Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 17. July 18th, 1973
Letters to the Editor should be given to one of the editors, left in the box outside the office or posted to Box 1347. If possible, they should be typed or printed legibly, double spaced on one side of the paper only.
We try to impose a limit of 300 words per letter — if you can't confine yourself please come and see us about the possibility of putting it in the form of an article.
Salient: Light Entertainment?
Everyone wants to run your newspaper from a letterbox. Anyway, when the missals quit coming you might as well pack up shop, so here's another.
Salient's aim as a socialist newspaper is to change the ethos of our society in a way that might lead to the more equitable distribution of wealth and privilege (......it is a socialist newspaper?). As ideological educators you may sometimes examine the character of your pupils — in this case university students — who differ quite radically from the working population. They differ not so much in their level of material wellbeing, and less than is commonly supposed in intelligence. The gulf that separates them from their working brothers is the quality of their experience.
A boy or girl who leaves school at 15 and goes to work for a company soon finds out what hierarchies are all about. The oppression is tangible enough, but to the unsophisticated the genuine source of exploitation is difficult to identify. There is no simple dichotomy, but a segmented hierarchy within which the worker is deeply enmeshed. At 20 he has something to lose by revolting; at 30, as an average person, he knows that progression — more particularly, scope for creative, liberating expression —within such a hierarchy is an illusion, but he feels powerless to escape. The realisation is intensely personal and not often articulated. No amount of theorising can anticipate it.
University students, straight from school, have all of this ahead of them. (Sure, schools are feudal too, but they're not a lifetime sentence). For the first time they are free to question many values and explore new lifestyles. Some do, most only dabble. Faced with an active political choice they will often revert to the attitudes and arguments of their parents.
Where does Salient come in? Is it to reflect the aspirations and ideals of its readers? What aspirations? What ideals? How many are clamouring to be heard?.....so the paper manufactures its own crusades. It becomes a vehicle of revolution and champion of the oppressed. Students treat it as light entertainment and discount its value judgements by 150%.
Why? Because for most, social injustice is the least of their worries. And nobody can feel guilty about their good luck all of the time. Their level of political consciousness is low and perpetually numbed by the abysmal national media, besides N.Z. is miles from anywhere.
So, by the time the student hops into his middle class vocation the old parental values, never seriously challenged, are hardening into convictions. Socialism, communist etc. are filed away as standing jokes and newspapers are rated along with telly ads as blurb to fill in blank moments.
I do think that Salient has some chance of countering this tendency, but only becoming fairly 'I' liberal, which is an imposition on socialist contributors. I means a lot of good interpretive reporting with a keen eye on the world press and a muted editorial voice. It means offering the kind of insights that will encourage uncommitted students from more or less nonpolitical backgrounds — the majority — to regard Salient as a serious source of information. If the tone is neutral and the contents very revealing students can be coaxed into an understanding well in advance of their innate conservatism.
I see that your elitist esotericism has spread to encompass a tongue-in-cheek acquaintance with the Maori language. Well you seem to have humbled most students into silence but I for one am not too proud to ask: Just what does the "Ka whawhai tonu matau. Ake, Ake, Ake. Patu!" quoted in the courts column mean?
"An End to In Jokes"
[I will fight against you forever, forever, forever. Strike! — Ed.]
With reference to your 'supposed joke' referring to Billy Grahams Revolution in July 5 Salient. I would like to say that it was in ignorant taste and blatant disrespect.
Don't get me wrong, I'm no 'fucking' God squad follower but I believe that respect should be given to those members of university who follow the 'better' way of life.
Perhaps out 'beloved' editor might in the future find some other form of 'common' humour to slap in Salient. But some of the fucking shit that gets into the 'rag' it is not surprising that the magazine is now stooping to very low methods of humour.
English Department Change: From Chrysalis to Cocoon?
In line with much of the rest of the university, the English Department is preparing to 'go mad' and is considering the introduction of an internal assessment system, along with changes in its basic requirements for students of English. Details as to how this system is to be implemented and managed have not yet come from the department, and because of the way in which departmental policy seems to be shaped (via consensus?) it is likely that department members have no clear ideas about the introduction themselves. For a long time the department has clung to a system whereby students, in order to sit examinations, have been required each term to sit one test, write two essays and regularly attend weekly tutorials.
In certain cases, students labelled as "marginal", are internally assessed, especially if their performance in finals is below the set standard. Otherwise the contribution of this in-term work towards a final exam mark is negligible But to gel into the crazy house, one has to have a ticket, and this is what this large body of unassessed term-work provides. The questions in the examination are the usual re-hash of essay topics, and if the student has done well in this essay work, he/she will have a better chance of passing. The student who for various reasons has written bad or mediocre essays, will find the exam papers harder and consequently, the results will be lower. From an assessment system like this the student only learns one thing: how to sit future exams. If a student cannot learn from the mistakes — dare I say, "committed" during an exam, the learning process will not have been fulfilled; yet every year, thousands of Joseph Ks offer themselves up for trial completely at the mercy of an inaccessible system of valuation. This system, however, is only as inaccessible as we permit it to be.
Yet, the English Department is changing. A proposal put forward to a gathering of staff and students divides the course designated as ENGL III into (a) the literature of the English Renaissance, 50% and (b) tutorial programme, 50%. Internal assessment at last! But is this the only concession the department is prepared to make? Internal assessment is a touchy business. Many students and teachers, apart from regarding internal assessment as an inevitable thing, do not know where they stand in relation to it as a means of evaluating a years work. The department is trying very hard not to make matters too difficult for itself, and of course the student suffers. As to this concession (which will not affect present students of English), the department has not yet told the students where they will fit into the new scheme. Presumably students in the 100, 200 and 300 level courses will not benefit from the system, because it looks as if the new ENGL III students will become the ENGL 200 students. The blind is to be pulled up on the morning very slowly.
Several questions arise out of this intended move: how is the department going to assess students? Will students be assessed on the tutorial programme? Arc students of english able to put forward suggestions as to how this and other considered changes might be implemented?These questions will remain unanswered until somebody (preferably from the English Department) responds to student questions with a list of negotiable points which can serve as a basis for discussion between students and teachers. The way in which past questions have been evaded, and the results of at least one questionnaire lost, seems to suggest that students exist primarily for the benefit of the department — "Such a nusiance, professor, all those ungraduates." "Quite so, quite so." Last year, a small questionnaire was circulated among English students to register opinion for and against the abolition of a 100 level language prerequisite. Unofficially, of the results returned, 70% were in favour of abolishing the language requirement. No one from the department came forward to explain why the results were lost, or why this particular prerequisite was necessary (valid cases for its replacement by history, classics or a novel in translation course have all been made), or why it still exists in the 'new revised edition' (unannotated) of English course requirements. These new requirements (obtain a copy from your friendly local departmental branch) leave no room for alternatives. Internal assessment of the type the department seems ready to foist upon its students, will be no different from the present system. A bad in-class essay, and automatically the pressure of the final exam is increased. A system that would (for a change) give the student some of the benefit of both worlds is outlined here. It is taken and reworded slightly from the course requirements of history 202/1972 (a four credit, half year course) and offers a balanced system of examination and internal assessment.
'To qualify for a final grade students must submit two essays during the course and answer three questions for the three hour exam at the end of the year (or half year). Of the two essays and the three exam answers, the three with the highest marks will make up the final grade. Students who obtain an average of less than 37% for the three examination answers will automatically be failed regardless of their performance during the year.'
This is only one alternative of which students may not have been made aware; an alternative which students should be able to judge for themselves, the merits of. The prospect of change within the department is too good an opportunity for students to miss. Efforts will be made to ensure that the results of the current petition are not lost, so consider lending your support by signing it. Don't let anyone intimidate you into not signing it. If students are ever to have a say in the way courses are to be planned, structured and assessed, now is the time to show that they want to have a say.
A little problem that one of your ideological consultants may be able to solve for me.
Why should I be against foreign investment in both South Africa and New Zealand?
In New Zealand the issue: is simple enough; Japanese and American interests are more impersonal in their control and more ravenous in their appetites than their local counterparts. Until the revolution it is best to have indigenous capitalists running things.
Why do we advocate the same for South Africa? Why should we fight the battle against primarily British capital for the white South Africans?
Vice-Chancellor Taylor may be 'as sensitive as the next man' but Vice-Chancellor Llewellyn (of Waikato) most certainly is not. He seems more concerned with the ACU Edinborough junket than with its lingering racist overtones or with its capitalist manifestations.
Ten people from Waikato are going to Edinborough at the moment: the Chancellor, immediate ex-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, and Registrar; and the well known Professor, Hans Nieschmid, is attending informally [unclear: tion;] add to this five wives (and kids no doubt), and the party/junket begins to sound like Barnam's Circus...or a CIA convention.
First-class around-the-world air-fares are being provided for the honorable gentlemen (expenses have been sidestepped so far, but a six week holiday won't be free exactly), and they intend to travel second-class so that their wives can get virtually free rides around the globe on University money which could be better spent on Marxist literature — at least $10,000 worth — to begin to right the grossly bourgeois imbalance which exists in course content, required and recommended reading, and academics' personal political leanings.
Students at Waikato are pissed off by the arrogance of the University Administrators, and a petition will be submitted to Council on July 23 such that the University send no form of delegation to the ACU Congress on the ground that to do so would be a complete waste of money.
The withdrawal of the White South African Universities and the University of Rhodesia in the face of boycott threats simply makes the hypocrisy of these bureaucrats easier to disguise: their arrogance and affluence are symptomatic of the system of which they are willing tools, and of the University of which they are the knowing betrayers.
Carl B. Gordon
'Products' not 'Profits'
In my letter to you, which you published in last week's Salient criticising Don Frank's article "Readers Guide to Salient" I wrote, "however, if this is the case, Franks has told us nothing about the division of product between capitalists and workers which I suspect he was trying to do." When the letter appeared in Salient my word product had been replaced by the word profits. The change of wording makes it appear that I was using the word profit as sloppily as Franks was.
[Not so much using the word sloppily as writing it illegibly. We regret the mistake but repeatedly plead that we don't insist our letter- writers type so long as they print clearly, double spaced, on one side of the paper only.—E.d]
So it seems that no one is really worried about the fact that business firms are influencing the university (see the article "Big Business Gag on University" — Salient 27/6/73). Students as usual sit on their arses oblivious to the fact that big business is harming the "autonomy" of the University.
Staff members, many of whom are all too ready to write in business and other magazines, have been slow to write to Salient defending their role as employees and slaves of "private enterprise".
All this reinforces my feeling that most people in this institution are too self-centred to worry about the things that go on in this place which affect people other than themselves.
"The Paper" (Tiger?)
The advertisement read; " 'The Paper' is one of the most determined efforts by the alternative press to challenge the established monopoly capitalist press in New Zealand." So we looked forward to the first issue with drooling mouths....
But what a bore it's turned out to be. The same clique, spewing forth, the same moribund dogma, in the same jingoistic way; the same self-righteous indignation at the plight of the poor worker; the same pathetic attempts to assimilate some kind of "working classness"... If ever a paper was assigned to appeal to the proletariat this one wasn't.
Lenin called revolution "a festival of the oppressed". This thing reads like a dirge. It's all so deadly serious, so ghastly earnest, so.... well, respectable. We hoped for originality, sensitivity, even a glimmer of imagination (the idea is beautiful afterall). We got rigid ideology, masquerading under guise of "radical" and "independent". If you've come to praise Marx, that's cool, but don't bury the bastard.
"This forgetting of the great, essential considerations for the momentary interests of the day, this struggling and striving for the success of the moment without consideration for the later consequences, this sacrifice of the future of the movement for its present may be the result of 'honest' motivations; but it is and remains opportunism, and 'honest' opportunism is perhaps the most dangerous of all
A pot-pourri of clumsy sideswipes at capitalism does not constitute an alternative to the "monopoly capitalist press". Yes folks, it's all here: from the price of bananas and life savers and piss to what really lies behind Watergate. All analysed with that time-honoured method of criticism where you oversimplify the problem and stretch it till it breaks, then you establish the "real" problem (your perspective) and thus point out the "obvious" solution (to you of course!).
This trick is also used by the 'Dom' and other sundry right-wing rags. (The Dom, incidently, only costs 6c, and for that you can follow the Phantom and the Wizard of Id, as well as the cricket and whats-on at the flix). The Dom too masquerades under the myth of objectivity, and its editorial policy is no more restrictive and slanted as "The Paper's" appears to be.
So you see, the alternative is really no alternative at all. You'll find a similar "concern", a similar "indignation", and the same kind of distortion and fabrication in the pages of "Truth".(It's just that the bias exists for different reasons). An alternative? To the 'P.V.' perhaps.
"What is the underlying impulse in us that will produce the motive power for a new state of things, when this democratic—industrial—lovey—dovey—darling—take—me—to—mamma state of things is bust?
What next?That's what interests me.
What now? is no fun anymore."