Students' behaviour 'improved out of sight'

University of Otago Campus Watch worker Steve Crosland says he will miss the banter with students...
University of Otago Campus Watch worker Steve Crosland says he will miss the banter with students. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
A retiring Campus Watch staffer says University of Otago students’ behaviour has improved "out of sight" in the past decade.

Steve Crosland finishes his role next week after more than 15 years of patrolling the campus to keep students safe.

He started the job a couple of years after the role was established at the university in 2007 in response to poor student behaviour around the campus.

"When we started, there wasn’t really a model for what we were doing.

"There were people everywhere, especially late evening because of all the pubs in the area.

"These days, a busy Saturday night here would be more like a Sunday back then. I don’t think students drink as much."

The role involved a lot of "thinking on your feet".

"It’s a bit like a police role, there’s a lot of pastoral care.

"I think student behaviour has improved out of sight.

"You’re a contact between everybody — the police, the ambulance, student health and students in general."

The university’s website says the purpose of Campus Watch is to "foster and maintain a safe and secure campus environment that encourages and enables all students to realise their maximum potential".

That required a lot of walking around the campus every day, Mr Crosland said.

"I must walk about 10km per day on my rounds, so it keeps me active."

He recalled the early days of the Hyde St Party, before it became a ticketed event.

"I thought it was the best thing I had been at sober, but I’d say the fact it became a ticketed event was probably a good thing.

"Most of the students have a lot of fun. There’s a few that go overboard."

Students had gradually embraced Campus Watch, particularly during bigger events such as St Patrick’s Day.

"Initially, Campus Watch was perceived as ‘the enemy’ by some students because we were the new kids on the block, but once they realise we’re here to help, the banter is great."

When he started, the campus was surrounded by bars and other drinking establishments.

"At the beginning, the Gardens Tavern used to be open — you would have about 300 students walk from the tavern all the way down Castle St. It was really hard to manage.

"Students tend to stay in flats, or pre-load these days.

"The students you spend 90% of your time with are the ones you rather wouldn’t."

Campus Watch is organised into five teams who work a set roster which enables the Proctor’s Office to have sufficient staff on the street 24/7 to cover the busier times of the year.

"If there’s something too big to handle, you direct them to the right services," Mr Crosland said.

"There are a lot of cameras around campus. There wasn’t in the old days.

"You get to know which situations where you can assist, but your role is to be seen."