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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 2. March 27, 1958

Universities Compared

Universities Compared

It is fun to be back at the University, to mix with students on the other side of the globe, to note that fundamentally they are exactly the same as their colleagues in England and Europe.

It is fascinating to take up the glove in a battle between minds. It is amusing to see that some professors and lecturers, in New Zealand too, have their little act and pass slightly sarcastic remarks which make you feel a perfect fool.

And above all it is delightful to find an audience in university girls who during a highbrow discussion have a pensive look on their pretty faces. This is more inspiring than talking to the stupid looking males.

As a graduate from the Amsterdam University I could not help comparing my university with yours. I observed the differences and weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of both.

I have learnt one lesson early in the journey—the lesson we keep learning every day, if we want to grow up, that of humility.

I was surprised when I read in "Salient" that students were referred to the Classics Department for a translation of their own University motto; "Sapientia magis auro desideranda".

I thought how back home, if we wanted to matriculate, we had to learn Latin, Greek, French, German and English for five to six years, and compulsorily at that.

When during a discussion of a class test in Property the professor supplied the rest of the Latin maxim "Quicquid plantatur, solo, solo cedit", a student asked with the laudable frankness of a New Zealander: "What does it mean, Professor?" We all burst out laughing, unashamed.

I could hardly believe the girl who told me she was majoring in French, yet that most of the lectures were given in English.

However, a little later, I began to see things in a different light, I realized that the knowledge of all those languages did not necessarily make you more cultured, and certainly not wiser. Perhaps we were intellectual snobs back home.

I soon learned to admire the practical outlook of this university. I was impressed by the method of teaching in my own faculty. Although the whole course is split up into separate units with so many exams, (at our university you have to do the whole lot at once at the end of the course), they certainly drum them into you. Throughout the lectures questions are thrown at the students who are forced to discuss cases on the spot. They have to submit regularly written opinions on points of law. They are trained how to express themselves skilfully in the moots. They certainly make lawyers out of you at the Victoria university.

I admire the students for their courage, for their determination to argue a point with the professor.

The staff struck me by their lack of pomp or snobbish dignity, by their sense of humour and their helpful attitude. They are much more approachable than the ones I have met overseas and their modesty is indicative of their culture and wisdom.

The freshers, as anywhere, are an amusing lot. They walk round with grave faces and feel very important (not all of them, thank heaven) for having reached the temple of higher wisdom and learning.

Drawing of a car

They want to discuss and enthusiastically talk about subjects they know nothing about. I love to shock them with unconventional remarks and urge them to refute my stupid statements. The excuse is: "You want to be educated, to broaden your mind? Well you might as well start right now."

One of the favourite topics is religion. It takes maturity and wisdom to tackle that one without hurting and being hurt. Sincerity is not always appreciated by people who are convinced they alone have the truth and nothing but. . . .

I got into trouble when ending such a discussion with a fresher on a light note. The humour of the situation was not appreciated and the young lady walked out, assuring me she was not offended but simply had to go. When the episode was unfavourably remarked on later by total strangers, I thought of the truth of the Latin saying, taken from Vergil, and jocularly varied to suit the case:

"Quidquid id est, timeo feminas et oscula dantes" (be aware of woman even when she kisses you—in other words: you can't trust a woman. Finally, taking stock, you wonder whether it was worth it. You look at the older students who quietly smoke their pipes in the common room, saying absolutely nothing. They, at least, have learnt the art of silence, as they should. They have learnt their lesson and are thoroughly fed up with talking rubbish.

Yes, wisdom, truth and maturity is learnt in the realm of silence. That even goes for religion which is so rarely found through academic discussions.

Only in peaceful isolation, only by drawing from within, only in meditation can you feel the mystical hand of God tugging at your sleeve.

John C. Hendrikse.