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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 2. 1965.

Students — Cross Comments

page 11


Cross Comments

Here follows the text of a tv commentary given by Ian Cross last year on the subject of Student Newspapers:

The Prime Minister. Mr. Holyoake, wrote a letter to the Canterbury Students' Association a couple of months back and the university newspaper published his letter. In part, the Prime Minister said this:

"I am always willing to read expressions of opinion by students in our field of higher education. I realise that they—or at least some of them—are destined to become some of the leading figures in the future of this country.

Some of the leading figures in the future of this country ... of course. So tonight I'm going to look at the student newspapers of our four main centres—and, perhaps, we'll glimpse what the future hold for us.

The papers are:

Canta – – Otago

Critic – – Canterbury

Salient – – Wellington and from Auckland – two:

Craccum and Outspoke

Naturally, there's plenty of life in these newspapers. Literary intelligence, scholarly demonstrations, along with the usual reviews, criticisms, arguments. And there's still the usual business that some people mistakenly believe is the sole preoccupation of students—perhaps best summed up on the eve of the inter-varsity sports tournament by an Otago columnist:

"Booze and Women lose tournaments."

Students can view the future problems of life with a certain smugness, it seems. This from Wellington, for instance: "Since alcoholism is more prevalent amongst the more intelligent and successful, the proportion of potential alcoholics amongst university students is twice as large as normal."

Down at Christchurch, nearly 200 students attended a meeting on moral issues. The discussion on sex was pretty frank, and at one point, Canta reported this:

"The chairman thought that perhaps it was getting rather warm and somebody should open a window if they wouldn't mind, please."

The discussion on moral problems went on and on, and apparently reached a conclusion that was notable for a certain smugness of attitude:

"At this stage a girl asked what young people were to think when parents say Don't, but won't say why not. It was agreed that this was not satisfactory, but perhaps the human weaknesses of parents in handling an embarassing situation must be allowed for, Just as we have to allow for people in other situations, The medical practitioner believed that the frankness of those present was a very good thing which would have been impossible when he was a student; and perhaps shy parents could also be encouraged to be more candid so they could be more help to their children.

But not only are the students anxious to make full allowances for the human weaknesses of Mum and Dad, they're also quite responsive to authority Dunedin's Critic says this;

"Critic wishes to apologize to Superintendent Alty for misunderstanding his capping policy. We are sorry for any disturbance we may have caused."

Reading these university newspapers I find that the 1964 students do seem a rather adult and sober bunch ... and intellectually tame and submissive, too. For instance, in Wellington. Salient goes to enormous trouble to produce a supplement to cover the arts ... a very worthy effort. But you know it alms to please the adult establishment. It is almost totally devoid of any student thought; most of the contributors are middle-aged men and women.

It's as if these students want to receive ready-made ideas ... and not generate any themselves No apple-carts are turned over, they don't destroy the idols of a previous generation.

In Auckland, Professor Joseph of the English Department publishes a book on the poet, Byron. Does the student publication give the Professor the honour of a critical going-over"? Not on your life. The review in Outspoke is fulsome and concludes:

"Our thanks are due to Professor Joseph for his excellent study."

The students are quite internationally-minded, in an orderly way, and their concern for the untidy spots in the world is clearly expressed.

Yet it would seem that the majority of the students are, again, soberly detached in their attitude. In Auckland, a group have become involved with an organisation that wants to take direct action against the French Nuclear testing in the Pacific.

"Auckland Students Plan Sitting In at French Bomb Test."

This plan involves sailing a ship into the bomb test area, making the French remove them by force, or blowing them out of the sea. The name of this protest organisation is Craft incidentally—Committee for Resolute Action against French Tests. But with the Auckland Students' Association we again find evidence of a very adult attitude to the plan. Here's the reported summary of the association's attitude:

"A motion that this Association endorse in principle the aim of Craft to send ships into the testing zone was narrowly defeated, while another motion that the Students' Association donate the sum of £1000 to Craft (Auckland Branch) was overwhelmingly lost."

Again in Auckland, we find that the editor of Craccum resigns after the publication falls into hot water a couple of times. The other student newspaper. Outspoke, says this;

"It is to be hoped that future editors of Craccum take their duties with more of a regard to the laws of the land rather than to artistic completeness."

You'll see what I'm getting at in the evidence from this student Journalism. "We are sorry for any disturbance we may have caused." they say in Dunedin. In Wellington, they eagerly embrace middle-aged thought on the arts ... In Auckland, they say "Our thanks are due to Professor Joseph," and the majority does not support direct action against French nuclear testing... and they favour the "laws of the land" against "artistic completeness".

Well, I'm not going to pass any Judgement on these quiet, well-ordered students, who don't seem committed to a great deal. It'd be easy to suggest that it looks as though they're going to graduate straight from university to a tickytacky suburban house and never be heard from again. But one remembers that the university radicals of previous generations became very sober citizens in later life. Perhaps these 1964 students, behaving now like very sober citizens, could become something quite different again in later life. We'll Just have to wait and see.