Improved student behaviour welcomed

Harlene Hayne
Harlene Hayne
University of Otago vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne has applauded a big ''downward trend in poor behaviour'' among Otago students, but also warned against complacency.

A report from the university's proctor's office highlighted a continued ''downward trend'' in all measured areas of Otago student misbehaviour last year.

Reductions had been achieved in fires, breaking glass, disorder and intentional damage, and there had been an overall drop of 14.2%, down 147 to 888, in ''total offences'' last year, the proctor's report said.

Prof Hayne was ''very proud'' of the progress made in countering antisocial behaviour by some students, and there had been ''a significant and steady downward trend'' in student offending.

Also, for the first time in many years, university provost Ken Hodge had referred no discipline cases to the vice-chancellor last year.

Prof Hayne was commenting in a memorandum initially discussed in the closed section of yesterday's University Council meeting, but later released to the public.

Proctor Dave Scott and the deputy proctor last year undertook a ''proactive education campaign'' over student initiation events, and personally visited 50 flats with a history of hosting such events.

The university had long undertaken a ''concerted and lengthy programme'' to reduce anti-social behaviour among Otago students.

Initiatives such as introducing Campus Watch and the Code of Student Conduct, as well as closed circuit television camera implementation and extensive proactive campaigns by the proctor and OUSA to educate students had proved ''very effective'' in targeting fire-lighting, glass breaking and, latterly, flat initiations.

The university would continue to advance initiatives such as Te Whare Tawharu - Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Centre, which was established last year.

Drugs and excessive alcohol consumption remained ''major contributors to antisocial behaviour'' and were also ''nationwide problems'', which had to be addressed by New Zealand society as a whole, she said.

Nine misconduct incidents had been reported to Prof Hodge, last year, down on 14 incidents in 2017, and 23, 22 and 25, respectively, from 2014 to 2016.

Prof Hodge had for the first time received referrals over alleged sexual offending, including one allegation of ''low level offending'', which was upheld in a case involving a graduate student and a fellow student.

The offender was required to complete 20 hours of community service with community groups supporting victims of sexual offending, and given a final warning.

A first-year student was required to write several letters of apology, to pay reparations costs, and undertake 60 hours of community service, and received a final warning after setting fire to a flat's wheelie bin.

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