Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]
The end of a typically action-packed Student Representative Council meeting. General business. Start asking why there's no one here Start understanding how come 100 of us can claim to make policy for all 6000 students. Start wondering how things could be better.
And don't ask the heavies. Like the captain of the Titanic puzzled where it all went wrong. We didn't plan enough lifeboats either. Not that there's much place to go in Jaws-infested Muldoonland.
So what is wrong with SRC? One idea, much canvassed last year, is that its not advertised enough Fair criticism, particularly of the last meeting. I'd better get onto the job smartly. More posters, leaflets etc will be shortly deluging your isolation in the library. Something to doodle on anyway.
The malaise is far deeper than this however. A high powered advertising campaign (how about Radio Windy?) could succeed in giving us another Edsel. If successful.
There's the rub. Nothing succeeds like success. Quite clearly there's precious little of that around at the moment. Apart from its administrative functions. SRC is not doing much that could be successful. And the old timers seem to have few solutions. In Elridge Cleaverism we're getting to be part of the problem.
What is Wrong?
So what is wrong with SRC. Let's start over. Point One: Hugh Blank, in a letter to Salient, criticised the clique running SRC with its "cliched rhetoric and psuedo-intellectual clap-trap". Not letting the masses push their ideas forward. Point two: Mark Sainsbury, standing on a "grassroots student" platform, attacked bureaucratism and swept in as a rep to NZUSA May Council. Point three: A hundred students clapped vaguely.
The three major citicisms of SRC at present are of a leadership that is rather repressive, disliked for its bureaucracy and "rhetoric", and paradoxically not good at leading, giving direction. The reception that this gets is obvious from each SRC and the lack of people at it.
The criticisms are sound, but they're essentially distructive, not suggesting improvements (Hugh Blank's improvements centre on form rather than content - and run into the same problems as advertising).
Destructive criticism has us strong points Like the year's beginning, when some of us went off the rails. The fierce attack then was clearly needed (tho' should have been received better). The distrust of Exec stemming from this (and the attack on Don Carson's activities at ASA) has continued. It showed itself at the AGM when all the annual reports were rejected. What this means is not clear. Its even less clear what can be done about it.
The AGM also saw a mass exodus when hassles over technicalities of constitution or accounts cropped up. While taken to excess here there is no doubt that constitutions and accounts are necessary. They are a part (and only a part) of ensuring that an Association works well for its members.
Two Functions of Studass
Which brings us to the rub of the question - the role of the Association, and of SRC in that. As I see it, the students association has two basic functions to fulfill. These are to do things effectively for students, and to do things well with students.
In the first respect, with one major and tragic error, we are operating smoothly. The bookshop is turning over exceptionally well; the cafe has improved considerably; social events have been well attended; Sasrac is booming; and the films are very popular. Individuals queries and requests for help are sorted out reasonably competently. (What for all those letters of protest now!).
SRC has a function in checking up on these aspects, and in seeing that its own administration (particularly student representatives) operates effectively. Aside from this stuff being boring to most, SRC's more important function is a political one. Doing things with students. And that's where we've fallen down in a big way.
It's not just a function of the rhetoric or 'cliquishness of the leadership. If students in general saw SRC as an effective forum for political debate or action, then the meetings would improve dramatically. At the moment clearly you don't.
Just as its very easy to become bureaucratic in student politics, so its very easy to become arrogent about "apathetic students' Both tendencies must be struggled against. "Apathetic students" obviously do have attitudes, strong often, on assessment, on racism, on sexism, on nuclear power. Sure these attitudes could be developed, crystallised through debate. But doesn't that go for all of us?
SRC not Valid
So the main issue on the political front is that SRC is not seen as a valid way of pushing your average, ordinary ideas. Either because you don't see anything coming out of it, or because you fear that heavies descending like a proverbial tonne of bricks.
The outlook is not totally grim. The SRC officers - international, national, education, welfare - have some really good ideas on involving broad members of people on issues like foreign control, the environment and assessment. And HART is starting to build up its organisation again. If you've ideas in these areas, want to help - please get in touch. So much of any movement is what the people in it want to make it And that's all of us.
So, I think the answer to the problems of SRC is two-fold. On the one hand we (ie the 'heavies') have got to become more open to others' ideas, less repressive and bureaucratic. On the other there's got to be a push to get SRC active on real issues, debating the pros and cons and decising action.
If you've read this far you're probably fuming over my errors of analysis, my arrogance in assuming peoples' attitudes or my stupid suggestions. Good - lets get some constructive debate going on how SRC and this Association can best serve and help students.
Gary Henderson last week was looking for a dignified way for SRC to die. It doesn't have to. SRC has immense potential for bringing us together to decide issues and what we'll do on them. How much that potential comes alive is up to all of us. Now