The Otago University backlash

Stuff reports:

But another email noted the writer had received calls from Otago alumni “angry at the decision”. The response was likely to be worse than what the university received over Tuakiritaka, a reference to branding changes, the emailer said.

I had quite a few Otago alumni contact me, very upset also. Some even wanted to do a poll of alumni on the appointment, but there was no practical way to do this.

Meanwhile, another emailer wrote of the appointment: “They have made a very poor decision.”

Another emailer wrote: “As a former student I will not be donating another cent and will not be encouraging family to attend an institution that is seriously flawed from the top down.

“The university council should resign following this decision.”

The Council of course includes another former Labour Minister, and the Registrar is also a former Labour Minister.

But a former graduate was less forthcoming with praise, emailing: “I have left a significant amount of money to the university in my will. However I will be cancelling that.”


Another alumni, who had a history of sending offensive emails to the tertiary institution, wrote: “This must be one of the most gross and ridiculous decisions of the university to date.”

Some of that email was redacted, but the emailer added: “And to appoint such a failure of a politician to such an important post is ridiculous: a man who has virtually single handedly bankrupted our country, saddling every man, woman and child with crippling debt.”

Another former student emailed a list of questions under the OIA, including whether Robertson had been approached to put forward his candidacy.

One emailer expressed their concern, writing: “This is a continuation of the alarming trend of politicisation of the University of Otago, and is entirely inappropriate for an academic institution of your stature.”

The email noted Robertson’s lack of an academic background “reflects unbelievably poorly” on the university.

“Again, I am appalled by this appointment, which materially diminishes a once great academic institution.

“Shame on you.”

It is of course normal for a Vice-Chancellor to have a PhD and be an academic leader. A BA is not quite in the same league.

Another emailed to say they were rethinking their seven-figure bequest.

“However, my family especially, and I, would be very concerned indeed if this bequest were in any respect subject to any type or level of political influence, such as a person’s political identity, as opposed to benefiting individuals or groups solely on merit and academic excellence.”

That’s a lot of money being potentially lost.

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