Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 9. May 9th, 1950
Exec Censure Motion Defeated
Exec Censure Motion Defeated
The Night of May 3 saw the double quick changing censure motion against the Exec tossed out into the cold. The meeting gave it a courteous hearing, but showed it the door in a decisive vote. On the whole, the thing started quietly, but some of the later motions caused some upheavals.
Chairman and President Alison Pearce found that the original motion was sliding from under her; the movers wished it withdrawn as it was inaccurate: there was some objection from the meeting to this, as it had been requisitioned for this matter, but no one could be found to move it, so the next move was:
"That this Association censures its Executive for its ill-advised action in approving of an invitation being sent to the Dean of Canterbury without first consulting the wishes of the student body."
Pros . . .
First it was noted that two irrelevancies had nothing to do with the case (according to Mr. Curtin). The first was that the resignation of the ex-president had nothing to do with it. The second that the amended motion referred to approving the action, and did not take account of whether the Dean was actually invited or not.
|1.||That the Executive had exceded its duty.|
|2.||That the Executive had brought disrepute on the name of the college.|
|3.||That it had engaged in party politics.|
These three, raised by mover Frank Curtin, were the backbone of the case. They were amplified by him, when he said that the first was not to suggest no-confidence, but to direct future policy; that the second suggested the action should have been left to one of the clubs, and was not one for the Executive; and the third argued that the Executive, by inviting the Dean here, had sponsored his views—and had therefore been, guilty of partisan action.
Other arguments—some of which were supplementary, some unnecessary, and some repetitive—added to these. The chief ones were that the gesture had been "most imprudent" (Mr. McIntyre) under the circumstances, considering that people down town who had just paid for our building would probably not like to think we were inviting the Dean here; that the course the Executive took was "unwise" and not in line with, the policy of the Association (Mr. Newenham); that the Dean was not an accredited official of any organisation (livid objection to this from Mr. Milburn, who was 'most concerned lest a dignitary of my church should be maligned by these remarks"); that the people who supported the Exec's decision were in two camps and he didn't know which to tackle.
and cons . . .
Necessarily, Exec. members were given priority in replying, and Lance Robinson used the right first. An interjector had earlier read the Exec's duty—" . . . shall have power to and may do all things necessary or expedient for the fulfilment of any of the objects of the Association." The cry that the Exec. was exceeding its duty couldn't be sustained. The majority of students wanted to hear the Dean: the Exec. was aiming to please. The argument about disrepute was "footling": the responsibility lay with the arousers of publicity, whoever they were.
Chris Pottinger, succeeding, pointed out that it would be ludicrous if every time a Speaker were to be invited the Association had to express its views—which would presumably mean a special meeting. How many people would attend? On the question of policy, he was explicit—it should be, be considered, the stated policy of the Association to invite such speakers; the fact that the Dean was coming to Wellington and the fact that he was a world figure were the reasons why he had supported the motion. In no way could it be said to imply sponsorship, and in no way did it imply that the students agreed with the views to be expressed.
Vance Henderson raised a fundamental issue. The Dean, he said, had apparently succeeded to his own satisfaction in reconciling the opposing—we were told—views of Christianity and Communism. Now as this was clearly the most fundamental breach in the present world, it seemed to him vital that students should be able to hear a man who could express this synthesis, even if they did not agree with him.
Pip Piper, in a downright fashion, argued that the Executive was committed by successive special general meetings to interest in peace and therefore they had no option but to invite one whose views could be heard on that subject. The action by the Executive was certainly pot "ill-considered." It fifteen hundred students at Sydney could hear the Dean, then surely VUG should not be behind in listening.
There were still arguments on both sides to be run over.
Mr. Mclntyre (one of whose opinions was referred to earlier) disliked what he felt was an imputation by Mr. Piper that there was a faction in the college opposed to peace. He thought that some people and Mr. Piper might think it a good thing to get the college into hot water in the community (not an indirect reference to Mr. Piper's advocacy of tepid baths in the new building?—Ed.) but he didn't. The motion was there because some thought the Exec's action "imprudent" After this Mr. Goddard thought that he should perhaps offer 30 pieces of silver before speaking. Even if the Exec. had sent an invitation, he thought they would have been within their rights. The voting on the Executive had been almost unanimous, and this could be taken as a fair indication of the opinion in the college. With little of this did Mr. Newenham agree. He "convicted" the people against whom this charge of censure was laid; the course was unwise, the Dean was notorious, the clubs should have done it anyway. It was argued by Mr. Foy that a place with the traditions of a university should never have to think about whether it was likely to agree with a speaker before listening to him—the movers should themselves be oblivious of the purpose of a university. Mr. Cook thought that Mr. Piper should have used his influence to get one of the other interested clubs—SCM or Soc. Club—to do the inviting, but didn't support Mr. Foy's view that past Execs. should be censured for never having invited speakers up here.
When the shouting and the argument ceased, there were a pretty fair number of students in the hall, and it did look anyone's vote: the result, 162 to 100, was, however, decisive enough for anyone.
Several other motions had been clamped in to the meeting now that it had been called; some were minor issues, like the small amendment added to section 17, paragraph 4, so that it is now quite clear that when the president's office falls vacant before the end of the year in which he is elected, there will have to be an election. A small matter of the cafeteria got left out at the end and an attempted constitutional amendment (Doug. Foy) to shift the elections of senior officers of the Association from the usual day to several days before those for committee, was defeated. This latter amendment was not, we felt, discussed quite fully enough: there were many good arguments raised by the mover. At present, as he pointed out, while it is possible for any candidate to stand for more than one position, few do so (largely because people would feel so certain that they would be elected for one office, perhaps, that they would leave them off another list?). There are certainly many cases where a presidential candidate who would be most useful on the committee is left off when the elections are finished—and the Association is the poorer for being deprived of his experience.
Objections were raised mostly by ex-returning officer Nell Mountier, who said that while there would be certain advantages, the difficulty of getting 600 people to vote once was bad enough without trying to get them to vote twice. Alarming figures were produced by Mr. Connor to show that the elections would spread under this system over a period of three weeks—or was it three months? It was most alarming, and almost as nonsensical. The motion was lost, but we hope that it isn't gone for good.
Traverse the high seas
The issue of censure had been settled; but the Red Dean lingered on—like John Brown's body. A motion suggesting that we should protest strongly at the action of the U.S. Government which had led to the cancellation of the Dean's N.Z. tour (refusing a visa even to pass through Hawaii on a British plane) was placed before the meeting by Mr. Warner. He showed that it was in complete violation of the obligations of signatories to the Atlantic Charter (article 7, "Peace aims—such peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas without hindrance"). It was over this issue the meeting went to pieces. So far, proponents of all sides had been eminently reasonable and very much prepared to listen to others. There appeared to be a strong rowdy children's comer at the back of the right side of the hall, and as this matter was debated they took less and less notice of the conventions of behaviour in a meeting: when Ron Smith spoke In support of it he was counted out. As was furiously pointed out by Kevin O'Brien, whether one agreed with the speaker or not, such action was inexcusable. The pity was that the meeting didn't move to exclude the idiots from the hall.
. . . and the Council
Since Mr. O'Brien, In his letter of resignation to the Executive (see last issue) had stated that he considered the Exec. to be irresponsible, Mr. Piper felt that his position as a representative on the College Council was peculiar. He was there as the Student representative and the mover felt that If he had such an opinion of the Executive, it would make co-operation difficult; It was suggested that another resignation might be welcome.
The chief case for the motion was put by the mover, who added that since the Association did not consider—by its earlier vote—that the Executive had been irresponsible, it was at variance with its representative. The case again this was mainly that the representative does not stand for the Executive, but for the Association, and that the rep. had disagreed over one issue only. The meeting preferred the latter interpretation apparently, and the motion was lost. Mr. Jenkins raised the point that this whole thing brought up—that we in fact appoint a representative on the Council who is then there without direct responsibility to the Association.
Mr. Ashton Cook wielded the sledge-hammer for the split, and Mr. Clayton held the wedge. The job was just too tough for them, and the voting went (we understand from the scrutineers who differed) either 70 plus or 80 plus, or just over 70 to over 80—according to the way you look at it.
WFDY, said Mr. Cook, had failed to carry out its objects. He didn't want to secede because it was Communist dominated, but because the interests of the Soviet were placed above all other considerations. Though we had tried—and in such things as getting representation had not been able to succeed as we wished—we had failed to get any true good out of it. Narrowly last year the Exec. voted in favour of it: thiis year he thought might be the turning-out point. Mr. Clayton agreed with him, and indirectly perhaps, quoted the "Truth" line on the subject.
. . . because
Mr. Piper by no means agreed with him, or with Mr. Cook, while Mr. Milburn was pleased to hear that the usual red-baiting was to be left out. He said that WFDY meant more than just a political matter—it meant that our choice was either to say in international organisations and try to make them work, or start now to get ready for the next war.
Mr. Cresswell thought this was all rather emotional. Was it to be peace at any price, peace rather than Communism? WFDY was a political body, and he was in favour of pulling out for that reason.
Mr. Bollinger reminded him that he had overlooked the fact that this was one of the few organisations left in which representatives from both sides of the so-called Iron Curtain could meet, where they were brought together as human beings. That was important Students should be interested in world problems—how could such things be other than political?
Mr. O'Brien felt that the WFDY itself was not so keen on looking back towards its early stages which most of the speakers were instancing. If WFDY were no longer truly international, then we should not stay in it at all.
Our records at this stage are somewhat sketchy. Our reporters were on the job then for over three hours; other 'speakers may have been overlooked—they couldn't have been very important.
The meeting didn't long survive the closing of the debate on the motion—the numbers had dwindled then anyway to less than half of the original attendance—and it packed up after 11.30 p.m. Chairman Alison Pearce had got through a stiff test as novice. The meeting had been pretty sane—the Executive, if no one else, could feel fairly satisfied with the evening's work.
[We'd like to note that for the first time we know of, Salient managed to get a verbatim shorthand report of this meeting: our very sincere thanks go to the lass—not a usual member of the staff—who took down 3) hours of this in shorthand.—Ed.]