Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 14. September 26, 1957
Senate:— — Still no Student Representation
Still no Student Representation
The University Senate has again turned down a proposal that students he represented on Senate. Its meeting in Christchurch recently decided to defer the matter until some indefinite time in the future.
This would appear to mark the final failure of student attempts for the past ten years to gain Senate support for direct representation on the supreme governing" body of University education in New Zealand. The student organizations are now going to find it very difficult, if not impossible, to take the matter much further.
N.Z.U.S.A. is not prepared to accept Senate's decision as an end to the matter. Other avenues of approach are to be explored.
Let us examine briefly the history of the case for student representation on Senate, and the reasons why the matter has received the constant attention of N.Z.U S A. for more than a decade.
Many years ago agitation started in the University colleges for student representation on College Councils, and the issue was hard fought before students finally were granted a seat on Councils. I he representatives who have tilled those seats have since proved their worth, not only as useful members of the Councils, but also as a valuable link between students and the University administration.
The success of this important advance led inevitably to consideration of similar representation on the Senate.
In l948 N.Z.U.S.A. wrote to Mr Justice (now Sir David) Smith. Chancel or of the University of New Zealand, advising that "it has long been the desire of this association that a 'place be granted on the Senate for a direct representative of the student body."
Revision of Senate's membership was at that time under consideration, and it seemed an opportune lime.
The Chancellor asked N.Z.U.A. to submit its proposals to Senate. Discussions took place between the president of N.Z U.S.A.. the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor over a period of about a year, and early in 1950 a comprehensive case was drawn up and submitted to Senate. Although there was measure of support for it among Senate members, it was not approved.
A few of the more important passages of Mr. Miller's memorandum ate quoted here, because the case has changed little since 1950 and that document has provided the basis for later submission:
"It has been part of the general policy of N.Z.U.S A. that representation on the Senate is desirable, practicable and equitable.
"We feel that student representation is desirable both from the point of view of the Senate and the student body. The Senate would have the advantage of regular and informed opinion on the effect of its proposals on students, and their reactions to them. The student body would be able to make representations on various issues through this channel in a much better way than the present method of letters, deputations, and informal conversations. . . .
"We believe the proposal is practicable. The experience of student representation on college councils has shown that those appointed have been as suitable as members appointed by other sections. . . .
" . . the University community in New Zealand consists of its governors, teachers, graduates, and undergraduates, together with a very small number engaged solely in research. On the four earlier groups the only group with no representation on the Senate is the undergraduate or student body.
"Analysis of the income of the University (shows) . . that students contribute by far the largest sum to the finances of the University, and yet are unrepresented in the University government. . .
"There is student representation (in many overseas universities) which appears to have worked well. .
The ease was represented in 1952, and was referred to the Senate's executive committee, Late the following year Senate adopted the committee's recommendation that "it does not favour the scheme of appointing a student representative."
A letter from the Registrar of U.N.Z. said that "during the session the view was put forward that a great number of the members of the Court of Convocation are recent graduates, and that it would be better for the new graduates to interest themselves in the University elections, on which occasions the) have the opportunity of electing five members to the senate.
Again the student case was pressed at the February meeting of Senate this year, and again it was rejected although strongly supported by the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, and a number of other members. Reports indicated that some of the arguments put forward by those who opposed student representation did no credit to those who adduced them.
Announcements of Senate's decision led to reappraisal of the whole question by N.Z.U.S.A. It was finally decided that Senate should be re-approached, and a letter to the Registrar of U.N.Z. strongly hinted that N.Z.U.S A would consider taking other steps if Senate again rejected the student case.
In theory Senate only "deferred" the matter this time, but essentially it threw it out again, once and for all.
A motion sponsored by Dr. Gilbert are hey and Mr. E. C. Fussell favouring a change in the legislation was strongly supported by the Chancellor (Sir David Smith), the Vice-Chancellor (Dr. G. A. Currie), and Mr. D. M. Rac, M.P. amongst others. The Chancellor spoke at length in support of the student case and Mr Rae said the work of student representatives at college council level had "converted him in favour of the students.
Mr. Bain, chairman of the Canterbury University College Council—an old foe of student representation—moved that the question be discussed later in the session. When it came up again a motion by Mr. Joel (Otago) ami Dr. Williams (Victoria), effectively strangling the proposal was carried. The Joel Williams motion was that the proposal should be deferred till the constitution and functions of Senate recluire to be generally reviewed in the tight of autonomy of the four separate Universities.
When this may be, no one knows. Maybe three years, perhaps ten. Meanwhile, important changes will take place in the administrative and academic setup of the University, and these will affect students a good deal.
Following a directive from its resent Council meeting. N.Z.U.S.A. Resident Executive has embarked on an investigation of other means of securing student representation at a higher level.
Without Senate's support this will be very difficult. However, in contrast with previous decisions, the latest Senate motion does not reject the proposal on its merits. It merely says "not yet'.
Rather than sit and wait for changes to take place which may allow student representation on Senate or whatever body succeeds it. N.Z.U.S.A. is at present disposed to light for the opportunity to have students represented during discussions of these very changes, which will vitally affect them.
—R. N. Turner (for N.Z.U.S.A ).