Otago Daily Times

Students punished for flat hazings, uni reveals

- HAMISH MACLEAN hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

TWENTY students faced disciplina­ry action at the University of Otago after two flat initiation­s led to burglary, forced drinking and demeaning acts last year.

The university’s annual disciplina­ry reports, released yesterday, show university students who hosted two separate flat initiation­s were excluded for the first semester this year, and the incoming students who willingly participat­ed in the hazings were also punished.

The suspension­s for hosting the two flat hazings were handed out to nine students; 11 students were given 40 hours of community service and final warnings for their willing participat­ion.

University proctor Dave Scott did not provide details of the demeaning tasks incoming students were made to do during the hazings, but he said a demeaning initiation task was any activity that was, or could be harmful to the participan­t, was in breach of the student code of conduct, the University of Otago ethical behaviour policy, or New Zealand law.

‘‘Only a small number of flats host events that are causing harm,’’ Mr Scott said.

‘‘It is these events that are the ongoing focus of the proctor’s office.’’

In recent years there had been a downward trend in flat initiation­s, due likely to the proactive educationa­l approach of the proctor’s office and enforcemen­t where needed by the university, he said.

In 2017, initiation­s led to disciplina­ry action against 17 students, including nine exclusions.

That year, videos and pictures circulated publicly from an initiation event described as sadistic; they showed young people in their underwear consuming alcohol until they vomited.

In 2018, 2019, and again last year, university officials went door to door to the flats deemed most likely to host problemati­c events to ensure expectatio­ns were understood.

The 2020 discipline reports also highlight incidents of sexual assault, assault, firelighti­ng and other misconduct alongside academic misconduct at the university.

Students paid $12,850 in fines last year, up from $7715 in 2019, while the total number of incidents dealt with by the proctor’s office dropped to 714, from 891 the year before.

Wilful damage incidents (116) and offensive behaviour (27) were up on the previous year.

The vicechance­llor’s office dealt with seven cases involving 14 students last year.

Aside from exclusions of the flat initiation hosts, a fourthyear student facing allegation­s of sexual assault withdrew from the university amid disciplina­ry proceeding­s.

A first year student involved in three sexual assaults and one assault against two fellow students was permanentl­y excluded.

A former student who had completed a court sentence for a class B drug offence was allowed to reenrol.

A postdoctor­al student’s enrolment was cancelled for falsifying documents, and a first year student who provided false documents for special considerat­ions was permanentl­y excluded, the reports said.

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