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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 9. June 27, 1957

Huckster Trouble at A.U.C

Huckster Trouble at A.U.C.

A small item in the "Evening Post" of 11.6.57 described an incident at a recent meeting of the Auckland University College Council which will have intrigued those who read it. It concerned a complaint by Mr. D. M. Robinson. City Council nominee on the College body, about a poem by Mr. Allen Curnow (of the College's English Department stall), which, he said, was "a scurrilous attack on members of the City Council and the College Council."

A motion by Mr. Robinson aimed at making the Council "dissociate itself from the poem" was buried when the Council carried a motion of Professor Willis Airey's to move on to the next business.

Many VUC students are quite unfamiliar with the bitter fight that has rent Auckland over the question of the site of Auckland University. The present site in Princes Street has long been patently inadequate for immediate expansion needs, and a variety of solutions have been plugged for.

Ten years ago, the popular idea was to move the whole institution out to Tamaki where there was a plentiful supply of wide open spaces—but this was always resisted by those students and staff members who believed the University should be an integral part of the City.

Another suggestion—which would have netted a fortune for the only contractor in the country with the means to do the job—was to fill in Hobson Bay and site the University on the reclamation.

At last the Government—with, it must be admitted, considerable support among staff and students—has plumped for expansion on the present site by dint of taking over several adjacent blocks now covered with old residential buildings approaching the day for their destruction.

Unfortunately the City Council's town plan had zoned this area for "intensive residential" purposes, in the' fond belief that the University would be safely away in the backblocks. Big blocks of flats would, of course, net a substantial rake-off to the Council in rates—whereas land used for educational purposes is exempted from rates.

This is the background to Mr. Curnow's "scurrilous" poem. The business interests on the City and College Councils have resisted the scheme to keep the College in the city at every possible turn.

Mr. Curnow'.s ballad—which was read publicly at the Auckland Art Gallery on 24th May, has since been printed as a broadsheet—is a biting satire on the altitude of these business interests. In the vibrant tradition of English satire, it names those it deems to be the guilty parties, and gives no mercy.

The poem is entitled "The Hucksters and the University", with alternative sub-titles "Out of Site, Out of Mind", or "Up Queen Street Without a Paddle!"

We give a selection of excerpts:

"What des It matter if Learning and Truth
Must beg for a Seat In the Town?
For sour greasy ha'penny worth of Rates
You'd pull your Churches down."

"With one Fish-Eye on the Invoice-Sheet
And the other one on the Rent—
So long as the Truth stood out of their Way'
Thy didn't care Where it went."

"And the Queen Street Business Mongrels yelped
To be in at the Death at last,
There was ringing of Tills and thumbing of Bills
When the Council Vote was cast:
While the rent-roll Rats laid plans for Flats
To fatten a Queen Street 'Shop,
And Fletcher figured his Contract Price
As a Hangman tests his Drop."