Dear Students of Auckland University – here is how you get your libraries (and power) back


Design historian, Peter Gilderdale has penned a blog regarding the culture war University students find themselves in as the Auckland University looks to cut librariesArguing about the neoliberal middle class identity politics culture of narcissism on the most neoliberal middle class identity politics culture blog in NZ is an irony lost on Peter.

His argument is that neoliberal cultural myths have become entrenched and todays neoliberal middle class identity politics culture of narcissism must be accepted rather than challenged, thus goodbye specialist libraries for the Fine Arts and Arts Departments.

Woke or choke? Not a pleasant range of options.

Rather than rolling over and accepting free market individualism the students should recognise they are victims of a neoliberal mythology and hit the University in a place they fear the most.

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Universal Student Membership.

The students of today are living with the political spite of yesteryear. In 2011, ACT passed legislation to rob Student Associations of universal student union membership. I spoke at the Select Committee Auckland session and argued that Universal Student Membership was crucial for democracy on campus and gave Students real muscle when dealing with the Universities.

ACT wanted this because the Right desired to remove the incubators of student activism and wanted to weaken student unions inside Universities who increasingly saw themselves as businesses rather than as research centres for public good, higher learning and innovation.

ACT did this under the guise of human rights claiming Universal Student Membership breached freedom of association.

This was of course nonsense. Any student had the ability to opt out of membership if they didn’t want the association, it’s just that their fee went to a registered charity (of their choosing).

The first Auckland University Student Union was established in 1891 because students argued with the University over how the University should use spaces the students interacted with. Students today face the exact same challenges they did then.

If the students of today want to defeat Auckland University, they should call on Universal Student Membership to be reinstated immediately and demand a meeting with the University. Labour, the Greens and NZ First must be immediately lobbied to revoke the 2011 legislation.

By bringing Universal Student Membership back, students could have greater say on the Universities they learn at and could start rebuilding the essential political activism our future demands. The University Students of today have reaped a bitter neoliberal harvest of fetish individualism that has left them divided and alone, the antidote to that is collectivism and solidarity and that’s the thing the Universities fear most.

If students want to keep their libraries and reject the hollowness of neoliberal culture myths, they must fight to bring back Universal Student Membership.


  1. … ” In 2011, ACT passed legislation to rob Student Associations of universal student union membership. ACT wanted this because the Right desired to remove the incubators of student activism and wanted to weaken student unions inside Universities who increasingly saw themselves as businesses rather than as research centres for public good, higher learning and innovation ” …


    Says it all really , doesn’t it.


    The largest ( and virtually deceased ) bastion of the Rogernomes didn’t want critical thinking in the way in which this country has been for the last 34 years of neo liberalism. And the social destruction it has caused.

    All fascist systems hit the Universities first to stifle opposition.

    Well it is no longer 1984 , neo liberalism has been discredited , and now a Labour coalition is in power.

    So why is this country still listening to , and being subjected to , – a party that not only is not in power but only ever got 0.5% of the vote in the 2017 general election ?!!?

    0.5 % !!!!

    Nowhere near the threshold for entry into parliament in their own right!!!

    Doesn’t that tell us what people REALLY think about ACT , Rogernomics and Neo Liberalism ?!!?

    Repeal the legislation and give back to the students whats rightfully theirs !!! And put to rest this unpopular , outdated and destructive ideology once and for all !!!

  2. So true. One good example of how society has suffered death by a thousand cuts. Decisions made to save a few dollars, having huge consequences further down the track, long after those decisions have bee all but forgotten

  3. I wonder if Jacinda wearing a Korowai, mentioned that one of our largest universities was closing down it’s arts libraries to save costs, to next head of Commonwealth while she was meeting and greeting in London?

    Seriously this is a shocking indictment of NZ tertiary sector and our degrees in general.

    Oh well, I guess those in government captured by the business sector want us to invest more in on level 5 cookery or IT courses to cater to a low educational qualifications for Asia (and a 1 in 4 chance of residency free with every student who can make a burger, turn on a computer or pump fuel for $2 p/h).

    And our low productivity couldn’t possibly be due to our excessive numbers of lawyers being churned out?

    We have around 26% more lawyers per person in NZ than the UK. You have to wonder why do we need so many lawyers and that is even before we look into the appalling types of people they are with the sexism and rape culture being highlighted as particular concern in their sector.

    Yep, these are the people writing our laws getting into parliament, on boards from business to schools, at the public trough at every council and government department and it’s no wonder this country is going down the toilet. They view life through a particular lens, the problem is that that lens has taken over the camera and we only seem to have one vision coming out.

    For those that have noticed that NZ productivity is down maybe have a look at our tertiary outputs, Lawyers don’t make things, accountants don’t make things, economists don’t make things.

    You need people to make things to actually sell stuff… not just be a cog in the wheel (or at the helm) of business, that actually don’t understand or even value, production whether art, music, culture, architecture… nope no doubt another lawyer/accountant/economist in charge who decided that decision!

    • Agreed 100% these lawyers and Accountants are pure parasites to our economy. When are we as a country going to wake up to the fact the country is not going to export any more goods or services with another bloody lawyer or accountant coming out of our universities. Actually Accountants and Lawyers are not very practical.As soon as you turn thei computers off they are lost…

  4. “students should recognise they are victims of a neoliberal mythology” Most of the university students I meet these days are the children of families that have done very well under neoliberalism….and they don’t strike me as the type to bite the hand that feeds…or pays their fees, subsidies their rent and pays for skiing trips in the holidays

  5. There’s much to dislike about UoA’s review of its library, but the decision to close the specialist branch libraries isn’t one of them. Faculty-specific branch libraries are incredibly wasteful due to the massive duplication of resources they involve, and their benefits are trivial in comparison to the strain they put on the library’s budget. More sensible universities closed theirs years or even decades ago. It’s good that UoA finally grasped the nettle.

    • They are not duplicating resources because the books are specialist books not available in the main library! Funny enough the ‘law’ library which is much easier probably to access online because it’s mostly texts (against images or plans easier to access through books for the other departments which is being shut down) is going to stay. No wonder this country is going down the toilet!

      • The resources being duplicated in this case aren’t information resources, but buildings, floor space and staff time and effort (especially if acquisitions, catalgoguing and processing aren’t centralised – not sure if that applies at UoA or not).

        Buildings are hugely expensive and floor space is always in high demand at a university, so spreading your library across multiple buildings is a significant cost.

        Re the staff cost, at my university the library maintains one service point; at the one where I studied, they maintained one at each library, which meant four different service points that had to be staffed for all opening hours, with all the attendant supervision, rostering effort and expense that go with that.

        It is indeed ironic that the law library at UoA will remain untouched – it highlights how specialist libraries are really about the prestige of academic departments, and their existence serves internal-political purposes rather than library-related ones.

        • You clearly have to put them in a building to be read, near the course for academic study – the students pay their fees and if the university wants to offer an acceptable standard of course they need to have the books available – . Especially in those areas where ‘browsing’ is a lot more important because it’s part of the learning process to access other works and ideas.

          Not even sure what the argument is here, that because they have a library they shouldn’t have specialist ones?

          More and more rise of third rate degrees in this country.

          • The argument is that senior management of university libraries have a responsibility to use the budget they’re given to provide the most effective service they can for the money. That should preclude wasting money on duplicating the service across multiple buildings.

            Those multiple buildings are closely tied up with academic prestige and university politics, which has meant every university library administration that’s bitten the bullet and closed them over the last few decades has run into heavy resistance, as the UoA librarian is finding in this case. However, closing them is in the interests of students and researchers for decades to come.

            • Nope it’s not in the interests of the university, students or next generation.

              It’s solely in the interests of saving money short term.

              Trying to save short term is something we do a lot in NZ, and look now we can’t even pick and apple or build a house with our new polytechnic degrees..

              Saving money has overtaken the whole point of a university – which should be education for talented people in their specific area across broad spectrums. Not bums on seats or vocational training for lawyers and accountants or the current flavour of the month degree and pushing as many untalented people through as possible for the fees to churn out more people out of their depth.

              If you want the country to succeed the universities need to concentrate on our universities because the future is going to be a very different one from the 20th contrary and all those lawyers they are churning out for example, – we already have too many as it is. (26% more practising lawyers than UK for example) ain’t gonna grow our country – more likely turn it into the US where gun shootings are fine and ripping people off legally is part of their charter, bought to you by an country that has too many lawyers competing for a living.

              Everyone predicted we would have no doctors as soon as they bought in student loans. Now we rely on overseas doctors… it really is not rocket science but we have so many IYI these day’s spouting propaganda and ideology – their ability to think froze in the 1980’s.

              Next we will have no musicians, no artists, no architects of quality – we already know planning is a joke in this county – from looking at Auckland and Christchurch.

              Oh well our own little cultural revolution, I guess, dumb down the arts and give to the flavour of the month and increasingly less moral vocations churning out less and less talented people.

  6. And what’s wrong with the argument is the dribble coming out of Granny’s little sister, the Spinoff.

    AKA, young people are philistines so who cares when they txt all day. Art, music, architecture is just old fashioned middle class. We need to go back to the Kardashians culture… (hey maybe they used to work at TV3 and it’s wishful thinking)

    Similar arguments (aka Grey Lynn 100) were made at TVNZ/TV3, and look what’s been happening to them aka so dumbed down that nobodies watching anymore… same will happen to our universities… people will look at the thick gormless twits coming out of Auckland university with a shiny degree and a one dimensional personality and fit the bill of idiot yet intellectual class, (in the case of lawyers, a degree to harass others and get rich people’s lobbying through) and say, ‘no thanks’.

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