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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 55

Otago University. — "Capping" Ceremony

Otago University.

"Capping" Ceremony.

The Lyceum Hall was filled to its utmost capacity last night, on the occasion of the "capping" of the successful University students. The assemblage was a brilliant one, being very largely composed of ladies. Professor Macgregor presided, and, assisted by professor Shand, presented the diplomas the [unclear: chall] (Rev. Dr Stuart), the Professors of the Otago University, several graduates, and other gentlemen were also on the platform. The students conducted themselves in a way which formed a marked contrast to their conduct on previous occasions. There was a minimum amount of interruption on their part, and such eccentricities as they did indulge in were of a very harmless kind.

Professor Macgregor said all the friends of the University must be exceedingly gratified to see that large and orderly gathering. That gathering or ceremony had a double character. It was in the first instance connected with and representative of the New Zealand University, and it was also connected with the local University—the older of the two institutions. This involved the fact that the person to whom it fell to represent the Chancellor of the New Zealand University had to take that opportunity of dealing with such questions of interest, or changes which had been effected by the Senate at its last meeting. That was the duty which fell te him; he had no option in the matter, and he was glad of it. That was also a most interesting occasion, as most of them know, in connection with their local college, for the first lady graduate from the Otago University came forward to receive her diploma. That of itself was an occasion and a cause which demanded a speech of its own and he had asked one of his friends to deal with it. Another gentleman had evolunteered to come forward to address them, and between them they would perhaps exhaust the patience of the audience. He proposed devoting his remarks to explaining the reason why the Senate at its last meeting had resolved to institute the B.Sc. degree as an alternative to the ordinary B.A. degree, which opened another door of entrance to their University. To properly understand the bearings of such a change they must trace the influences which had given rise to it, and the altered circumstances, which had made it necessary. In order to do so, it was necessary to look abroad over the different educational ideals that prevailed among civilised nations, when it would be found that they were ranged between two extremes, each equally (dear and definite. On the one hand was the German system—the most complete and thoroughgoing in the world based on an ideal which, in the words of Stein (its groat founder), is "the harmonious and equable evolution of the human faculties." On the other hand, we had what he ventured to formulate as the ideal that commended itself to the British colonist expatriated to subdue the wilderness and lay the foundation of a new English-speaking nation beyond the sea. Their ideal, begotten of their history and their circumstances, was what they called practical. Education was with them only training for work, and nothing was taught that could not be turned to account. The conditions under which men came to these colonies increased the tendency towards utilitarianism, and we were getting impatient of the higher secondary education, as it existed, reproduced from the ancient standards of the old country. Parents would no longer, stand it. They wanted something practical to turn into money soon; and the Senate, seeing this great revolution pending, thought by reform to forestall it. They now said that no boy who wished hizher, or university, education, should henceforth be obliged to take up Latin unless he wanted to. Latin, and perhaps in a lessor degree mathematics, had been the great stumbling-block in our primary schools. A boy sometimes found that the latter two or three years of his education had been thrown away, because when he wanted to go up TO the university he had to go back to the earlier courses of the High School for it, although he was far advanced in other subjects. This discouraged the boy, drove the masters to despair, and tended to make High School education expensive. The B.Sc. degree removed this stumbling-block, and made it possible for every parent to get a rational education for his son, and obtain security that it should not be merely utilitarian principles. One difficulty they would have to deal with was that owing to the persistence with which the English nation as a whole hid invested all its power and educational discipline in classics and mathematics, it would almost be impossible to find men of first-class ability for teachers who had not directed their powers in this way. For his own part he would, if it had been possible, have stuck to the old way. It was the diet on which heroes were fed, whatever they might say. But our present system was a too ridiculous compromise. We must cure this evil—a knowledge of many things and no knowledge of any thing, A period of transition was inevitable, but we must get over this, and could not expect to do so until we had trained teachers to invest their powers in the now subjects as they had formerly dona in the old.—(Applause.)

The new graduates were then presented with their diplomas by Professor Macgregor, assisted by Professor Shand. The following is the list of graduates —

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Caroline Freeman.—Bowen prize; first section B.A., 1881.

Robbert M'nab—Matriculated, 1880 first section B.A., 1883 (senior scholar in mathematics); final B.A., 1884; M.A., with second-class honours in mathematics.

James Ronaldson Thornton.—B.A., 1879, and M.A., and third-class honours in physics and chemistry at Canterbury College in 1880; first PART LL.B, 1880; second and third section LL. B., 1884.

James Fitzgera d.—Matriculated 1880; first section 13. A, 1883; final B.A., 1885.

Thomas K. Sidey—Matriculated 1881: first auction B.A..; 1833; final B.A.. 1855.

James Johaston Hay.—Matriculated 1881; first section B.A, 1881; final B.A., 1885; senior scholarship in mathematics.

Donald Monro—Matriculated 1881: first section B.A., 1884; final B.A., 1885.

In the absence of Mr R. L. Stanford, to receive his diploma, Professor Macgregor intimated that it would be forwarded to him.

Miss Freeman received a hearty reception, the students singing "She's a jolly good fellow," while several bouquets were thrown to her.

Dr Brown then delivered a very interesting address He said:—We have witnessed a ceremony to-night which marks one of the great social advances of the century. Some of you will scarcely believe how strenuously, and in many cases how effectually, the admission of ladies to degrees has been resisted in the British Universities. A long period of agitation and persistent knocking at the doors of learning have at length cleared the way. It is worthy of note, as has been pointed out to me by a learned friend, that one of the earliest agitators in this movement was Mrs Priscilla Wakefield, grandmother of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, to whom we may say New Zealand owes its very existence as a colony of England. This lady in 1798 published a small book called "Reflections on the Female Sex," which anticipated, in some ways, the writings of Miss Cobbe, Mrs But or, Mrs J. S. Mill, and others. To these latter ladies and their associates great credit is due for a new and more generous public opinion. Within the last few years colleges for ladies have been established at Cambridge and Oxford. At Cambridge the other day ladies took high places in the mathematical tripos. Our colony has nothing to be ashamed of in regard to provision for the higher education of women. We have High Schools for our girls, giving them the came advantages in the way of large classes, good teachers, and breadth of training as boys. When they leave school the lectures in college are open to them, and as you have seen to-night, the University of New Zealand admits women to degrees equally with men. Although this is a novel sight to most of us, it is another illustration of the truth of King solomon's saw, "There is no new thing under the sun." In past ages women have, time after time, been distinguished graduates and teachers in academies and universities. Charles Kingsley has made popular the history of one distinguished lady professor of 1500 years ago. Names of ladies occur among the professors and lecturers of various Italian and French colleges from the thirteenth right on to the present century. In conservative England there are, however, few, if any, female graduates of the national universities. How is this? Why should a nation which has prided itself on its chivalry find nothing but a theme for jest in the idea of ladies entering on an undergraduate's life? A probable answer is furnished by an author from whom I quote a sentence or two "The education of a woman and that of a man are very dissimilar. Thus, a man can study during his whole life; whether he is abroad or at home he can always look into the classics and history and become thoroughly acquainted with the whole range of authors. But a woman does not study more than ten years, when she takes upon herself the management of a family, where a multiplicity of cares distracts her attention, and having no leisure for undisturbed study, she cannot easily understand authors; not having obtained a thorough acquaintance with letters she does not fully comprehend their principles; and like water that has flowed from its fountain, she cannot regulate her conduct by their guidance." This is the usual position taken up by those who are opposed to or are lukewarm on the subject of higher education for women. There is a certain amount of grim satisfaction to be derived from the fact that the words now quoted are the utterances of a Chinaman.—(A Voice: "Name!") His name is Luh Chow, and he is in this, as in many other respects, quite up to the intellectual level of the self-satisfied Briton who asked the question.—(Laughter.) Taking Mr Luh Chow seriously, he raises a very important point. Supposing the higher education of women to be arrested for a number of years by family life, is woman any the worse for being well educated before marriage? Is a woman legs likely to be a good wife and mother if she has spent her spare time after leaving school in study than if she has led the life of idleness and petty distractions which is demanded by fashionable society? It would be instructive to know how as a training for domestic life a soulless acquaintance with pianoforte-playing and ability to paint from copies surpass a thorough knowledge of Latin and mathematics or how a family will be better brought up by a mother who has a passion for dancing than by one who is familiar with English literature. The fact is that whenever we go beyond the region of what is useful, we find women in the matter of education, as in almost will other matters, victims of a despotism of their page break own creating. Fashion dictates what girls should learn, and fashion declares that young ladies finish their education by a veneering of showy accomplishments. Men have been too prone to look upon them as the Heaven decreed order of things. It is for men as much a duty as for women to strive for a better way. Men gain equally with women in every advance made in culture; men of this generation gain by companionship with cultured women; men of the next generation gain by the impress made on them in childhood and youth. Where it is possible, why should not girls have the best and most thorough grounding in those studies in which well-educated lads are drilled? Even if for a while in after life domestic duties withdraw a woman from studious pursuits a time will come in her life when the studies of her youth can be resumed, or the habits acquired in youth roused into activity and directed into new channels. Recent literature affords abundant illustration of the truth of this statement. Especially may we instance Mary Somerville as a striking example of the advantages derived in old age from thorough and exact training in early years. All women, however, have not the fortune, or misfortune, to enter on married lite. It is easy to turn this subject off with a jeer, to say woman's function is matrimony; but it is not so easy to ignore the fact that in most civilised communities the number of unmarried women is very great. What is to be done with them? One of England's sweetest poets answers the question thus:

For sure it is indeed,

Two streams through Life's ground flow, and both are good—
The one, whose goal is gracious motherhood;
The other, in the cloister pule and dim,

Finding sufficient meed

In pure observance, rite, and soaring hymn.

Thus poetry; but prose tells us of many who are not mated, and who do not or cannot adopt the poet's pleasing alternative of "getting them to a nunnery." What is to be the fate of these? There are many industrial occupations open to them, but following the example of the learned, the artisan objects to a woman competing with him. Woman has to encounter the same difficulty in nearly every direction. Where she is admitted as a worker in schools, for instance, the is paid at a much lower rate than a man. The University of New Zealand deserves the praise of every woman who has the welfare of her sex at heart, because in it and in the affiliated colleges there is absolute equality. Lectures are attended by male and female students; the same examinations are undergone by both, and the same degrees are open to both. In recognising equality between the sexes our university is imbued with the spirit of Mrs J. S. Mill, who says:—We deny the right of any portion of the species to decide for another portion, or any individual for another individual, what is and what is not their 'proper spheres.' The proper sphere for all human beings is the largest and highest which they are able to attain to. What this is cannot be ascertained without complete liberty of choice." Well, granted the liberty, what is the use to women of higher education? One is often asked this question and expected to be too effectively crushed to reply. To answer properly one would need to touch on the whole subject of culture. Suffice it, to say that education, properly so called, will not unsex either man or woman. There is no fear that it will harm "distinctive womanhood."

For woman is not undevelopt man,
But diverse; could we make her as the man
Sweet Love were slain; his dearest bond it; this—
Not like to like, but like indifference.
The woman's cause is man's; they rise or sink
Together—dwarf'd or Godlike, bond or free

Education develops the best of what is in the student's nature; it does not alter it. It leaves the man a better, nobler man than it found him; the woman purer, brighter—yet a woman. To many education is only a means to an end—something by which material benefit may be procured. Even on this low standing ground women may claim a footing. Still there are in every community some who are able to save themselves from taking part in the world's great struggle, and some who are philosophers, strictly so called—lovers of knowledge. Are women devoid of this enthusiasm?

Oh, student! fer into the night,
From youth to age.
Bent low upon the blinding page,
Content to catch some gleam or light;,.
Art thou not happy though the world pass by?
Happy though honours seek thee not, nor fame,
And no man knows thy name?
Happy in that blest company of old,
Whose names are writ in characters of gold
Upon the rooks of Time—the glorious band
Who on the shining mountains stand—
Thinker and jurist, bard or seer—
Whatever name is brightest and most dear?

May not a woman answer to this. Such is my dream of happiness. Yet women may well be pardoned it they claim that the honours and awards that in times past have served to stimulate men in their studies shall be open to them also. We so recently heard from Professor Sale the common-sense view of the value of a degree that I do not touch on that subjects However, degrees are conferred, and if they have any value, let them be open to both sexes. The battle of higher education for women has however, been fought a little further on. Are women to share in that special training which to men is a means to an end? Are women to be trained to professions? Here, again, the catholicity of our colonial university is in marked contrast to the older schools. Degrees in law, science, music, and medicine are open to ladies. There are wrong prejudices standing in the way of women becoming professors, preachers, lawyers, and doctors; but there is neither justice nor grace in refusing the claim of any woman who desires to enter on a professional career. They have historical precedent in their favour; they have modern instances. Opposition comes to them from those who read their competition where competition is already keen enough, but most of all from those who have an ideal of womanhood with which the professional woman clashes. People who hold this view exhibition their unreasoning prejudice a logical fallacy which some of the younger students here could blow to the winds in very short time. Because it so happens that some asserters of woman's rights have been coarse and vulgar, it does not follow that every woman who wishes to carve her own way in the world is so. One treads on dangerous ground when venturing to speak of a career for women in the pulpit or at the bar, but the public are not so unaccustomed to the idea of woman choosing medicine as a profession. Here, at any rate, there is room for some of the fair sex. I would not venture to advise or dissuade, but I know page break that, if not in this particular town or country, in some other towns and countries there is a demand for lady doctors. There is not much to be proud of in the stand made by the medical Press against the entrance of women into this profession. There was a strong flavour of the Middle Ages about the literature of the controversy and about the action taken by the medical corporations and universities in England and Scotland to prevent females from being taught or examined. There is no need either to approve or disapprove of the bent of mind impelling a woman to study medicine in order to judge of the unfairness of the way in which Miss Jex-Blak and others were treated by medical men and medical boys If any lady now present believes that there is a field for her in medicine she may rest assured that the university will treat her exactly as it treats others, and that the means of instruction are as open to her as to any student. I cannot conclude without a word of congratulation to Miss Freeman. No one knows so well as I do the difficulties she has had to contend with. She has shown such pluck and perseverance that, if she had been a fighting man instead of a studious woman, she would have merited decoration. I am pleased, therefore, to hail her as the first lady graduate from the Otago University.—(Applause.)

Mr A. Wilson, M.A., said he might be allowed to express not so much his congratulations as his jubilations on what they must all regard as the central fact of interest in that night's proceedings—the investiture of the first Otago girl-graduate.—(Applause). He thought he might speak as the mouthpiece of ranks of girls who were growing up to contest the honours of the Otago University with the young men students, and he gave the young men fair warning that they look to it that their seats be firm, for as surely as the girls were beginning to invade the lecture, and bear thence their share of the trophies, so surely would they by-and-bye enter such professions as learning could qualify them for. Up to this time the only occupation open to well-educated gentlewomen bad been reaching, and into this profession they had all been driven whether it was congenial or not, but in a few years they would be wondering how the world possibly got on without its women-doctors. He should not be surprised to see women before long claiming their place in other fields besides medicine—law for instance. He would neither assert nor deny that women might; make as stable judges as men, but he was inclined to think that they would make better advocates. There were many other professions which women would contest with men, in the proper fulness of time; women were even coming to the front as inventors. All those who were interested in the education of women must be glad to see with their own eyes that women were entering the arena and carrying away prizes till lately reserved exclusively for men. The speaker then proceeded to deal at great length with the subject of graduation And degrees. During the course of a lengthy address of special interest to students, the speaker said he would like to say in a few words what he thought the degrees of B.A. end MA. in the New Zealand University ought to represent. The degree of Bachelor of Arts ought to certify to all whom it might concern that its possessor had laid a broad and firm basis of sound learning on which to build the superstructure of his subsequent intellectual life. He had gone through an apprenticeship, so to speak, and had learned how to use a large variety of tools. He said advisedly a large variety of tools, for the very name of university promised that no part of the intellectual nature was to be left uncared for. The course of study in all good universities was so arranged that this breadth was ensured to all who obtained its degree, for the degree of B was a guarantee rather of breadth than of depth, therefore it was that in no subject was more than a moderate degree of proficiency demanded, though such knowledge, so far as it went, must be honest and thorough When the student had achieved a respectable proficiency in the arts literature, philosophy, and science, the university authorities certified the same, presorting him with his parchment and investing him with the fur. As yet, be it observed, the student was an apprentice of all trades, but a matter of none. To qualify himself for being a master able to teach he must proceed to narrow the area of his studies; he must decide for what subjects he had the greatest aptitude and taste, and he must concentrate his attention upon those. After a certain period devoted to the mastery of a group of cognate subjects, he returned to the University authorities and demanded that they try him. If it had been found that he had made good use of his time, he was pronounced a Master of Arts—a little, however, which, to use the phraseology of logic, connotes more than it denotes,; hence the desire to institute other degrees such as B.Sc. which shall more accurately indicate the narrower range. Though some universities the theory of degrees might not square with the practice, yet he thought it did run parallel with the lives followed in our own university; so that they might well congratulate those students who had received the imprimatur of the university, as certifying that they have served a creditable apprenticeship to the arts, and had laid a broad and sound foundation for subsequent at ainments. Still more might they congratulate those who had finished their "wanderjahre" and had been pronounced proficient in certain departments of the arts. As the number of graduates increased year by year, they might rest assured that the colony would be all the better for it.—(Applause.)

Rev. Dr Stuart the graduates said he had much pleasure in congratulating them on making good another step forward in their educational course, and in joining in that public recognition of it. Though not a prophet, he did not hesitate to say that a crown of priceless value awaited those who showed in the prosecution of their chosen task not only a resolute will, but also the courage of a hero and the love of an apostle. Now and again the cry was raised, and it was sure to reach their ears, that in these times men of culture were becoming a drug; but he was sure they were effectually protected against its evil contagion by the inestimable gifts of faith, hope, and youth. Let them not heed the pessimistic cry—the fields of high endeavour are all fully occupied, and there is neither work nor wage for any more. What! Neither room nor work in our world for the good and the true? Why, God and His servants were now calling to boundless page break fields, white to the harvest, all whose inspiration was goodwill to men and faith in the promises. For one, he had confidence that their alumni will continue to be fairly represented in the front ranks of the industrial art?, in scholarship, science, citizenship, and beneficence, and thus nobly vindicate from age to age the patriotism and fore seeing wisdom of their founders. He wished them success in their studies and is practical life. —(Cheers.)

Professor Macgregor complimented the students upon their changed manners, and the proceedings terminated.