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

Post-Graduate Student Expelled

Post-Graduate Student Expelled

Dear Sir,

On 28 March Anneke Vooren-Hesp was contacted and told she had failed to meet the first year requirements for the two year Diploma in Social Science course, which is the only university qualification in New Zealand in social work. Anneke, a M.A. graduate in psycho-linguistics, failed the first year course, ostensibly for academic reasons only.

One wonders whether any of the staff members responsible for her expulsion have asked themselves why only Anneke failed academically, when her past qualifications would lead one to suspect that she is perhaps better academically qualified than most of her classmates. The question of whether or not the work that Anneke passed in to be marked is of a "pass" or "fail" level is not relevant. Anneke had rightly questioned the whole "game" of university scholarship, a term used by Professor McCreary, who is in charge of the Diploma course. Anneke questioned the role of assessment, the power position of her teachers, the course content of her papers and constantly tried to introduce the subject of the political nature of social work into the classroom. None of these questions were adequately debated in her courses because of the repressive nature of some of her teachers and fellow-students.

If a student cannot ask the questions which she thinks are worth asking then whether or not the answers she gives are academically satisfactory to her teacher, is hardly relevant. Has a teacher the right to demand to ask the questions? If she has, then she not only rejects the traditional ideal of education, which is to bring out, develop or extract from the student her ideas, but also she acknowledges accepting a positivistic concept of knowledge, that there are certain correct answers to all questions of social work which the student must learn and repeat to his teacher. The teacher then rejects the idea that the questions may covertly contain assumptions, values and attitudes which are more important than the overt question.

Universally, the radical social work student finds that the content of his/her argument is reduced to the level of their personal psychological inadequacy. Should a student be critical of social work or fight authority, what she says is ignored and she is defined as "acting out some deep-seated problem of the psyche" (Pakeman (ed) "Counter Course" p.250). This tool was used against Anneke by staff members.

Students of V.U.W. should be interested in this case firstly because at some stage a decision affecting their life may be made by a social worker and cases such as these point to what social workers are truly like, and secondly it illustrates the limits to which a person can fight within the system before its own rules turn against the individual.

For some of the strongest supporters of the individualistic ethic in our society, some teachers of social work at V.U.W. have shown little respect or empathy for the individual integrity, personal courage and positive deviant attitudes of Anneke Vooren-Hesp.

Kate Clark