University complainant speaks out

A man who dropped a high-profile court case against the University of Otago has broken his silence, but the university will not follow suit.

The North Island man, whose name is suppressed, took the university to court last month seeking financial compensation after his child missed out on a spot in the medical school because of an admission policy which favoured under-represented groups.

After only weeks in the headlines, however, the applicant discontinued the legal proceedings and a joint statement was issued, in which

the university confirmed no compensation had been paid to the man, nor was there any resolution to change the admission policy for the medical school.

The parties had agreed "not to make further comment", the statement said.

However, yesterday the man behind the legal challenge contravened that agreement, telling Stuff he was happy his efforts created "robust" debate about the process.

He hoped the university would follow through on its undertaking to increase transparency and said he did not regret lodging the proceedings.

"I would do it again tomorrow if I had to," he said.

The university refused to answer questions from the Otago Daily Times about the legality of the man speaking out or whether it would take legal action against him as a result.

The comments were a stark turnaround from several weeks ago when the man ducked for cover as public interest in the case ballooned.

The applicant’s lawyer, John Maassen, said his client faced "the risk of toxic bullying and harassment" if his identity was revealed.

He also sought an order that anyone given access to the court file be subject to an order that they not contact the applicant or his family by way of social media or otherwise.

Associate Judge Dale Lester said he did not have the jurisdiction to make such a ruling.

The University of Otago’s current medical school entry criteria gives preference to indigenous, Pacific, rural, low socioeconomic and refugee students, under the "Mirror on Society" policy.

Court documents filed by the applicant took issue with that because it discriminated against students outside those groups.

He claimed it was a breach of the Education Act.

The man sought several declarations from the university, including that its admission policy for the 2020 academic year was unlawful — something the university strongly rejected.

"The University remains fully committed to the principles which underpin its Mirror on Society Policy," this week’s joint statement said.

Victoria University law lecturer Eddie Clark told RNZ this week he was not surprised the legal action was pulled by the applicant.

"The simple fact is, the law wasn’t on their side," he said.

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