17 November 2008

Weir House 75th Reunion

> VicUni: "75 Years of Weir House 1933–2008"

I was asked to give some brief remarks at the International Night diner at the Weir House reunion on Saturday. I've reproduced them below:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Weir House 75th Reunion, 15 November 2008

Ngā mihi o te po, talofa lava and good evening.

I understand it is customary at these events to give a brief whakapapa recounting one's connections with the institution being honoured and celebrated tonight.

I happily admit to being one of Jane and Leon Fulcher's cohort, like many here today. I arrived at Weir House in 1992, a skinny, spotty youth from the Manawatu (one of the "country boys" Tim Beaglehole spoke of) and spent my first year resident in room A20 in the Old – now known as William Weir – Wing.

After a year elsewhere, for my sins, I returned in 1994 as Deputy Warden, attending to administrative duties and discharging pastoral care from Room C25.

More recently, I continue to keep an eye on Weir House. As a lecturer in the Law School, I am invited and attend the Faculty dinners, a tradition I am delighted to see continues. And from the groups of students I teach, one occasionally hears words – usually warm words – said about the Weir House experience from those of the current generations of residents.

For the purposes of tonight's event, I have been asked to give a short "resident's perspective" – more a "relatively recent resident's perspective" – on my time at Weir House.

But I fear any anecdotes I might offer may prove to be rather dull. While at the time of being resident in the 1990s we thought we were renegade rascals who got up to much mischief, I must confess the tales of misadventure I overheard today from residents before my time sounded much more exciting and scandalous. (We rarely made Salient, let along the NZ Truth!)

And I suspect many of my anecdotes, such as: - the crusade for cooked Sunday brunch and the revolt against the Burmese Chicken (a dish I am now rather fond of) - the keg and other parties; - the sights one saw as a DW while checking rooms during fire alarms; are all best shared as they have been today amongst close friends and colleagues of that generation.

Instead, I just want to reflect briefly on two basic questions: - What did Weir House represent to me at the time I was a resident, and - What does Weir House represent to me now as an alumnus?

First, what did Weir House represent to me as the time I was a resident?

Two words: stability and discovery.

For me and many others, Weir House represented an anchor or mainstay in a time of great transition.

Relocating from the provinces, we as first year university residents were faced with many new challenges and things to discover. The discovery of an exciting cosmopolitan city, with the new experiences associated with the diversity we were unaccustomed. University education and higher learning – the discovery of new concepts and ideas. The discovery of ourselves, as we transitioned into adult-hood; our identity, our values; what's important to us.

Weir House facilitated these journeys of discovery. But, importantly, Weir House also provided routine, dependable home comforts and certainty during the vicissitudes of early university life.

Secondly, what does Weir represent to me as an alumnus?

Without doubt, it is friendship and rich ongoing relationship.

As solid and charming as the physical structures of Weir House were and are, the buildings are empty shells without the warmth and humanity manifest by the people that occupied them.

As I toured the building this afternoon, it was the holographic faces of my fellow residents generated by my memory that bought the real smile to my face. My friends and neighbours. And it's those relationships that were the greatest gift Weir gave to us. Relationships we continue to enjoy.

Friendships that continue on a daily basis. More distant friendships that get renewed in taverns in London, winebars in Toronto or cafes in Melbourne. Friendships that exists virtually, in the form of an occasional poke on social networking sites like Facebook.

Or friendships that exist as that warm glow when one hears of the different paths people have walked down. Senior partner in a law firm. Mother and homemaker. Professional athlete. Comedian. Old English Scholar. Civil servant. That glows as one thinks, we shared a couple of steps on that journey together.

It was a pleasure to share my time of discovery with such delightful and dependable friends. And it's been a pleasure today renewing and refreshing those acquaintances.

I look forward to doing so again in 25 years at the Centenary!

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Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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