Uni staff outraged at 'sickeningly cruel' flat hazings

The university’s character is apparently unchanged, and yet this may be no more than an illusion....
University of Otago staff called for a crackdown on "sickeningly cruel" flat initiations amid fears of long-term reputational damage to the institution.

The concern from staff came after Otago Daily Times and other media reported on a series of flat initiations, which involved second-year students hazing first-year students moving into the flats they were vacating in 2024.

The flat initiations included students allegedly biting the legs off live ducks, women being told to strip and called piggies and an incident involving a live eel.

In email communication released to the ODT under the Official Information Act, university staff emailed senior management saying they were concerned for the university’s reputation.

"Letting this behaviour continue damages the university’s reputation and might have long-term consequences," one staff member wrote.

"These students clearly have never realised that being an Otago University student is a privilege and carries moral responsibilities.

"It is our duty to maintain the integrity and values that define the University of Otago," the staff member said.

Staff also expressed their outrage, one saying they wanted to express their "absolute disgust" at the behaviour reported on.

"These students are part of the university community, and I believe their actions can be considered to have an impact on and within the community," the writer said.

"There are no circumstances in which these reported actions can be considered anything other than depraved, sickeningly cruel, and sociopathic."

Many of the emails called for a crackdown on flat initiations, for the university to take immediate and decisive action and for the expulsion of the students involved.

"The repercussions of these events, regardless of their location, resonate across our entire student and staff community."

In emails also provided to the ODT, acting vice-chancellor Prof Helen Nicholson responded to staff concerns by saying the student code of conduct was very clear on initiations and stated that organising or participating in any initiation event or ceremony that jeopardises fellow students’ wellbeing was strictly forbidden.

"I assure you that we take allegations of cruelty to both animals and humans very seriously.

"When we have evidence, we will do everything within our power to both prevent them and to respond to them appropriately and lawfully."

The ODT asked the university for the number of students disciplined as a result of flat initiations this year, including the number expelled.

The university responded that processes in relation to those questions were "under way and continuing".