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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 23. September 28, 1950

Second Lap Starting

page 2

Second Lap Starting

In spite of the fact that most American papers seem to have impatiently taken 1950 as the start of the second half of the 20th century, we refuse in this minor matter to bow to false authorities: the 20th century for us begins its second lap at the first minute of January, 1951.

The same papers seem to have spent much more time in looking back nostagically over the last 50 years at the good old days when peace meant the British navy and twelve around the Sunday dinner table, when men were men (with bellies on) and everything in the free trade world was lovely, when Asia was a place one sent the black sheep of the family to and Russia was best known for Tchaikowsky.

But this sort of attitude is a singularly useless one: the only sense in looking back is to take stock of our starting position for the second half.

Victoria stands ready to move off to a new expansion; a hundred-thousand pound student union building—something which would have made the original Victorians gasp—is only one of the minor features on the arising vista of Victoria's campus. The spade work for expansion has been done and one of the men who has wielded no mean spade in laying the foundations for our future is not going to be with us at the commencing of the new round. Sir Thomas Hunter has been with Victoria now for so long that he is very much part of the tradition. His successor will have a difficult task in two ways—he has been set a hard enough job in following on from one like the retiring principal, and an even harder job in taking over the reins of Victoria, a college with a short tradition but one which is not the less firmly established because of that. He will take over a college which has expanded infinitely faster than its buildings and its equipment. It may even have expanded faster than the philosphy which must chart its growth, but that must be shown within the next few years. The new principal will take over from one whose knowledge and experience in university administration were gained the tough way: and he will take over when there is a need for a general overhaul of university policy in New Zealand.

Looking into the future is not a prospect which thrills one of our generation. It is so much easier to take things as they come than to imagine where the world is going to have taken this university of ours (and us with it) within the next fifty years. Fatally easy is the tendency to think that we many as well concentrate on our small university world because nothing is going to affect the trends in international politics anyway. For all that the university has stood for in the past seems to be crumbling—freedom to think and criticise in the face of what Truman has called "government moving into the thought control business," the duty to examine for the truth impartially in the face of ever-hardening intolerance and hysterical regression to the use of force as the final arbiter, these seem to be the pattern of the future. Small wonder if university students and teachers feel discouraged. And the affairs of one small college such as ours seem pretty insignificant in the face of what does seem to be a mad world cheerfully stampeding down the road to its last war.

The prospect before us is not alluring: even within Victoria, traditionally forward looking and uninhibited in thought, there are disquieting signs of pettiness and intolerance and hysteria. Instead of calm examination, there is increasingly "black or white" acceptance. One is either for or against from the start, and to criticise is to run the danger of ostracism, certainly to be labelled outright at even the suspicion of one opinion.

If this is to be the pattern of the second part of the 20th century, then we have nothing much to look forward to. If tolerance and the pathological dependence on the products of Western civilisation for fear of thinking about the future are to be the future of this generation, then Victoria and what it stands for have failed.

But until this is irrevocably true, students first have the task of preventing it and the gains made for us here over the last fifty years will be worthless. We face a lack of faith in the power reason, a lack of hope for what in to come, and apathy; and the greatest of these it apathy.