Vice-Chancellor’s update on harmful sexual behaviour

Email sent to all staff and students by Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater on Friday 25 March 2022

Kia ora koutou

I am writing to inform you that we expect at least one media story this weekend on the University’s handling of cases involving harmful sexual behaviour. I first want to acknowledge the young students involved – I know this is a distressing time for you.

As I said in my message on Monday, legitimate questions have been raised about the University’s disciplinary responses, particularly in cases where criminal behaviour is alleged.

Since Monday a second similar case has been brought to our attention, which we are now reviewing. In addition, the Discipline Committee scheduled for Wednesday 23 March to hear the first case has had to be postponed, due to a request from the respondent’s lawyer for adequate time to obtain proper instructions and be able to prepare for the meeting.

These details are also likely to be covered in the media this weekend.

I am determined that the University will be open and transparent with our community on these challenging issues. As I said on Monday, we have publicly acknowledged that errors have been made, and we have apologised for them. We have also committed to holding an independent review of our disciplinary processes to determine where they can be improved.

In the interim, all cases involving harmful sexual behaviour will be reviewed to ensure that the appropriate pathway to resolution is taken.

I am aware of the disappointment of many members of the University community about the handling of these issues, however I want to stress that our intention is always to seek a fair, transparent and timely resolution, within the jurisdiction of the University and its powers.

You can find information about the support available to staff and students on these issues on the Harassment, bullying, sexual assault and other violence page.

Ngā mihi

Professor Dawn Freshwater