Big rise in serious disciplinary matters

The number of serious disciplinary matters at the University of Otago almost doubled over the past two years.

Annual university disciplinary reports show 27 students - involving 23 separate incidents - were referred to the provost for misconduct last year, up from 13 incidents in 2013.

Nine students were referred to vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne, with seven excluded - two indefinitely.

At the same time, numbers dealt with by the university proctor fell, from 530 in 2013 to 482 last year.

Director of student services Karyn Thomson said the numbers were not a cause for alarm, as the tenants of two troublesome flats accounted for much of the increase.

''The almost single reason for this increase was two flats which repeatedly breached the student code of conduct, and eventually all were sent to the provost,'' she said.

Students who breach the code of conduct face the proctor, who can then refer them to the provost if the matter is serious.

The provost can then refer them to the vice-chancellor if exclusion is considered necessary.

The provost's report showed students were referred for throwing bottles, starting fires, abusing others and theft, among other offences.

In one case, a second-year student threw a bottle at a police van and then attempted to escape from custody.

He was excluded from the university for the second semester last year.

Two other students were excluded for the same incident after being arrested for disorderly behaviour.

A first-year student was excluded indefinitely for assaulting another student and a Campus Watch member while intoxicated.

The man's behaviour had come to the attention of the proctor earlier in the year.

In another case, two first-year students were fined $550 by the provost for throwing bottles at a University College flat.

Four students were dealt with by the provost for starting fires and one for possessing cannabis paraphernalia.

Ms Thomson said student behaviour, in general, had improved compared with previous years.

''In 2013, the university did increase the maximum value of fines that the proctor could impose, especially in the case of involvement with fires and disorder or breaking glass.''

This resulted in $23,587 in fines being imposed last year - well above the $12,465 for the previous year.

The proctor dealt with 482 students, down from 530 for 2013.

''The Proctor's Office spoke with fewer than 500 students in 2014,'' Ms Thomson said.

''This is a very small percentage of the 20,000-plus students who attend the university, study hard, enjoy the experience and are never required to attend the Proctor's Office.''

Of the 482, 130 were fined, 120 paid compensation, 36 were trespassed, 18 completed hours of work, 17 made donations and 157 received warnings.

The proctor's report notes that it was the lowest number of students dealt with by the Proctor's Office for the past four years and the number of students pulled up for fires and breaking glass was down.

The report described the decline in student disorder as ''overall a pleasing result''.

Eight students appealed to the provost against the proctor or deputy proctor's decisions.

Seven were declined and one was withdrawn.

Two students appealed against a fine for organising an initiation event at a residential college.

Ms Thomson said the university was cracking down on such events.

''Initiation events that involve coercion and drinking large quantities of alcohol are strongly discouraged. There are a large number of initiation events which can be fun and do not involve excessive drinking.''

Seventeen students were dealt with by way of police diversion in 2014.

timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

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