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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Comments on Salient in 1976

page 2

Comments on Salient in 1976

Four horse and carriages

Your first lecture at this university is usually where you hear the old story about university being a place where staff and students come together to further man's knowledge through reading, experimentation and debate.

Welfare staff, lecturers, older students, and even the Vice-Chancellor are constantly exhorting you to challenge prevalent ideas, read beyond what is given to you in the classroom and become involved in a wide range of activities that will enable you to become a better person.

And yet, underneath all the fancy words and descriptions of the university of debate and discussion, lies the reality of restriction, callousness and fear.

The student comes into the university like a piece of dough, waiting to be transformed by the "experts" into a knowledgeable product for the downtown market. The courses are designed in advance, the essays have to be handed in by certain dates, and you are assessed in terms of how much of the lecturer's brains you have been able to pick. If students ever take part in a discussion with a lecturer it is always with the knowledge that the teacher is in charge - s/he has a wealth of knowledge that the student can't hope to equal.

It is very seldom that you find students cocky enough to attempt to analyse what they are being taught because there is certainly no encouragement from staff. When they do, funny things start happening.

The debate between staff and students which was held up as important at stage I suddenly disappears. Students write down their criticisms and wait for the replies.......but they never come. Other students occasionally add further contributions......but still no replies from those encouraging the original criticism.

For the 1976 Salient editor it has been a year of the shaking of the liberal university myth. I started the year with very few expectations and even fewer promises. I wanted to make the campus newspaper orientated around campus issues and to involve as many students as possible in its production. And I especially wanted to start the campus debate that I had been taught to believe in since I entered this place.

Salient this year has actively encouraged people to involve themselves in writing and producing a newspaper, and more importantly analysing the campus enironment - their courses and how they are being conducted. Precedence has always been given to material written by students on this campus whether it be on the Rugby League Club or the Student Anti-Imperialist Front, and debate has ensued among many student groups of different persuasions.

But in no areas has the debate been more disappointing than in the course criticisms. In sociology, economics, political science, anthropology, law, German, English and Geography articles have been written by student trying to gain a greater understanding of their subjects. Many important questions have been asked - mainly on the assumptions most of these subjects start with, but also on workloads, assessment and many of the day-to-day student concerns.

Because of the lack of response by the teaching staff, Salient has on four separate occasions sent letters to departmental staff urging them to involve themselves in debating important questions raised by students, and help the process of learning in a truly concrete way. But never any replies. Why not?

It seems the staff, especially in the areas of social sciences (i.e. Sociology, Political Science and Anthropology in particular) are talking such crap that they would be fools to try and defend themselves. To come out into the open would be to expose their personal views on what they are teaching and would mean that in future they wouldn't be able to hide behind the thin veneer of academic objectivity when they are lecturing to a class of 300 budding social scientists. In other words, they are scared of having to work out what they are doing teaching the subject they are, and what is the purpose of that subject. For instance "how scientific are the social sciences?" usually promotes a severe case of epilepsy in even your most knowledgeable sociologist.

During 1976 staff have continually attempted to get discussion taken behind closed doors so that the real issues won't ever be properly debated, while never giving the more articulate students room to fasten the attack on a stationary target. And even then they have asseted that criticism is just the work of a disaffected minority and should be ignored.

In 1977 students must continue to question their courses, what is being [unclear: taught] how it is being taught, and what part the student occupies on the whole merry go-round-type system. But more student must become involved, and having got a mass student involvement then the issues must be actively forced upon those who presently exercise control over particular courses affected.

Salient will still be around in 1977. It has a valuable role in bringing students together, helping build up the idea of a true student union, and allowing those students who want to become invovled to pick up a number of communication skills. Despite the number of moans and groans throughout the year about Salient, I believe we have fulfilled the promises made at the beginning of the year.

If you're dissatisfied with Salient there's only one thing to do - join it. Salient is a student newspaper. It's form and content is shaped by those who work on it and those who contribute to it. If you want to pull a few strings in 1977 then wander into Salient and offer your help.

Thanks to all the Salient helpers and all you students who paid your $2.00 Publications grant - you made it all possible.

John Ryall