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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 2. March 20, 1957

University Senate votes for — Taxation without Representation

University Senate votes for

Taxation without Representation

  • Students' fees are the largest single element in financing the University of New Zealand. It is just and reasonable that students should have a voice on the body which fixes those fees and decides how they should be spent.
  • The University is an adult community. Its governing bodies at every level, including the University Senate, are concerned with some element of student problems, and should therefore contain some element of student representation.
  • Quite apart from the students' rights, the Senate would itself benefit greatly from having some of the scholars at the receiving end of the production line present at its deliberations, as well as scholars at the imparting end.
  • No one can express the views of students on such a body except a student or someone elected by and directly answerable to students.
These are among the points made by Auckland's Law Professor A. G. Davis and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of New Zealand, Dr. G. A. Currie, in proposing and seconding a motion at the Senate meeting on [unclear: 1] March:

"That the Senate promote legislation to amend the University Act to provide for the appointment as a member of the Senate of a nominee of the Executive of the N.Z.U.S.A. provided that such person should be a graduate of the University of N.Z. of not less than 2 years' standing."

The resolution was moved after a Iteter had been read from the Executive of N.Z.U.S.A. requesting (for the 9th year in succession) that the question of having a student member on Senate be considered.

Not Agreed to

After a lengthy and heated diswords of the official minutes) "not cussion, the resolution was (in the agreed to".

The voting is not officially known, but it is believed that with a number of the Senate's 30 members absent, at least 9 members supported the resolution. "The vote was by no means overwhelming," a member of the Senate told a "Salient" reporter.

Among opponents of the proposal we are amazed to discover some of the comparatively enlightened academic personalities from the colleges, including Dr. Williams (V.U.C.'s principal) and O.U.'s Dr. F. G. Soper. Dr. Williams claims to have been converted in the course of the discussion, which in view of the level of the only opposition argument publicized (see box on this page) leaves us speechless.

On the students' side were the Chancellor (Sir David Smith), Dr. G. E. Archey, Mr. W. H. Cocker and Mr. E. C. Fussell—the latter saying he felt the stipulation that the representative should be a 2-years' graduate was unnecessary, that students were more or less grown up and should be able to select anyone they pleased to represent them. "Salient" endorses Mr. Fussell's remarks, but since the Senate turned down the proposal even with the limiting proviso, it is clear that too much democracy cannot be introduced to this august body all at once.

In the Colleges

The New Zealand University Students' Association has been agitating for a student say in Senate for at least 9 years. Student representation on the Councils of constituent colleges has been accepted for some time: V.U.C. blazed the trail (as always) in 1938. and other colleges followed. It is understood that at one college the President of the Student Association becomes the student representative automatically. The V.U.C. system (by which the representative is appointed by Student Association Executive for a 6-year term and reports back to a closed meeting of Executive) was a radical one when introduced, but certainly lags behind now. Student representation should be as direct, fresh, and responsive to student opinion as it can possibly be.

The present constitution of Senate is: Academic' heads of colleges (ex officio), 4 Government appointees, 8 College Council appointees, 2 Agricultural College appointees, 5 Court of Convocation (graduates) representatives, and 3 from the University Academic Board.

Without dimming the brilliance of this galaxy, it would be reasonable for N.Z.U.S.A. and all its constituent associations to each have, a representative on the Senate. But as long as there is resistance to the whole idea of students being represented, maybe N.Z.U.S.A. is wise to limit its proposals to a single representative at this stage.

The chief argument presented against the idea is understood to have been that student questions don't enter into Senate discussions: College Councils are the loftiest places where students are concerned, and their voice is rightly restricted to those bodies.

This argument is, of course, palpable nonsense. The agenda of Senate meetings is constantly crowded with questions of vital interest to students to the solution of which student representatives could contribute valuably.

In the past year, for example, the question of the required standards for entrance to the University, and the obviously linked question of more adequate facilities in the colleges (especially in the matter of buildings) have been constantly before the Senate. Could any questions be of more vital significance for students?

The evident need for a national single university policy on establishment of special schools, higher staff salaries and student busaries, freer interchange with universities overseas (regardless of diplomatic curtains), and the historic movement of the colleges towards autonomy, have all been considered by Senate. The students of New Zealand have views on these matters which at present they can express to Senate only indirectly.

University education has been described as many things. But realistically it is a process of receiving a certain amount of knowledge (and a certificate to prove it) in return for hard cash. It is a very sordid commercial business.

But the University is the only commercial institution where the customer is not only always wrong, but is not even represented when the question of how wrong he is, is being considered.

It was a long, hard fight to get representation on the college councils, but victory came in the end. N.Z.U.S.A., and the whole student population of New Zealand, must keep up the pressure to win the same right at Senate level.

Angel Cartoon