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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 13. Somewhere-in-July. 1971


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The trouble with the student revolutionaries who are trying to change the nature and structure of courses they are taking at University is that they fundamentally misconstrue the nature of the University as an institution in New Zealand society. The University is just another big business, admittedly a nationalised one, run on the same principle as other businesses. It is a degree-factory. The materials it processes are students, the workers are the University Faculty, the employers are the administration and the government. The commodities that this business supplies to the market are degreed personnel which, like computers, have many uses and which, again like computers, are generally misused.

The University courses exhibit the usual characteristics of production lines. At Stage One (the first stage of production) the material is given a general mauling over to make it malleable, at Stage two (the second stage of production) the material is given its fundamental shape, at stage three (the third stage of production) the material is given its final polish and gloss and then put on the market. Of course, a few, extra expensive luxury models are also produced by a further year or two of processing and these are often used to supply the needs of the business itself.

A few problems have arisen in recent years. The amount of material to be processed has increased fantastically but the number of workers employed has not risen significantly enough to cope with this influx. Because of lack of space, processing has to be done in what is generally felt to be substandard conditions. Furthermore, the consumers in the market have begun to complain about the quality of some of the models they have been receiving in recent years. The gloss is still there but the shaping is very poorly finished off. The workers, who are very poorly unionised, have asked their employers to take in more workers. The employers, feeling that this would be uneconomical, have offered a different course of action. Cut down the amount of material being taken in. This, of course, is quite a good business as the corporation has a monopoly in the commodity it produces. The quality of the material will go up because they will be able to choose the most malleable at the first stage. The demand for models is increasing and so the prices (in terms of grants to the University) will go up. Worker numbers will be kept fairly constant and wages and salaries will not increase significantly.

I could go on at considerably length illustrating my thesis that the University exhibits most of the characteristics of a business institution. As such, I think it has a vital place in N.Z. society. It supplies a need felt in the community. How much of this need is the result of advertising, I don't know, but I suspect some of this need is real enough.

Returning to the revolutionaries, I think some of their troubles arise from the fact that they are confused. They don't really know what they want. It is no use demanding that they have a greater say in the courses or the abolishing of the examination system (which seems to me to be the height of foolishness because it happens to be the only protection a lot of these students have against their teachers). The business can accomodate a lot of these changes and still remain a business. It seems to me, also, that a lot of these students want the best of both worlds. They want their degrees because they are an instrument for getting them a well-paid job, an investment or a source of security and at the same time they are not willing to be processed in the way that those who have made the degree worth what it is want them to be processed. I believe in the right of the consumer to specify his requirements exactly and his right to a commodity which fits those requirements (We see too much of of consumers being forced to accept goods which they know are not exactly what they want but are the best of a bad lot available on the market - cars, food etc.).

However, as I suspect, the confusion of students arises from the fact that they expect the University to be one thing and in fact it is something else. (The old Cargo Cult situation). One of the principle causes of this confusion is in the very name 'University'. The institution as we know it today bears little of the spirit which first brought it in to existence. I am no historian but I guess that the first universities were far from being business institutions or degree factories. They were, it seems to me, communities of scholars, motivated by the desire to exchange, explore and develop ideas. Degrees, stages, examinations played little or no part in this community. It was not a means to an end but an end in itself. An end that people were prepared to make sacrifices (financial and other) to achieve and at the same time not expect any earthly or secondary rewards for having achieved it. It was, also, a way of life rather than a localised institution. Sure, there were places of meeting, colleges or whatever, but they were merely convenient places for scholars to gather. The most important building was the library (Strangely enough this might still be true).

This view of the university might be historically fallacious and a mere Golden Dream but nevertheless I feel that such a community is in fact what many students are looking for whether they know it or not. Let me say that it exists. It exists because the spirit and the desire for it exists. It is up to these students to create it. Don't try and force it on others. This would spoil and debase the idea. Furthermore (and strangely enough also) I think students will find that many professors and lecturers would be extremely glad to partake in this community. They too miss this community and need little persuasion to join it - I have one professor in mind especially, one professor whose sympathy and understanding of students has merely earned him the insults and barbarous activities of some confused revolutionaries; students who don't know what they want and use this confusion as an excuse to lash out at those who have been the kindest to them.

bring the war Home July 30

bring the war Home July 30

If you are a student seeking such a community then start it yourself. It is, as I have pointed out, a way of life. Start living it! Stop signing those stupid administrative forms that ask you to state what degree you are doing and what units you have completed and intend to complete. Don't write assignments for which you have no inclination. Don't go to lectures or tutorials that don't interest you. Don't sit examinations. Go to lectures that interest you. Join tutorials you find interesting. Start up your own discussion groups. Use student Association money to invite scholars to run courses that interest you. Reinstate Curious Cove (It is sad how this community had to be scraped because it showed no tangible results; the production line way of thinking really has got a good grip on our minds and in this case what a bitter twist it has made). Find out what is going on in every department, at every stage, in every tutorial and make this information known to all. I think you will find a lot of sympathy where you least expect it If (and this is a big If) you do it right. Where you find opposition, don't force it. And lastly, live by your principles and I think you will have a greater effect than if you rant and scream.

Henry Barnard

May I commend T. Simpson for so succinctly summing up the contents of his article in the title. "The Once and Sometime Con." Indeed, even if Labour Party Conferences are as boring as he would have it, the delegates owe "commentators" such as him a debt of thanks for providing, with monotonous regularity, reviews which, looking back, make the conference seem positively virile by comparison. This is not to say that the article was boring, superficial, uninformed, nauseatingly 'hep' and therefore irrelevant. On the contrary, I would suggest that here we have a flawless "Paradigm for a Criticism of a Labour Party conference". Let us then examine the article in the attempt to "put our finger" on those intangibles which invariably characterise a precedent-creating work in the literary field.

Firstly, always approach your subject with an open mind. Let your readers know that this is so, through neutral descriptions of the Conference as "the land of the blind". Conversely, always reassure your readers that you came away "puzzled" and if possible "worried". Happily, one can report that Mr Simpson was both puzzled and worried - we thus know we are in good hands. Thirdly, do not look for significance in any events, which does not readily, and of its own accord, filter through your dark glasses. Compensate instead, with a homely, metaphorical generalization such as "everyone in the part has views like turnip juice".

Fourthly, and this is very important, always try and show those poor fools labelled "delegates", how beguiled they've been, in the hope that they won't let it happen again. In fact, so important is this point, that it must be formulated as a cardinal rule - "always tell the delegates something they don't already know. Tell them, for example, what fools they were in naively believing that they were making policy for the next election. Tell them that election policy is decided by the policy committee. Tell them that the mass of Labour voters are not the "vanguard of the proletariat marching in blue overalls", and tell them that the electorate is apathetic about Women's Lib, homosexual law reform, seato etc. Never be afraid to slap party members in the face with facts like these. Remember, the critic can have no friends - all must feel the cut and thrust of his pen, if we are ever to reach God's own truth."

Fifthly don't be afraid to make political predictions, however improbable they may seem to your audience - like "Seato won't be the brightest jewel in the Diadem of Labour's election manifesto." Think of the respect and satisfaction you will gain when time proves you right, and those who scoffed wrong.

Any analysis which can incorporate all these elements is assured of being a surefire winner. And who knows, given time, much hard toil, and more T. Simpsons, we may even be able to do away with the Conference itself, and concentrate on the reviews alone.

I have only one personal gripe - I don't drink "fruit juice", nor do I "hike ninety miles". Tell me it's not true, Mr Simpson, that I don't even qualify for the radical fringes of the non-radical Labour Party. And oh, seeing your photograph reminded me to ask - why is it that all reviewers of Labour Party Conferences have callouses on their hands?

P. Wilson.

Apart form the gratuitous turd-tossing at the beginning, your anonymous report on "Spock in Wellington" was rather good. Like President Roosevelt said, "I don't give a damn what they say about me, just [unclear: sof] long as they mention my name" - but, for the record, (1) I've spoken at least four times on "Radical Tradition at Vic", (2) I've always fancied myself as a follower rather than a leader, and (3) that bit about rejoicing is probably right, as I seem to remember that my resignation (circa February 1957, i.e., upwards of fourteen years ago) was followed closely by my expulsion.

Conrad Bollinger.

P.S. I also edited Salient once upon a time. It was a very polite journal in those days.

Times change, Ed.

Perhaps the author of your 'pork' article, who thinks he can improve on Christ's treatment of evil spirits by befriending them, could start by casting out a few himself.


Printed by the Wanganui Chronicle Company Limited, P.O. Box 433, Wanganui and published by the Victoria University Students' Association, P.O. Box 196, Wellington.