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The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1931

The D.O.N.K.S

page 9

The D.O.N.K.S.

Victoria University College is not a wealthy institution, but it is rich in the number of its societies. Of the making of societies there is no end. The College seems to spin them out of its entrails. Wherever a few students are gathered together about a common interest, a club is likely to be formed; nearly every professor manages to hatch out a society or two for the promotion of his subject. The student is furnished with a means of using up his superfluous energies and the professor of increasing the importance of his job; so that, between divertisement and advertisement, the College society may be said to perform a fairly useful service.

A common defect of these societies, however, is that they are specialist affairs. Each is limited to a narrow range of activities and tends to over-emphasise the importance of a particular branch of knowledge. A student of catholic tastes is accordingly unable to gratify his passion for omniscience by membership of any one club; he must belong to the lot. This is impossible. Time forbids. Handicapped as he is by the possession of only one life, the student may be pardoned for bemoaning the wasteful multiplication of societies and for ruminating over the possibility of their replacement by an organisation which would exploit, not a single narrow field, but would compass all the activities at present distributed among a variety of clubs—a gallimaufry in short, a crasis, a Scotch mixture, or whatever term is proper to an institution that would be all things to all men, excepting, of course, such as are outside the intellectual pale. Sports Clubs could no:, for instance, fit into the scheme, for they are not peculiar to the University, and, moreover, they are subject to the disability of being unconscionably lowbrow; but the so-called intellectual societies—the Free Discussions, the Mathematical, the Literary, the Historical, the Dramatic, the Debating, the S.C.M., the Haeremai, and the others and others—are susceptible of merger in an all-embracing organisation. An indefatigable and ambitious student may some day arise who will find his life-work in bringing such a project to fulfilment.

It is possible, however, that by allowing nature to take its course, the desideratum may be achieved in an epiphenomenal manner. Or, to use a piece of current jargon, the thing may come about by a process of emergent evolution. This speculation gains colour from the appearance of a tendency among individual dons to stray from their legitimate pastures and to crop the grasses in paddocks more or less adjacent, of which they cannot profess to know the mere dimensions. Consideration of W.E.A.-ism and the like, or of an occasional dictum uttered in class, tempts one to the statement that whenever a new book comes out or whenever a new book does not come out there is heard a busy munching in University stables, then a loud braying fills the air, and a small world (or a large class) breaks into quacks of delight over the intellectual droppings of a lecturer in Economics in respect of the life of Christ, or of a lecturer in Philosophy on the Correct Colouring of Cough Mixture Advertisements, or of a lecturer in Education with reference to the Feeding and Care of Baby. The statement errs, no doubt, in being excessively poetical; it is nevertheless true that our Medicine Men are evincing an increasing partiality for jumping over strange fences and of doing so, moreover, in full regalia—which has the effect of obscuring the fact of trespass and even of investing it with an air of authority. To put it in another way, our lecturers are toying with intellectual spread-eagleism. But in this practice we may discern the beginnings of our super-society. The desired institution is taking shape—a nebulous shape, perhaps, but properly so, for the University is the natural home of things nebulous. An ectoplasmic University is materialising before our eyes, made possible by the faith of the credulous, for whom the University is now the chief caterer.

The New Evangel calls to us. What name shall we give to it? Something popular, of course. Analogous institutions, such as the Y.M.C.A. and the S.C.M., give us a lead. Accordingly, there may be suggested "The Association of Superfluous Studies," which is conveniently reducible to A.S.S., or "Guild of Accessory Studies" (G.A.S.), or "The Association for the Delivery of Voluble Truths" (A.D.V.T.), or "The Diffusion of Needless Knowledge Society" (D.O.N.K.S.). The last (D.O.N.K.S.) seems the most promising, on account of the interchangeable titles for which the initials may be made to stand—for example, "The page 10 Distribution of Newfangled Knowledge Society," "The Dissemination of Nugatory Knowledge Society," "The Demonstration of Noisy Knowingness Society," and so on according to inspiration and taste. If anyone doubt of the existence of the D.O.N.K.S., let him recollect that in the University world all that is needed to make a thing true is to give it a name. Deprive a University subject of its jargon and what is there left? If a doubt still linger, let the doubter keep his ears open in class.

Great hopes are entertained of the D.O.N.K.S. When its possibilities are fully realised, the Society will furnish the properly-disposed student with all the intellectual entertainment he may require. The student will be in a position to drop everything but his class. He will have no need to credit anything but what his professor tells him. Nobody will be worth listening to but his professor, who, if he does not know everything, will at least know the last word printed in a cartload of secular Bibles. In his turn, the professor, whatever he may be professor of—Crossword Puzzles, Fairy Tales, Dingbats and Bunyips, or Pooh Fish and Tush—will be conscious of a mission to enlighten his student completely and finally on every subject under the sun; and his claim to be regarded as an authority on everything will be limited only by his ability to give expression to an opinion of some sort on any subject whatever.