Vice-Chancellor’s statement on harmful sexual behaviour

Email sent to all staff by Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater on Monday 21 March 2022

Kia ora koutou

Yesterday the Herald on Sunday published an article about one of our students who was allegedly sexually assaulted by another of our students. The article raised serious questions about the University’s disciplinary procedures.

It is deeply upsetting to me to hear about cases of harmful sexual behaviour in our University community. When these are brought to the University’s attention, it is essential that we address them with rigour and sensitivity. Providing and supporting a safe and respectful University community has always been our top priority.

Unfortunately, in this case the University’s disciplinary response was not adequate, which we deeply regret. The University has publicly acknowledged that errors were made, and we have apologised to the student for this.

We have also taken steps to rectify the matter. After reviewing the details of the case, we have overturned the Proctor’s original finding, which was made in good faith, following a lengthy investigatory process, on the evidence available at the time. We have now referred the case to the University’s Discipline Committee, which will hold its hearing this Wednesday.

It is important to note that this review of the original finding started in November 2021 when significant new evidence was presented, and our decision to take the above actions was made before the Herald on Sunday contacted the University. The implication that the University only acted in response to media pressure is incorrect.

It is also critically important that the University continues to improve its responses to Harmful Sexual Behaviour. To that end, I have committed the University to accelerate the implementation of the Creating Cultures of Consent and Respect Action Plan, including an independent review of our student discipline procedures to identify where improvements can be made. You can view progress on the actions on the Creating Cultures of Consent and Respect Action Plan recent progress page.

I will keep the University community updated on our progress. I also draw your attention to the University’s procedures for reporting Harmful Sexual Behaviour on Campus.

Ngā mihi nui

Dawn

Professor Dawn Freshwater

Vice-Chancellor