Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 8. 1965.
One of the most stupid acts regularly perpetrated by university students is the calling of Special General Meetings to pass mighty-sounding motions on such topics as South Vietnam. More often than not a very small number of students attend the meeting, which discusses, and eventually votes on, many motions. All this may seem quite harmless in itself, and so it is, but the ramifications are often quite serious.
At a recent SGM, less than 80 students voted on whether or not the New Zealand Government should send troops to South Vietnam. Repeat—80 students, only 2.0 per cent of the Victoria student population, voted. And yet the decision was gaily reported by the newspapers, and it became necessary for Tom Robins to write them an explanatory letter.
Who should be blamed for this ridiculous situation? The newspapers? Perhaps. But it would seem more sensible if we were to clean up our own back yard first. The SGM motion originators should look at their actions and decide what, if anything, they hope to achieve.
If the aim is to have an evening's intellectual discussion, then there can be no quarrel with this objective. This is what we come to university for.
But it follows that if the idea is solely to have an intellectual discussion, then there may be no need to vote on it and there is certainly no need to broadcast the result to the world at large.
The aim, however, may well be deeper than this. At the SGM that voted on the Vietnam issue, the meeting was happy, nay demanding, that the result of the debate should be released to the news media.
This attitude is irresponsible. Such people know that Victoria students will be lumbered with the decision, and it apparently worries not one whit. The answer regularly trotted out to such charges is that the other 4120 students could have come along and voted against the motion had they wanted to.
But this argument is spurious. The other 4120 did not know before the meeting which way the voting would go, so while they did not come along to vote against the motion, just as surely they did not vote in favour of it either.
To be fair, it must be pointed out that the meeting resolved that the numbers who voted be included in the press release. But this is always an empty gesture.
The number was never mentiond—either it was never released or the news media did not see fit to publish the information. But the reason is immaterial —and the result was to be expected, for it has happened many times before.
Our professional SGM wanglers have not learned past lessons. Either they are stupid in not realising the consequences of their actions, or they are irresponsible insidious schemers, intent on furthering causes in which they believe at the expense of honesty and far representation.—G.E.J.L.