Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 21. 5th September 1973
The President Said Today
The President Said Today
Few students, least of all the candidates themselves, can have been pleased at the lack of participation in the recent election. Disappointing as this may have been, it cannot be treated as a surprise. For although Victoria remains the most active campus in the country, (which may be hard to believe) involvement in extra curricular activities in general has been markedly down for most of the year. As the demands of the classroom, internal assessment and the credit system have increased, so has the amount of time spent on activities outside the classroom decreased.
Effectively, most students have been forced into making a choice between keeping up in the academic race and dropping out of other activities, or abandoning the academic race in order to participate more fully in other affairs.
Which alternative the University administration prefers students to choose is hardly in doubt. For example, in 1970 the Vice Chancellor, Dr Taylor, quoted with great approval the President of the Australian Students' Association who said that, "If students could be more involved in the excitement of learning, they would he less concerned with questions of student power and student politics." Presumably, the rising incidence of mental and nervous stress among students is but one of the many benefits that flow from being involved in "the excitement of learning."
One other "benefit" is that antagonisms between students are accentuated — inside the classroom where even greater competitiveness prevails, am! outside the classroom where those who play a full part in social or political affairs are clearly marked off from those who, because of other demands, remain uninterested. Each necessarily holds a different set of priorities; there are fewer opportunities for them to meet in debate and dogmatism or just silent hostility creeps in.
In essence then, the credit system and internal assessment have proved a very effective means of student control, of divide and rule. Which is not to say that students, don't have other problems. Rather the point is that the work output now demanded makes it more difficult to cope with other things, things that one normally finds easy to handle.
Moreover, in the light of staff complaints about the standard of work falling off and student feeling that work is not so much to be gone into as got out of the road, it seems difficult to argue that all the extra work produces a better intellectual product. What it does produce is a system of control whereby the student, forced to work hard, works him/herself ever more firmly into a state of subordination to the University as an institution.
This situation, however, is already producing its own response. The initiative taken by students in the English and Economics Departments to improve their conditions of work point the way to other students. Coupled with a current proposal for a welfare management committee with a student majority (of which I shall write more next week) and SRC motions calling for a staff/student committee with a more direct ability to consult with departments to alter courses and workloads, these efforts amount to a willingness to push back — which is a good trend.