Salient: At Victoria University College, Wellington, N. Z. Vol. 24, No. 10. 1961.
".. and furthermore.."
".. and furthermore.."
Did you vote in the elections last week or the week before? Do you know who will be directing your life as a student for the next 12 months? Do you care? The chances are that you will answer "No" to all these questions, judging by the fact that every year at Exec, elections about 30% of us are actually interested enough to make use of our voting rights. Apathy, you say? No, not at all, but rather lack of advance publicity, poor electioneering, and general ineptitude on the part of the outgoing Executive.
An informal Gallup poll, conducted privately in the week before elections, revealed that a great many students Did not Know that there was an Election Imminent, and some of those who were aware of its proximity had little or no idea when it was to occur. Admittedly, the situation was to a certain extent alleviated by the appearance of a few forlorn posters in the last day or two before polling day, but these were too late to affect the voting strength appreciably; the candidates' meeting was poorly advertised, for example
In itself, the candidates' meeting was an excellent idea, but its purpose was, or should have been, to introduce the candidates to those persons who were not interested in the election, and who would not normally have voted. Unfortunately, the meeting was very poorly timed, being held during a lunch hour, and the result was that it was in the main attended by those who already knew the candidates, and had decided which way to vote.
Another striking point which emerged from the skirmishing was that it was extremely difficult to find any candidate who could put forward a positive policy; in fact, most seemed to have no platform at all to stand on. In the ultimate outcome, therefore, one was faced with the usual situation of bring forced to vote for names and personalties, rather than for merits and policies, and in a non-political election, this is simply not fair to the voters. For instance, it would have been interesting to hear an opinion on the amount of control which should be exercised by Council over Stud. Ass, with regard to the new building, since there is much unrest on this point.
One was inevitably reminded of Peter Sellers's "Party Political Speech": "And finally, my friends, in conclusion, let me say just this ..." Indeed, the only real value of the candidates' meeting was that of amusement. The deficiencies of having part-timers on Exec, was heavily underlined when the president was compelled to leave for work in the middle of the meeting.
The net result of all this is that, year after year, the student public has, in general, no interest in who are elected to Exec., so that those who stand are more often than not relatively unqualified for their various offices, while many eminently qualified persons are not interested; and who can blame them? One sign of this is that no less than four positions were filled without an election; yet later on in the year one hears complaints about dictatorship and authoritarian administration. Again, those already in power before elections are thus enabled to take advantage of the situation; the consequence of this is that far too many candidates represent personal or sectional interests. For example, the Law Faculty posted on its notice board a list oi those candidates who happened to be in the Faculty, though those concerned denied that they were representing the views of the law students in particular. There is nothing criminal in block voting, but no one should be in the position of feeling himself obliged to a block vote.
The Road to Hell
At this point, a note of warning should be sounded to the incoming executive. In the past there has, been far too great a predominance of sectional interests in Exec.; it has become, over the years, almost an oligarchy. Everyone knows the sensation: Now I'm on Exec., I'm page 2 somebody," and although each new member may start out with the best intentions, the road to Hell is paved with the skulls of those who were just a little power-mad. Exec, has been too much a collection of small cliques, in which I hose who were in control were determined to stay in control, come what may, even to the detriment of student affaire in general; this is nothing less than a betrayal of trust. This trend is accentuated by the fact that there have almost Invariably been too many part-time students on Exec.—they cannot snare the time to cope with the detailed work necessary, and they therefore get very much out of touch with student opinion; one member of the last Executive was heard to say recently: "To hell with student opinion!" This attitude is not as uncommon as many of us think, and we cannot allow It to continue.
Nor must Exec, permit certain persons to acquire more than their fair share of power, as usually happens; those who appear to do most of the work usually are the men in charge, while others are able to muck about, while enjoving the privileges of being on Exec. Work must be delegated, in order to preserve the bulance of power; and it seems that the time has come for careful consideration of whether the constitution of Stud. Ass, should be revised.
Exec. must be the servants, not the masters.
R. Chapman (and proud of it)
[This article was referred to Mr Allen McInnes, the returning officer. Mr McInnes pointed out that there were official notices calling for nominations at least 2½ weeks before nomination closed. It is surely the duty of the Association members to make regular checks on the main official notice board Besides the official notices, there were many posters put up: some of these had to be removed in order to give space to othei clubs, others had been removed to avoid brench of House regulations which forbid thy placing of notices on places other than the official notice bards.]