a small and regional university, was all but crippled, and most current students will have no notion of the active days of universities pre-VSU.

But with a push from students, and the introduction of the SSAF providing the needed funds, UNE has started to see this legacy of contribution reinstated. We’ve all heard of the government cuts being made to tertiary education; some $2.3 billion in reduced funding, announced earlier this year. So it might be worthwhile looking at in this light: if universities are feeling the pinch, and don’t invest sufficiently in student amenities, what role can students play? The SSAF we pay goes towards making more things possible, and is not about the individual returns but building the bigger picture and collective experience and support. The SSAF, if managed well, will put the success of the university community back into the hands of the students, in the best possible way. The SSAF Committee manages projects funded by the SSAF and puts them into action. The SSAF Committee manages projects funded by the SSAF and puts them into action. In her role, the recently appointed SSAF Project Manager Eve Gavel ensures that there is a capacity to look into and work on ideas and projects produced through SSAF. Her position is also funded through SSAF - and it permits autonomy with SSAF spending, ensuring that projects are of good value to the student body.

Last year, UNE students were given the opportunity to say which services and amenities they wanted addressed. Eve Gavel explains that this student feedback has directly affected SSAF spending, and has enabled the committee to put the to-do list into an order of priority that is meaningful to UNE students.

Some positive changes that have already been implemented in a short period of time include on-campus activities like free pancakes every Tuesday, continued support for our ENACTUS champions, the handy charge bars all over campus, and the very awesome Nucleus newspaper you’re holding in your hot little hands! Off-campus students get support during intensive schools in the form of free on-campus parking, transport to and from UNE, use of SportUNE, barbeques and social events, and other off-campus students have assistance with postage from the university library to put UNE’s resources in their hands at the click or two of a button.

But it’s not just about the free sausages; implementation of the SSAF has also enabled greater student representation and activity by supporting student clubs administration. A chat with David Mailler, the UNE Students Association president, reveals how much has been achieved in a short period, paticularly with UNESA and Nucleus, but also what we can hopefully look forward to seeing in the years to come. David speaks about the history of student amenity and the legacy of building leaders through greater support in clubs and societies; where else is it possible to learn the kind of skills needed to lead by example, prepare resources and advocate for a cause you support passionately? A healthy student community becomes an asset for each and every student by giving them opportunities to value-add to their degree in any number of ways.

Students should get excited that they can get directly involved in deciding how their money is being spent. David Mailler points out that the collective power of the funds coming from the SSAF can go much further than individual dollars. “It’s a case of, I may not ever need it,” he says, “but if I do need it, or if my friends need it, is it important enough to have it?” Pulled together, this funding can be part of providing student advocacy on issues large and small; student dollars are supporting development of career and employment opportunities, counselling services, legal advice, health and welfare.

He does acknowledge that there are some problems - among them, ensuring equity between internal students (who pay the full fee) and external students (who pay a reduced fee). There are also administrative challenges in rolling out funds to clubs and societies, and struggles that UNESA faces - the need to be trusted, without forgetting that it has risen from the ashes in less than the 18 months that SSAF has been around.

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BUT WHERE’S IT GONE?

Check out a list of SSAF projects that are proposed or in many cases have already taken place or are well underway. See:

http://www.une.edu.au/for/current-students/costs/ssaf-updates.pdf

Because this fee is a result of legislation, any projects supported must adhere to the legislative guidelines, which nominates 19 categories and which you can take a look at by visiting

http://www.une.edu.au/for/current-students/costs/spending-ssaf.php

To share an idea or give feedback, contact UNESA on unesa@une.edu.au

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KNOW YO SSAF

EVERYONE PAYS IT

Federal legislation passed in 2011 (the Higher Education Legislation Amendment ) allows universities to charge students a fee, to be used to help cover the cost of student services, including but not limited to: student media, careers advice, counselling, sports and recreation, clubs and societies, legal, health, food and childcare. Full-time and part-time students pay it; external and internal students pay it; international and domestic students pay it; undergraduate and postgraduate students pay it. Even students at other universities pay SSAF!

I HAD AN INVOICE AT THE START OF TRIMESTER – WAS THAT MY SSAF?

How can you check you’ve paid your SSAF? Simple!

Like this: my.une.edu.au -> myEnrol tab -> Financial Details -> Current Invoice (before census date) OR -> Historical Invoices (after census date)

 WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T PAY IT?

If you don’t pay your SSAF before the Census date, your academic transcript (that’s the official record of what you’ve studied) will be suspended – and you also won’t be able to graduate. Until you pay it!

 WHAT IF I CAN’T AFFORD IT?

Many students don’t pay their SSAF upfront – eligible students can defer it along with their HECS debt. This called an ‘SA-HELP’ loan. Applicants for this loan have to return the SA-HELP form by the due date for that Trimester. Find the form: MyUNE -> myEnrol tab -> Enrolment Details -> Services & Amenities Help Form.

 

Editor’s note: On Thursday September 12th, the inaugural UNE Well Fair will be held in the central courtyard area, from 11am-2pm. To celebrate and encourage good health and wellbeing, the Well Fair is fuelled by the idea of fun: you can get your hands dirty and pretend to be a kid with games and craft; relax in the chill space or chai tent; get active on slack ropes, a velcro wall or bouncing castle; meet baby animals at the petting zoo; and enjoy free food including decorate-your-own cupcakes. This event is SSAF funded: it also involves a heap of clubs and societies working together to make it happen, and benefits student health and wellbeing. All students are encouraged to come - otherwise you’ll miss out!

Letters to the Editors - September 2013

Editorial - September 2013