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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 10. 1969.

Forum's frustrations

page 9

Forum's frustrations

I Suppose the majority of people would regard Forum as a sort of Wednesday afternoon club where one might go to eat lunch and listen to the "characters" who get up at least once in the session to make their peculiar views heard on some vaguely interesting topic.

Yet if this is all that Forum is and stands for, why should it be necessary to protect its speakers in the strong terms of the Students' Association constitution? Obviously the instigators of Forum had something far grander in mind when they laid down the rules for the conduct of forum.

The question of what Forum is and should be is brought up from time to time. Forum provides the opportunity for members of the University to express themselves in words without fear of being recorded or reported.

In other words Forum is for free speech in its broadcast sense. What that might be is, like most things concerning Forum, left to the discretion of the Forum Controller.

The sort of decisions the Forum Controller has to make are not very exciting, concerned mainly with venue and facilities. Occasionally someone tries to throw a speaker off the stage or arrange a demonstration including Forum but the procedure in these cases is defined by the nature of Forum itself.

Physical ejection of speakers is a crude form of censorship so must be overruled. Forum as an institution existing to give ear to all points of view can never itself hold an opinion and so can never become or take part in a demonstration.

From time to time it becomes obvious that a person consistently expressing views extreme in politics or ignorance is using up speaking time to repeat what has been violently rejected ad nauseum, but a quiet word is usually enough to convince such that their interests are contrary to those of free speech.

Obviously Forum has not lived up to the expectations of its originators. When something controversial hits the headlines of the daily Press there is a reaction among some groups and when it dies down Forum is again reduced to the Conversazzione so familiar to followers of the WDFF. There is none of the excitement and vitality that should be apparent in an institution devoted to the recognition of truth.

Perhaps this is due to the rather artificial circumstances of Forum—why bottle up that sudden insight to the problems of the world until 1 p.m. Wednesday? Perhaps there is a lack of inspiration coming from the university staff, or from the Forum audience. Perhaps there are so many other ways of making one's voice heard that Forum is rather secondary.

Perhaps New Zealand is just too damn small to produce anything worth talking about! There are many reasons why Forum is not what it could be.

It is much more encouraging to think of what Forum can become. In other countries our counterparts are fighting tooth and nail to obtain the freedom of speech we enjoy at Forum. It presents a basic right of all people and should be the breeding ground of informed opinion on all aspects of human life that interest students. Forum should exist in the minds of those who pass through the university as living evidence of the value of free speech, not as a sort of inferior Oxford Union.