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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1915

The Debate

The Debate.

The Debate was held in the Concert Chamber of the Town Hall, on Saturday evening. The Hon. F. W. Lang presided and the Judges were Dr McDowell, Rev. Jolly, and H. G. Cousins, Esq. It passes the comprehension of your scribe why these gentlemen, in times as stirring as these and fraught with such great problems as these are, should have chosen such a deadly dull and well-worn subject for Debate, viz., "Should the principle of an Elective Executive be substituted for the system of Party Government at present obtaining in New Zealand?" It was indeed surprising that so many people turned out on such a night to hear such a subject debated; true enough they did not exhibit any very great fervour or enthusiasm over the question.

As to the student element in the audience, it is pleasing to be able to record that this year's Debate was a welcome contrast to the idiotic and unsportsmanlike uproar that characterised last year's. The interruptions this year took the form of pithy and more or less witty interjections, which, while not seriously interfering with the speakers, served to entertain an otherwise bored audience, and to liven up proceedings generally.

Looked at from all aspects, the Debate was certainly below University standard. The speakers, with the exception of one or possibly two, delivered themselves of prepared speeches or recitations, and made page 64 little, or no attempt, to deal with the matter contained in the likewise prepared speeches of their opponents. Such a method, coupled as it was in the case of several of the speakers, with a toneless and lifeless delivery, cannot but fail to grip the attention of the audience.

The first Debate was between Canterbury in the affirmative and Auckland in the negative. Ponder and Bell, who spoke for the former College, should with more experience make good debaters; on this occasion they failed to arrange their matter logically, and seemed ignorant of the relative value of the various parts of their speeches, often stressing the commonplace while slurring the fundamentals. Of the Auckland team, Phillips, who is an old hand at the game, had as usual excellent matter (the best of the evening) and dealt destructively with his opponents' arguments. He is, however, handicapped by a poor voice and a weak delivery, which prevent his speeches getting the attention from the audience that they deserve. Kinlock, the other Auckland man, has much to learn ere he becomes a great debater. The Judges' final verdict that Auckland was the better team in this debate was probably correct, but there was little to choose between the two.

In the second debate, Victoria took the affirmative and Otago the negative. This was certainly brighter and more interesting than the earlier spasm—in fact Moss and Leary, who spoke for Victoria, were the only two who succeeded in rousing and maintaining the interest of the audience. Moss made a good solid debating speech, in which he fairly succeeded in concealing the amount of preparation put into it. He lacks, however, experience in these arts which constitute a speaker's stock-in-trade—gesture, repartee, and so forth. Moreover he allows his audience to take a rise out of him, as witness his immediate obedience to peremptory demands to take his hand out of his pocket. From the point of view of the elocutionist, Leary's was easily the finest speech of the evening; his enunciation and general Manner of delivery were a treat to listen to, and quite above criticism. Moreover he was quite unruffled by the sallies from the Gallery. On the other hand his speech page 65 reeked too much of the midnight oil, and was altogether too flowery in its language. Johnson for O.U. was a bright spot in the desert; intentionally or otherwise we know not, but he most certainly succeeded in amusing the audience. His gestures were a trifle ludicrous and somewhat reminiscent of the barnyard. So violent were "Johnny's" gymnastics that apprehension was felt for the safety of the Chairman. Bennett, the other speaker for O.U., seemed to be awed by his partner's effort, as he stood immovable as a rock while declaiming his piece.

At the conclusion of this Debate one could confidently anticipate the Judges' final verdict—that V.U.C. was the winner of the contest. Our speakers excelled over the others in all aspects, and no other verdict would have been possible. As to the other three Colleges, there was great diversity of opinion as to which was the worst, but the Judges finally placed them in the order 2, A.U.C.; 3, C.U.C.; 4, O.U.

Thus for the ninth time V.U.C. won the Joynt Challenge Scroll—a record to be proud of.