Tighter grip on student behaviour

More students are being disciplined for unruly behaviour, but the university says the increase is down to the occupants of a few bad flats.

Disciplinary figures released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act showed university proctor Simon Thompson dealt with 290 cases in the first six months this year, a 17% increase on the corresponding period last year.

The university had also ramped up the number of fines it was dishing out to students, which went from 39 fines and a total of $5585 in the first six months of last year to 103 fines and a total of $13,732 this year.

Mr Thompson said despite an increase in cases, ''overall'' student behaviour was improving.

''This increase can be attributed to the occupants of a small number of flats being seen on a number of occasions,'' he said.

Ramping up the number of fines was part of new efforts to improve student behaviour, which included Campus Watch placing extra emphasis on preventive measures and pastoral care.

There was also more emphasis being placed on the importance of academic performance, especially during orientation. The most common cases dealt with by the proctor were for disorderly behaviour (86) and wilfully breaking glass (51).

Four of the most serious cases were referred to vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne - down from five in the corresponding period last year - with three of those students kicked out of the university for a semester.

One student was kicked out for throwing a bottle at a police van during a disturbance on Castle St and the other two for attempting to escape police custody.

A punishment had not been settled on for the fourth student seen by Prof Hayne, who had been involved in incidents, including stealing a box of beer and kicking the side of taxi van trailer.

The number of students dealt with by the provost - who deals with more serious cases than the proctor - increased from seven in the first half of last year to 14 this year.

Mr Thompson said the university was ''generally'' happy with behaviour in the student quarter.

''We need to keep in mind that the vast majority of our 21,000 students cause no trouble whatsoever.

''As in the past, the bad behaviour of a few reflects badly on the rest.''

The reasons behind student misbehaviour were much the same as always.

''The reasons are still generally caused by youth, poor judgement and alcohol consumption.''

Otago University Students' Association president Ruby Sycamore-Smith said the student behaviour was ''definitely'' improving.

-vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz