One in 400 Auckland students turns up to fees protest

October 21st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

University of Auckland students have rallied to protest fee rises, saying it will saddle them with long-running debt issues.

Around 100 students gathered at the university’s quad on Monday to protest a proposed 3 per cent rise in course fees. …

Carrying lunches and the occasional placard, the students crowded the quad to protest those increases. A stage and PA system were set up for speakers, who included student representatives and politicians.

Probably wasn’t even 100 as some would have been there just for lunch.

So 41,853 Auckland students did not attend the rally, and 100 did.

I guess Princes Street Labour doesn’t have the members it once did.

A good initiative from Auckland University

July 13th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Auckland University has introduced a compulsory course to clear up the often murky guidelines around academic dishonesty.

The university’s online academic integrity course was made compulsory for all students this year, making Auckland the only tertiary institution in New Zealand where such a test is mandatory.

Students who do not complete the test face having their enrolment “discontinued”, according to Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) John Morrow.

Morrow said the course was not an attempt to reduce cheating at the university.

“It’s not about dishonesty as such, it’s about students learning how they can use printed and published resources in an effective way in their own work,” he said.

He admitted it did have the “advantage that if students do behave dishonestly, it’s difficult for them to claim it’s on the basis of ignorance”.

The online world allows this to be done easily. It’s a very good idea.

A two hour course and test is not a lot of time, over a three or longer year degree.

Auckland University funding NZUSA

October 29th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

There is a very interesting Employment Relations Authority determination just published between AUSA and its former general manager.

The determination itself is basically about how AUSA almost went bankrupt, and the General Manager didn’t keep the Executive well enough informed. They were deemed justified in sacking him for this. They will be pleased their actions were justified by the ruling. In fact they seem to have followed better process than many other employers.

But what really struck me from the determination was this extract:

The Office of the Vice Chancellor (OVC) informed that in order to assist AUSA to be “a progressive and sustainable student organisation that delivers high quality services to students”, it was prepared to amend the 2012 Services Agreement to include funding of the NZUSA and SJS levies.

That is beyond outrageous. NZUSA is a political lobby group that gets involves with highly contentious non-core student issues such as asset sales. To have Auckland University agree to fund NZUSA is nuts. I can only presume that Auckland University has so much money it can spend some on funding lobby groups. well the Government should remember that the next time the university claims it needs more taxpayer funding.

Even worse, the Parliament of New Zealand passed a law mandating that membership of student associations must be voluntary. Having the university fund AUSA for its membership of NZUSA is a clear subversion of the law.

As I said, the easy thing for the Government to do is use this as an example every time the tertiary sector claims it has not enough money. What next – will Auckland University also start funding Greypower on behalf of its mature students?

University funding

November 20th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Collins in NZ Herald reports:

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce told a Herald series on job/skill mismatches, which began yesterday, that he would direct the university to take more engineering and science students if it did not do so voluntarily in response to funding changes.

This year’s Budget lifted funding for engineering by $42 million, or 8.8 per cent, and for science by $17 million (2 per cent), while funding for all other subjects was frozen.

But Auckland vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon told the Herald that the increases were paid as a bulk fund and the university did not have to put it all into engineering and science.

Ummm. Do I have this right? The Government gives Auckland University some extra money for engineering and science (because we have skill shortages in those areas) and the university thinks it can just take the money, and spend it on the Arts Faculty???

A Pacific community leader has warned of a “Pasifika uprising” if the Government goes through with a threat to force Auckland University to take more engineering students, which may cause redundancies in other faculties.

Rev Uesifili UNasa, the university’s chaplain and head of Auckland Council’s Pacific Peoples Advisory Panel, said the move threatened Pacific participation in the university, which was concentrated in faculties such as arts and education.

“I’m very disturbed by the threat from minister Joyce. I can see a Pasifika uprising on this threat,” he said.

Wouldn’t the better thing be to encourage more Pacific students into science and egineering?

Another Pacific leader at the university, Dr Airini, head of the School of Critical Studies in Education, said more Pacific students needed to be recruited into engineering and science. “Mr Joyce is right. We do need to see that profile of Pasifika people in engineering. We also need to see that profile in education. It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and,” she said.

“This is actually about New Zealand’s workforce development. We need to see a Pasifika presence in all of these areas because Pasifika are actually a big part of our younger population that will be essential for driving ahead NZ Inc’s future.”

A much more sensible view.

Philanthropic funding of universities

December 6th, 2010 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A reader pointed this out to me:

Philanthropic support totalling $120 million has been given for research and learning at The University of Auckland since 2006, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, announced tonight.

The University’s “Leading the Way” fundraising Campaign aims to raise $150 million by the end of 2012, an achievement that would make it as successful as any campaign in Australasian university history. Originally set at $100 million, the Campaign target was raised as philanthropic funds given through the University’s advancement, research, and scholarships offices were pooled.

Globally, the most successful universities always have graduates who are willing to donate back to the university they went to. It is good to see Auckland University doing so well.

Over the years 11 families, organisations, and individuals have each given more than $5 million to support the University, including: the Goodfellow family, who established the Maclaurin Chapel and have supported healthcare education and many other activities; the Neal and Annette Plowman family, who established an endowment fund to support business growth and innovation; and the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust, funders of ophthalmology and child health research.

Also included are several New Zealand organisations: the Auckland Medical Research Foundation; the Cancer Society Auckland; the ASB Community Trust; the Neurological Foundation and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board; as well as high-profile philanthropist Owen Glenn, who has funded improvements in business education, marine science and cancer research, and who was in Auckland for the event. …

A further 35 donors, each of whom has made gifts totalling between $1 million and $5 million, were named members of the Sir George Fowlds Society, after a former Minister of Education and Chair of Auckland University College.

A third group, the 179 donors who have each given between $100,000 and $1 million, were honoured as members of the Sir Douglas Robb Society. Sir Douglas was the primary force behind establishing the School of Medicine in Auckland.

So 11 families have given more than $5 million, 46 have given more than $1 million and 225 have given more than $100,000. That’s fantastic philanthropy.

Data galore

November 26th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

MSD commissioned a longitudinal survey of 7,000 children born from 2008 to 2010 in the Aucland and Waikato areas. Auckland University will continue surveying them until they reach 21 years old. This is going to give us a huge amount of incredibly useful data, and yesterday the first tranche was released.

The study has a dedicated website at Growing Up.

The large size of 7,000 means it can be taken to reflect the whole of NZ. Already the antenatal data is fascinating:

  • 40 percent of children were unplanned
  • More than one in 10 mothers continued to smoke through their pregnancies, including 34% of Maori mothers. Onlu 0.4% of Asian mothers smoke during pregnancy.
  • Many mothers consumed alcohol during pregnancy
  • Forty nine percent of mothers identify as NZ European, 18 percent as Māori, 15 percent as Pacific and 15 percent as Asian
  • One in three of the Growing Up children have at least one parent born overseas
  • One in five children will grow up in homes where English is not the main language (although 97 percent of mothers and partners are able to converse in everyday English)
  • Twenty-eight percent of mothers live either on their own or with extended family (sometimes including their partner)
  • Five percent of mothers are teenagers
  • Ten percent of mothers needed fertility assistance to get pregnant
  • Nearly half (45 percent) of mothers in high deprivation areas were unaware of Working for Families
  • the average age of parents having children in New Zealand (first or subsequent) is now greater than 30 years;
  • Only 60% of parents are in a legally binding relationship
  • 45% of families have a first child have household income of over $100,000 per annum
  • Only 3% of mothers whose pregnancy was planned had no qualifications while 14% of mothers whose pregnancy was unplanned had no qualifications.
  • 49% of planned pregnancy mothers have a degree vs 22% of unplanned pregnancy mothers
  • 70% of mothers had a previous pregnancy, and of that 70%, 17% had the previous pregnancy end before 24 weeks

I find it interesting that those who most need Working for Families were least aware of it. Maybe there should have been less TV ads showing kids enjoying ipods, and more targeted direct mail.

The stats on smoking during pregnancy are a shocker – especially when you consider the huge amount of money given to literally dozens of Maori groups to try and reduce smoking rates amongst Maori.

Lots and lots of data to reflect on.

An interesting course

February 15th, 2010 at 3:59 pm by David Farrar

A reader has alerted me to this fascinating law paper at Auckland University:

LAW495 Colonialism to Globalisation

In the late 15th century, imperialist Europe emerged intent on exploring and possessing the New World. Fast forward through five hundred years of colonialism, capitalism, slavery, industrialisation, genocide, and international law and greet the 21st century in all its paradoxical glory. We now live in a world characterised by political binaries: developed & underdeveloped; civilised & primitive; wealthy & poor; lawful & unlawful. Did international law play a part in introducing the new world to the old one and, more insidiously, in dispossessing the new one for the benefit of the old one?

I love how capitalism is inserted in there along with slavery and genocide.

Following a brief review of historical inequity, we will turn our attention to the colonial origins of international law and its role in facilitating the subordination of native inhabitants in favour of European settlers. Our examination will then take us through a series of case studies – human rights, intellectual property rights, military interventions, labour (de)regulation, and the world trading system – all of which will be considered primarily from the hushed perspectives of the Third World.

I may be wrong here but I suspect if you hand in an essay about how free trade based on an international legal framework is responsible for lifting tens of millions out of poverty, then you’re not going to get an A.

I may be wrong of course. Would love to hear from any current or former students who did the course.

17 cases of plagiarism and still no action from Auckland University

November 20th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The credibility of Auckland University is seeping away, with their refusal to even use a wet bust ticket against faculty member Witi Ihimaera. It has been revealed he also had at least one case of plagiarism in The Matriach:

His comments follow further claims by Professor Keith Sorrenson, a University of Auckland emeritus history professor, that Ihimaera plagiarised his work in the award-winning novel The Matriarch and later apologised to him.

Professor Sorrenson says the latest plagiarism row – in which Professor Ihimaera has admitted using unattributed material from 16 other authors in his latest book, The Trowenna Sea – showed he had “learnt nothing” from the earlier incident.

I hope someone somewhere is running all his books through a checker. The defence we keep hearing is:

He has apologised for the “errors” but said the unacknowledged work in The Trowenna Sea was only 0.4 per cent of the 528-page book.

But that stat is ir-relevant. What is more important is that in the latest book he did it on at least 16 occasions from 16 authors. That is not an error.

On top of that we have the previous plagiarism, and it has been reported The Listener is going to reveal even more plagiarism in his latest book.

And none of this is enough to warrant even a wet bus ticket from Auckland University. They keep maintaining there is no evidence it was deliberate.

I would have thought the burden of proof would be to prove any plagiarism was an “error”. Certainly that is what students would have to do.

TelstraClear kill off s92A Code

March 12th, 2009 at 9:53 am by David Farrar

TelstraClear have killed off the TCF Code of Practice designed to try and get workable process around the deeply flawed s92A. They have said they will veto the code at the TCF Board. TCF rules allow any board member to veto.

I was initially pissed off at TelstraClear, because all the hundreds of hours of work put into the code are now wasted. But upon reflection, I think they have have done the right thing by stepping back and saying this law is just so bad, we can;t make it workable through a code. Their submission explains:

TelstraClear considers that there is a fundamental problem with the TCF being a party to any code of this nature, which is that the code would be based on flawed legislation.

In TetstraClear’s view, any industry code would simply be an attempt to tidy up poorly drafted legislation. TelstraClear does not consider this to be the responsibility of the TCF. Indeed the best outcome would be if s92A was repealed. Failing that, it should be amended to address the above concerns:

So there will be no TCF code. The other ISPs can continue work on the code as an unofficial grouping, but it would be madness to have s92A come into force with no code in place.

The submission on the code are very interesting, and I hope MPs look at some of them. Take this submission from the leading IT jurist in NZ – Judge David Harvey. Judge Harvey is also the former Chair of the Copyright Tribunal so about as authoritiative as you can get on this area:

This section is poorly drafted and makes a number of unsupported assumptions, but in essence it suggests that an Internet service provider must develop a policy to cancel an existing contract as a result of copyright infringement.

The reality of the matter is that the cancellation or termination of the contract arises at the behest, not of the Internet service provider, but of copyright owners. Without significant justification in normal circumstances this could amount to an interference with economic relations and raises significant issues about the sanctity of contract.

Judge Harvey further concludes:

section 92A is unnecessary and gives rise to a situation where a person may be deprived of rights under a contract without proper legal process.

Does the Government really want to persist with s92A bearing in mond those comments, and that there will now be no TCF code?

If it had been Parliament’s intention to provide for a process whereby contract termination should take place, Parliament should have provided such process by legislation after proper consultation with all interested parties.

This is basically TCL’s point. You can’t ask private players to determine these rights when the law is so silent on details.

The Australian ISP Association has commented:

As mentioned above, we are aware that a concerted worldwide effort has been made by rights holders in the music and film industries over the past two years to lobby for the introduction of a ‘notice and disconnect’ scheme along the lines of that proposed in the Code. In spite of that, no ‘notice and disconnect’ scheme has been implemented anywhere in the world.

Yay, we could be first. In fact that is why the US groups are pushing so hard – they want us to be an international template.

In all jurisdictions (except France) where the introduction of ‘notice and disconnect’ schemes have been considered and consulted on by Governments, there is now a general move away from any scheme which requires ISPs to terminate internet accounts, on the basis of an allegation of infringement from rights holders.

The whole world except Judith Tizard has realised what a bad idea this is.

Auckland University says:

The main problem is in Section 92A of the Copyright Act which we believe should be removed from the Act or, if it is to remain in some form, then substantially redrafted with input from stakeholders as would have happened during a select committee process.

The Auckland District Law Society:

Section 92A represents a mechanism whereby the copyright holder, an unrelated third party, can interfere with the contractual rights between an ISP and a customer, where the customer is identified as a repeat copyright infringer. Under common law, that could, without significant justification, amount to the tort of interference with contractual relations.

This law is just as flawed as the Electoral Finance Act. When the former Chair of the Copyright Tribunal, the Auckland District Law Society and the country’s largest university says the law needs to repealed or amended, it is time to do so.

National did the right thing by delaying the introduction until a code could be completed. But we now know that unless the law is amended, a code is not going to happen, so time to introduce a bill amending or repealing the clause.

UPDATE: Also worth reading the submission from the Society of Authors. They are as pro-copyright as anyone, yet they say:

The NZ Society of Authors is concerned about the introduction of the proposed s92A of the Copyright Act 1994. Whilst we strongly support the need for measures to control repeat copyright infringement we feel that this clause is not ideal – it has been hastily written and we recommend the need for further discussion.

We feel that should Section 92A be implemented, it is imperative that the Code of Practice be effective and respectful of the rights to freedom of expression.

Radio NZ has said no disconnection should occur without a court order unless there is an independent body established by the Government to rule on any disputes.

And Internet giant Google has also made a submission:

Section 92A puts users’ procedural and fundamental rights at risk, by threatening to terminate users’ Internet access based on mere allegations and reverse the burden of proof onto a user to establish there was no infringement. …

Copyright law is often complex and context sensitive, and only a court is qualified to adjudicate allegations of copyright infringement. Indeed, in Google’s experience, there are serious issues regarding the improper use and inaccuracy of copyright notices by rights holders. In this context, the responsibility should not fall to ISPs to determine cases of infringement.

It is very relevant that Google has testified that many rightholders notices are inaccurate and indeed improper.

Paul Buchanan reinstated

September 20th, 2008 at 9:54 am by David Farrar

This is good news. Auckland University has reinstated Paul Buchanan after sacking him over a year ago.

Buchanan won a case for unfair dismissal and $66,000 of damages but not an order for reinstatement. I believe he was appealing the decision not to reinstate and it looks like he has reached an agreement with Auckland University to avoid the court case. That is a win for both sides.

Buchanan wins but no job back

March 28th, 2008 at 7:41 am by David Farrar

The popular former Auckland University lecturer Paul Buchanan has won $66,000 in damages for his unjustified sacking, but the Employment Relations Authority has not ordered his reinstatement.

As many people said at the time, the university over-reacted to his intemperate e-mail, and have now been found to have acted illegally. They seem to still be in denial over this claiming the decision to sack him was upheld.  Could someone explain to the VC that they would not be paying $66,000 damages if their decisision had been upheld. Not ordering reinstatement is a different issue to whether the sacking was upheld.  It was not.

It would be a good outcome if Dr Buchanan found employment again in a NZ university. He was an expert in his area, and his departure remains our loss.