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March 3, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]


Victoria is a gloriously inefficient university. The Universities of Canterbury and Otago, which share roughly the same student population and academic prestige as Vic, are both laid out across single large, flat areas with a river running through. Vic’s main campus, the arts and sciences perched atop the “old clay patch” on Kelburn Hill, was placed in such a precarious position because the guy who owned the Cable Car gave the founders a £1000 donation. It’s wrapped around a Catholic cemetery and its bumps mean the Kirk building has ground access on three different floors.

In the last couple decades, this unworkable situation reached its inevitable conclusion, and the University split itself asunder. The first to go was Architecture, which until its move to the swank of Vivian Street in 1994 had been housed in architecturally icky premises. It got a daub of red paint to match the lights of its neighborhood, and is now pretty much independent of its mother-campus.

The Law faculty opposed any suggestion that it shift, until it was offered Old Government Buildings, the largest wooden structure in the southern hemisphere and the former heart of Aotearoa’s civil service, in 1996. At the same time, Australian consultancy firm McKinnon Walker was brought into to ‘refocus’ the university, and led eventually to the relocation of Commerce to the flash bang of Rutherford House. Of course we musn’t forget Karori, a development from the old College of Education, nurtured in the suburbs.

Bobbing up and down between a jumble of towers and chilling out in a graveyard all make this mess worthwhile. University should be esoteric – but this does inconvenience us in a variety of ways. Unlike Massey, whose three campuses are quite comfortably separated by vast stretches of land, Victoria’s four campuses need to work in tandem, sharing students and dialogue. Karori teaching students need science and arts papers to help them become better teachers; many students combine law or commerce with the arts. This inevitably means trudging up and down hills between classes, though at least this way we all stay fit and sexy.

The end result of all this is that campus life – intellectual debate, club participation and general natter between students of varying disciplines – becomes difficult to organize. But we’ve got to stand up to this challenge and make our uni interesting. Otherwise University management will put on what it thinks we want, and this will probably lead to a multiplication of what Rory Gilmore calls “those awkward brunchy-quichie things where you don’t know anyone.” For they simply do not understand our debauched desires…

See Rachel Barrowman’s Victoria University of Wellington: 1899 – 1999 for more on the history of our uni.

Which US military adventure is your campus?

Kelburn: Vietnam (esp. Hamburger Hill).

Hordes of grunts charged through that forest and up that hill, with much loss of life, only to find that once they had won it, it was of no strategic advantage. Hordes of arts students trudge up and down that hill, with much accumulation of debt, only to find their BAs won’t really get them a fat paycheck after all.

Karori: Laos – the Silent War.

It hides among leafy trees, quietly keeping things going, keeping our schools stocked, while our focus tends to be drawn elsewhere… meanwhile they control the minds of the next generation. Spooky.

Pipitea: Operation Desert Storm.

A comfortable flashy show put on for the sake of money, Operation Desert storm failed to root out Saddam and left things to be cleared up years after its wake. One often fears that those who delve solely within the realms of Rutherford House’s commerce are picking up more than management-speak.

Te Aro: The Berlin Blockade.

While architecture seems inherently arty, it has been separated from the arts faculty by the intervening non-university streets.


About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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