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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 36, No 11 May 30th, 1973

White Elephant Hostel Not Wanted

page 5

White Elephant Hostel Not Wanted

The announcement last week that the University Grants Committee had given approval in principle for the construction of a 177 bed hostel in Clermont Terrace probably made little impact on most students. But the implications for students of a thirteen storey, million dollar hostel taking shape on land at present used by the Sociology Department are important. The future of large institutional models for housing students, or for that matter any sector of society, is very much in doubt.

As the University grows upwards, and even the softening influence of those former homes along Kelburn Parade is replaced by concrete towers, students will need to live in a more personal environment than a thirteen storey tower. And the views from the bedrooms in Trinity College like those which so pleasantly distract the library user, will only emphasise the remoteness and irrelevance of the university. The round tower of Trinity College, perhaps more striking than any of the architectural idiocies that line Kelburn Parade, will emphasise the city below, that this is the land of the ivory tower.

It might even become a collossal white elephant. The Everton Lodge Board, who are also in the hostel building business, recognised the feelings against large institutions. They changed their plans to build a hostel in the university area and now intend to build groups of flats.

The Trinity College Board seems to adopt the stance that because so much money has been spent on the plans for a high rise tower it' must go ahead. To do the Board justice, its plans for Trinity College are an advance on the concrete bungle that is the 'new' wing of Weir House, built 1968. The College tower has been planned to include small communal rooms on each floor and corridors will be eliminated by the high rise circular shape.

But as an environment, hostels stamp an institutional conformity on the student. For the resident of a hostel, minutes away from his lectures, limited in his social space by the architecture, insulated from the world, protected by central heating, and surrounded by inmates from similar backgrounds, the University becomes as much of a total institution as a factory — if not a prison. A few people do thrive on the security and insulation of the academic life, but for most the world becomes frighteningly unreal and meaningless.

The well intentioned efforts of the Halls of Residence Foundation in struggling against student indifference, inflation, and Government inaction, to create the best material standards of well-being for students deserve respect. But the university buildings are dying amid a confusion of institutional aims and techniques, and a philosophy that can see advance only in terms of material change.