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The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1925



"Of course this is cant; but very good cant for all that."

—Editorial, June, 1922.


"Who can say positively," writes Sir Leslie Stephen, "that it would not be better for the world at large if his neck were wrung five minutes hence?"

Shifting the application a little, who can say positively that, were Victoria University College to depart skyward to-morrow (impelled perhaps by some eruptive experiment in the Science wing), the world or any part of it would be the worse off? All that parcel of land in the City of Wellington known as "The Old Clay Patch," would assume an aspect of mournful desolation till such time as hungry land agents became seized of its potentialities; the city lying beneath might possibly notice the absence of a familiar feature of its western landscape; some temporary confusion would result from the removal of certain facilities in certain departments of education. But would anything really important be lost to us? Would, for example, a University be gone? Can we in truth call ourselves a University?

To say what a University is, is simply to say what Universities have been. The first consisted of eager young men who sought to acquire the manner of thought of some man wiser than themselves; the latest consist largely of eager young men (and women) who seek to acquire the means of larger rewards than simple occupations can yield them. But all Universities, ancient, mediaeval, and modern, have two characteristics more or less in common: either wholly or partially they impart what is known as "a liberal education," that is, culture of the mind page 2 for the sake of the mind; and, with few exceptions, they provide, during a few of the most important years of youth, a species of social education by virtue of a greater or less degree of community life.

Let us look ourselves hard in the eye. Does the instruction obtainable at V.U.C. merit the description of a liberal education, either wholly or in part? Or is it purely utilitarian? We are shamefully compelled to evade the problem by saying that a liberal education is here for the seeking-but that few seek it. Our Dominion is still too young to be able to know much of or to care much for anything that does not in some way concern its material development, whether in respect of its physical resources or of the individual status of its inhabitants. The Maori was only arriving here about the time Oxford was founded. The European had not yet arrived when Yale was founded. Who can say we do not do well if we take as much as our needs permit us from men who, over and above what they are permitted to give us, themselves hold to the ideal of a University proper?

But the ideal of a University proper includes something more than mere formal instruction in special fields. It includes opportunities of association between people who, from utilitarian motives or otherwise, are occupied in the cultivation of the intellect, and that at the period of life when the intellect is most restless and absorptive. Out of this association come elements that complement and co-ordinate the results of the lecture-room; the rubbing of mental wood together produces a flame in which the distinctive spirit of a 'Varsity is born. The result is character: high honour based on comradeship, nobility of ideal built upon mutual encounters in an atmosphere free from mercenary taint, loyalty to a common attachment, breadth of vision, tolerance; all qualified by human nature, maybe, but still sufficiently discernible wherever true University men are found. To what extent have we the means of attaining these things at Victoria? Let us evade the question again and ask rather how far we can secure to Victoria the potentiality of them.

The daylight hours of most of us are "cast deep in the mould of labour." Only "fag ends" of time remain for study. But at least there are "fag ends" of the "fag ends" of our waking hours when we can mingle with our kind. Is there any serious obstacle to the devoting of these fragments of time to the common interests of the 'Varsity? There is, 'tis pity; and pity 'tis 'tis true. The vulgar physical fact of space intrudes to make our difficulty: we must tram and trudge, and climb forward and backward to College; the configuration of our corner of the earth compels it. Fortunate the man or woman in Wellington whoso free time is free from wearisome periods of merely passing to and from wherever his interests lie. But blessed and thrice blessed the benefactor who will come forward with money or with schemes to secure the adjacent housing of those who would realise the fullest possibility of Victorian 'Varsity life.

It is all in the lap of the future. They that come after us will be better served than we in these matters. But our part-is it merely to stand and wait? When Victoria was as poor as a church mouse (which was before the mouse joined the Heretics' Club and lost its ability to pass through the eye of a needle) a page 3 fine spirit animated the place and the men of that day gave it the whimsical, loving title of "The Old Clay Patch." The war saw the final sinking of that day ; we can at least recover the spirit. If we do not, then we "fail to take the measure of our pride." What if our 'Varsity rank only among the "half gods"! It is to us Victoria, and while we are at Victoria, in Heaven's name let us be Victorians; the time we have to spare, let us spend heartily and loyally in some one or other, if not more, of the various club activities of the College, or even in the informal chatter of the Common Room 'tween lecture times, and so awaken the spirit of fraternity within our walls. "There is something beautiful about one's college days," says the author of "The Plastic Age," "something that one treasures all his life. As we grow older, we forget the hours of storm and stress, the class-room humiliations, the terror of examinations, the awful periods of doubt of God and man-we forget everything but athletic victories, long discussions with friends, college songs, fraternity life, moonlight on the campus, and everything that is romantic. The sting dies, and the beauty remains." We have no campus, we can muster little of the sentiment of romance, our sting is very slight; as for beauty, it is not a thing of the eye, but of the spirit that looks out through the eye-within the limits of our reference, the College spirit.