Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 6. May 28, 1947
Dear Sir,—the main criticism about the medical scheme, now being considered by the Professorial Board, seems to devolve, not about its desirability but rather about the compulsion clause.
But before considering this (to me, irritating), clause, let us examine the statements made by Miss Jean Priest to the Press recently. Miss Priest states that a medical examination is absolutely necessary on account of students living irregular hours, of the long and weary periods put in by these students over-working and wearing themselves out and thence falling easy victims to any such contagious diseases that may be hovering around. She continues with her little epic to the effect that some students become anæmic and become rundown owing to their being deprived of regular meals on occasions. Such is the gist of Miss Priest's interview with the Press.
On examination these statements seem to me to be absolutely fallacious, for while they sound all right in a speech, on closer study in the cold light of reason they seem Just a trifle bent.
As a student at Victoria for two years interspersed with military service, I feel I am qualified to state that in my opinion a more well-fed and healthy group of people I have yet to see. I have, at no stage, encountered any person who appears to be feeling the effects of irregular meals. As for the under-eating I suggest that Miss Priest visit the cafe where the underfed students are busy putting away so little food, that often the supplies run out; before the cafe proprietress shuts the doors.
As for the over-working part of Miss Priest's statement. This is the most farcical part, coming from Miss Priest as it does. Why, the billiard saloons down-town are reputedly kept partly in business by Varsity students, and this is mentioning only a small part of students' activities outside of Varsity. How about the picture-theatres, which are also fairly well patronised. But T will not deny that a small percentage of students may work so hard that their hair falls out and they become prey to strange hallucinations, although I may say that these individuals I have yet to meet.
Regarding the anaemia—this condition is not necessarily consequent upon attending University any more than working in town in an office.
As for the contagious diseases, I agree that the students are, of necessity, close together in confined quarters but no more so than any other section of the community, for instance the public service and factories and industrial areas. But these sections of the public have no compulsory medical examination in these enlightened days of social security and ten shillings a week; but now I am coming to my point, which revolves around the compulsion clause.
To summarise, it seems to me that the students of this University are not over-worked to begin with, are not prone to anaemia or under-feeding any more than the general public.
A medical examination is in terms of preventative medicine and thus its establishment would seem to be in the general good of the student community, but now we come to the gentle rub of the matter—the compulsion clause.
This was the fundamental point at the bottom of "Truth's" screaming headlines, which headlines had unfortunate and not very subtle implications to those of the public who read only the posfers.
I believe, together with many other students, that compulsion is not required. The need that will arise will be one of favourable publicity. With the scheme run on a voluntary basis, in a few years the percentage of students attending this examination will steadily rise until it is an entirely general examination.
To perceive the future it is sometimes necessary to look back and see how events have shaped themselves given a certain set of circumstances and a knowledge of the human factor. So back to 1943 (quite easily too) when, according to Mr. Mike Murray, a referendum was issued to the students at Victoria of that day. To quote Mr. Murray, out of approximately 800 students some 400 (again approximately) voted in favour of a compulsory medical examination.
So there you are. But I would venture to point out to Mr. Murray and all adherents of the compulsory clause that 1943 is not 1947 and that over 2,000 students for 1947 may possibly have different ideas from their predecessors, for they may not desire to be led along the compulsion road, much as they may endorse a medical scheme for the student body.
In conclusion, this I will say. If this medical scheme is passed together with the compulsion clause by the Professorial Board, then the scheme, on account of its main plank, that is, the possibility of contagious diseases playing havoc among students—the scheme should be carried out to its ultimate and logical conclusion, and by that I mean that Professors and lecturers and office and cafeteria assistants should also come under the jurisdiction of the compulsory medical scheme, for they are just as liable to contagious diseases as are those they lecture.
Thus, if the scheme is to pass by virtue of the principle that it is for the good of all, sacrificing the rights of the individual, then let us carry it out to its final conclusion, or not at all.—
E. P. Shilton.
No scheme for medical examination of students has so far been submitted to the College Council for approval. This will be done only when the machinery of the scheme has been worked out.
Mr. Shilton is mistaken in the figures he quotes for the 1943 referendum. There were then 900 students in the college, of whom 605 voted for a compulsory scheme, and 20 voted against it.
There is a compulsory medical examination for entry to the public service and the teaching profession. However, once an applicant has passed this test, he is at liberty to contract tuberculosis, antemia or any other disease he likes. The scheme favoured here is one which will provide for a regular check-up.—Ed.