My grounds for supporting VSU

Today, the last in a series of emails I exchanged with Michelle Smith, Publications Officer of the University of Melbourne Postgraduate Association, about the relationship between identity politics and VSU (Voluntary Student Unionism). In today’s installment, I explain that one of the reasons I support VSU is because I believe it’s immoral to force people to pay for services rendered to others. This wasn’t intended to be the last word on the subject, but there wasn’t anything else to say after this. Next: Something on another topic…

My final email to Michelle Smith

Thanks again for your reply, Michelle. It’s a pleasure to read such thoughtful responses.

I have just one short thing to say, and it’s possibly where the source of our disagreements lies. I believe that it is immoral to coerce people into helping provide services or advocacy for others, and that to do so is destructive to the liberty of all. The only things I believe people are entitled to expect are the freedom to behave as they see fit (provided they coerce no other), and to have their own bodies as their property. People have no entitlement to assistance of any kind, whatever their circumstances, if that assistance must be extracted involuntarily. It is admirable that UMPA does provide products, services, and assistance that can’t be made to turn a profit or even to break even. However, under VSU, UMPA will not be able to force students to co-operate, and will have to rely on their generosity instead. This is as it should be. Start preparing convincing appeals to students’ sense of charity if you wish things to continue as they are at UMPA, but don’t try to trick them into believing that their own freedom of choice is a bad thing.

By the way, I consider the ban on UMPA mass-emailing postgraduates denies all its staff their entitlement to behave as they see fit. It also disadvantages students by preventing them from receiving direct email communications from UMPA even though they may (as I would) prefer that money, paper, and labour not be wasted on mail-outs.

I hope to hear that your colleagues approve of my reproducing your responses. If not, I invite you to post a comment to the entries appearing on my blog from Sunday, so that your point of view can be represented.


Ben Hourigan

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.