Offences by students drop 48% in year

Two University of Otago students who climbed on a fire engine and incited people to throw bottles were among a dwindling number dealt with for serious incidents last year.

Disciplinary figures released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act showed the two second-year students were suspended for a semester, as the university continues its no-nonsense attitude towards students involved in fire lighting or bottle throwing.

This no-nonsense attitude appears to be paying dividends, with the number of students involved in incidents serious enough to be referred to the provost dropping 48% from 25 in 2012 to 13 last year.

Nine of the 13 cases were referred up to vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne - down from the 15 in 2012 - of which six students were excluded from the university for a semester and one excluded indefinitely for fraud.

Those excluded from the university included the pair ''who climbed on to a fire truck, and incited a large crowd resulting in bottles being thrown, endangering fire service and campus watch members''. The fire truck had been extinguishing a couch fire on Castle St.

Another second-year student was excluded for carrying a couch outside and setting it on fire close to two dwellings.

Director of student services David Richardson told the ODT the university was pleased about the downward trend in misbehaviour. The university's message on lighting fires was ''very clear''.

''Such activities are both illegal and high risk and students who allow themselves to become involved in such activities are putting their futures at this university seriously at risk.''

Otago University Students' Association president Ruby Sycamore-Smith said the figures showed a minority of students got into trouble.

''The majority of students are here to study and have a good time without risking their place at Otago or causing any trouble.''

The proctor dealt with 530 students last year, up from 512 in 2012.

Proctor Simon Thompson noted in his report that numbers of students seen in relation to fires, breaking glass and being unlawfully on buildings dropped by a ''significant figure''.

The number of fire-related incidents dropped from 246 in 2012 to 188 last year and ''unlawfully breaks glass incidents'' dropped from 75 to 45.

Of the students seen by the proctor, just under half (246) were warned, 99 were fined, 35 completed hours of work, 32 made donations, 61 paid compensation and 48 were trespassed. The total value of fines paid by students was $12,465, down from $14,860 the year before when a total of 106 were fined.

A fourth-year University of Otago student has been indefinitely excluded from the university for stealing money from the students' association of which she was president. The university's punishment comes after former president of the Maori Law Students' Association Charlotte Harata Solomon was convicted last year of taking a total of $1736.59 from the association's bank account by making false invoices.

She was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court in October to nine months' supervision and ordered to pay court costs $260 and the outstanding reparation.

Disciplinary figures released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act yesterday showed Solomon was last year also excluded from the university indefinitely for the fraud.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz