Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 9. 1966.

Depression Days At VIC. — When filth, sedition and blasphemy raged unchecked

page 2

Depression Days At VIC.
When filth, sedition and blasphemy raged unchecked

Victoria University was not free from the radical ideas and literature that thrived on the Depression. By 1932 there was resident in Wellington a number of fiery writers and speakers much imbued with the faith of the dialectic. Within the student body they had their sympathisers.

The Free Discussions Club in tapping social unrest invited a member of the Welfare League (an organisation on the far right of the, then, political spectrum) and a Communist to become the leaders of a debate concerning Communism.

Taking exception to this degenerate pandering to controversy, it appears that the Minister of Education rang up the Chairman of the College Council. He warned him that VUC should not harbour Communists within its walls for free discussion or any other purpose.

Mysteriously, no room on the campus could be found to be available for the Free Discussions Club debate.

The club wrote to the Professorial Board inquiring, what persons (engaged to give an address) and what subjects (for them to speak on) were proscribed at VUC.

Their answer was in the form of a report. It stated that anyone was free to speak at VUC provided he was not known to have advocated the change of society by force. On subjects, students were free to discuss anything of human interest.

University Council considered the report and is believed to have altered it to require that persons unconnected with the College have Professorial Board permission before being able to speak to students.


This excess of paternalism, interpreted by students as unjustified interference, did nothing to raise the esteem of the College Council in the eyes of students. The moral indignation felt, then at a high pitch, paved the way for 1933—the year everybody was involved in the struggle.

April saw the passing by the Debating Society of the motion, after the Oxford model, "That this House will not fight for King and Country." This seeming lack of patriotism was hardly guaranteed to promote the approval of free speech. In May, the Free Discussions Club began to publish a small, radical paper Student, which vituperatively attacked the remaining bastions of society.


After two issues the executive prohibited further publication. Defiance of this ruling led to disaffiliation of the Free Discussions Club from the students' association.

The "Welfare League" always reliably disposed to making emotive attacks on the College, was joined by that weekly so mockingly entitled "NZ Truth." Published in it was an article on "Twisted Teaching." The writer set forth the theory that if students were disloyal, seditious and depraved, they must have been guided into iniquity by their teachers.

The depravity of students was shortly afterwards demonstrated when the Debating Society breached all rules of etiquette by discussing birth control.


A Canon James of Wellington could stand it no longer. In a letter to the Dominion he set out the "facts" of a morally decadent university that warped the plastic minds of innocent adolescents.

He asked that the authorities at VUC ensure "that conscientious convictions are not outraged, that accepted moral standards are not held up to scorn, that the College will not become the happy hunting ground and the student the easy prey of the anarchic propagandists."

Simultaneously two associates of the Welfare League launched an attack on the College, concerned with the number of Communists harboured in it.

The Council, by now thoroughly rattled by persistent criticism, resolved to set up a Committee of Inquiry to investigate all allegations. Called on to provide the bulk of the evidence was Canon James.

Sex Debates

In its findings the Committee regretted the debates on "sexual and religious subjects," asserted that the religious faith of students was immune from assault, and that disloyalty was under supervision. Satisfaction was felt at the number of old students who filled positions of honour in the Church, the Judiciary, Commerce and every other useful phase of activity.

The Committee pointed out that it was only "a very small number (of students) whose conducts and beliefs are in conflict with the great majority of the community." Nevertheless the influence of this minority must, and would, be restrained within reasonable bounds. Finally, the Council would welcome any assistance offered to enable it to fulfil its responsibilities.


The deeply-felt penitence of Council at failing to keep their trust with society in general and the mothers of students in particular had its side effects.

The Professorial Board issued to the Debating Society an instruction that it should not discuss questions of religion. In addition sex should not be debated or discussed in mixed assemblies.

To this day the Debating Society of VUC has faithfully kept to the letter of this instruction, and the plastic minds of students have been kept pure from the filth, sedition and blasphemy that once raged unchecked at this university.