Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 3. March 20, 1952
The need for responsible thinking on problema very close to us was brought out in the talks of Dr. H. R. Hulme (Rector, C.U.C.), and Mr. Fhillip Smithells (Phys. Ed., O.U.), who both discussed the situation of the University in New Zealand. From the administrative side, Dr. Hulme spoke first of the size and nature of the University. The choice between "elite" and "democratic" systems, he pointed out, was not likely to rest in our hands so much as in those of the community in general, and possibly had already been determined by the structure of our society in favour of the latter type. The demands of the professions, and in particular of teaching, make expansion imperative, and it might be better that a lesser degree or licentiate should be introduced, so that those not capable of completing an Honours course should yet have some of the benefits of a higher education. Discussion on this point after the lecture turned rather against Dr. Hulme on the ground that the licentiate would only be formalising an existing fact and pandering to the "Sacred Cow" attitude of New Zealanders to labels. However, the discussion groups agreed with his next point, the desirability of giving internal autonomy to the colleges in academic matters while preserving a united front against pressure from outside; and also in his comments on the system of examinations and rigid syllabi, which the N.Z.U. has inherited from the days of external examining. Exams, he believed, are only one method of teaching, which should be placed beside orals and written work in assessing a student's ability. The question of some sort of general education, especially for science students, was also mooted by Dr. Hulme, with illustrations from American Universities, and he suggested that, in the Humanities themselves, more integration was necessary, in order for example that a student might see the art, science and politics of a period as a coherent whole. Finally he asked why our university occupied such a minor and unrespected place in the community, but could only suggest that, until such time as we could prove our worth to society and hold the interest of alumni we could expect no improvement in our very poor financial and social position.
Mr. Smithells took up a number of practical problems of the N.Z.U. in the light of his experience in physical education and university life, beginning, as did many other speakers, by noting the good spirit of relationships between staff and students, and among both, at Congress. He suggested that it lay within our power to carry over much of this into our colleges, though he recognised the immense difficulties of the non-residential universities in holding its members together. The staff themselves he thought could do much to make contact with their students, though sometimes the responsibility rested with the latter in seeking staff co-operation, as for example in clubs. It would be an excellent thing if more staff could be brought to Congress, an ideal which everyone present heartily endorsed in view of the very friendly atmosphere which prevailed when staff members joined enthusiastically in every activity. Mr. Smithells' suggestion of the running of the games for fun (like volley ball) instead of for competition only, of a student health scheme, and of student counsellors in the colleges, were all strongly approved, but the groups were more sceptical about his comments on New Zealanders as "barbarians," and his professed inability to distinguish a University graduate here by his conversation as he could in Britain. A somewhat uncritical reverence for the residential university in this discussion and others led members of the V.U.C. contingent to suggest that a great deal depended upon the attitudes of students as well as on their material conditions.
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