Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 5, No. 8. October 6, 1942
Has V.U.C. come up to the requirements of a war-time University this year? We feel obliged to answer in the negative. Inevitably the results of war on the University have shown themselves—there is a constant drain of the older students away from the University life—men into camps in New Zealand, or overseas with the forces, and women, until recently not put on to war work, have nevertheless with increased demands on their time, E.P.S. duties being a small part of them.
The students have acquitted themselves well as individuals—that cannot be denied—both at home and overseas they have a record that is worthy of their best traditions; but that is not enough.
As far as the University is concerned, the cultural life has been neglected. Although the Debating Club has not fallen off as conspicuously as some of the others, it is nevertheless a case in point: the older, more mature, experienced and competent speakers are no longer able to attend: Possibly for this reason an unusually large number of promising beginners have come forward this year, but these students lack and are not making a sufficient effort to gain the wisdom of age! but are content to retain the philosophies of school-children.
Most important is our failure in the community. A University is not a factory for manufacturing degrees—it is the cultural centre of the community (culture to be understood, not as dead knowledge, but rather as live and vital things that the community as a whole should know). If you as a student attend the University merely to get this or that label after your name, you should not be here—you would pass your time more profitably if you spent your five guineas during the year in buying beer at the nearest pub, and at least you would have some contact with reality.
The majority of the students at V.U.C, are part-timers, and that is at the same time the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of our College. It is commonly said that V.U.C. is not a proper University because it has so many part-timers, but that also means that there are a great number of students who are sufficiently keen on their studies to do it after their ordinary work. But surely these students do not take this trouble merely to attend lectures. A University should provide a place where minds can contact one another—not just absorb what the lecturer says, but debate among themselves on different aspects of a subject. A common common-room would help in this too, and we doubt whether separate common rooms could be considered enlightened.
Army education—to press for this is our clear duty, and to offer any help we could—we have not done nearly enough there. In our last issue we published an account of a Russian University in the war—of the widening field of activity—while ours is narrowing—every group of people, whether going voluntarily or conscripted, into some branch of the war effort, should have the opportunity to study not merely advanced school subjects, but their social surroundings, and the political set-up of the world to-day. A people sure of what it is fighting for is far more formidable than one fighting for a vague idea. Are most of us students sure of this ourselves, let alone capable of teachings others?
At this rate, in a couple of years at most, the University will be completely divorced from the community at large, and, moreover, its students will be confining their activities to attending lectures.
Next year we should put our house in order, if we are to survive as a University and do our part in the war effort by being of use to the country, not only by direct help from the scientists, but in all educational schemes. Gaudeamus igitur!