The Spike or Victoria College Review October 1929
Story Book Land—a Fairy Tale
Story Book Land—a Fairy Tale
Once upon a time there was a University College. It was a fine old ivied place with many thoroughfares and draughts, and things running through it. Numerous Professors and Members of the Staff were attached to this institution, besides about nine hundred subjective students of minor importance. And these students thought in their poor, blind way that they were being staunch Conservatives because they hated Reform and were quite content to live as their forbears had lived. (No, not the Three Bears and Goldy-Locks this time). As a matter of fact they were being victimised and they in their simplicity did not realise this and so at the end of each session two hundred cast-iron-digestionised, nerve-shattered Spartans were being hurled out in to the world.
Now three years in this establishment served to divest practically every student of his individuality and initiative—for all were reared on the same food and told exactly what political, economic and religious views they were to adopt. It was a glaring case of Mass Production and the Inferior Article. But suddenly there rose up in the midst of these crushed souls, a small coterie of students, an Executive who were Different. These newcomers introduced a System—an Organization—into the College, a thing none of these poor, blundering dupes had ever known. And as a United Body, these people set about reforming the absurd conditions that had prevailed for so many years.
They first of all showed that in a University whose whole aim is presumably to tutor and to guide the young through a series of examinations as efficiently as possible, that the convenience not of the Professorial Hierarchy or of the Members of the Staff, but of the students, should be considered first.
With this definite basis upon which to work, the plucky little band, against great odds, set out to win freedom for their more subdued brothers. On all their trials and set-backs I shall not dwell, but finally there stood in place of the old Torture House, with its thousands of almost incredible inconveniences, a University College that did not blush at the mention of its three affiliated contemporaries.
Now there had been for some time in this College a so-called Tea-room where very light refreshments were "obtainable at a slight cost." This was one of the first reforms the students undertook. One day, the sun rose on the Cafeteria and found it no longer reminiscent of the Work House scene from Dickens, but a dining-room where appetising meals were served and where ham was not known to run out at six o'clock and fruit cake was always on sale irrespective of How many little scones were threatened with the grim prospect of passing the night out in the corridor. Sometimes these happy students could distinguish the coffee from the cocoa and vice versa. On rare occasions they could detect the taste of tea in the national beverage. Chocolate biscuits dropped from four shillings per pound to almost par and one dessert-spoonful of mashed potato no longer "ran out" at twopence.page 22
Other startling changes took place. Students were able to read the notices in the Hall at almost any time without fear of giving the Caretaker a complex and only those of exclusive social standing or of high academic attainments were permitted to address him—the true dignity of his appointment reserving for him the right to discriminate even among these. The two entrances to the Library were open in the morning and students could leave their books for nearly five minutes on the table and come back and still find most of them there. On rare occasions, the "9.30 All Out" bell was known to ring at half past nine. Dog-fish and defunct frogs and their respective halos were confined strictly to their own quarter and hot water and carbolic soap were supplied to Zoology devotees after their daily seance in the Science Wing.
Things went on improving like this until there came a time when even those who were not included in the caretaker's circle of friends knew when an examination was imminent. Sometimes they were given notification three days beforehand and almost had time to prepare. This meant a great deal to some of these students, for it appreciably reduced their heavy natural handicaps and they no longer had to contend with their own tutors and which enabled them to give their whole attention to their annual struggle with outsiders in November. And immediately before these annual examinations the lecture rooms were all available to those who for various reasons had no other retreat in which to study—another boon to the undergraduate.
In the Winter, hot water was procurable without recourse to the experient of unscrewing the caps of the steam heaters. All the broken windows and locker doors and the gymnasium clock and balcony railings were repaired. Seats were placed in the Hall for weary lovers and fittings in the Common Rooms were changed once every decade or so. Professors from time to time attended the less important College functions and the more important ones (such as the Capping Ceremony) were being favourably considered as Annual Professorial Fixtures. As many as 2 per cent of the student body were present at the important Rugby finals each year and once in a while the Dramatic Club read a play on a night when the footballers were not romping about upstairs. The tennis court lakes were gradually drained away and the gate at one end became once more open. The men students' club which had been formerly a curse to local restaurant proprietors—and to anyone else with whom it happened to come in contact,—became a kind of Welfare League or Holy Alliance and went about among its fellows doing-good-by-stealth-and-blushing-to-find-it-fame-and-all-that-sort-of-thing.
Finally—with the adoption of gowns for daily wear (and tear) the institution lost its reputation for being "only a night-school" and was by its contemporaries raised to the dignity of "College."
This was the crowning achievement of this fine band of girl and boy reformers, and when they "passed through"—as we all must inevitably do some day—They left more than merely a few gashed desks and some mystic page 23 numerals on the wall in the telephone box to mark their undergraduate days.
And they called this Fairyland Resort, "The Palace Where Students Count First"—and, of course, "everybody lived happily ever afterwards."