Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 13. September 12, 1957
What Goes on in the Mysterious Room?
What Goes on in the Mysterious Room?
In the student union building plan there is a room enigmatically marked "Warden". We understand that such an officer is strongly urged by the Principal, but little enthusiasm is registered by our student representatives. The fate of this officer may be decided in the near future.
Student objection is largely on the basis that a warden would be something similar to, e.g., the Warden of Weir House, a combination of ruler and policeman. But this need not be. Recently a "Salient" reporter was able to interview the Warden of Adelaide and his equivalent at Sydney.
The task of these men is to help students in every way possible—but only as advisers, and only dealing with individual students who seek their aid.
It is our opinion that such an officer could perform a valuable function at V.U.C., and that it is up to us to see that we get one.
"Everything that affects students' welfare is my business," is how Mr. Scarllett, adviser to men students at Sydney University sums up his job. Attempts to provide some kind of help and guidance for students at Sydney goes back a long way. When women were first admitted to the university it was felt they should have a "chaperone. "so in 1891 a "tutor to women students" was appointed. Gradually the tutor became involved in all sorts of personal problems. It was only in 1921 that a male counterpart was appointed His task was primarily to interpret university regulations to the students. This job, however, fell through during the depression, and was only revived after the war when an "adviser to men students" was appointed. The then officer. Mr. Bateman, expanded his new job beyond his strictly interpreted duties: doing all in his power to help students with all types of difficulties.
Upon Mr. Bateman's death in 1955. Mr. Scarlett succeed him. Mr. Scarlett had long been interested in the problems of human relations, and had formerly been Guidance and Appointments Officer at the University of West Australia.
University Geared to Past
He finds enormous scope in his present position. It is his opinion that as a corporate body the university is not aware of social changes. Many students now look on the university merely as a vocational centre and seekers of knowledge for its own sake are becoming fewer and farer between. Yet it is for these that the university is geared.
Two people are quite inadequate to handle all the problems connected with adjusting young men and women to the modern university life. While wanting to do everything possible, he and his women's counterpart dare not advertise their services: they are working full pressure as it is. (During his interview with our reporter. Mr. Scarlett was continually interrupted by telephone calls and within a short time several students had lined up to see him.)
The advisers at Sydney are hampered by great if surmountable difficulties. A most unsatisfactory staff-student ratio (Stage I English at V.U.C. multiplied), and intense overcrowding, the Vice-Chancellor recently gave the figure of 10,000 students, mean extra tasks in helping to bridge the enormous gap between [unclear: teaching] in school is and the university atmosphere. There is quite insufficient psychiatric treatment available for all the students who come to the advisers with their mental problems.
They also help students interpret regulations, show them what courses they can or cannot take, try to assist those who fail exams to find out why, what can be done about it.
There can be no doubt that the advisers find plenty of most valuable work to do—work is at present hardly touched at Victoria: work which Mr. Scarlett found necessary at West Australia with a population of 1800, whereas V.U.C. has over 2000 this year, and is expected to rise to by 1960.
They are not out to direct, but are "purveyors of information" who insist on letting a student run his own life, though are ever on hand to offer expert guidance.
Another man whose full time occupation is looking after students needs and welfare is the Rev. Frank Borland, warden at the University of Adelaide.
For several hours he kindly explained a host of details about his university and conducted our reporter around the student buildings.
His general position is that of a liason officer between the university and the student body. He is a friend and adviser to all. As well, various extra tasks otherwise not coped with fall on his shoulders. Thus he handles accommodation, visits schools, corresponding with other universities, and organised the big W.U.S appeal last year.
As an elder statesman and counsellor he plays a large part in student organisation.
He has done much to foster the happy staff-student relations at Adelaide: although he does some what lament the lack of kick in student life. in his home university of Melbourne there is a proud tradition of strife with the administration. There is, however, one lively club, not so well known at New Zealand universities, the Immaterialist Society. It promotes the "cause of liberal humanism and agnosticism." and a major function is holding counter missions after a religious mission.
Staff and Students
At V.U.C. there tends to be a wide gulf in activities and social life between staff and students. At many "Australian universities they actually cooperate in the one comprehensive union Thus at Adelaide there is "The Union." which is in effect a university club, and holds., regular meetings. On its council are representatives of the Start Association, the (students) Sports Association, the S.R.C. (equivalent of V.U.C.S.A. Exec., except it is not concerned with sport), and the Graduates' Union. This latter body (Vic's has apparently died) is playing an increasingly active part at Adelaide. Various leading citizens, especially educationalists, take part in series of discussions which they run, and the Graduates' Union has managed to have some effect in its resolutions, e.g., pressing for certain social rights.
It is of "The Union" that Mr. Borland is Warden. He sits on all its sub-committees and plays an active part.
For instance he was largely instrumental in the establishing of Freshers Camps before each academic year. The main intention is to give new students a feeling for college life. There are two camps, each of about sixty, forty freshers and twenty staff and senior students.
The Warden also had a hand in the setting up of a Decorations Committee which has given an attractive face lift to their various students rooms, and does much the same work as our own newly established House Committee does for the Common Room. Except that they have about £100 to spend on pictures alone each year. (At the last V.U.C. Exec. meeting the City Library was paid four shillings for the hire of pictures.)
Coming from the Cinderella of universities our reporter was most impressed with Australian student facilities. At Adelaide there is a new Union Hall to accommodate five hundred, two separate blocks with lounges and reading rooms for both sexes, a common room in which coffee and sandwiches can be bought at night, an attractive square. "The Cloisters."
Club facilities are very noticeable. There are club rooms for a large number of clubs, two large rooms with supper facilities for evening meetings, and a basement for hobbies.
There is a students' loan fund for those temporarily in need, a W.E.A. book room in the university grounds, and since 1946, a Health Service has been available.
Degrees are conferred and notable functions held in the university's own impressive Bonython Hall.
Finally, the editor of the college newspaper. "On Dit." is awarded a scholarship of £200 and offered a job for two years by the local newspaper. Naturally the newspaper is conservative, but at least up to now, our reporter was informed, the scholarship has not been used as a means of keeping "On Dit" on the straight and narrow Whether "Salient" with its turbulent tradition could work such an arrangement with the "Evening Post" or "Dominion." may be another matter.
These facilities are for about five thousand students, not twice the number at V.U.C. if we could have, half of them, and half a Borland, it would, in our reporter's opinion, merely be approaching our rights as students.
"The placing of graduates in permanent employment, the arranging of part-time and vacation employment, the approving of lodgings and the maintaining of a register of available board, as well as the giving of advice on courses careers, health and personal problems are things the college should be concerned with. These services should not be allowed to grow piecemeal, but should fit into a scheme of planned development."
Mr. R. Hogg, V.U.C. Ilason officer, reporting to the college council.
—"The Dominion," 26/6/56.