Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 12. 5 August 1970
As I was one of those responsible for the calling of a motion of no confidence in the Executive I feel it is justifiable to ask what were my reasons for bringing the motion, and that I should explain the seemingly illogical statements I made at the SGM.
I bought the motion for varying reasons, the main ones being dissatisfaction with the way Executive handled certain matters and dissatisfaction with the policy decisions of SRC.
Confining myself to the latter head the two issues which have received the most attention outside the University are (a) Rugby Tour to South Africa and (b) Abolishing of Procesh.
I wish to confine my discussion to the first head. My personal attitude to the tour was that I opposed the tour on grounds of international politics in that our stand could have affected diplomatic and trading relations with other nations. Moreover it could affect international sporting relations.
However, on moral grounds I came to a different conclusion. I started with a premise that apartheid is morally indefensible. But would the tour help or hinder Africans to throw off the yoke of the white South Africans? On the balance I considered the tour would help break down apartheid.
Whether I am right or wrong is irrelevant. The fact is that I was divided on the issue as an individual and within the university group as a whole there was a strong divergence of opinion.
When the difference is only one of 54% to 37% (and even this figure is suspect as it only represents one third of the student population) I dislike a small majority laying down a blanket statement 'Victoria University Students oppose the South Africa Tour.' This is a simple answer to a complex issue and the correctness of which was disputed by 37%.
It will be immediately said that Executive can do nothing else. By acting on the majority they are acting democratically. I concede the practical force of this argument but I submit that Executive should not publish a blanket statement, which submerges the minority viewpoint.
I believe the university viewpoint should be stated on such issues as the tour because the university is meant to act as a social conscience on the rest of society. But this should not be abused. What made the public newspapers was that Victoria University Students opposed the tour which is a gross misrepresentation of student opinion.
However it is next claimed that all the foregoing discussion is irrelevant to the Executive. They are simply carrying out the policy that was decided by SRC. Blame should be laid on the SRC rather than Executive. I would make two submissions against this argument, a) SRC is not representative of student opinion. It is a body with power but no responsibility. I thought an SGM should be called because I believed rightly or wrongly that an SGM would be more representative and more responsible than an SRC.
SRC is not a forum representative of student opinion. It is held at lunch time in the common room where the bulk of the audience are students having lunch. Interest is low which means minority groups by attending the meeting can dominate proceedings.
There is then a peurile discussion as to whether toilets should be desegregated. The whole thing is a farce. The SRC is meant to be the workings of democracy; anarchy would be a more appropriate word.
It is only a partial answer to claim that students get what they deserve. They should attend meetings and help formulate policy. However many students do not have the time nor inclination to waste time in ridiculous discussion. Important motions undoubtedly come before SRC but one cannot wait indefinitely for them. b) Coupled with (a) is that the Executive can control the SRC to some extent. The Secretary both by the timing of the meeting and the order of the agenda; and the Chairman by his position can help to manipulate events.
Also as the SRC has power but no responsibility the only identifiable body where one can lay a complaint is the Executive. But when one brings action against that body it disclaims all responsibility and uses the SRC as a scapegoat. And the Executive are not entirely blameless if it fails in its duty to correct statements. For example it made no effort to point out that a substantial portion of the students supported the tour. It made no effort to correct Mr Grocott's statement that 30,000 students opposed the tour. Thus our Executive was not expressing student opinion adequately and justified a motion of no confidence being directed at them.
Again I realise as a matter of practical politics no student body would make such a statement as it would have little political effect. However such an Executive always runs the risk of minority groups attempting to make their viewpoint heard.
I have not got the space to explain all my allegations in detail. All I hope to have shown is that the motion was not frivolous or vexatious. So I would claim that either SRC is restructured so that its voice is more representative of student opinion or Executive should be held accountable for policy decisions made by SRC.