Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 8. April 27th, 1950
"Exclusion is Persecution"
"Exclusion is Persecution"
On Friday, April 21, some 60 students heard 20 speakers debate "that Communist teachers should be excluded from the University." Mr. C. H. Arndt, a past-president of the Debating Society, judged the speakers and placed the first eight in the following order: 1. Mr. Newenham; 2. Mr. Garrett; 3. Mr. Bollinger; 4. Mr. Maclntyre; 5. Mrs. Garrett; 6. Mr. M. O'Brien; 7. Equal, Messrs. Harris and Sutherland. The motion was lost by 5-41.
Mr. Trudgeon defined Communists as members of the Party only, and said that he thought he would keep the discussion on the academic level. "Freedom of thought was being violated by the Communists, so they must be excluded from the University. A teacher must be free to inquire, but doctrine would limit the academic freedom of a communist professor. Communists were committed to a policy of revolution" (Goddard: "So is a bicycle wheel").
Mr. Garrett also chose the academic level; "criticisms, even heresy, are essential to the testing of truths which is the purpose of a university." Einstein overthrew the whole basis of orthodox physics, but the orthodox scientists did not therefore expel him. Ideas must be allowed to stand on their own merits. Both the University and the society in general depend on criticism for the correction of faults. Minorities must be allowed to express their opinion (Curtin: "Hear, hear!") It was once sufficient excuse for exclusion that the person was a woman—it was now nothing strange when we had a woman president.
Mr. Mutch sought to exclude the Communists as teachers only. "A Communist is a dogmatist, as must therefore be excluded." In wartime, we have Emergency Regulations: the Communists are here so dangerous that they constitute a national menace, so must be dealt witth accordingly." (Bollinger: "That's how Hitler started.").
Mrs. Garrett: "Exclusion is persecution, and persecution has alarming effects. If, as the affirmative declared, Communists relied on force, persecution justified that reliance. Those excluded became bitter." (O'Brien: "Like a person in a mental asylum"; Mrs. Garrett: "a suitable place for the interjector.") This would cause revolt, not prevent it.
Mr. Maclntyre would have liked to exclude Communists but was not quite sure it would be just.
Mr. Goddard: "The affirmative urge that the University be publicly raped, and prostituted to the base designs of clerical obscuritanism and to the greedy and evil purposes of big business."
Mr. Newenham was amazed that we should wish to stifle free inquiry here, as he alleged was the case in Eastery Europe. "You can mix paints as long as you like but you can't make white with two blacks."
Mr. Cook quoted the sad case of Alger Hiss- Dean Acheson did "not intend to turn my back on Alger Hiss."
Mr. Harris: "Both sides must be allowed to run the gauntlet of open discussion."
Mr. Sutherland: "If you suppress what you like, you have not a university but a School of indoctrination."
Mr. Bollinger wanted to know how the authorities were going to distinguish between Communists and fellow-travellers—pinch their satchels?
Mr. Curtin split hairs to show why Communists should be excluded but why they could not be excluded. He gave the affirmative a case.
Mr. Jennings wasn't sure.
Mr. Foy almost convinced us that Communist teachers were so convincing that in the interests of capitalist society they must be excluded.
Mr. Riddett: "Bloody Mary" persecuted the Protestants; following Mary (Curtin: "Little lamb"): Shelly was expelled for atheism but he died a confirmed (Bollinger: "alcoholic").
Mr. Werry also emphasized the strengthening effect of persecution.
Miss Foden didn't like rabbits—especially communist ones.
Mr. M. O'Brien extended academic freedom to include advocates of murder. Communism was murder of society.
Mr Robinson: "Exclusion is only dogmatism from the other side."
Mr. Williams saw no danger to New Zealand in the Communist Party. Was Mr. Curtin going to purge Marx from the Library too?
After the debate the meeting passed two motions, both by acclamation; one thanking Mr. Kevin O'Brien for his work in the Society and in the Students Association; the other congratulating Miss Alison Pearce on her election to the presidency of the Association.
The next debate. "That the Church exercises the greatest influence for good in our society", will be held on Friday June 2.