Claims of naked, boozy antics at Otago University law school camp

Otago University is investigating a boozy camp for law students allegedly featuring nudity and...
Otago University is investigating a boozy camp for law students allegedly featuring nudity and jelly wrestling for selected female students.
The University of Otago is under scrutiny amid claims of jelly wrestling and naked drinking games at boozy camps for student lawyers — attended by at least one senior staff member.

The camp for second year students has been held for the last 10 years and this year's event is due to take place next weekend.

But student organisers have vowed to clampown on drunkenness and ban "full nudity" — as the university probes a complaint about inappropriate behaviour.

One student told the Herald on Sunday she attended the camp in 2012 and said it rapidly descended into "an American fraternity house, or what you see in those American movies."

The 25-year-old said she soon discovered it was, in her opinion, a weekend designed to get the students drunk and to take part in "bizarre" activities. Some were fun, but others were uncomfortable, she said.

The group of about 150 students was split into groups of five that had one fifth year student as their leader.

One girl was selected from each group to take part in a jelly wrestling competition.

"There was a sense of confusion and some were a little grossed out by it — obviously no one wants to call it out because there was a lot of social pressure.

"All the senior fifth year students pulled out chairs right next to the pit while everyone sort of sat back."

She had not laid a complaint, but yesterday Otago University confirmed one complaint was under investigation.

"We received concerns from a person this afternoon about a law camp from a number of years ago," a spokeswoman said.

"The concerns outline inappropriate behaviour allegedly witnessed at a law camp. This concern is taken seriously and will be promptly investigated."

The university said it had also previously received complaints from two parents — one about excessive drinking and another about "nudity during a student performance".

Professor Tony Ballantyne, Pro-Vice Chancellor of humanities, the concerns were addressed and "it was made clear to those participating in future camps that respectful behaviour is required of them".

In a statement, the university went on to say that staff members attend the camp.

"Mostly the person who attends is the Dean of the Law Faculty as an invited guest."

The Dean, Professor Mark Henaghan (63), last week announced he was leaving his role after 19 years to take up a post with Auckland University next year.

Asked if any students had complained about the behaviour of staff, the spokeswoman said: "In light of today's concerns about a camp held several years ago further inquiries are required about this event. Student safety and welfare at these events is paramount."

It comes as the culture of the legal profession in New Zealand is under intense scrutiny after allegations that male Russell McVeagh employees engaged in sexual acts with female interns.

Last week, all six of New Zealand's law schools cut ties with Russell McVeagh in the wake of sexual harassment accusations.

The student who went in 2012 said the purpose of the camp seemed to be "to get into survival mode because you have no other option".

"In the Russell McVeagh things there was an age difference — and in these things there's an age difference between the people who run it and the second years, who are still pretty new to the university life.

"And then of course the Dean being there, it makes you feel that you have to accept that this is an element of the legal profession."

The woman, who now works as a lawyer, said one of the strangest activities was a talent quest.

"One group, I think it was a whole bunch of guys, all stripped off and one lay down on the floor while others stood above him.

"Someone then poured beer down their butt cracks with the person at the bottom drinking it."

"There is definitely stripteasing and flat out nudity."

The Herald on Sunday spoke to three other students who did not want to be identified but told similar stories from camps they had attended.

The Society of Otago University Law Students (SOULS), which organises the event said changes had been made in time for next weekend's camp.

"These changes were made under the guidance of the Vice-Chancellor, the Law Faculty and the University Proctor.

"These include doubling the number of leaders so that each group has a male and female leader; requiring these leaders to be sober; and making the expectation clear that there is to be no full nudity at any time during the Camp."

Otago University said the camp was sanctioned by the university and signed off at University Proctor level.

However, it said the behaviour outlined was unacceptable. It would not say whether staff were attending this year's camp.

"An event management plan to provide for safe drinking and behaviour is implemented with the students. The University's Student Code of Conduct applies at the events."

The university did not pay for accommodation or alcohol, but provided a security person and catering.

The Herald on Sunday was unable to contact Professor Henaghan for comment on Saturday night.

 - Herald on Sunday

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