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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1913

The Capping Ceremony

The Capping Ceremony.

This year the Capping Ceremony was remarkable for many things. In the first place, there was no ceremony, at least there was no Capping Ceremony, much to the disappointment and disgust of the large number of people who had assembled to sec the important event.

It happened thus. Long before 3 o'clock, in fact as early as a quarter to two, large crowds of people began to assemble in the Concert Chamber of the Town Hall. Many of them were visitors who had come long distances to see friends and relations "capped." Quite a number had made special journeys to Wellington from various parts of the North Island, and a few had come from the South. By three o'clock the body of the Concert Chamber was packed with spectators but the gallery was empty and shut. The Big Hall, too, was fairly full of people.

At the appointed hour the Chancellor took his seat on the platform, accompanied by Hon. James Allen (Minister for Education), His Worship the Mayor of Wellington (Mr. J. P. Luke), and, as the Post hath it, "other notables."

Sir Robert then delivered a short speech on the usual subject of University education. We reprint some extracts from the Dominion's report of his speech:—

"The function of the University," he said, "was limited. I must have that door kept closed. I am not going to have the door open when I am speaking. The work done by the College has been excellent. The students have excelled not in New Zealand alone, but in Europe, too. . . . In my opinion, our page 33 students have not taken the position in the social life of the country which they should have taken. I ask the doorkeeper to be good enough to shut the door. I would ask the students to remember that they have a duty to the community in being teachers of the community."

The Registrar (Mr. B. Hector) then proceeded to read the list of Auckland students who had won degrees, and almost at the same time the gallery began to fill with students. We quote from the Post:—

"There was much shuffling of feel and shifting of chair, which, with such a large number of people on the move, was unavoidable. It did not appear that in the beginning any noise was made for the purpose of interrupting the Chancellor or disturbing the Registrar, who, at Sir Robert's request, had risen to read the names of Auckland students who had obtained degrees."

A "Votes for Women" placard which had figured in one of the "items" of the procession was quite innocently brought in by the "suffragette" who had carried it. The Chancellor ordered its removal, and it was at once taken out. We mention this merely because, in some quarters, much has been made out of a perfectly inoffensive action. Finally, for what reason Heaven and the Chancellor alone know, Sir Robert declared that he would adjourn the ceremony. He then left the hall, and followed by the Registrar, proceeded to the Council Chamber, much to the indignation of the great majority of the people present.

The graduates, with three notable exceptions, declined the honour of going into the Council Chamber to receive their diplomas, and groups of angry and excited people gathered in the corridor and on the stairs, and freely and forcibly discussed the Chancellor's ill-advised action.

It seems to us a great shame that the graduates should have been deprived of the well-earned honour of receiving their displomas publicly after years of strenuous work, and that so many visitors should have been deprived of seeing the ceremony which they had come, some from considerable distances, to see, on account of what appeared to most people mere pique on the part of the Chancellor. One thing is quite certain—the conduct of page 34 the students did not warrant the hasty action which led to such a fiasco—a situation almost unique in the annals of the University of New Zealand, and certainly unique in the history of Victoria College. We make no apology for reprinting in full an article which appeared in the editorial columns of the Dominion:—

"The University capping ceremony, which took place in the Town Hall yesterday, was a sorry affair. Strictly speaking, it did not take place at all, for the Chancellor (Sir Robert Stout) put an end to the proceedings before the time for the presentation of the diplomas arrived. It will be remembered that the Victoria College Council declined to take any responsibility as regards the ceremony when the Chancellor curtly set aside their suggestion that the trouble with the Auckland students should be kept out of the Wellington capping day proceedings. Sir Robert Stout himself was given an uninterrupted hearing—not by the students, who were conspicuous by their absence, but by the general public. The students came in after he had concluded but he was evidently in no mood for fun of any sort, and walked off the platform almost before the foolery commenced. In spite of the feeling that had been aroused over the Senate's decision to present the Auckland diplomas here, it is probable that a little tact and good humour from the i hair would have prevented any trouble at all, and the programme might have been carried through without any more interruption than the good-natured banter which is recognised as a legitimate part of the proceedings on such occasions. Wellington capping ceremonies in the past have been fairly free from disorder, and there is every reason to believe that on the present occasion all would have been well if the advice of the Victoria College Council had been followed by the Senate. We have no intention of defending unreasonably noisy behaviour on the part of the students, but we do say that the needless importation by the Senate of an element of discord was a mistake that it is difficult to account for. Moreover, the action of the Chancellor in cutting short the proceedings as he did yesterday gave evidence of a state of irritation not warranted by the conduct of the student."