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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 12, No. 10. September 20th, 1949

You May Lead a Lamb to Slaughter

page 2

You May Lead a Lamb to Slaughter

Elsewhere in this issue, we give a full account of the whole dispute which led, after the publication in our issue of 27th July of the article "Our Heritage Reviewed," to the banning of Salient.

This account has deliberately been kept purely factual.

The incident culminated last week when, after the ex-editor, Mr. Jenkins, and the Executive had both met the Professorial Board Mr. Jenkins was informed that he has been fined five pounds for "bringing the name of the College into disrepute"—or some such fine phrase.

We realise that there must be some professors with a respect for freedom of expression, to whom the Board's decision must have been as hateful as it was to us. It is impossible that our professors could have been unanimous in this decision. The dissentients will forgive any remarks we make here which seem too sweeping.

Moreover, it is possible that commenting on actions of the Professorial Board is also "subversive of discipline," but we intend to do so as strongly as this provocative action merits.

The editor of Salient is appointed by the Executive; his action was therefore not that of an individual student, but that of an official of the Association. Admittedly, one can interpret "bringing the good name," etc., pretty much as widely as one likes: but this use of the power of fine which the Board enjoys under the regulations we can only describe as a complete misuse of that power.

It would thus be quite extraordinary, even if disciplinary action were justified. In our opinion, the article was singularly innocuous—far less scathing in any case than remarks such as Dr. Beaglehole made on the Council's attitude to the Von Zedlitz affair; however, he will undoubtedly be summarily dealt with when he returns from overseas.

What is the motive of the Board in acting in this astounding manner?

The editor resigned through pressure of work after publication but before distribution of that issue; the Board could therefore not request his removal from office. Dr. Beaglehole in his book, applies a neat metaphor to Salient and student opinion, but it would appear to be the Board which is now irritated by the grain, and is (if we remember Dr. Beaglehole's words correctly) "lashing out"

Lashing out to some purpose. The ex-editor is now to be the sacrificial lamb to propitiate the wrath which might have come. The Board is asking for its five pounds of flash.

Is it propitiation? Or is it merely retaliation? Whichever it is, the action is nexcusable. It is incredible when one considers that many of these men have fought the same attitude in others—again see the history. Our chief regret is that Dr. Beaglehole is unlikely to be in a position to give the incident the treatment it deserves in the history of the next five years. The whole matter could have been settled quietly to everyone's satisfaction had the Board not taken this course. In the past, Board and students have co-operated well; Dr. Beaglehole noted that there has, of late, been a decline from the old amicability. Does the Board consider that this sort of action is calculated to improve relations? When the college is split with internecine strife, isn't the "good name of the college" all the more likely to be endangered? If the students have (in the Board's opinion) acted rather irresponsibly, is such a reply as this any more acceptable?

The Association is forced to act firmly; if the Professorial Board is prepared to forego any pleasure it might get from executing vengeance, then relations may not deteriorate. Students are more likely to react favourably to what they consider a wise and reasonable decision than one which cannot but seem an enormity. The quickest way to get the good name of the college into disrepute is to allow this decision to stand. If it stands, it must be challenged.

The Board thinks the article was unwisely published; with that view, we disagree, upholding the editor's right to have published within the bounds of the law. But whatever are the merits or demerits of the original incident, there isn't the slightest doubt about the Professorial Board's reply. The most charitable view of it is that it is both unimaginative and ill-considered.

—D.G., endorsed by the members of "Salient" staff.