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

Victoria Story . . . — Whats in a Name?

Victoria Story . . .

Whats in a Name?

Wellington papers gave some prominence in 1956 to endeavours to change the name of Victoria University College.

It all came out of the general move inside the University of New Zealand towards complete autonomy of the constituent colleges which are shortly expected to become universities in their own right. On the Professorial Board and the College Council, certain persons suggested that advantage be taken of the opportunity to slough off the anomalous name "Victoria" and bring it into line with the other three colleges which all take their names from the surrounding district.

The idea is known to have been advocated by Professor Richardson (Zoology), and by a group of "old boys" including Mr. H. R. Sansum (who for many years gave invaluable service to the Student' Association as [unclear: guardian of its records).]

Even the Dominion's jester, "The Dom", was moved to comment:

"The idea of Professor L. R. Richardson that Victoria University College should be re-named the University of Wellington is sheer inspiration. In a simple stroke, I believe, that strange gulf between the city and the student would be bridged, and the new unity would benefit the university and give fresh dignity to Wellington. 'Victoria University College' has always sounded to me more appropriate for a place of higher learning at Ballarat or even perhaps Bendigo."

"The Dom", like many students, may not be aware of the origins of our name.

On the dust-jacket of Dr. Beaglehole's golden jubilee volume on the history of the college, it is described as "a university college designed to be at once a royal commemoration and a democratic manifesto".

It was named, of course, in honour of the reigning sovereign, a lady remembered today chiefly for her total lack of sense of humour or a waistline, her penchant for multiplication, and the coincidence of her being on the throne during the most drum-banging and flag-flapping period of British history.

And it happened like this. The bangers and flappers took advantage of the fiftieth and sixtieth anniversaries of this lady's accession to the throne to indulge in a couple of real orgies of banging and flaping. On the second of these occasions, Seddon was Prime Minister of New Zealand, and radical democrat as he was, was transported into a state of "loyal ecstasy" similar to that attributed by the "New Statesman" to a later New Zealand premier on a subsequent royal occasion.

The education policy of Seddon's Government was generally enlightened. Its legislation helped to make the system of universal education more effective and the opportunities for advanced study more nearly equal.

University education had been pioneered by Otago in 1870, and Auckland had followed over the next dozen years. Seddon himself became enthusiastic about the idea of a university college in Wellington "for the sons and daughters of poor men" to to commemorate the Queen's diamond jubilee—thus combining his progressive ideas in education with his loyal fixation on his sovereign lady.

In 1897 he introduced "An Act to promote Higher Education by the Establishment of a College at Wellington in Commemoration of the Sixtieth year of the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria." His supporting speech began: "I think it would be a grand thing in this Jubilee year if we could establish this Victoria College . . ."

So Victoria College it became, and Victoria it has remained for sixty years (if we include the two years between the Act and the foundation, and the further seven years between the foundation and the official opening).

And who would change its name now? Victoria College has long since lost the automatic association her name once suggested with her long deceased royal fairy-godmother on the other side of the globe. She has developed an individuality of her own. Thousands of students have passed through her care, many with outstanding academic distinction. She has acquired a certain notoriety for bust-ups and hullabaloos, and for keeping her head throughout and fearlessly defending the rights of free thought and discussion, and steadfastly refusing to be stampeded by downtown pressure.

Thousands of graduates think affectionately of Vic", and as "Vic" she will continue to be known whatever her current guardians may do to her official name by deed poll.

Besides, the only positive alternative suggestion—"University of Wellington"—might possibly consolidate her relations with the city, but the district served by V.U.C. is not just the city, or even the province, of Wellington, but the "University Middle District" which includes Taranaki, Hawkes Bay, Nelson and Marlborough.

I am no sentimental monarchist. I realise that Wellington is adequately littered with memorials to the old lady concerned—Mt. Victoria, Victoria Street, the Victoria Hotel, Queen's Drive, Queen's Wharf, the squally stolid statue in Kent Terrace. This, apart from any possible confusion with the Australian state such as appears to worry "The Dom", might be sufficient grounds for changing the name—if the name had not become part of V.U.C.'s tradition. But it has. So let's leave it alone.