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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 5. May 24, 1951


The Common Common Room, it has been remarked, bears far too clumsy a name. The "Vice common room" is suggested as a substitute. This alternative name springs, in my opinion, from the faint uneasiness which has surrounded the common common room from the beginning. Many years ago, it seems, there was an attempt made to do something about such a common room—an attempt quite distinct from all the copious debate and deliberation. It failed. Victoria was not yet ready. Are we? Whether we are or not (in any case, the question is rather meaningless), the project has not been helped to success by the conditions under which what we may call a new experiment has been tried. Is the Gym the proper place for a Common Common Room?

To begin with, the gym is an old building. It is unsympathetic; there is a definitely hostile atmosphere about the whole place. In the hours during which no mass meetings are wont to shake it to its foundations, the gym is worse than an empty theatre at midnight. Who is going to wander into an empty theatre to spend a few sociable moments with one or two fellow-creatures, cowering in one comer? I do not care for the idea, in any case. Not that my first experience of the common room was like this! no, the first time, an utter solitude, a silence broken by the occasional creak of a weary rafter enveloped me, and there I sat, waiting from 4.30 till 5.15, waiting and hoping for someone to come. But no one did, and I eventually staggered out into the wholesome daylight, looking like the man who insisted, in staying the night in room thirteen.

Three weeks later, I tried again. This time, there was someone there. He lay full length on one of the divans, from which a little piece of stuffing protuded coquettishly. He had removed his coat, and used it to cover his head. From beneath came faint snores, raising from the coat a little oasis of dust, golden in the ray of late afternoon sunshine slanting through the windows. Two or three blowflies disported themselves lazily round and round the region where his head might have been. After a while, a girl looked in. "Oh blast, he's still asleep!" She departed. He and I sat On. I departed.

All very innocent and peaceful, but in that particular atmosphere, there was something hideously suggestive of low, cynical squalor.

The third time I paid a visit to the C.C.R., it was with a group of people who, like myself, had arrived specially for a tutorial, only to find that our tutor had decided that he was to ill to turn up himself. We decided to hold a discussion group on our own, and adjourned to the C.C.R. There, we tutorialized feverishly for forty odd minutes. I, for one, have never felt so utterly futile. Have you ever tried arguing about the categorical imperative at one end of an empty theatre?