Too Many Part-Timers?
Too Many Part-Timers?
A New Zealand professor at California University recently complained that students straight from High School always wanted their material ready-digested. "Tell us one or two books where we can get the whole syllabus in a nutshell." "There ain't no such book." So they go back to their baseball, or leave college and take up another line, like the manufacture of bubble-gum, or keeping company with the rest of the 6 million on the dole.
Here at V.U.C., staff members may have the same question asked them, and if they are to maintain the university as the home of scholarship they must give the same answer. But there is a large mass of, students here—not all fresh from High School either—who just have not the time to sit down and read as widely as is desirable on the syllabus of their subjects. They are the 1573 men and women who, according to official figures, spend the greater part of their wakeful hours in the payment of some employer, and have to squeeze their study, lectures and tutorials, into odd comers of the day.
There are only 579 full-time students at Victoria. Yet it is over 4 years since Sir David Smith said: "There seems to be an obligation upon the University to explore ways and means of ensuring that students are free to devote their whole time during college terms to university work."
It may be that this generalisation does not apply to such faculties as Law and Commerce, where practical experience is an essential part of professional training. But on the whole, the part-time student is forced to let either his interest in his job or his study suffer, or develop chronic scizophrenia.
Whatever we say about the detached atmosphere of the traditional European university, one fact stands out: that it is only in complete relaxation from economic stresses and the diversion of extraneous obligations, that anyone can be expected to excel in or make a valuable contribution to scholarship. This does not, of course, involve isolation from society. No one should be more fully conscious of his obligations to society than the man whose days have been given over to the widening of knowledge and the conscious deepening of experience. Nor should the advantage of being able to so spend his days, be too sparingly granted.
A letter published in "Salient" last April, written by a student who has studied previously at two other colleges, remarked that "Perhaps because of the large percentage of part-timers, city events must affect varsity life more closely." The writer praises the result, but deprecates the consequent loss of "University Atmosphere." But what would a "University Atmosphere" be without the strengthening strains of thought in the city—the thought of warfies as well as Chambers of Commerce.
A University has a certain duty in the community: to turn out competent professional men and citizens with a broad outlook and a rational attitude to affairs. The late Mr. M. J. Savage, in a message to freshers in "Salient," March, 1939, said, "May I say, with the best goodwill, that, unfortunately, the possession of high academic qualifications Is not always accompanied by a well-developed social conscience, or even breadth of mind." It is the most valuable contribution of part-timers to the University, to fulfil the hope implied in this remark. Nevertheless, two points emerge:
1. That part-time study is not the most satisfactory way of acquiring a university education. A "Salient" editorial of 25/9/46, boasted that "New Zealand is the only British country in which university education has become literally free." But the other side of the coin shows the tremendous sacrifice that has to be made by 1573 students at this college, in order to reach the dizzy heights of a B.A. or a B.Sc. Crowded hours of inglorious swot, last minute pressures, the Damocles' sword of the hot—that is a high price to pay for something that is free. If we want to inflate our academic-standard, "Salient" has already suggested a course of action in the N.Z.U.S.A.S.L.F. Bursary campaign.
2. Meanwhile, it seems that part-timers, like the poor, we have always with us. It does not behove those who have undoubtedly more time to devote to both study and college "politics." to treat the part-timer with a certain tolerant contempt. For "We are many—you are few." Such an overwhelming majority of students must necessarily set the standard and the college can be said to exist for them. But can a qualified staff with the preparation necessary for leading the community study of an old-world university, be allowed to become a machinery for the distribution of notes? And a painful five years become the norm for the acquisition of a meagre baccalaureata?