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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 10. July 19, 1957

Closed Doors

Closed Doors

The recent decision of the Stud. Ass. AGM to allow Religious Societies to have constitutional checks on membership is, at first sight, merely a legalisation of a long-standing practice. It was, in fact, organised by the recently affiliated Christian Science Organisation, who have met great opposition on account of their rigid membership qualifications. But this raises interesting problems. For if the religious clubs can force a would-be member to swear he loves the Lord, or does not smoke, surely political and other clubs can claim that they too, should be able to admit only those who satisfy the Committee or some carefully detailed definition. The argument that religion is different may satisfy ardent Christians but equally ardent Socialists or footballers could argue that their faith is at least as important to them as is his to any "religious" person.

Until the CSO entered the field there was only one club that operated what was in effect a closed membership. The other clubs, with regrettable qualifications, were willing to accept the spirit of the constitution which was that all students, by being members of the Association, could automatically become members of any affiliated club. Clubs who are financed from our fees. It may seem reasonable to many that a club formed for a specific purpose should be able to ensure that this purpose is safeguarded by all conceivable means. In reply, however, I should say that, firstly, it has proved impossible to have any written safeguards that will guarantee a certain effect or right. The only important factor is the will of those concerned. If they abide by the original intentions of the founders or whoever they be, no written safeguards are necessary. If they don't then nothing can save you. Moreover, as things change, constitutions become out of date and may merely be a brake in a way never intended. Of course, such arguments only [unclear: apply] partially to student clubs, nevertheless [unclear: the] point is that even in our Own short college history we have examples of a club either being abused, the constitution notwithstanding, or far more frequently, of clubs sticking to their aims and purposes without any need of constitutional safeguards.

Secondly, it should be pointed out that any member of these closed societies would claim that his particular brand of truth will eventually prevail—even if it takes another two thousand years. If they really believed this, wouldn't they throw their clubs open, for whatever reactionaries or atheists did. Truth could not be squashed.

Thirdly, it seems indisputable that an organisation's real strength comes from free interchange of views. Despite the beliefs of far too many that they have "arrived" and any discussion is valueless, are they pot being a little presumptuous? Have we possibly, even in their fields, come to a full stop with nothing further to discover? Are human beings so infallible as ever to know the Whole Truth about anything? Everything true is only relatively so.

They will find that, even amongst the faithful, there will be wide differences of interpretation of their gospel. The result of a doctrinaire dosing of the doors has always meant that an Old Guard takes over and imposes their ideas on the rest. They will find gradually that dead sterility will overtake them. Only in the throwing out and rebuttals of challenges docs a group keep alive. This is particularly important in a University. The whole concept of a University is that there should be a probing of ideas, that there is always room for expansion of knowledge and understanding. It is from the bold beliefs of its students that any community develops and expands.

Thus the answer is not to close one's doors to anybody who cares to take part. It is to say: everyone has something to offer—come along and give it. We are not afraid. Our beliefs are so strong that no matter what, they will flourish and grow, and the more we discuss and think, the stronger and fresher they will be.

And remember, college clubs are not like ordinary societies. They are for people who are still seeking their way. They are all affiliated to the Students' Association, tied to no particular dogma. And all students, because of this affiliation, pay the finances of each club. They are merely sub-clubs of a larger show, and anyone belonging to this should have the right to belong to them.