Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 11, No. 1. February 27, 1948
Salient's Tenth Anniversary — How Things Began
Salient's Tenth Anniversary
How Things Began
First Editor Looks Back
Salient was born on the night of 8-9 March, 1938. Fathered by a progressive Executive, its mother was the tense uncertainty of the years 1937-1939. A group of students, of whom I was one, acted as a collective midwife.
For many years SMAD had been the official Student Association fortnightly publication and had fulfilled its function well; but in the middle thirties the mental climate at VUC changed. It was, of course, the result of happenings in international affairs. As the invasion of Manchuria was succeeded by Mussolini's Ethiopian escape, and the cynical mockery of the Spanish War was followed by the rape of Austria, it was inevitable that a more serious mood should appear at VUC. The change from SMAD to SALIENT was one symptom of the changed outlook, shown elsewhere in the passing of more radical motions at debates, in the formation of new clubs, and in a widespread doubt regarding the honesty of the prewar political set-up in Europe.
"The change was made," said the first editorial, "because it was felt that the spirit of the times demanded that any suggestion of Olympian grandeur or academic isolation from the affairs of the world should be dropped and should be replaced by a policy which aims firstly to link the University more closely to the realities of the world."
At the beginning of 1938 the Executive of the Students Association offered me the job of editing SMAD. No tags were attached. I went into a huddle with "Derek Freeman (now at Oxford or Cambridge. I believe, but I'm not sure—he may have fallen even further) and the result of an hour's talking was that we agreed that it was necessary to change the name the layout and the purpose of the paper, and on the team we thought could make a success of it. It was a strong team. As Assistant Editor, Morrie Boyd's quiet thorough-ness saw that no small details between staff and printer went astray, and gave us some stimulating leaders and articles. Derek Freeman might have been specially designed for his position as Literary Editor. He turned out material of a uniformly high standard and acted as a spur and a model to would-be contributors. Salient owed its name, its original format and layout to no small extent to Derek. Ron Meak Mary Brisco (now Mary Dowrick) and Vesta Emmanuel, as News Editors, were charged with the task of bringing us blood plasma from the daily life of Wellington and the great world outside for transfusion to students through our columns. They produced some lively material, and a squall or two frequently followed one of their efforts. The biggest and brightest I think was Ron's effort in interviewing Count von Luckner visiting New Zealand allegedly for pleasure, but as we thought (and wanted to prove) really to spread the Nazi gospel. Ron put the Count so much at his case that the visitor confidentially murmured to him, "You just wait until Mr. Chamberlain and Hitler get together. Then things will hum." That was some time before Munich, and we came in for some censure from a number of people who insisted that we treated the Count badly. Harold Gretton did well with a roving commission as Liaison Officer watching for gaps in our staff work and turning his hand to whatever he felt needed it most. Eddie Robertson saw the paper was delivered and distributed promptly: John Bullock, our Business Manager, assured us of a reasonable source of revenue from advertisments while Ruth Singleton and Barabara Sandford catered for all sports fans.
Y.P.C. has forwarded the above letter for publication. We trust that students will take advantage of the opportunity to learn more of the students of other countries. "Salient" tries as far as possible to keep Victoria in touch with world youth through its exchange service.—See pages 4 and 5.
Salient was from the first a cooperative enterprise. That was its real strength. The staff had formal meetings, pooled their ideas in all departments, issue by issue, and before each number appeared, thrashed out what they wanted to see in it. Then they set about getting the material. It was agreed that far from avoiding the controversial issues of the day, we should dive right into them, and place the most burning questions before the students as clearly as we could; that we should come down off the high horse of impartiality which had always been a hard horse to ride anyway, say what we thought, sign the articles, and leave the students to place their own value on them.
We did not have long to wait for a response. After the first two issues the circulation rose rapidly to 600 out of a College roll of 900 an all time high. On the evenings when Salient came out it became usual to see the Common Rooms filled with students, heads hidden by the spread sheets of the paper, but who would suddenly emerge for short periods to take part in one of a number of heated discussions going on over its contents before diving back to read some more. I wonder if any of those students knew how eagerly the staff awaited reports on how each number was received?
In addition to covering all the College news we ran special numbers on the wars in Spain and China. We alleged consistent and conscious collaboration between the Chamberlain Government and the Fascists in Germany. Italy, and Japan and pointed out the dunger of the gun loaded to fire at Russia going off across the English Channel. The last issue for the year came out on October 5, 1938. amid the bewilderment and gloom of the Munich crisis, an unhappy proof that our contentions had been correct, and a full justification of our policy of bringing controversial political issues to the students.
Need I say that the original staff developed a strong affection for the paper? It embodied much of the liberal tradition of the student body at V.U.C. a tradition which has survived the official and unofficial attacks or reaction for generations, which has been stoned and assailed time after time: but which always turns up trumps at critical moments moments such as the general meeting which defeated the proposal to censure the Socialist Club for their Indonesian procession. It is to be hoped that Salient always embodies that tradition. If it ceases to do so, may its leaves wither—as they undoubtedly would. In spite of occasional desperate moments and a little hair-tearing, the staff enjoyed that first year. It showed us what could be done by real co-operation, and proved a thesis some of us had held for a long time—that students strive on something stronger than a milk and water (literary) dict.
I'm glad Salient is now ten. It has survived difficult times but seems to be a healthy specimen, constitutionally sound, so that it can reasonably look forward to further years of activity. I hope this proves to be so. It appears to have become a V.U.C. tradition. But should Salient ever fall behind the times, then it is to be hoped the students of the day will have the good sense to make another change and produce Salient's successor. In the meantime, a long life and a useful one!
A. H. Scotney.
"Salient" wishes to thank the staff of Commercial Print for the co-operation they have shown and for the good work they have done as printers of "Salient" for eight of "Salient's" ten years. We regret that the fire which seriously damaged their building last year has made it impracticable for them to print "Salient" this year. We trust that the damage caused by the fire will be remedied as speedily as possible.
"Salient" also would like to welcome Universal Printing Products, Ltd. as "Salient's" new printers. We trust that we shall have the same record of happy co-operation with them.