Institutionalised Racism Within UCSA Sees Māori Rep Paid One Third of Average

By Emily Heyward

The Te Akatoki  – University of Canterbury Māori Student’s Association – representative on the UCSA student executive was asked to describe what mahi she did in order to justify why she deserved to be paid the same as general exec members.

Te Akatoki tumuaki Rosa Hibbert-Schooner resigned from her position on the student exec last week over major pay disparities, which saw her earn two-thirds less than general executive members despite doing the same amount of work.

Hibbert-Schooner, who earned $1,600 per annum, compared with the $5,200 general exec members were on, said her resignation was about taking a stand against institutionalised racism and highlighting the need for organisations and universities to “step it up” and honour their part in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“We were asked to kind of, not prove, but describe what mahi we do in that role to justify the increase of the pay and I kind of thought ‘well yep, that’s great you’re thinking about it but that’s not the process we want so I’m going to resign’ so it makes a bit more of a stand and we get some support in it so people know what’s going on and then secondly can help push for results,” she said.

But UCSA president Kim Fowler said it was about the UCSA making sure it knew that her time was “being used in the right way”.

“That wasn’t ‘we don’t believe you’re doing any work’ that was a ‘we can see you’re doing the work, we want to know exactly where it is, so we know that your time is being used in the right way and also if there’s any gaps there where we should be putting that role into other places or sitting on other boards where it’s actually more important for Te Akatoki tumuaki to sit,” Fowler said.

Hibbert-Schooner said she brought the pay disparity issue up at the beginning of the year but said it hadn’t been properly addressed until recently as the UCSA had been dealing with “a lot of crisis issues”.

When asked whether the UCSA would have done anything to address the inequity if Hibbert-Schooner hadn’t resigned, president Fowler said “absolutely” but thought it probably wouldn’t have happened as quickly.

“Absolutely because we were meeting to chat about it, but it wouldn’t likely have been addressed so quickly. It’s been a hectic term and we haven’t had a CEO so far and so it’s been really tricky to resource it essentially.

“It had been really obvious since the start of the year to the exec that this year Rosa was taking on way more responsibilities in the role and we were always intending to rescope it and increase that.”

Fowler said the reason for the difference in pay was because the remuneration had changed years earlier to accommodate the tumuaki at the time having to decrease their hours.

“At one point in time the Te Akatoki tumuaki couldn’t commit to doing more work for the UCSA on top of what they were doing for Te Akatoki and so at that stage the UCSA made the decision to rescope that role to one that was two hours a week, so they only had to worry about being at our exec meetings,” they said.

Fowler acknowledged that the UCSA needed to do better.

“The students association are a colonial institution and so I don’t think anyone has bad intentions, but I think we live in a pretty colonial society, and we are in the position we are, so I think we certainly have issues that we need to work on.”

Hibbert-Schooner said her resignation was much bigger than the pay disparity.

“The main issue here is not just money inequality, but it is the systemic bias we are facing and continuing to face … There is systemic bias within our society and furthermore in organisations. This is not just about the role but about UCSA as treaty partners and what they do for us.”

Hibbert-Schooner said tauira Māori were being under-valued and under-resourced across the board.

“I do think wellbeing support is a huge one for Māori students … We have huge mental health issues and big disparities in health inequities but are not given the right support.

“We have a Māori counsellor and there is only one of them and they are part-time from what I last checked and that’s just not good enough,” she said.

Hibbert-Schooner wanted her resignation to start a bigger conversation and help create change.

“In 5 years’ time, do we still want to have Te Akatoki in a modest whare that’s breaking down and has a leaky roof or do we want to be utilising and sharing resources and making sure that no matter what association is, if it’s Māori or Pasifika or the Queer Canterbury group, that we’re all uplifted and can share resources because we are giving so much as students to the student body and it should be given more resourcing and just awhina from our UCSA organisation.”

She wanted Pākehā students and student associations across the country to listen and learn about the issues tauira Māori were facing and practise “being a good bicultural partner”.

The UCSA, Te Atatoki and other figures were set to meet to discuss changes to the role going forward.