Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 12. June 16, 1971
There but for the Grace of God...
It is with deep regret and not a little guilt that we record the passing of the oldest and most venerable of Victoria's sons. The Debating Society is dead. Who is there reading this who does not feel the ignominity and the shame that follows from this shocking death? Every man on Campus must share our guilt; every man on Campus is responsible for Victoria's loss.
That anything should end its life at Victoria is regrettable; that an intellectual institution as fundamental to the grass roots of a University as a Debating Society, should be allowed to decay and die through spiritual neglect is unpardonable.
The Debating Society was killed by the disdainful apathy of the Student Body and its death is an indication not of its own intellectual vacuum but of the spiritual and mental atrophy of the student masses.
The Debating Society had come a long way since its first meeting which its records show was held at the Girls High School on Saturday 3rd June, 1899. It was founded in the same year that Victoria University College opened its doors to students. Article 2 of the Constitution that was adopted at that meeting 72 years ago states:- "Its aim shall be to promote the fellowship and mental culture of the students, and for this purpose there shall be periodical meetings of the members, for the hearing, reading and delivery of essays, debates, readings and addresses (Theological students being excluded)".
It may be that the Society was sowing the seeds of its own destruction when it debated on the 5th of September 1968 the motion "That the Pope is a pill." Within a matter of days, the Roman Catholic Church sent a strongly worded encyclical to the University condemning the Society. Was this the beginning of the end? Does the Society's demise represent the effect of the wrath of God?
It was fitting that the Society should die the day after it celebrated its 72nd anniversary. With its last ounce of strength it had summoned a meeting for Friday 4th June 1971. At 12.20 p.m. that day in a near empty Memorial Theatre it debated the sadly ironic motion "That Student Protesters Overdo Their Thing". Pathetically the motion was carried.
How this motion was carried shall never be known. We suspect that it represents the last conscious act of a Society endeavouring to register its disdain for a University that through its student body had shown a callous and ignorant contempt for intellectual honesty and freedom.
Victoria, your apathy is despicable!
Your cries are for freedom and social justice. You churlishly attempt to impose your ideals and beliefs on the peoples and the governments of the World. You claim that you have their interests at your heart. Great God Almighty, where will your hypocrisy take you! On whose behalf do you cry? You cannot believe that you represent the great Student Body - 6,000 strong. Who gave you your mandate? Not that same spastic Student Body whose 6,000 limbs are quite independent and unco-ordinated. Until such time as the students of Victoria rise up and co-ordinate their actions no one can claim their stolid support. Do not presume to support external institutions while your own are dying beneath you feet. If you seek strong platforms from which to assail he world you must not ignore their foundations. For 72 years Victoria has developed its planks. If you do not support the tenets of one religious or political club you may join another. If you do not trust one executive you may elect another; this you will not do. You sit back and allow the turgid mouths on campus to sally forth and spew their bilious crap.
There was one non-sectarian, non-partisan forum on Campus where honest sincerity was honoured; in your blind apathy and cursed ignorance you allowed the Debating Society to die.page break