Otago University – guilty until proven innocent

July 25th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Critic reports:

University of Otago student is taking matters into his own hands after feeling he has been wronged by the university’s proctor.

The student, who wishes not to be named, was given a fine and had access to his online course resources suspended for a week after Campus Watch officers claimed he had been drunk and abusive to them. After much discussion, viewing of CCTV footage and GPS tracking on his phone, his name was not cleared until OUSA’s Student Support got involved. He was then found to be innocent. The student, however, is still demanding an apology for the illtreatment, which he has not yet received.

On 23 April, the student was waiting outside a lecture hall to enter a law exam, and was approached by Campus Watch for being “abusive” and “causing a lot of ruckus” the night before. “I was kind of shocked at the time,” said the student. “I’ve never been accused of something like that.” 

The student said he had been home all night, though the officer was “pretty sure it was him” and his ID was taken. After his exam, which he finished early because he was “freaked out”, the student called Campus Watch to complain about what had happened. “I couldn’t have been in two places at once,” he said.

After not hearing anything further, he assumed the allegations had disappeared. On 7 May, after making multiple attempts to submit assignments online, the student realised his access to Blackboard had been cut. This was because he owed $50 to the proctor for missing a meeting.

The student had received an email that he was required to see the proctor about the accusations, but had not checked his student email in “a long time”. Letters are normally sent to students who are required to see the proctor, but he was told “a change in staffing” meant this wasn’t done.

So suddenly he is cut off from online resources – all on an accusation.

At a later meeting with the proctor, which he attended with his partner whom he was at home with at the time of the alleged incident, the student was again told he had drunkenly abused staff. The Campus Watch officer attended the meeting and said, “he was smiling, he was very smug”. The officer said it was definitely him; however, a second officer said although the two looked similar, he “couldn’t with confidence” say it was this student.

The Campus Watch officers should have taken details at the time, not gone on this guys looks like this other guy.

The student discovered he had GPS evidence on his phone that showed he was at home the entire time. However, the proctor refused to accept this, claiming he could have left his phone at home.

No student goes out without his or her phone!

CCTV footage was obtained and, in an email, the student was told the footage “looked very much like him”. However, in a second meeting, which the student attended with a Student Support advisor, the proctor was said to have done “a complete 180 with his behaviour”. The accusations were then dropped. The student was cleared, though he has not received an apology or compensation for having his services cut off for a week while assignments were due.

Philippa Keaney, acting manager of Student Support, said: “Despite the advocacy of OUSA Student Support, and the provision of extensive evidence to prove [the student’s] innocence, the Proctor’s Office continued to treat [the student] as the guilty party over a number of weeks.”

“One of the principles underpinning the New Zealand criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence unless adequate evidence to the contrary is produced. It appears that [the student] was not accorded that courtesy in this case.”

Seems like it is guilty unless you can prove yourself innocent at Otago.

Otago Uni has every right to restrict the Internet on campus

October 2nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

The University of Otago’s ban on pornography in residential colleges is being slammed as an attack on student freedom.

Genetics student and former Toroa College resident Anton Hovius, 19, yesterday attacked what he called “draconian” alcohol and internet usage policies at Dunedin’s residential colleges.

Internet access at the colleges — most are university owned — runs through the university’s network.Certain websites, including file sharing and pornography sites, are blocked.

University student accommodation director James Lindsay rejected Mr Hovius’ concerns, saying the primary aim of colleges was to provide an environment where students could focus on their studies.

Mr Hovius, who recently unsuccessfully stood for OUSA’s colleges officer position, said he was not the only one who felt this was an unfair restriction on student freedom.

“I know a couple of friends who have been given warning notices from [Information Technology Services] down at the university, informing of their inappropriate use of university resources.”

As adults, students in halls should not be limited from using the internet as they saw fit, which included accessing pornography and file sharing sites.

“It doesn’t make sense when you are paying $340 bucks a week [which covers full board and food], to have the university interfering with what you are doing in your private time.”


The Government should not restrict what sites you can access, but Otago University has every right to say they will not provide access to porn and file sharing sites. They are not greatly different to an employer providing Internet. They do have a duty to not block sites which students need for research, and hopefully their blocking is done in a way which has minimal false positives.

The University of wowsers

December 27th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes:

What on earth has happened to Dunedin?

I’ve always thought of it as a city of hard-working, practical, no- nonsense people, reflecting its Scottish Presbyterian heritage.

It was the home of Sir James Fletcher, founder of a construction empire, Henry Ely Shacklock, who made the country’s first electric ranges, and Bendix Hallenstein, whose name lives on in the menswear chain he established.

I wonder what such men would make of Dunedin today. Once a southern bastion of industry and commerce, it’s now chiefly known for the torrent of shrill, moralistic scaremongering emanating from Otago University.

It seems hardly a week passes without someone from Otago University, or one of its satellites in Christchurch and Wellington, warning us that our drinking and eating habits are leading us to moral and physical ruin.

You name it, they want it banned!

The Otago researchers’ findings always paint the blackest picture imaginable. And the message is invariably the same: our consumption habits are out of control and the government must act.

Underlying that is another message again: we are all at the mercy of greedy purveyors of booze and high-risk foods. Their wickedness must be curbed by advertising bans and punitive taxes. Hostility to capitalism is never far from the surface.

du Fresne hits the mark. Often these taxpayer funded lobby groups has spokespersons who have an unrelenting hatred of big business.

2013 Otago Foreign Policy School

June 24th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Otago Uni have announced:

Critical developments and issues in the Pacific will be closely scrutinised at next weekend’sUniversity of Otago Foreign Policy School, which is gathering leading academics, diplomats, politicians and development experts for a weekend that promises insightful presentations and fruitful debate.

Former Fijian Prime Minister Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka is among several speakers who will address the current Fiji Coup, the prospects for a successful return to democracy and what the wider implications for the region may be.

Other national and international experts will focus on themes including the US and China’s growing engagement with the Pacific, the uphill struggle the region faces in meeting millennium development goals, and the emergence of sub-regional groupings such as the Melanesian Spearhead Group that are challenging traditional voices such as the Pacific Islands Forum.

This year’s School, which runs from Friday 28 June to Sunday 30 June at St Margaret’s College, Dunedin, is co-directed by Associate Professor Jenny Bryant-Tokalau (School of Maori, Pacific & Indigenous Studies) and Dr Iati Iati (Department of Politics).

The OFPS often has several interesting stories emerge from them. Well worth attending if you are in Dunedin and interested in foreign affairs.

Farewell the Cook

May 31st, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Critic reports:

The Captain Cook Tavern’s long history looks set to come to a close, with the pub’s lease expiring un-renewed on 29 June. James Arnott is one of the owners of Cook Brothers Bars, which has operated the pub for nine years, along with other establishments in the Octagon, Queenstown, Christchurch and Auckland. He told Critic that neither his company nor Dominion Breweries, which holds the main lease on the property, were interested in continuing the lease. 

Arnott said that revenue at the Cook had fallen 40 per cent in the last five years, which he attributed to a “massive change in student culture.” Students drank less frequently, and were more likely to drink at home when they did. Meanwhile, the high rent on the large property had not reduced, and “major renovations” were required to keep the ageing building up to standard. General Manager Matt Barakauskas said that the pub’s staff faced unemployment due to the closure, but that efforts were being made to secure them employment elsewhere. …

If the Cook closes, it will bring to an end 153 years of operation. The establishment began in 1860, although the present building was constructed in 1874 after the original “aged wooden structure” was demolished. According to an article published in the Otago Daily Times on 8 June 1909, the pub “had always one or two permanent boarders” well into the twentieth century, and at least two people died while living in the then-named “Captain Cook Hotel.”

The Cook has had a long reputation of brushing the edge of liquor licensing laws. Around the turn of the twentieth century, The Cook’s publicans were fined on multiple occasions for secretly selling bottled beer on days when the pub was supposed to be shut, and patrons who had been forbidden to buy alcohol were often hauled before the courts for having sly pints at the Hotel. In more recent years, the wildly popular “Cook-a-thon” party held at the end of lectures earned the owners a warning from the Liquor Licensing Authority for encouraging excessive drinking.

As the University expanded in the 1970s, students formed an increasing percentage of the patrons. However, licensing laws that allowed the sale of liquor in supermarkets led canny students to pre-load as a “more cost effective option,” according to Arnott. He also believed, “with a small bit of confidence,” that the increasing use of other recreational drugs among students meant that patrons came to the club tripping, and interested only in drinking water. Whatever the reasons for its demise, the Captain Cook’s taps look set to run dry before next semester.

How very sad. I spent four years at Otago University and had many great nights at the Cook. It was also the venue for my 21st. With both the Cook and Gardies gone, it just won’t be the same there.

Otago course pass rates

September 11th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A contact has passed onto me the pass rates over the last three years for courses at Otago University. What is very interesting is how many courses, especially in Dentistry, have a 100% pass rate or 0% failure rate. I understand at other universities like VUW they audit any course which has a failure rate of below 20% as probably having a design problem.

At Otago only 10% of the courses have a failure rate of over 20%. Makes you wonder.

The pass rates are over the break


Otago Foreign Policy School

June 12th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The 2012 Otago Foreign Policy School runs from Friday 22 June to Sunday 24 June at St Margaret’s College on the University of Otago campus, for those interested. The school is opened by Foreign Minister Murray McCully and speakers include:

  • Professor Kemal Kirisci, Bogaziçi University, Turkey
  • Professor Meir Litvak, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  • Dr Christopher Davidson, University of Durham, United Kingdom
  • Professor Ahmed Hashim, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Professor Marie-Joëlle Zahar, L’Université de Montréal, Canada
  • Dr Sally Totman, Deakin University, Australia
  • Dr Nigel Parsons, Massey University
  • Gabriele Cascone, NATO headquarters
  • Dr Leon Goldsmith, University of Otago
  • Professor William Harris, University of Otago


Income Mobility in New Zealand

May 11th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Treasury commissioned two public health researchers from Otago University to examine Stats NZ  longitudinal survey data on family incomes. The report from Otago University is here and an analysis by Treasury here.

I think income mobility is far far more important than income inequality. I do not think there is much merit in insisting that an untrained unskilled 18 year old should be earning the same as a 50 year old professional with 30 years of experience.

100 years ago in the United Kingdom there was little income mobility. Those families with wealth tended to keep it, and poor families stayed poor. I can understand the appeal of socialism 100 years ago. But today, while of course not perfect, there is greater income mobility. The knowledge economy especially means that land and capital are not as important as previously. More and more of the world’s billionaires and millionaires created their fortune, rather than inherited it. This graph from the analysis shows the situations in New Zealand over just a seven year period from 2002 to 2009.

So of the families who were in the bottom 10% of family income – in just seven years, 74% of them were no longer in the bottom decile. And only 46% of those in the top decile were still there seven years later.

By far the biggest characteristic indicating likely persistent deprivation is being a sole parent family.

Also of interest is that only a third of familes who spent the whole seven years on low income had been in deprivation at any point.

The Treasury’s conclusions:

  • Policy should emphasise mobility, deprivation and persistent low income
  • Policy should be designed with mobility in mind
  • Targeting policy effectively can be difficult
  • Solo parents are perhaps the group to be most concerned about

Income inequality is used by the left to argue for higher taxes and more welfare.  But as I said I do not accept that there is a problem that an 18 year old with no mortgage, no kids, no skills, no experience is paid less than someone with decades of experience. What we want is the ability for that 18 year old to get a job, to get education and training, to earn more over time and not spend a lengthy period of time (if any) in deprivation or hardship.

Some other stats:

  • Around 47% of families moved at least two income deciles over seven years
  • Over the seven years, 50% of families experience low income at least once
  • But 43% of those who had low income, only had it for one or two of the seven years
  • Sole parents are 12% of families but over 50% of those in persistent deprivation

This is one of the reasons why I think the welfare reforms are so important.

Shock horror – 25,000 animals killed

March 5th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

NZ Herald reports:

More than 25,000 animals including fish have died during research and teaching at the University of Otago since 2009, and the figures are expected to increase significantly when statistics are collated for 2011.

Oh Good God, why is this a story. They have a medical school.  I recall dissecting fish in first year biology. How do you teach biology otherwise?

Leave Knox alone

February 17th, 2012 at 8:04 am by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

Far from being elitist, Knox College traditions ensure students are welcomed into a supportive family atmosphere, past and present residents say.

The Presbyterian Church’s move to ban initiation ceremonies, scrap elitist symbols and tighten rules on alcohol, as reported in yesterday’s Otago Daily Times, has been opposed by many. …

Readers voiced their support of the institution and its long-standing practices in various letters to the editor yesterday.

A young woman returning to Knox for a second year said people developed a love for the place that could not be easily explained.

Another said Knox received more returning residents than any other university hall in New Zealand; testament to its vibrant and positive culture.

Former Knox student Michael Bridgen wrote about his “fresher” experience at Knox in 1994.

“Certain of the traditions were daunting, to a person from a country town new to so many people, but none were observed in other than good faith and good fun. In fact, in the spirit of colleges everywhere, many traditions evolved to the purpose of challenging and breaking down just those initial sheer faces of bashfulness.”

I went to Carrington Hall in Dunedin and loved my time there. People at Carrington regarded Knox as the second best hall 🙂

Knox has a wonderful history and traditions, and the initiation ceremonies are a vital part of hall culture. They absolutely bond people together (sometimes literally 🙂 ) and scrapping them would be the stupidest thing you can do.

“I have never found Knox to be anything other than welcoming, nurturing and supportive and cannot think of any justification for these changes,” recent resident Rebecca Gates said.

She said the traditions and rituals to be changed were the very things which attracted and united residents “no matter our schooling, social background, gender or race”.

“These common ties and experiences are what glues us together and draws almost all of the residents back for a second year.”

More than 1000 people have joined an online group established in defence of Knox traditions.

I hope common sense prevails. Knox is one of the most sought after halls in Dunedin (arguably the most sought after), and their sense of history and traditions are part of what attracts people to go there. It certainly isn’t their location – up that bloody hill!

OU Vote Chat

October 27th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I didn’t realise that the interviews with different politicians as part of the OU Vote Chat 2011 were on You Tube. You can view the channel here.

The most viewed one so far is Part I with Hone Harawira. I’ve listened to many of them. Bryce has a good interviewing style, where he lets the pollies talk, but also comes back to stuff they gloss over.

Otago Foreign Policy School

June 22nd, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The 45th Otago Foreign Policy School is on from Friday 25 to Sunday 27 June.

China’s rise and future role on the world stage will go under the spotlight at the University of Otago’s 45th Foreign Policy School later this month. The event gathers together leading national and international China scholars and New Zealand diplomats, policymakers, business people and members of the public.

Titled “China’s Ascent: New Superpower or New Global System?” the School is being held in association with the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington. The gathering takes place at Dunedin’s Salmond College from 25-27 June. …

“Among the key questions to be tackled at the School is ‘will a new China fundamentally change the rules of the game in the global system, or will China simply become another great power using the traditional tools of money, force and diplomacy’?,” Professor Patman says.

New Zealand-China relations are the focus of a roundtable composed of leading Chinese academics and New Zealand figures including Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Charles Finny and journalist and analyst Colin James.

The School’s opening address will be given on the Friday evening by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Murray McCully.

The keynote address, ‘China’s Global Identities: the Schizophrenic Superpower’, is being presented by Professor David Shambaugh of George Washington University. Professor Shambaugh is an internationally recognised authority on contemporary Chinese affairs and the international politics and security of the Asia-Pacific region.

How very timely.

The full programme is here and you can register here.

Farewell the Gardies

June 18th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

NZPA report:

Dunedin student pub The Garden Tavern, known as Gardies, will close its doors for the final time this weekend after being sold to Otago University this year.

Up to 1500 people were expected to descend on the Castle St pub this weekend, with Saturday its last day of business, the Otago Daily Times reported.

A very sad day. May the scarfies farewell it in style.

Police-funded buses would transport students from North Dunedin to the central city to minimise the disturbance to residents, Inspector Dave Campbell of Dunedin police said.

What a very smart idea.

Editorials 19 May 2010

May 19th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald wants changes to the Super City:

The committee examining the bill is led by National’s John Carter, a pragmatist steeped in local government. He indicated to Local Government NZ that its concerns would be heard.

The committee should insert more explicit powers for the Auckland Council to direct, change, establish and disestablish, if necessary, CCOs and their functions.

It should make all the CCOs’ decision-making board meetings open to the public, not just Auckland Transport’s meetings when enacting bylaws.

It should reconsider the split of representation on these boards and the lack of influence from the Auckland Council’s executives and elected councillors on issues such as transport.

Support for uniting Auckland, which seemed strong at the time of the royal commission and its extensive public submissions, has weakened. It can be restored, if the committee hears the concerns of the people.

I expect the report to be out before long, so we will see the shape of the Council.

The Press and Dom Post both talk about the leaky homes package. The Press says:

It has taken months of wrangling between central and local government, but finally there is a financial assistance package on offer which should help to provide resolution to some of the New Zealanders with leaky homes.

The scheme will not please all, especially those ineligible for the package or who resent the costs which they still must bear. But in terms of finding a solution which is fair to both tiers of government, leaky-home owners and those who pay rates and taxes, this package is balanced and a distinct improvement on the original proposal.

And the Dom Post:

The leaky buildings fiasco and the Government’s proposed solution need to be put in perspective. If the package unveiled by the Government is accepted, the taxpayer will pick up about $1 billion of the price of fixing leaky homes in New Zealand. That is the same amount of money originally put in the fiscal envelope to spend on settling all Treaty of Waitangi claims. …

The temptation is to focus on who is responsible – and there are many. There are the politicians who loosened up the building code to allow materials and types of building that had already caused problems overseas – and who have dragged their feet on a solution since. There are the architects who designed buildings for the sunny Mediterranean, not a rain-soaked New Zealand. There are the developers who favoured cheapness over durability. There are the builders who did not do their jobs, either because they did not have the skills to work the new materials properly or because they cut corners. There are the local council inspectors who were not diligent enough in ensuring the buildings did not leak. And finally, there are the owners, who, like all buyers, must take ultimate responsibility for their decisions.

The reality is that not all who should be shouldering the blame are. Some developers, contractors and builders have accepted their responsibility. Others have vanished like a will-o’-the-wisp – the companies that carried out the work, and carried the liability, are long gone.

What is needed now is a workable solution that sees repairs carried out quickly. That is what the Government appears to be offering, though details, such as how the cost of repairs is assessed, will be important.

And they conclude:

As the result of a Court of Appeal ruling, the Government has every legal right to walk away from the problem. However, that would be the wrong thing to do.

The local authorities should take the same approach and accept the package, even though it will almost certainly mean rate rises in the most affected areas, including Wellington. They could no doubt wear down many of those in leaky homes through a battle of legal attrition, but that would not be the right thing to do either.

The solution may not be ideal, but it is workable. The alternative is more years of litigation in which the only winners are the lawyers. It’s time to end the nightmare.

The ODT looks at town and gown:

Seven years ago, the University of Otago published some statistics that indicated this dominant economic force would soon be making a $1 billion a year contribution in its broadest sense to the Dunedin economy.

There cannot be doubt today that the city’s cultural, sporting, shopping and culinary landscapes would wither were it not for the university and, to a lesser extent, the polytechnic and college of education. …

It is noteworthy that the city now has a 25-year “vision” for the university as well as a 50-year “vision” for large parts of the reclaimed upper harbour basin.

The “Campus Master Plan” envisages the equivalent transformation of the north end, including the link with the Forsyth Barr Stadium and the university plaza.

Probably most immediately controversial is the consultants’ idea for the university to purchase the more run-down areas of student flats – the so-called “ghetto” – and to take responsibility for an accommodation upgrade.

Student accommodation so close to the campus proper is a major attraction and opportunity for the university and its students.

Long may the university grow I say!

International perspectives on electoral finance reform

April 13th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Otago University and the VUW Institute of Policy Studies have organised a public seminar on National’s proposed electoral finance reforms, and international perspectives on such reforms. The key details are:

Friday 14 May 2010
RW501 Level 5, Wellington Railway Station (West Wing)
8.40am to 12.15pm

The programme is:

8.20-8:40: Registration and coffee/tea
8:40-8:45: Welcome by Jonathan Boston
8:45-9:00: Andrew Geddis – New Zealand’s proposed new political finance rules.
9:00-9:50: Jacob Rowbottom – What lessons does the U.K.’s experience have for New Zealand’s proposals?
9:50-10:40: Colin Feasby – What lessons does Canada’s experience have for New Zealand’s proposals?
10:40-11:00: Coffee/Tea Break
11:00-12:15: Joo-Cheong Tham and Graeme Orr – What lessons does Australia’s experience have for New Zealand’s proposals?

Please note the Symposium will be followed by a seminar by Jacob Rowbottom entitled The British General Election and the Prospects for Electoral Reform

If you wish to attend then email: law.reception@otago.ac.nz (please include the “political finance symposium” in the subject line of your email).

I’m attending and looking forward to it.


January 6th, 2010 at 9:27 am by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

Speight’s, a long-time sponsor of the Otago University Students Association Orientation Week, will no longer be associated with the annual event on campus, following a move by the University of Otago to ban alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

This is heresy. O Week without the Speights posters will not be the same. People will still drink just as much Speights I predict.

The headline band this year is United States-based Health, described as a “fluid, spiky maelstrom of blood and neon, mirrorball and icepick”, which “mashes together disco and punk into a noisy, spastic tribal inhalation of sound”.

See you need to be under the influence of Speights to be able to cope with that music!

The good old Captain Cook

July 10th, 2008 at 3:03 pm by David Farrar

Oh what memories this story in the ODT brings back of the Captain Cook and life in Dunedin.

The twice-yearly Cook-a-thon at the Captain Cook Tavern in Dunedin was a colourful and fun affair yesterday, marred by 10 arrests for mostly disorderly behaviour offences later in the afternoon.

More than 1000 students dressed in outfits from power rangers, male fairies, a policeman in speedos to Oompa Loompa’s to celebrate the start of the University of Otago second semester.

Hundreds queued for the 10am Cook-a-thon start, with about 500 in the tavern by noon, paying $25 for a T-shirt, jug of beer and three meals during the day.

Those not wanting to queue set up parties in Clyde and Castle Sts.

I was interviewed by the lovely folks from Road Trip Nation in Wellington yesterday, and by coincidence quite a bit of the conversation was about my university years and life at Otago. It really is a unique experience. I can never work out why people study anywhere else 🙂

Otago Uni on i-tunes

June 4th, 2008 at 1:04 pm by David Farrar

Now this is a great example of academic innovation.

Otago University has joined forces with i Tunes to place some of their content on i Tunes U.

What a great way to make it easy for students to be able to listen to audio material and/or view videos. I’ve just downloaded their Life at Otago video.

A sad graduation ceremony

May 8th, 2008 at 9:34 am by David Farrar

NZPA reports that Chris Elliott will attend graduation in Dunedin this weekend on behalf of his sister Sophie Elliott, who was horrifically murdered earlier this year. Elliott had achieved first class honours, and it will be a very sombre aspect to the ceremony. For my 2c though I think it is very appropriate to recognise what happened, rather than try and pretend it didn’t and just have her name read out.

All murders are sad and tragic, but this one more so than most. I just do not understand how something like this can happen.

First Year fun in Dunedin

March 2nd, 2008 at 5:11 pm by David Farrar


Dave Gee has photos in two parts of the annual toga parade of Otago University “freshers” in Dunedin.

A toga parade is a relatively benign form of initiation.  When I was there, “initiation” was very yucky – especially the parts involving a bath!