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OTAGO UNIVERSITY.

PROPOSED NEW BILL,

A meeting of graduates and undergraduates was held at the University of Otago last evening for the purpose of considering the new Bill proposed to he introduced into Parliament by Dr Fitchett, M.H.R., this session, providing for tho election of the University C3uncil. There were about thirty persons present, and Mr W. E. Spencer, M.A., was voted to the chair. Several letters of apology for nonattendance were received. Dr Fitchett said that it was more fitting that he should be a listener than a speaker, his object being to gather the views of the meeting with a view of embodying them in his Bill. Tho proposal of that Bill wan to put graduates of the New Zealand University, who had studied here, who had kept their terms here, and whose names were on the books of the Otago University, in tho same position as if they were graduates of the University of was only by a technicality and accident that the graduates were deprived of the right of electing the Council. The Ordinance under which the University was founded provided that tho Council should be nominated by the Governor untU the number of graduates should exceed thirty, and that so soon as the graduates should exceed thirty in number they should have the power of electing the Council. When the University of Otago surrendered its charter, it followed that it could not confer degrees, and the Council had a chance of being a nominee body till the end of time. The Bill merely gave the speaker's own idea of the lines on which they should proceed, and he would be glad to hear the views of the studeuts, and, a3 far as he could, adopt them. Under the original Ordinance the nominations to the Council were for life, but ho held strong views that life tenure in anything was a great mistake, and therefore he fixed on five years as a reasonable tenure of office. The Bill provided that the present members of the Council should hold office for five years, and thereafter all the elections should _be made by the graduates, the members holding ofb.ee for five years and no longer. He certainly thought that, under the existing Btate of things, there was a want of touch between the Council and the students; and he thought that if the students had the right of election—even if they did not elect the whole of the Council—there would be a community of feeling that v/ould be conducivetothewelfareof the whole Uuuiversity. He might say that he had tried, so far as he could, to bring the Council to agree to some method by which there might be no conflict and no friction, but he was sorry to say he had failed. The opinion of the Council appeared to be that the present state of things was as good as could be hoped for, that any change would be for the worse, and that it was a special dispensation of Providence that the power of electing the Council was taken away from the graduates. Still he thought that if the students afforded him their moral support the Council would give way. The speaker concluded by reading the provisions of the Bill. Mr A. R. Barclay, M.A., said that in order to test the feeling of the meeting he had prepared some resolutions, the first of which he would now move'as follows:—"That this meeting cordially approves of the principlo that the graduates of the New Zealand University who have kept terms at the University of Otago should have the power of electing members of the Council." All that this asked for was that the students should approve of the principle, and he hoped the meeting would be unanimous in passing it. It was only what was contemplated by the founders of the University, and that was one reason why they should approve of it, while in the second place the nominee system was contrary to the spirit of an institution of the kind. Then, thirdly, all precedent was in their favor—the University Ordinance was nearly a transcript of that of the University of Melbourne, the graduates of which elected all the members of the Council. In Oxford and Cambridge it was the same ; and in all universities of standing the graduates had a share in the management and control, this being part of tho reward for which they had labored-part of the privilege which they had earned.

Mr T. K. Sidey, 8.A., in seconding the resolution, said that the students having passed through the mill themselves would be best able to detect defects in the system of government. The motion was carried mm. con. Mr Barclay said that his next resolution waß—" That this meeting recommend that the tenure of office of the present members of the Council be not disturb:*!, but that all future members he appointed for five years." This was merely a test resolution, but he thought that if the suggestion was adopted by the meeting others would be glad to adopt it. The Rev. A. Cameron, 8.A., said that he entirely dissented from the continuance of the preeect Council for life. The spirit of the Ordinance was that they should hold oflice till there were sufficient graduates for the duty of election to be entrusted to. Besides, if any membors of the present Council were considered good enough to be retained, as was probable, they could be reelected. He would move as an amendment —"That it is not desirable that the present members be held as appointed for life." Dr Jeffcoat seconded the amendment, saying that while strongly opposing the proposition that the present members of the Council should hold office for life, he thought that five yeara was too short a further term to give them. Dr Fitchett, in supporting the amendment, pointed out that no injustice would be done to the present Council if they were nuked to shorten their term of office—no refection would be cast on them. It was simply in pursuance of the new general principle of popular representation on all public bodies. The issue before the meeting was whether the tenure of oiilce should be for life or for lesn than life. For the rest it was a matter of detail which might be settled by one member being ballotted out annually. He would be the last to cast any reflections on the Council or to suggest that the members should not hold office because they had not done their duty; and he had little doubt that if they all retired to-mor-row, most of them would go back again by a majority. , , „ Mr W. A. Stout, 8.A., supported the motion on the ground that the more nearly the provisions of the Bill resembled the provisions of the old Ordinance the more likelihood there was of the Bill being carried; and, further, because retrospective legislation was opposed to all the principles of English legislation, and opposed to all feeling of fair dealing and justice. Mr Barclay mentioned that it was distinctly laid down by the Ordinance that the Council should hold office for life, and it would be unfair to remove them without some compensation, so to say. It would be fairest to leave them in office till they died •tit.—(A Voice: "Like the thistles," and laughter.) The amendment was lost, and the motion carried by a small majority. Mr BAB£J' AY Baid tnat his next motion was as follows ;■■ -" That this meeting is of opinion that the graduates should elect half the members of the Council." The original principle was that they sho.uld elect all the members, but that he held to be nofc right, for the Government had given them their funds, and should therefore have the right to representation on the Council. Mr W. A. Stout seconded the motion. Dr Fitchett said he did not approve of the resolution. Ze would, of course, adopt whatever the meeting agreed upon, but he fchought this was a mistake. They should remember that they were legislating for future graduates, and not only for the present ones. In Canterbury the system of election of the governing body by the graduates was in active operation and was an unqualified success. He must deny jshat ; the Government had anything to do with tiUo reserves, which were given to the University jjefore the General Government was concerned with it. The reserves were given by the Provincial Government, and he looked with distrust upoa any interference by the Government with tjfcc education reserves.

The Rev. A. Cameron moved $j an amendment —"That the graduates should eleot all the members of the Council." Dr Jeffcoat seconded the amendment. The g,ev. A. Cameron at this juncture asked what was the actual meaning of Mr Barclay's motion. Did it mean that half of

the Council were to be nominated by the Council ?

Mr Barclay : My motion is before you. Dr Fitchett thought it was a pity that Mr Barclay did not say what his motion really meant. Messrs CAiMEKON and Jeffooat then intimated that they would withdraw their amendment.

Mr Salmond moved as an amendment the addition of the words "and the Council the other half " to Mi" Barclay's motion. Mr Stout said that although seconder of tin: motion ho might remark that he was in favor of Mr Salmond's amendment.

Mr Stuev seconded the amendment, and the motion thus amended was carried by a large majority. Mr Barclay next moved—" That, subject to the modifications suggested, this meeting heartily approves of Dr Fitchett's Bill, and will petition in support of it." The Rev. A. Cameron suggested the addition of a clause to the effect that the Council should ho petitioned to support the Bill, and this was accepted by Mr Barclay. Dr Fitchett suggested the appointment of a committee to take in hand the preparation of the petition, which lie thought would be of great service. Mr D. White, M.A., thought that an important matter of reform such as was embodied in the Bill required all the weight and authority that should come from a measure supported by the Government, and for that reason he rose to say that he did not approve of the steps proposed to be taken under this resolution. While ho approved of most that had been done that evening, he thought they wore not going the right way about it. He would prefer to see Dr Pitchett's Bill and the resolutions carried by the meeting sent to the Court of Convocation, and discussed there. That would give a more colonial character to the movement. He would then like to see them passed on to the Senate, because he did not think that a University Reform Bill would receive the sanction of Parliament unless it had been passed by the Senate.

Mr Salmond moved as an amendment—- " That Dr Fitchett be asked to introduce a Bill to securo the carrying out of the resolutions."

Mr Barclay said he would accept this amendment.

Dr Fitciieti said he was bound to say that if this was carried he would drop the whole thing-it would be simply emasculating the Bill and taking from it its whole principle. What he wanted to do was to put the graduates in possession of the powers that the Jaw hadinteuded to give them. Mr Barclay : If you can get them, all the better.

Dr Fitchett said they would be made to appear as if they were afraid to move of their own motion—that, like young children, they could not walk. If the graduates did not intend to claim what the law entitled them to, the more was the pity. He would not accept the responsibility of asking for less. It would be treason against the privileges of the students, Mr Salmond said that he would then amend his amendment by muviug—" That this meeting approves of the introduction during the next session of Parliament of a Bill giving eflecfc to the resolutions carried this evening." Dr Jeftcoat : Does Mr Salmond mean that these are the only provisions to be contained in the Bill ? Mr Salmond: Yes.

The amendment lapsed for want of a seconder, and the original motion was carried on the voices.

Dr Jefl'coat and Messrs Barclay and Spencer were appointed a committee to draw up petitions to the House of Representatives and to the University Council.

The meeting concluded with a vote of thanks to the chairman.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890615.2.37

Bibliographic details

OTAGO UNIVERSITY., Issue 7934, 15 June 1889

Word Count
2,079

OTAGO UNIVERSITY. Issue 7934, 15 June 1889

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