Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 12. 1967.
Sirs, —Your editorial about Halls of Residence was too kind. It does not bring out the point that they are funda-mentally impersonal places, thoroughly suited to the sub-merging of the individual in the mass. They are nothing more than a conglomeration of sub-standard bed-sitters, plus common room and facilities for preparing lumpy porridge, incredible rice puddings and suspensions of mince in large amounts of water. They have none of the advantages of flats or houses, The individual is confined either to the obscurity of his cell or to the anonymity of the Common Room. In many institutions he is denied even this at certain times of the day, as cleaners come first. He is tied to a fairly rigid schedule, as he must eat when food is provided or see his money wasted, and he must sleep and study at times determined by other people (noise-makers, reserved for those who wish to read the thoughts of the current idol (be he Jesus, Mao or von Clausewitz). But if an Englishman's home is a castle, a Hall of Residence must be cleaners, etc.)
Elsewhere, institutions such as these might be called People's Educational Communes (or Seminaries), and the Common Rooms might be heaven indeed. A name such as "No. 2 Barracks" is more honest in its own context than say. "Holyoake Hall."
Also mis-named are Common Rooms, which would be better termed Lowest Common Denominator Rooms, as they almost inevitably give rise to a lowest common denominator mentality. I can just see it; a dozen Weir Houses competing with each other to see who can make the biggest fools of themselves, (I have even attended a largely residential university (overseas) where exactly this happened.) In ten years time the occupants can move on to the Clubs, Rotary, etc., where they can continue the image building: meanwhile university social life will be focussed around trivia. Perhaps the title Hall of Residence is not after all, so bad as it can invoke the echoes of Rule Britannia, marmalade and jam. Perhaps smoking jackets could be issued.
The worst aspect of the University's present plan is that it brings to a central place in University life organisations that are fundamentally anti-University. If we suppose for the moment that a University is a place dedicated to The Search for Truth, we ought to ask whether those organisations that will provide the "home" atmosphere for the students are similarly dedicated. These organisations being Churches, the answer is clearly no. Churches are not interested in The Search for Truth: they found their truths long ago. Further, their truths are arrived at by revelation, a method that has been discarded, I believe, even by psychologists. Of course, a university is not really dedicated to The Search for Truth, but the embracing of the Churches is going to make it harder for it to attempt to be so. The present plan can only lead to increased Church influence at a time when Church influence is thank God, declining. And such an influence will, of course, be bought with someone else's money.
One further point, often advanced by apologists for Halls of Residence, deserves mention. Though Halls are generally not a Good Idea, they are a good idea for firstyear students 'so goes the argument) who are unstable, lack maturity, etc.. etc. This argument Is the least logics of all, for If something is bad for an "average" person. It is obviously worse for those who are impressionable, and whose future outlook may be determined by it. But such is the poverty of the arguments for Halls of Residence.