Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 33, Number 13. 1970
In the early hours of Wednesday 19 August, police were called to remove a number of young people from the Student Union Building at Victoria University.
This has been described by the Vice-Chancellor, Dr D.B.C. Taylor, as an "unhappy incident". We agree. But we think that the unhappiest part of it is the failure of the Vice-Chancellor and of the President of the VUW Students Association, Miss M. Bryson, to support those in charge of the building in their efforts, mistaken or not, to deal with a very difficult situation.
Dr Taylor is struck by the ease of picking up the phone to call the police, yet does not seem to take into account that the Arts Festival controllers and members of the Student Union staff had reasoned and argued with the would-be sleepers-in for over an hour before reluctantly calling in the police to clear the building.
It should be emphasised that we do not necessarily hold that the police should have been called. In fact we are inclined to think not. However, they were called as a last resort so that the condition laid down by the University that the building be cleared by 4 a.m. could be complied with.
The existence of any rule is surely called into question by the reported attitude of the Vice-Chancellor that if that rule was challenged it should have been ignored. We think Miss Bryson, for her part, stretched our credulity a mite too far when she said that those arrested had refused to leave the building because it was "too late and too far to go back to their billets". Apart from the fact that many were billeted in the Kelburn area, it is clear that the sleep-in was anything but spontaneous.
We find Miss Bryson's peddling of an addition to "The Rights of Man": i.e. the right of students to use a common room "as they see fit", simply too funny for comment. Suffice it to point out that none of the students were even from Victoria University.
Dr Taylor has stated (27th August)—and it is accepted—that he was misquoted in the press and at no time did he even consider disciplinary action against Messrs Boyd and Nesbitt. Neither did he state that those persons had no right to call the police. Nevertheless it is clear that Messrs Boyd and Nesbitt did not receive from the vice—chancellor or the student president the positive support they deserved. Nesbitt and Boyd were the men on the spot. They had the responsibility and the firsthand knowledge of the situation.
It is pleasing to note that the VUWSA Executive, on the 21st August, passed a motion of confidence in the handling of the situation by the Arts Festival controller and the managing secretary. This motion was passed without dissent in spite of the feeling by many members of the Executive that the police presence on campus is anything but desirable.
The unfortunate precedent had been created of the police being invited on to campus.
And Dr Taylor and Miss Bryson had committed themselves to not using this ultimate sanction if faced by a repetition of the sleep-in or indeed by any other action not actually "causing damage to life or limb"
So we were faced on succeeding nights by the laughable spectacle of several persons, hardly any of them involved in the original incident, spending the night in a common room under the motherly eye of Miss Bryson. Plied with coffee by the Students Association President, they went away content that they had proved something. Just what, they were not quite sure.
In fact all they showed was just how easily some people around this University can be stampeded by the illusory fear of an impending student revolt (a la Logan). Miss Bryson, in particular, should ask herself whether her actions last week would have been the same had the troublemakers been a bunch of drunken law students rather than a group led by a certain Auckland "journalist"