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NOTES., Issue 7940, 22 June 1889
Wi; arc glad to sec a display of vitality within our University. It is a UimiTMly good thing that the students Reform, anc j undergraduates should take
a lively interest in the conduct and management of their Alma Mater. The meeting held last week to consider Dr Fitchett's Bill unanimously affirmed the principle of the measure—that the graduates of the New Zealand University who have kept terms at the Otago University should have the power of electing members of the Council of the latter institution. Naturally there was some difference of opinion as to what should be done to conserve the rights of present members of the Council and as to what proportion of the governing body should be elected by the graduates, but the minority should have no difficulty in accepting and advocating the resolutions that were adopted. On the other hand, the majority could not have grieved greatly had the views of the minority prevailed. On all important points, however, the meeting was practically unanimous. We agree w ! .th the spirit of the resolutions, which are exceedingly reasonable. However objectionable a nominee tenure, especially for life, may be, we think it would be scarcely just to interfere with the life membership that the present members of Council enjoy. They certainly accepted office on the understanding that it was a life tenure, and they cannot be accused of having done anything as yet that would warrant a demand. that they should forfeit their seats. Seeing that the intention of the University Ordinance of 1869 was to give the graduates power to elect all the members of Council, the former are acting modestly, and we should say discreetly, in now asking power to re- ; turn one-half of the members of the govern ing body. It would be interesting to know what are the Council's objections to the Bill, Their rights are to be conserved, and every care is to be taken of future interests. What, then, can they say to the proposal ? Do they fear the introduction of the elective element ? Are they afraid of anything, or have they anything to dread ? If it were so, it alone would be a sufficient argument in favor of the Bill. Be that as it may, however, the facts remain that the Council continue a nominee body through a legal technicality; that nomination for life is highly objectionable ; and that in all other universities of standing the graduates have a share in the management of their affars ; and these things furnish arguments that should convince that an alteration of existing conditions is exceeding desirable.
A? the statutory meeting of " householders"
at Aahburton at the end of l(fii" n Vl'( ( \- 1 on ' v scvcn candidates VhVildll" worc nominated as a coiuuiiltce ' 'for t'tc current year, and they were declared duly elected without the formality of a ballot, which in enjoined by the Act, bciny tinjl taken. The eleoliou who clearly iu valid, mid on the North Canterbury Education Board being appealed to they at once ordered a fresh election. At the Becond meeting there was a plentitude of candidates; but this time they were ballotted for, and the highest seven declared elected. The chairman was Major Steward, who has had as large an experience as anyone of the administrative clauses of the Act, and iu the course of the proceedings his ruling was asked as to who were qualified to vote or be elected. Me drew—rightly we consider—a distinction between the voter and the person to be voted for, holding that while "no person could be legally elected to serve on the Committee other than householders resident within the Bchool district," under section 4 of the Act the voter possessed a doublebarrelled qualification, so to speak—he could vote either by reason of his "ownership, occupation, or use of premises situated within the school district," or as the " parent, guardian, or person liable for the maintenance of any child"—without regard to the. place of residence—" attending the school," This ruling was disputed by aMr Silcoek, who contended that no person who did not reside within the school district was entitled to vote; but the meeting supported the chairman. It transpired that one person, if not more, voted who did not reside within the school district, and in consequence Mr Silcoek, who, strange to say, not only headed the poll, but was afterwards chosen chairman of the Committee, prosecuted his appeal to the Board, who have upheld his view of the law, and invalidated this second election. We agree with those of our contemporaries who affirm that the North Canterbury Board have mistaken the clear intention of the Legislature, which was to create an alternative class of voters besides the residents in the school district, from whom members of committee can alone be chosen. Clause 4 reads— Householder means every adult male or female person who, as owner or tenant, lesseo or occupier, occupies, uses, or resides in any dwelling-house, shop, warohoufc, or other building in any district, or overy parent or guardian who is liablo to maintain or lus the actual custody of any child.
If tho words used mean anything they create the residential voter possessing a property qualification, and give a vote to the parent or person who stands in loco parentis, apart from any question of residence, because the conjunction "or" completely cuts off the latter from the earlier part of the clause. And that is the view that has been almost generally accepted until this Ashburton case occurred. As there has not been technically a " failure to elect," we cannot see how the Board can exercise the powers conferred by section 67 and elect committees. T.ierc must be another election; but we are satisfied that if an interpretation of clause 4 were invoked from the Supremo Court the decision of the Board would be reversed. But, possibly, Parliament will intervene and set this and other muddles right.
Ouk parliamentary telegrams yesterday announced that the member for Major Waimato has for the eighth time Bin. introduced his little Bill to amend tho administrative machinery of our education scheme. His Franchise Bill will inter alio, prevent a repetition of the Ashburton case, U3 "householder " is defined to moan eveiy adult male or female who, having ownership, occupation, or use of any premises, residos in any dwelling within a school district, or is " tho parent, guardian, or other person liable to maintain or has the actual custody of any child attending a State school in such school district." And care is taken that the " householder " who is eligible for service as a committeeman shall not include any salaried officer of either the Education Department, Education Board, or School Coinmittoo, so that tho anomaly of a teacher serving on the Committee for his own district will not be repeated. Nor will past scandals of mere birds of passage being drafted in to capture a meeting be possible, because " dwelhng-houso " is to mean a permanent structure, and will not include "tents or other temporary shelter." In other respects the Bill does not differ from last year's. A cheap, effective, and simple means of securing fair nomination is provided, and that grave blot on our education Bystem—the cumulative vote —is to be swept away. The ■neasure has year after year passed the Representative Chamber by fluctuating majorities, but has always come to grief in tho Upper House, though it was within an ace of passing one year, one lion, member having voted against it by mistake, and his vote rightly recorded would have secured its passage. It is to be hoped that the Lords will now see that the amendments made by this Bill are in the best interests of education and in accord with the wishes of the people, as has been demonstrated times out of number. We wish Major Steward the success that hie pertinacity deserves.
NOTES., Issue 7940, 22 June 1889
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