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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 2, No. 14. July 12, 1939

Compulsory Subscription

Compulsory Subscription

The Guest Editor and his staff have now completed their task; but before the intellectual life of the college falls back into the old groove there is one most important matter still requiring attention—the motion which caused all the criticism of "Salient" to become articulate. It is only in relation to this motion that the criticism can be understood; and above all it must be remembered that the defeat of the motion and not either a change in the control of "Salient" or even the elimination of the features criticised was its primary object.

It is admitted that what actually happened at the meeting, especially when inaccurately retailed to those who were not present, might well have obscured that fact somewhat; but the opponents of compulsory subscription took the line they did purely and simply because, until Mr. Edgley's announcement at the meeting, they had no idea that the matter was to come up. For the same reason there were so few present to support them. Mr. Edgley had duly posted up his notice of amendments, to be sure—five pages of them. But how many students could be expected to read the mass of technical jargon that must inevitably figure in such a document? Some, such as the writer, managed the first page and discovered that the Students' Association fee was to be raised; but only the legally minded reached the fifth and found out the cause. The only way to make such a matter adequately known was to put up advertisements in block letters "Students' Association fee to be raised to provide for free distribution of 'Spike' and 'Salient'" on all notice boards and in the second of the two papers concerned. This was not done and the result was that those of us who realised the objections to such a proposal were left without the support we undoubtedly have in the college and without a plan for combating the motion when its import was suddenly revealed to our astonished senses.

Who can blame us then, if we spoke of the first thing that came into our mind—the obvious failure of the paper, to which all were now to be compelled to subscribe, to express the opinions of all or even the majority of students. Reflection would have shown us that the obvious course to adopt was to suggest that the matter be held over and decided by a ballot of all students, as was the similar question that recently came up of a reduction of the fee for Training College students. But we went blindly ahead. Practically all of what we said was right, we believe, and so do all of those who have so enthusiastically approved of our action, but the result was that the meeting, instead of realizing that the matter was one with which it was scarcely representative enough to deal (Mr. McCulloch was an honourable though belated exception) and instead even of examining the motion on its merits, treated the matter as one of confidence or no-confidence in the "Salient" staff. This attitude certainly explains the decisiveness of the result when the vote was taken (69 to 20 in favour of the motion).

As we think that by now many of the 69 may be beginning to realise their mistake (for which they were not entirely to blame) it is to them particularly, and to the others who have indicated their complete confidence in "Salient's" regular staff, that we appeal to support our move for a reconsideration by ballot of the original motion. With that in view, we add some other arguments that should appeal particularly to them, based on the harm that would be done to the paper itself if it becomes compulsory to subscribe to it. The first is that, as is well known, it is utterly valueless to attempt to force students to take an interest in College Affairs. The adage that one volunteer is worth ten pressed men applies more than ever in a society such as we have at the University. The other arguments may not perhaps at first seem quite so weighty, but are well worth consideration. They are, in brief, that the standard of "Salient" would fall, and that it would lose its present freedom. The standard would fall because at present it is maintained only by the herculean efforts of a few who have in some cases sacrificed their University work for the sake of producing a worthy paper. If they knew they could sell their paper whatever they put into it, would not their efforts relax just a little? The loss of freedom would be necessary because a writer has freedom of speech and opinion only so long as his readers have freedom to abstain from reading and paying for his expressions of opinion. Our daily newspapers may print what they like, or what their proprietors and advertisers like, within the law of libel; but only because each subscriber is free to cease subscribing as soon as he wishes. Make subscription compulsory, and you are obliged to meet the wishes of every reader. Who would suggest that this is either possible or desirable?

Well then, what can we do to have the matter reconsidered? The one way is to call a special general meeting of the Students' Association, and there rescind the motion, and pass in its stead a resolution that the motion be submitted to ballot. This is the course we urge upon all, and we are confident that in doing so we are morally entitled to the support not only of those whose help and enthusiasm have been so invaluable to us during our Guest Editorship, but also of the regular staff of "Salient" and all who think as they [unclear: so.] and finally of the whole of the newly elected Executive.

A petition calling for a Special General Meeting (which must be signed by 25 students) will be sent to the secretary of the V.U.C.S.A. shortly, so that the meeting may be held immediately after the next batch of examinations, which commence on Monday, July 17th. Fifty students are required for a quorum; but we would like to see 500. Freshers are eligible to vote.