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The Spike [: or, Victoria University College Review 1957]

Weir House

page 53

Weir House

Weir House is unique in Wellington in being the only male residential hostel for university students catering in full for their needs. For most of the four years I spent in Weir House things ran smoothly, except of course for such incidents as complaints about the food which may arise in any hostel. But the internal organisation as well as the external organisation, i.e., the Management Committee, a subcommittee of the Victoria College Council, all worked fairly well as far as we knew, although John Marchant, President of the House Association in 1954, did say that his few meetings with the Management Committee left him just short of frustration.

In 1956 residents began complaining about the whole economy of the House and decided at one stage to stop paying board on the event of an increase of the weekly rate, the second in three years. It was considered unjustified to increase the fees without being provided with better conditions in return. There is a fallacy in this argument, however, if, as the Management Committee explained, the rise in fees was to maintain the then state of economy. An increase could not therefore justifiably be expected to provide better conditions than were before offered if the rise was to offset increased costs and to keep what we were already getting.

The proportions that the argument reached were such as to goad the Selection Committee into carrying out a drastic revision of the tenure of residence by each student. At a later stage in that year a number of fourth year students were confidently looking forward to returning to the House for the 1957 session, but as applications from senior students began to be turned down, it appeared that "purgative" measures were being taken as a result of the so-called "revolt" which received publicity in the city newspapers. The policy was now to admit more freshers in the new session at the expense of senior students. Now the House supports a large number of first year students, a considerable number of second year and a handful of third year students. It is understood that next year it is proposed to eliminate third year residents.

It had once been fervently hoped that the number of senior residents would be increased and that eventually a full-time warden and perhaps resident tutors would be installed, and so make Weir approximate to overseas students hostels. Now, under the present system, there will no longer be a graduate in the House, and the responsible President of the Weir House Association will be a resident who has had at the most one year's residence, similarly his committee. The manifold affairs of the House in past years have absorbed a great deal of energy from senior students.

It is not easy to tabulate the reasons for having a good proportion of senior students residing in Weir House, nor is it easy to estimate tangible and material results of their stay in the House. It is easy to say that "fresher" students will have the guidance and example of older students to follow"—if they will, and if such guidance and example is worthy. The value of the association indicated lies more, I think, in communication"—interchange of ideas, interests, hopes and experiences"—and in the subsequent development of tolerance and friendly approach to other individuals. Students with the opportunity to stay in the House for four years or page 54 more would be more likely to develop such qualities, in their adjustments to an influx of new students at the beginning of each year and varying degrees of acquaintance and friendship with students nearer their own age group. Such a system is also advantageous for the continuity of administration in student affairs which is a desirable feature in any organisation. Those students who, on the other hand, know that their stay will be only one or two years, or more, would be inclined to regard Weir as a half-way house.

It may of course be fairly maintained that those who have had up to two years in the security of the House will be able to find new accommodation after a period in the city, and that the more students to be given this break in Weir House, before being turned out into the city to make their own way, the better. Such a policy may be of benefit to a number of students but it will be of no benefit to the fostering of a communal academic life to enable some of the best students to develop desirable qualities provided for by such association in Weir House. There are also reasons, as we have seen, of keeping the House free from older students who may have the opportunity of interfering with the preserves of the management of the House after some good experience of it, particularly, I might mention, advanced accountancy students. ...

The accommodation problem in Wellington is not an easily solved one. As far as the building of another hostel is concerned, the task is one for the Government because of the astronomical costs involved"—who today is likely to leave as much as did our benefactor Mr. William Weir for the erection of a student hostel? Weir House itself however can be enlarged"—there is the ground and there are, presumably, the original plans which were for a more extensive building than that which was actually built There is also a substantial amount of capital left after the original purpose was in part achieved.

There is so much to be done for the university all at once in the way of building. At the present time there is a new block in progress costing half a million pounds, but which will still not solve the building programme of the college, and there is the subsidy promised for the Student Union building. At the same time surety more living accommodation is required from students for outer areas, and there appears to be no immediate provision made for this urgent need. Victoria College, with its roll of something like 2,500 students, provides expensive accommodation for only 95 male students; girls' hostels run independently cater for a smaller number of women students.

But for Weir House itself the question is whether it should be a half-way house with a rapid turnover for as many students as possible for only a one-year or two-year period of residence, or a residential hostel providing for students selected mainly for their academic ability, and designed to give them the best opportunity to make the most of their talents. I prefer the latter answer, but the result will depened, in the last resort, on the direction in which the University is looking.

D. G. Jamieson

The Middle Ages placed great reliance
On Aristotle, the Father of Science"—
Unfortunately, contemporary sages
Place small reliance on the Middles Ages.

"—Anton Vogt