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Public law lecturer Andrew Geddis is known for his use of social and print media to commentate on social and legal issues.
Last week, he was awarded the 2019 critic and conscience of society award from the Gama Foundation, a charitable trust established by philanthropists Marilyn and Grant Nelson.
The role of academic as critic and conscience had to apply to all levels of society, including institutions themselves if changes were putting rights or freedom of speech at risk, Prof Geddis said.
His criticisms in the last year included things "the institution itself has done that I thought were wrong.''
That included some of the actions of the university's Campus Watch and proctor, after copies of the Critic Te Arohi student magazine "menstruation issue'' were destroyed.
"To the university's credit and the proctor's credit, they accepted that.''
The award presentation was held on campus, where the foundation was also a sponsor of the university's legal issues centre.
Among other issues Prof Geddis had given his opinion on are reform of the legal controls on using money to influence election campaigns and the unjust consequences of some applications of the "three strikes'' law.
Prof Geddis also criticised former deputy prime minister Paula Bennett for proposing that police be permitted to search gang members' houses at will for firearms and for saying that gang members have "fewer human rights than others''.
The award is accompanied by a cheque for $50,000 to be used for research purposes.