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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 8. 10 June 1970

Without Scholars Nothing

Without Scholars Nothing

Most people, either inside or outside the university will agree that the scholar who works in a university has three chief duties. They are first to his branch of learning, second to his pupils, and third to society outside. I have placed these duties in that order because I believe that to be their order of importance. Most of the public criticisms of the universities arise not because the critics outside the universities believe in objectives different from these, but because they hold to a different order of importance—often in fact the reverse order. But any other order than mine seems to me to make nonsense. The scholar must know his subject. It is bad if he is a poor teacher, and distressing if he is a social disgrace. But neither is fatal if he is a first-rate scholar. Unsound scholarships by contrast, is not to be tolerated.

A university, then, is or ought to be a community of scholars. Without scholars there can be no university. The first obligation of a scholar is to his branch of learning-to keep abreast of it, to integrate new knowledge and ideas with old, and if possible to contribute new knowledge or ideas to it. And these obligations take precedence over all others. This is the unique function of the university, the function that sets it apart from all other educational institutions. By how well it fulfills this function will it, in the end, be judged. In pursuing these obligations the scholar must have absolute freedom to explore whatever scholarly paths page 13 beckon him; and to record, publish and disseminate whatever new finding his explorations lead him to. This is not teaching and it it not always research, but it is a prerequisite of both. This is the ingredient that is omitted from almost all public discussion and lay thinking about the university.

To state that the special role of the university lies in the devotion of its scholars to their branches of learning is to state too little. It leaves untouched the other two duties that I set the university scholar—his duty to his students and his duty to society outside. I want to take up the second of these since it is the one that has caused me greatest public hubbub.