Retailers call for toga ban

Urban Angel's Natalie Garner (22), of Dunedin, Bridgman and Deans manager Jenni Gillions and staff from Andrea Biani clean their shop-fronts. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Urban Angel's Natalie Garner (22), of Dunedin, Bridgman and Deans manager Jenni Gillions and staff from Andrea Biani clean their shop-fronts. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Angry George St retailers, who spent hours removing egg, blood, vomit and faeces from shop-fronts yesterday, are calling for the annual student toga parade in Dunedin to be cancelled and for the students association to pick up the cleaning bill.

City and university leaders have also condemned those responsible for the disorder.

"I think this is disgusting. I am holding the Otago University Students Association responsible for this and I will be sending them, not my insurance company, the bill for cleaning up this mess," Bezett Jewellers owner and city councillor John Bezett said following Tuesday's events.

Cr Bezett said the future of the toga parade would undoubtedly come before the Dunedin City Council, and he would advocate for its cancellation.

"The organisers should be ashamed of themselves."

His sentiments were endorsed by other retailers, many of whom had to close their doors for several hours while staff scrubbed the remains of the parade mayhem from windows, entrances and the footpath.

With staff spending two hours cleaning eggs, blood, vomit, faeces and paint from outside Quest, manager Beau Jeffries said the shop would support moves to cancel the parade.

"This was just out of control. I don't understand how they can get permission to do this."

Meridian mall manager Michael Porter said the mall had to employ a professional cleaning company "to remove the pungent stench of faecal matter, vomit and urine from outside our doors".

The cleaning bill and repairs to smashed signs would amount to more than $1000 and the mall would be writing a letter to OUSA to recover costs, he said.

The Otago University Students Association, organiser of the Orientation event, was reviewing what went wrong, president Edwin Darlow said.

Tuesday's parade of 2000 first-year students resulted in bystanders pelting participants with eggs, windows being smashed and rubbish being thrown on to the street.

"It was not an ideal event," he said. "We don't condone this sort of behaviour."

Mr Darlow said it was too early to talk about cancelling the event, but the OUSA had begun a review to ascertain what went wrong.

Issues such as compensation for retailers would be discussed as part of the review, as would the number of volunteers involved in crowd control, he said.

Parade participants spoken to by the Otago Daily Times blamed much of the disorder on bystanders and said they "were simply victims of the violence".

It was unclear if the bystanders involved were students, Mr Darlow said.

Following the incident, students who were caught misbehaving would be dealt with by the proctor, and the OUSA would continue to work with police to "resolve any issues".

Representation does't mean paying for every member's mistakes

OUSA never has automatically paid for damage done during protests, for exactly the reason above - some people would go nuts if they thought they wouldn't be liable for the damage and that OUSA would pick up the tab. Each case is judged on its merits.
In this case there's almost nothing OUSA could have done to predict or stop what happened. The idiots - both students and non-students - who escalated it from a slightly messy fun parade into the stupidity it became should be liable. And should not have OUSA cover for them.
The problems were started by non-participants throwing an unpredictably large amount of nasty stuff at the parade. There was nothing OUSA could have done to predict this. If someone dumped a bucket of unmentionables on me during a parade, I (and most other people) would throw whatever I could find back at them. There was nothing OUSA could have reasonably done to stop this once it started.
They gave it a good try mind: If you see the coverage you'll see exec and events staff forcibly taking eggs off intoxicated bystanders - which is well above their job descriptions. Also they were cleaning the street until the early hours of the morning.
But equally important in this case in deciding who pays, I can not see any reason why the idiots who cracked windows shouldn't face the consequences of their own actions?
As you know OUSA goes to great lengths to represent its members, but representation does not mean paying for member's stupid actions.

Taking responsibility

Oh absolutely mate, I agree that a degree of personal responsibility should be exercised. OUSAs main job now is to discuss how they can salvage students' reputations from this and on the other hand provide students a decent toga event for O week.
OUSA in the past has taken financial responsibility for student stupidity before, ie, when students cause a little damage during protests. I'm not saying they should in this instance, despite some of the simularities but it is food for thought. How far will OUSA go to represent their members?

What about personal responsibility?

Yes, OUSA should indeed be taking some responsibility when their events wrong - even though the problems with the Toga parade were not caused by OUSA's organisation and were beyond their control.
But this does not mean OUSA should be taking financial responsibility for the stupidity of some members' behavior and thus letting those individuals of the hook.
Indeed if they did this would lead to worse behavior issues, as it allows disrespectful individuals to act as they please - without having to worry about the financial consequences. And that's just asking for trouble...

Toga parade ban

I totally agree that it should be banned. Let's have a poll and see how the results turn out
Serena Weatherall

Agreed to a point....

Students will be students and these acts are commonplace outside the main street of Dunedin. The problem is that putting student hijinks into a public area like George Street is always going to ask for trouble.
As for blaming the student association, its a tough call. But Baxter you have it wrong about individuals being responsible and not OUSA. OUSA is the representative of all students at the University whether they like it or not - so they should be taking an active interest in student activities and taking collective responsibility for when it goes wrong. :)


Some overlooked facts:

While there's no excusing the behaviour and that students played a significant role, and I can understand the anger of retailers et al. But the facts need to be calmly examined before wild allegations and threats are tossed about.

Some salient facts seem to be neglected:

  • A large amount of the problems were initiated by onlookers, not by the students on the parade. Many of these onlookers were not students.
  • I'd also be more than a little annoyed if people threw buckets of various bodily fluids on me during a parade. And I daresay thus somewhat badly behaved.
  • Not all students were involved. Indeed many on the parade were surprised and frighted by the attack.
  • It was not the organisers who sent masses of students to the event an hour early.
  • Organisers for any event can not be liable for people who unexpectedly crash the event and cause havoc.
  • Officials from students' associations were cleaning up the mess until the early hours of the morning, despite the majority of it not coming from their parade goers.

So in response to the retailers requests:

Firstly, students' associations can't be liable for the actions of individual idiots. That would simply open the flood gates for more idiots to act as they pleased at such events and simply expect someone else to pay the bill. Simply, the idiots who cracked windows should indeed be responsible, and pay for them themselves and face any appropriate charges.

Secondly, retailers are right though to call for an end to the parade. The parade is not tradition and would not really be missed. While the Toga Party is an old OU tradition, the parade is only a relatively recent addition created, perhaps ironically now, so students could travel in an orderly fashion to the gig's new venue in the city centre (at the behest of the DCC I might point out). Now this gig is no longer in the city centre it is probably largely pointless.

While I doubt circumstance of a cancelled sports day and a a botch up with the times by halls is likely to happen again on the same day, the event now risks growing it's own notoriety like the Undy 500, so ending it in its current format probably is a good idea.

But spouting off and blaming students in general probably isn't.

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