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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Special Extravaganza Programme Issue [1953]

The University and the City

page 15

The University and the City

Because the Psychology Department's survey of the opinions of Newtown and Wadestown about Victoria College weren't collated by capping week, and because the question of our relations with the city has been worrying the editor of this Journal for the past three weeks, we very kindly offered to carry out a survey of our own.

We surveyed several people of diverse appearance and activities, but the only one who said anything worthy of being printed was our own landlady, on whom we worked throughout an entire roast dinner. She is a lady of a fairly high standard of intelligence, and, besides, she did not have the opportunity to walk away.

We therefore had the chance of working through our systematic questionnaire. We started err with the initial advantage of not having to ask her ago, because it is stated on her marriage licence, which, framed, hangs above the dining room mantelpiece, and thus we were able to get right into the first question, "What do you think of Victoria College?"

Our landlady said. "Those young men who nearly hit me with a fish-head the other day was not what you'd call class." We conceded that point, and repeated the question, but all we achieved was a series of references to the young gentleman who threw the meat bone, and the young gentleman who sprayed her with D.D.T., and the young lady with the hair; and from this we evolved our first great maxim: that on an occasion when the citizens of Wellington should think of Victoria College, they think of undergraduates.

The reason is simple enough: the university as a community of teachers and pupils has no occasion to come before the public, nor have the professors and lecturers in their official capacity. The college docs not hold public disputations or lectures, nor does it appoint disciplinary officers to observe the conduct of undergraduates in the city. Extracurricular activities are controlled by student clubs, from skiing to philosophical discussion. Inter-college activities such as tournaments or congresses are run by student associations, and so are any other functions held in the city or open to the public, such as Plunket Medal or capping. The most well known of these is the series of celebrations which begins early on the morning of capping day and ends early the following morning.

To all intents and purposes, that is the sole occasion on which we appear as a community of teachers and pupils, or of a student group as such, as distinguished from groups devoted to specialised affairs like debating or Rugby.

Whether we think it a satisfactory state of affairs or not, it is a fact which we should recognise that we go into town one day in the year; that when the assorted citizenry thins of the college, they consider the activities round the railway station, the selling of "Cappicade," the procession, the ceremony in the Town Hull, and the Extrav., which celebrate each year's capping. And at present, when they think of that conglomeration of activities, the majority of the assorted citizenry don't think very much of thorn.

The main reason, according to our landlady and other experts, is that where the citizenry look for wit from a seat of higher learning they find bombast, and where they look for humour they find that the chief kind we offer is the cheapest variety of the double entendre, or, worse and more frequently, a single dirty entendre.

The noise and the dirty Joke we substitute for wit and humour do not get us very far, it is merely being unreasonable to say that that is what the public expects from us, for we have conditioned them to expect to see very little else, it is a comparatively recent phenomena at Victoria, for 20 years back Extrav. and the rest of the activities were recognised as being witty.

One of the chief reasons, I am inclined to think, is laziness. All these activities come at once, and they are left to a very email proportion of the student body, who, with a great deal to do in a short time, take the easy way out and decide that if a laugh is too hard to work for, it's simple enough to raise a snigger. This is true for every aspect of the capping celebrations, of course—those in which we ourselves were involved were notable for their ingenuity and sparkling wit—but on the whole the proceedings at present are characterised by noise and the aforementioned dirty Jokes.

It is time that we considered this question seriously. Student activities in the city are at a fairly low ebb at present, and unless more time and trouble is spent on them, and a higher standard aimed at, we will find that we have a reputation for shoddiness which will stick for a long time. Would you yourself, if you had graduated in another city, consider our capping activities worth going any distance to see?

Our landlady certainly doesn't. We said to her, "You think they're ad captandum vulgus?" And she said. "You betcha."