Flat initiation warning: 'I fear someone will die'

Dave Scott.
Dave Scott.
A grim warning about the danger of Dunedin student flat initiations has been issued by the university proctor, who fears someone could die if things do not change.

An email from University of Otago proctor Dave Scott, passed to the Otago Daily Times, said initiation season was ''upon us'', and urged both flatmates and guests to be careful.

The email was addressed to students, and Mr Scott confirmed it had gone out to halls of residence to be distributed.

''Often there is a power imbalance, with guests being forced or coerced into dangerous, antisocial and often unlawful behaviour,'' Mr Scott said in the email.

''I genuinely fear that unless significant changes are made there will be a student death. History would tell us that a death is often the catalyst for a culture change in these matters - I am seeking a change before a tragedy occurs.''

Flat initiations were held in September and October, when students signing up for flats for the next year were initiated by the existing flatmates.

Last year, initiations led to disciplinary action against 17 University of Otago students, including nine exclusions.

At the start of the year, students were excluded for a 2017 initiation dubbed ''sadistic'' by Mr Scott.

Hundreds of students cheered as people with their heads shaved stripped down to their underwear and skulled drinks until they vomited.

Otago University Students' Association president Caitlin Barlow-Groome said second-year flat initiations were ''fairly common'' but the majority were held in safe conditions.

OUSA student support manager Sage Burke said problematic initiations usually involved challenges and excessive alcohol.

Under the university's Code of Conduct alcohol and drug consumption as part of an initiation ceremony is forbidden.

The email told hosts to consider the safety and legality of the events they held, and whether pressure was being placed on their guests.

Mr Scott also reminded guests that initiations had nothing to do with their tenancy agreements and they did not have to participate.

He would be visiting flats involved in ''poorly-run events'' in the past to deliver the message.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

Comments

Well said Mr Scott, 100% agree, I've been in an industry where they had a culture of alcohol and initiations in some areas, not being part of the initiations can put the person on the out. Fortunately the industry I was in had its own discipline and we were always taught to look after your mates, we would appoint one or two people who would not drink when going out and they would look after us ensuring people were safe, unfortunately that has gone in most cases. Have you considered, a night class where they attend a brief with police, A+E , AA, and sign a pledge where they are held accountable for there actions and can dismissed from the unit?

The offenders are the existing flatmates. Those coerced or bullied are less culpable.

Well done Proctor for stating the obvious- but saying it! What I read of the 'welcome to Otago university' is uncivilised and certainly not acceptable behaviour in any society. As a health professional I'm aware of all the dangerous conditions it can lead to. They are parentless children when they arrive in our city so somebody has to take control. They are guests and should behave as they would in their parental home.

Nash yes they are children they are parentless but they are young dumb and full off them selfs so they are going to explore the world, The police and Proctor could have taken control years ago but thanks to the PC people have stopped that, we are where we are,I don't think Otago university' is uncivilised it has its hands tied until something goes wrong and then the full force of blame will come down on the uni and the proctor.