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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 7. 11th April 1973


page 2


Das Salient header

Open Day is the university's annual public relations exercise which is staged to impress the citizens of Wellington with the importance and intellectual value of the university. Parties of school kids, Mums and Dads, businessmen and politicians troop up the hill and spend the day wondering at the latest computer or the erudite obscurity of some lecturer. They go away puzzled but confident that their student son or daughter is not wasting their time and money.

The object of Open Day is not to encourage people to question the university's purpose in society. The university exists to train the next generation of bosses; the lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants and executives. Consequently its links are with government and business, not with working people. Very few academics or students ever question this role. Zoologists worry about the destruction of Lake Manapouri, not the cramped, souless environment of Porirua East. Sociologists study the internal dynamics of bureaucracies, not the degradation suffered by people forced to submit all the details of their personal lives to a civil servant for a means test. Economists make learned pronouncements about the state of the economy but never tell pensioners, for example, how to live on their benefits.

Visitors to the university on Open Day, or any other day, should expect students and staff to be able to justify their existence if only because they are supported by public money. Some relevant questions are: "How will the community benefit from your studies?" "Are you just learning how to tell the rest of us what to do?" "Did you go to work after leaving school or did you go straight to university?" If you bump into the Vice-Chancellor ask him why a report by an English efficiency expert, recommending that several senior administrative posts in the university be disbanded, has not yet been put into effect.

University administrators and many students still like to think that this place is an ivory tower, immune from public criticism. Until people start demanding answers from the university it will continue to exist in smug, self-satisfied insulation.

Peter Franks