The Spike or Victoria College Review 1941
Salient—or Merely Bulge?
Salient—or Merely Bulge?
War conditions . . . . . have occasioned the departure of our Brightest and Best'—Salient, 1941, No. 1.
There are certain functions which one expects Salient as 'an organ of student opinion' to fulfil. These include comments on current events within and without the College, exchange of opinion on controversial subjects, the encouragement of literary endeavour, pronouncements of policy on matters which affect student organisations, and, as a synthesis from all these, a reflection on the contemporary student attitude. This review is written with these functions in mind.
To judge how effectively events within the College have been covered is difficult for one who has not lived through them, but certainly the recurrent ones—Tournament, Capping, Stud. Ass. Elections, sports and so on— seem to have been done competently and thoroughly. On the other hand there is scarcely any sign of critical comment on external happenings in a year that has been so full of activity. These times breed oppression and censorship, is is true; but this country has never felt their heel to such a degree that vital matters cannot be treated fairly adequately in a paper that is independent of the profit motive. The exercise— with reason and with tact— of those liberties which we retain here is important to ensure their preservation, and falls within the sphere of Salient. So much was admitted in the first editorial, but the promise was not fulfilled. For example, there were important municipal elections in Wellington this year. Was salient not sufficiently aware of them to attempt at least to enunciate the general principles involved? Carefully done, here was a chance to tackle the town-gown bogey honestly. Victoria College has heard much, good andpage break page break page 17
bad, about the U.S.S.R. during the past decade, yet when recently the destiny of that country became dramatically linked with ours, the only references in Salient were a muddled religious rationalisation and a pacifist introspection.
Here it is appropriate to regret that each number did not carry regular editorials. The two issues just referred to alone gave material for treatment such as proved successful a few years ago. Two further matters of more immediate importance to the Student which should have received editorial attention were the reported opinion of a person closely connected with the College that academic freedom is a mere catch-word, and the more recent whipping up of feeling against freedom of conscience in school teachers. I do not agree with a former Salient reviewer that student opinion is necessarily 'half-baked,' and time and thought devoted by the staff to regular editorials would help to refute this charge. It is to be hoped that the items suggested here were not subject to any authoritarian ban, and that only hypersensitivity caused them to be neglected: that is deplorable enough. In any case the policy stated in No. 1, '. . . . . . . . adoption of a more cosmopolitan attitude. Complete freedom within the laws of libel, sedition and obscenity' has been somewhat forgotten. Incidentally one article, in No. 6, did deal fairly adequately with a situation comparable with those cited above—but this was borrowed from Salient's contemporary, Canta!
A commendable enterprise on Salient's part was the series of special articles criticising the curricula. Judging on general grounds it is apparent that even if the discussions presented to not hasten the reform of teaching methods, at least they can help the student to realise that there are other and perhaps better approaches to his subject than those he accepts in his lectures. It is of interest to recall that eight years ago an article criticising the teaching of law was withdrawn from publication in Spike!
The exchange of opinion by correspondence and criticism of articles is quite marked in this year's Salient and reveals a case of earnest, if not always very clear, thinking which deserves exploitation. The criticism levelled by 'Tallyho' against Salient itself has flashes of truth which would be more easily recognised if 'Tallyho' were not so obviously enjoying his blood-sport. On an editorial staff his breezy ability might usefully be tempered by a better appreciation of the fox's position. The controversy which started from the interview with class-conscientious Mr Menzies wandered far enough from its initial point to reveal that the same conflicts trouble each generation of students, but it addes no new material and the editor was justified in slashing it.
The more literary sections of Salient have never reached a high standard. The inability to avoid flatness on the one hand and incoherence on the other is a bad fault in most student writers. The serial Victoria wasn't worth the ingenuity expended on it, and appeared to be slipping back to the old vice that crippled Smad, namely, College gossip such as only a few initiated can appreciate. On the whole, however, there is less really bad writing than one often finds in student papers. The few examples of serious verse except for a piece over professional initials, are bad. On the lighter side Our Moderns hits a fair last line, and but for a little metrical awkwardness and a falling away in the last stanza, Janus is good work in the 'Sagittarius' style. The writer of this review has long held that parody and satirical verse of this type are to page 18 be encouraged in V.U.C. papers, and 'Tom-cat' should be induced to purr, or spit, more often.
Some of the reviews of the films, Dramatic Club shows, Modern Book discussions, and the College and Culture article are more readable and informative than some of the commentating which ran riot in previous volumes of Salient.
The paper seems now to have reached a stable and convenient format. But Surely four misprints in nine lines in No. 2 could have been avoided in a fortnightly Magazine.
These are the particulars which deserve mention in considering Salient 1941. The most interesting feature, however, in making a review of this sort is the picture which the paper reveals, consciously or unconsciously, of student life and thought. It is especially apparent, from more than the quotation over this article, that one generation has passed from Victoria College and left control of affairs to less experienced students. It is apparent too—sometimes in the very manner of the writing—that women are playing a larger part in college affairs. The distraction which wartime imposes on scholarship is reflected also in complaints of lack of enthusiasms in college organisations and, as one suspects from the tone of some controversies, in greater intolerance. This happened also during the depression years. Indeed, Salient shows that just the same essential subjects which most concerned students then are in modified versions the intellectual grist of today, although politics are apparently treated with more caution.
Judged as a whole then, Salient 1941 is not an outstanding production, but it is only fair to consider it in relation to its time. The new generation at V.U.C. faced 'the somewhat dreary job of maintaining that continuity of student affairs which several generations have laboured to establish' in a year of considerable uncertainty. The Salient staff have done that and incidentally recorded something of the present student attitude and problems although erring perhaps a little on the side of continuity at the expense of contemporaneity. It is to be hoped that Salient will now go further and give a lead in the resolution of those problems.
Finally, in explanation of the title of this review, let it be pointed out that 'bulge' was the term used to describe the pressure on the French lines which the Germans later developed into a new and most effective salient.