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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 12 June 11, 1968

Fight For Freedom

Fight For Freedom

"New Zealand university students are politically, morally and intellectually timid," said Mister Taylor, a former President of NZUSA.

Alister was speaking to a meeting of Te Rangatahi last weekend, on the subject of "Student Power."

"They don't have many basic beliefs and what little do believe in they're usually not prepared to fight for," he said.

"Few students are prepared to sacrifice their future careers, degree-success or personal relations for improving the stagnant educational and university system. the level of political debate and politicians, or pressing for what they believe is right.

Alister criticised the political influences which are evident in the university system in New Zealand, especially the "ridiculous system of the Governor-Genera making appointments to University Councils."

He also criticised the materialistic approach to university education prevalent in New Zealand and which extended to students themselves.

"Many students even accept Mr Muldoon's nonsense that the university system must be 'cost-effective' and that any subject which doesn't bring an economic return should be sub-ordinated to those which do," he said.

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"There is no tradition of academic freedom in our universities. There have been many cases of discrimination, political and other.

"Few universities have stood up for their basic rights," he said. "Why do Students allow this to happen?"

Alister suggested that the universities are "too integrated into the community. They receive public money and want the community to appreciate them."

"The students and universities should think enough of themselves and not have to pander to what they consider the public likes The university well-established institution and of undoubtedly community benefit."

In New Zealand the university has developed into a "meal-ticket obtaining device because it has been dependent on government funds and control of the university has been vested in the hands of people who don't know what the words 'university' and 'learning' mean."

Universities were becoming increasingly under the authority of the administrator.

"What do 'administrators' know about how a university should be run?' Our univsities act.for, and on behalf of the 'system'," he said. "They have no tradition of independence and little wish to obtain it.

"The whole education process is shaped so as to breed conformity and respect for authority." he said. "It discourages the creation, development. and expression of different views.

"Jack Shallcrass has said our educational system is creating a totalitarian society. It is well known the system does reject and suppress students who are different. The examination system makes them conform.

"The educational system is tightly organised and depends for us continued existence on remaining so organised.

"The people who come to our universities arc usually the conformist, conservative and timid products of our educational system, although very occasionally there may be a freak," said Alister.

"Students don't know how comparatively bad their working conditions are. He cited library conditions, decreases in staff standards and low bursaries.

"And what are the student leaders doing about it? In most universities they're doing nothing because the student executives have become areas where those wanting a political career, or power, or expression of their egos, go.

"They rarely act in the interests of students generally —they are petty bureaucrats who love playing petty politics.

"In some cases, members of Students' Association executives are trying to do something—but over relatively minor matters. The people pressing for student representation or student control of student facilities are simply playing into the hands of the system—in this case the university administration," he said.

"Students have to realise they have considerable power —political and economic. Earlier on this year students were worried about Leven-bach's prices. What did they do? Organised a committee, which immediately failed.

"No one had the guts to force the Caf to close, or boycott it. Even now the student executive doesn't have the right to look at the caterer's books."

Discussing the present student power moves at Victoria. as outlined in an Editorial in Salient 3, Alister said:

"The submissions show a little progress But they are far too cautious. The people who put them up are trying to work within the system— appealing to rational views on the 'other' side.

"I suggest change can only occur through a drastic restructuring of the present university and educational system.

"It is no good increasing student representation on university councils and other bodies, even though it may be by direct election. Student representatives, unless they are quite unusual, will defer to the senior people on the committee.

"Changing the system is only possible with revolutionary demands, backed up by a display of political power. The message must he got across to the public which will force the Government to act.

"At Victoria there has been no display of political force Those who want greater student power mustn't be prepared to compromise with the other side. They must show they have political power—use it. bring the university administration to their knees, and dictate the terms of settlement.

"Conditions for insurrection must be prepared," said Alister. "Students must be made aware of the bad conditions that prevail. To some extent these conditions must even be created in order to create awareness of the existing conditions.

"Action must be the first thing.

"Student grievances have to be exploited ruthlessly by a small vanguard. A basis has to be found for demanding increased student power. The issue to 'some extent have to be created. The university administration has to be made into a 'faceless monster'."

Alister Taylor

Alister Taylor