Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 1. March 02, 1950
Modern Trends Discussed When.... — Student Congress Gets Up to Date
Modern Trends Discussed When....
Student Congress Gets Up to Date
Despite a tone of aloofness from real things among some of the guest speakers; despite the underhand method of Rev. Sullivan's appointment as Congress convenor; despite an epidemic of summer sickness and two wet days,—N.Z. University Students' Congress, 1950, was almost as successful as its sole predecessor of 1949.
Besides addresses and discussions on stimulating topics, the ten days were filled with swimming, rowing, bastball, table-tennis, fishing, singing (with "Kevin Barry" and "Bandiera Rossa" first favourites), lying in the sun and eating. They culminated with some responsible decisions on issues closely affecting students—reached by all the Congress in open forum. We trust NZUSA will treat them less irresponsibly than it did last year's resolutions.
A violent world
Saturday morning, official opener Walter Nash spoke on "modern trends in politics." He had much to say about the generosity of the 21 gun bankers who floated the Martial Plan; about what a pity it was that we could not raise the living standards of the overpopulous colonial races; and finally, about how the menace of communism should cure the pacifism of young woolly idealists. He quoted awesomely from Vogt's vicious "Road to Survival." He indignantly denied that Britain's hand in Malaya and Burma was unclean: "Mr. Smith gets his facts from a different place from where I do." ("Hear! Hear!").
Training Coll's Walter Scott gave us his opinion of "modern literature" that evening. He deplored the tendency' in our society towards a standardised "culture." He attacked the Hemingway school, full of violent passions and actions—"written about sick minds for sick minds" and "ful-filling the same satisfactions as pulp sex for a more sophisticated audience."
Dr. Peter Munz described his personal rake's progress through theories of history, rejecting Spengler, Marx, Popper and Toynbee in turn, the more violently to embrace Munzism. The key to this faith is that "normal standards of truth are insufficient for the historian: an event is only what it appeared to be to its participants."
Prof. Marsh, on "trends in social policy," saw all the troubles of the world in unsatisfactory social relationships. His story was the old Oxford Group one about the piano that was out of tune. One pointed question asked if Prof. Marsh's panacea of making people love other people would solve the real problems of wars, depressions, juvenile delinquency and the breakdown of the family, or were these not due to the more fundamental facts of a parasitic social order? Long silence, and a considered "Not at all. Anyway wars and depressions are outside our province."
Events and words
"Drama" from Kenneth Firth of Wellington Repertory proved most stimulating. He documented the sordid story of Britain's surrender to the dollar, how it had closed Britain's film studios and theatres, until, despite the fight of Actors' Equity, half Britain's actors were on the wharf or the dole. Apart from the warning implied in this, ho approved of New Zealand's projected National Theatre.
Prof. Gabriel (Otago) attempted a "popular science" talk, while denying that the scientist needed concern himself with man's, conquest of his environment. Rev. Bates analysed religious currents from the broader Protestant viewpoint. Mr. D. R. Grey, the Otago philosopher, thought we were all frightfully sweet, made the careful distinction between "mind and matter or the philosophies and science," and, standing on his toes, clasping his hands and rolling his eyes heavenwards; asked every questioner if he was quite sure what he was talking about.
Mr. Braybrooke, on Modern Trends in Law, gave some real meat on the rights of the individual, the growth of the Order in Council, and the use of "sub Judice" to muzzle discussion.
Ormy Burton seemed to derive his pacifism ultimately from original sin, and rejected all forms of violence and coercion. He rejoiced in the accusation of "christian anarchism," while admitting that war and social evils were fruits of capitalist society.
We oppose . . .
Some of these official sessions were related to the discussions at the student forum held at the close of the week. Bruce Miller, President of NZUSA, gave a long talk on how he had been looking after students by keeping them away from the students overseas, and the evil ideas of the last Congress. Congress replied with a resolution condemning NZUSA Annual Conference for its contemptuous handling of remits from Congress, 1949.
It was followed, after heated discussion, by the passing of a motion reaffirming last year's opposition to conscription, and calling on NZUSA to defend student interests under the Conscription Act.
Congress also resolved against Chancellor Sir David Smith's policy of excluding communists ipso facto from University appointments; and against any Interference with the freedom of the student press outside the restraints of the law—a follow up of the Prof. Board v. "Salient" case last year.
Discussion was forced on into the still watches of the night, because the programme had been so ill arranged as to cram the open forums Into the very last of the- ten days. Yawning, heavy-headed congredients rejected, a motion to Support ISS and IUS by, one vote, and it was only by a no-confidence motion in the chair that the forum was even then, postponed to the sunny hours.
VUC'S peace Manifesto was adopted with one minor alteration. Congress then, after heated discussion in which "dark satanic Mills" (the muscle man from Canterbury) accused Victoria of trying to "impose Its will on all NZ," approved the World Federation of Democratic Youth by a big majority. An attempt to have IUs and ISS reconsidered was ruled out of order.
The appearance of press reports on the anti-conscription motion caused minor tantrums. Rev. Sullivan and his steering committee attempted to censure the reporter responsible. The whole question was brought into the open on the Sunday morning, when we were surprised to hear Rev. Sullivan (of all people and on a Sunday!) saying that he disapproved of misleading press reports about Congress.
Other resolutions recommended that Congress be held at Curious Cove in future years and that the question of an early or a later date be investigated, bearing in mind the holidays of medicos, teachers, lawyers and officers in training.
Anyway, whenever it is, we hope Congress will be a greater success next year, and that Victoria does hot lose its lead in representation at it, in supremacy there in sport and in its acquaintance with democratic procedures.—C.B.