A University of Otago recommendation to remove a more
than 120-year-old right allowing graduates to vote for members
of its ruling body has been called an attack on democracy.
The university's ''Court of Convocation'' rules, which have
been in place since 1891, previously meant its 75,000 alumni
had the chance to elect three of up to 20 members on the
This tradition looks likely to change, after an Otago
University spokeswoman said the council had decided to
recommend a change to the process so Court of Convocation
candidates were elected by the council, rather than alumni.
The soon-to-be-made recommendation would need to be approved
by Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce.
If approved, the new process meant graduates would be able to
apply or be nominated for vacant positions on the council and
successful candidates would be chosen by the council.
''The council hopes that this will lead to an increase in the
number of graduates being willing to offer themselves for
membership of council, and it will also give the opportunity
for ensuring that the council has the best balance of skills
across its membership,'' she said.
She noted there had been a ''very low'' turnout in recent
elections - less than 6% in the most recent two elections.
The elections also came at considerable cost.
Student politics veteran and Otago University Students'
Association life member Mark Baxter said the move was an
''attack on democracy''.
''They don't really want to know any of the stakeholders'
opinions if it's contrary to running it as a business.''
It came at a time when democracy at universities was already
under threat. Mr Joyce is expected to announce changes to the
make-up of university councils soon.
''I'm guessing the university is just getting in before [Mr
Joyce] does, I presume in the hope that they can at least
keep some kind of graduate representation,'' he said.
A spokesman for Mr Joyce said in a statement: ''The minister
has not yet received any notice from Otago University in
relation to this issue. If he does, he will consider it in