Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 21. 5th September 1973
New Dean for Law Faculty
New Dean for Law Faculty
A senior lecturer has become the new Dean of the Faculty of Law after a keenly contested election.
Mr John Thomas, a forthright and in some ways radical personality, has clearly pulled off a coup. His election to the prestigious position of Dean will mean a change in the orientation of the faculty. It will almost certainly lose many of its traditions in favour of a more liberal outlook.
Many professors and senior staff had realised this, and their attempts to preserve the status que made the issue of the Deanship alarmingly sensitive.
Thomas obviously intended to stand irrespective of any opposition, a fact that alone caused some consternation. In the past the need for an election confrontation had been avoided by resolving in a "gentlemanly" manner who would best be suited to the position.
One professor, who would have been an obvious candidate, was not prepared to run the gauntlet and withdrew his nomination.' The way looked clear for Mr Thomas to become Dean but just two days before the closing date for nominations, the name of Dr G.W. Palmer mysteriously came forward as an opposition candidate. What seemed so surprising about this was that Palmer is currently in Australia and has been since May. Despite this a number of people lobbied keenly for him. Another strange thing happened later when one of Dr Palmer's nominators — an American lecturer — did not even bother to turn up to vote. Palmers stand can be seen as a last ditch bit to preserve the status quo and to avoid the appointment of Thomas as Dean It created a tense situation in the law faculty brought about some rather questionable politicking, particularly from the student reps on faculty. Instead of going to the people for direction they regarded the situation as a chance to play power politics. They would'not accept a directive from the students until this was forced on them by a special committee meeting of the Law Faculty Students' Association.
The background to Thomas' election is as significant as the election itself, for the new Dean will be working in an unco-operative climate. Some senior staff whose sheer technical expertise has gained them great respect will not want to co-operate with Mr Thomas, Already is seems likely that the current Dean who could have carried on until the end of October will resign his Deanship.
For students, the election will have several effects. Firstly the conventions of the faculty will now not be sacred cows.
Secondly the affair showed that professors arc not demi-gods whose tudgetneni can never be in question. This election was political, it involved a choice between two important styles, and students have the right to know why and how a particular orientation is going to be persued. This after all will affect the outlook of most of the student 'products'.
Lastly, it will illustrate that politics cannot be totally avoided. To confine oneself to the strict University carriculum is disasterous. When decisions have to be made on wider issues, the ability to act effectively is essential.