Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 4. March 25, 1953
Abuse, Mr. President?
Abuse, Mr. President?
The keynote of Mr. M. J. O'Brien's letter in the last Issue was in the word "abuse." This we could regard with equanimity had the President deigned to discuss our arguments, but forgetting that a personal attack on a writer does not negate his arguments on another matter, Mr. O'Brien attempted to win his case by muddling the debate with emotive oratorical, rant and (in places) an unfortunate neglect of truth. He has concentrated so much upon the author that he has failed to build up a convincing ruse that our editorial was either an "attack" or abuse."
We do not attempt to defend our article; contained in it was enough salve to soothe (one would think) even Mr. O'Brien's sensitive nature. The apology we made in the editorial itself for introducing "personalities" was surely indicative of our expressed desire not to "attack" either of the persons discussed it is obvious that only a well-trained legal mind could determine (so fine was the line) that there was an "attack." especially as we are certain that neither Miss Hoskin nor Mr. McCaw would entertain the thought that we had "attacked" them We are not ashamed publicly to admit the high regard we have for these two persons.
Neither—perhaps unfortunately—were we ashamed to admit that we thought that the interests of the Association would be better served by delegating two other individuals to the NZUSA. Council meeting. The President is denying anyone—not only "Salient"—the right to express publicly a contrary opinion on N.Z.U.S.A. matters to that of the Executive. If every impartial criticism on Executive appointments is labelled an "attack" and its withdrawal requested by the President, where then" is our hypothetical and mislabelled "freedom of the press." To be "an organ of student opinion" "Salient" does not necessarily have to be "an organ of Executive opinion" or refrain from criticising Executive affairs.
This brings us to an important point which had troubled us, for we could and no precedent for it. The President made a public statement defending the Executive in general and two of its members in particular. However, he neglected either before he wrote the statement or after it was in the hands of the Editor to notify the Executive officially of the actions he had taken on its behalf is it customary for the President to act as the Executive's protector without consulting or notifying the parties on whose behalf he takes it upon himself to act? it would have been far more politie on his part to have submitted his letter to the other legally-trained members for a critical examination: they would have been able (surely) to have made some improvements in the arguments.
Another point: the actual voting figures from the secret ballot which chose the delegates are usually kept secret. Mr. O'Brien, as chairman, made the voting figures public: this is another serious break from precedent. A secret ballot is a farce if the President can disclose voting figures when he wishes to prove a point, but keep them secret otherwise. Perhaps it would be advantageous to the Association to have these figures made public in future.
The list of Miss Hoskin's and Mr. McCaw's qualifications Mr. O'Brien included in his letter (apparently for the benefit of the Association—we are well aware of these things) was charming, accurate and completely superfluous. We never denied these persons qualifications in as far as they would be of use to a N.Z.U.S.A. delegate, but that is one of the points in question; that, and whether the two delegates would be able to use their qualifications to the Association's fullest "benefit—the operative words are "use" and "fullest."
Mr. O'Brien suggested that we justify the charges of "chicanery and nepotism"; he has, however, by the very tone of his letter made that impossible. If we were to Justify these charges we would be drawn inevitably into far more acrid personalities than before—and Mr. O'Brien has already shown how he treats an attempt to criticise Executive members it would be better in this case to consider our remarks as merely opinions based on an intimate knowledge of Executive affairs.
The President considered any "allegations" as "libellous"; unfortunately, he must know that no judge, jurist or Jury would agree that he had a case: therefore we suggest that he withdraw the word "libellous" or, as he wrote to us, "Justify these charges." Such vituperative irrele-vancies do little towards the clarification of the question, which we must both want.
However, in a lamentable exhibition of misrepresentation. Mr. O'Brien attempted to conclude his case by damning us. (This, by the way was the paragraph he had not the nerve to read to us personally over the telephone when he courteously read the beginning. ) We were not "taken for the ride" as he suggested, but attended last tournament in a representative capacity in the men's indoor basketball team. As editor of "Salient." we received no benefit from the Executive's acquiescence to send two "Salient" reporters to tournament. And in any case, it is no new procedure to send reporters to tournament, so why the fuss?
As for the second part (he didn't even mention—as he did the other—this part over the telephone) he says: "As editor of the host College newspaper . . . took so great an interest in . . . N.Z.U.S A. that you did not bother to attend a single session. . . ." and he goes on triumphantly "Who's calling who what?" That is still, in doubt. Mr. President. But the President's triumphant oratory at the end was a trifle misdirected. I was not editor of "Salient" during that tournament, a fact which in his excitement, the President forgot to check. That would have been one advantage from referring his letter to the Executive before its submission.
We do not wish to develop the ramifications of this remark excessively but as we have previously notified Mr. O'Brien of these comments and have given him permission to append a brief reply to this, hence our concern. He may ask why despite the fact that our Editor had decided to report Council himself, we did not attend because of our professed interest in N.Z.U.S.A. affairs. Simply because we were working on the headquarters' staff at intermittent intervals, but mainly because we had just finished our freshman year and were not at that time brash enough to intrude upon the councils of the great: which is surely, a reasonable enough feeling.
My reply to Mr. O'Brien's letter ends here with still much more to say: he will answer this briefly below, and further contributions in an epistolary form will be welcomed.
—T. H. Hill