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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 5. 3rd April 1974

A duty to all taxpayers

A duty to all taxpayers

The role of a university in society is far too often to provide a finishing school for the elite and to training lawyers, accountants etc. This is not to suggest that such functions can at present be removed—there is precious little chance of Parliament providing any finances without them—but universities can and should exercise and arouse considerable critical awareness.

Such ideas are often countered with the vision of the university as a liberal arts centre, as a haven of academic freedoms. This line would be more acceptable if it were closer to the facts. It is often used as a counter to radical arguments, while being conspicuously silent concerning such issues as ROTC presence on US campuses. Takeovers by fascist regimes such as Germany in the 1930s or in Brazil in the 1960s met with little academic protest—and acquiescence soon followed. Where was the delicate fabric of freedom then? This is not solely a foreign trait either either—Holland's anti-communism and smashing of the watersiders in the early fifties were widely accepted.

Okay, its conceded, such excesses have existed in the past and elsewhere, but the idea is still valid here. That is not at all clear. The political stances of many on this campus have led to some intolerance of dissent ( particularly Marxist) viewpoints. That in itself is perhaps to be expected, but becomes hypocritical when behind a mask of "objectivity". This bias towards conservatism and the status quo, while less pronounced than in other parts of the education system, and having notable exceptions, is still present and tends to foster both an uncritical attitude to external events and apathy toward social problems. External action, where present, is often conservative in tone and manner.

Such views are not restricted to one section of the campus—for example cries that Salient should be more a "student newspaper" and leave politics behind are from similar background. "No politics"—a point the National Party, among others, has not comprehended—is a tacit agreement with the politics of the status quo. In view of these considerations, it is perhaps asking too much that the university actively involve itself in changing society. Still there should be a responsibility to all taxpayers, not just the ruling strata.

Universities are to a certain extent distanced from the rest of society. They should use this distance to analyse more fully their surrounding and argue solutions to pressing problems, rather than to build better a conservative "ivory tower".

—Anthony Ward Open Day Organiser