Otago University proctor admits he was wrong to enter flats and remove bongs

After a growing student protest over the Otago University proctor entering at least one flat uninvited and removing bongs – legal to own but illegal to use with cannabis – the proctor Dave Scott has fessed up today.

ODT:  ‘I was wrong’ – Proctor

University of Otago proctor Dave Scott has acknowledged he was wrong to enter a flat while no-one was home and confiscate bongs, but says he doesn’t think his actions make him a criminal.

“I’m a human and I have made an error of judgement on this occasion [and] I’ve apologised to the flat in question this afternoon for what I did.

“I have made a mistake here and I am willing to learn from it.”

Asked if he broke the law, he said he was not above scrutiny and acknowledged he was wrong.

“Does that make me a criminal? I don’t believe so.

“This was a situation that could have been dealt with differently.”

However this could be a confession to committing a criminal act.

Vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said the university still had “full confidence” in Mr Scott, saying he had assured her he would not repeat the mistake.

“I have discussed the proctor’s actions with him and he agrees this will not happen again.

“In my experience of the proctor on so many occasions he always has the students’ best interests at heat, and has worked extremely hard to ensure students are treated fairly while they are here.”

But there is a lack of confidence amongst students. Stuff (before the confession and apology): Private prosecution pending against University of Otago’s bong-taking proctor

Thousands of dollars have been pledged to mount a private prosecution against the bong-taking University of Otago proctor.

The tertiary institution is standing by Dave Scott, a former police officer, who removed drug-taking equipment from at least four student flats.

Hundreds have signed a petition calling for Scott’s immediate resignation though, and a private prosecution against him is pending.

Whakamana Cannabis Museum curator Abe Gray said a cannabis supporter known to him had pledged $25,000 to take a private prosecution.

Otago law professor Andrew Geddis: Hey, proctor, leave our bongs alone: How Otago’s ‘campus cop’ is breaking the law

We start with the fact that the proctor simply is a university employee who, while holding some disciplinary powers over students, enjoys no more legal right to visit their residences, search them and seize property than does any other citizen. And, as other legal academics have told the ODT, those legal rights simply do not extend to going into someone’s house to take what you think may be evidence of criminal behaviour.

Or, to put it more bluntly, what the proctor did was clearly unlawful and at least potentially criminal. The fact he did so with proclaimed good intentions does not change this conclusion.

In my view, there’s no reasonable argument to be made that students consuming cannabis in their own living room has “a sufficient nexus to the legitimate concerns of the university” to justify the code’s application. Simply put, while smoking cannabis in your own home may (stupidly) still be illegal, doing so is none of the university’s business and so the proctor has no disciplinary authority over those who choose to consume.

But here’s the problem. If the proctor is going to act as a paternalistic morals police over what students do in their own homes, then students really need to ask whether they want that form of governance over their lives. And if they don’t, then they ought to take action to prevent it.

Because the proctor (and all other university employees) only may enter onto student property under the general “implied licence” that applies to all visitors. This is the general legal presumption that an occupier will permit people to walk up to their front door in order to communicate with them

However, that implied licence may be expressly revoked at any time. If the occupier tells someone (or, even the world at large) “you may not come onto my property”, then the presumed legal right to visit disappears.

So, if students do not want the proctor (or other university employees) to know what they are doing in their homes, much less intervene by taking things he disapproves of, then they can tell him that. An email to his office informing him that he is not permitted to enter a particular flat’s grounds. A notice in the flat’s front window telling him that he (or other university employees) cannot be on the property.

There have been signs of a ‘keep away sign’ campaign, but that could be dependant on whether the proctor makes a solid commitment to respect the private dwellings and property of students.

 

 

 

Otago vice-chancellor accused of stealing bongs from student flats

What is it with universities these days? Massey has had it’s problems with theor vice-chancellor and Don Brash and free speech, and Victoria has been trying to push through an unpopular name change.

And at Otago the proctor has been reported to be going into student flats uninvited and taking away bongs.

Critic Te Arohi:  Proctor Enters Flat Without Permission, Steals Bongs

A Leith Street flat says University Proctor Dave Scott trespassed and stole their property when he entered their house while they were out and took several bongs/water pipes.

About three weeks ago, the Proctor was visiting flats on Castle Street and Leith Street North to deliver letters about initiations. The entire flat was away, apart from one person who was asleep upstairs. The flatmates said the Proctor let himself in through the unlocked back door, where he found several water pipes sitting out on a table and took them.

Because they weren’t home, the flatmates didn’t know what had happened to the pipes and assumed they had been robbed. They estimated the pipes were worth $400.

“We thought someone had stolen them, but then we thought that if anyone had done it around Castle/Leith someone would recognise our pipes as they are well known,” one flatmate said.

The Proctor returned the next day, and told them that he had gone into their flat and confiscated the pipes. According to the flatmates, he told them that as long as they cleaned up the flat, he would let them off with a warning and wouldn’t take it to the police.

That attracted wider media coverage, and then a follow up: Second Flat Claims Proctor Entered Home Without Permission, Took Bongs

A second flat is alleging that University of Otago Proctor Dave Scott entered their home without permission while everyone was out and took their bongs. This comes soon after Critic reported that the Proctor entered a Leith Street North flat three weeks ago while no one was home and took $400 worth of bongs.

According to one flatmate, who asked to remain anonymous, the Proctor visited their Castle Street flat in June, when no one was home, to pick up rubbish in the area. While he was there, he took two bongs, which had been sitting in the lounge, around the back of the flat.

The flat is privately owned. The flatmates said the bongs were “valued at over $300 combined.”

They said that one flatmate was called into the Proctor’s office for a meeting, where he was asked “what they were and why we have them etc.,” and ultimately let off with a warning.

“As an ex cop we feel as if he should be more educated around the law of breaking and entering, especially taking items out of the flat with no permission. If we walked into his house or even his office and took something which we feel is illegal, then it would be a different outcome,” he said.

And it could be more widespread:

Hey so I have had 4 more reports of flats having bongs fuckin stolen by the proctor so far this year.

Anyone looking to share their stories on this abuse of power please email: critic@critic.co.nz

This is absolutely fucked and we have to stand up to this fucking authoritarian repression

Update: I have a meeting to discuss this issue with the proctor tomorrow, and depending whether he agrees to sign our Code of Proctor Conduct, will be organising a protest on Thursday with specific demands and outcomes.

get ready to get on the fkn rark fam.

Update 2: Proctor cancelled our meeting. Protest is on:

Protest details:

So the proctor cancelled his meeting with me tomorrow.

This means we need another outlet to have our voices heard, to express how we feel about this abuse of power.

For those that don’t know, the proctor has been randomly entering flats by the back door, sometimes with noone home, and been pinching beugs.

This is an abuse of our rights as students, and as citizens, and unless we respond it sets a dangerous authoritarian precedent. We need to let the University of Otago know this is not appropriate behaviour of someone purportedly representing our institution.

We will gather at the corner of Castle and Dundas, on the uni drive, march down to the proctors office, then head round to the clocktower where we will submit our proposed Students of North Dunedin Code of Proctor Conduct:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lQGETJKgmVzsQ6wz5P60x_lkzzbr0X0FHkV7HbJRA6Q/edit

Chants and sign planz to come, feel free to chip in w ideas too x

This is gonna be so dope, get ready to rark it up yo for all the breathas to come: FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS ♥

It seems likely Critic will have more to say about this. If the proctor is entering flats uninvited, and if he is taking thingd, this is a serious matter.

Alarming NZ obesity trend – 2 million by 2030s

Obesity has become a huge health issue in the developed world, including New Zealand, to the extent that some predict that life expectancy may already be reducing.

When I was younger I could eat whatever I liked without worrying about my weight. But middle age changed that, and now I need to be constantly aware of my diet to avoid the dreaded middle aged spread.

It looks like I am in a shrinking minority.

RNZ: Two million New Zealanders will be obese by the 2030s – study

A new study is predicting two million New Zealanders could be considered clinically obese in the next 20 years.

The Otago University study found that Body Mass Index (BMI) of New Zealanders is on the rise and the average BMI is on track to be above the obesity threshold by the early 2030s.

BMI is only an approximate indicator but is commonly used as an easy measure of obesity.

An index between 18.5kg/m2 and 25kg/m2 is considered the healthy weight range – anything at 30kg/m2 or above is considered to be obese.

I’m usually near the top of the ‘healthy’ range, but that’s in part because I have relatively dense bones. I have been tested, monitored and body scanned in a University study a few years ago, and this showed I have a relatively high BMI for my height and weight.

You can calculate your BMI here: BMI calculator

Mine is 24.21, it drops by .32 for every kg I reduce.

While only one health factor the BMI is an easy way to measure trends.

Lead researcher Ross Wilson said obesity rates had tripled between 1977 and 2013.

“High BMI has now overtaken tobacco as the greatest contributor to health loss in New Zealand, which emphasises the public health importance of these findings,” Mr Wilson said.

Healthcare costs associated with treating obesity-related conditions in New Zealand were estimated to be $624 million in 2006.

Mr Wilson said given ongoing increases in obesity over the past decade, current costs were likely to be substantially higher than this.

Results from an annual Ministry of Health survey late last year showed that 1.2 million adults and 99,000 children aged between two to 14 were dangerously overweight.

Those figures have been increasing since 2011, with a rise of nearly 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively from 10 years ago.

Otago University Professor of medicine Jim Mann said those were terrible statistics but he was not surprised.

I’ve participated in a number or food studies in his department.

“My main reaction is one of continuing dismay … the population [for obesity] is horrendous, we’ve got an epidemic of obesity so it’s a good reminder that we’ve got one enormous problem in New Zealand,” he said.

Weight is a result of a fairly simple equation – energy consumed (via food) versus energy used.

But controlling weight is increasingly difficult for an increasing number of people.

As a population we are increasingly inactive, and also eat more, as well as eating a greater quantity of highly processed high energy foods and drinks.

One recent fad is using blenders to render more fruit and vegetables than you would normally consume into an easily digestible (and unnatural) mush. Why not just eat an apple or banana or orange?

One major problem is marketing – it is increasingly common to be urged to consume unhealthy amounts of relatively unhealthy foods. And many people are susceptible to this marketing.

I want to stay healthy as long as I can and live as long as I can, and make reasonable efforts to increase my odds.

One simple positive change is to train myself to look for quality of food, and less of it. In my youth I was largely interested in quantity. Smaller better servings are actually more enjoyable when you get the right sort of mindset.

One of my biggest motivations is from my determination to not get a pot gut. There are plenty around to keep reminding me what I should avoid – but it is something that can happen very quickly if you over indulge and under exercise.

Many people get trapped in overweight bodies. Once you have one it can be very difficult to turn things around, and even more difficult to keep things turned around.

One problem is that we are genetically programmed to stock up on fat reserves when there is an abundance of food, but unlike our ancestors we always have an abundance of high energy sugary fatty foods readily available.

So we need to retrain ourselves. That’s an ongoing challenge, but success can be quire rewarding. As rewarding as extending our lives, potentially substantially.

Making Excuses for Inappropriate Behaviour?

An interesting article from Otago University’s Critic, about a widely liked and respected man who is also known to push and exceed personal boundaries as law professor.

Otago University was put in the #MeToo spotlight recently over inappropriate drunken sexualised behaviour at it’s summer law camps, with the head of their law faculty, Professor Mark Henaghan in attendance. This year’s camp was cancelled as a result of the publicity.

I have heard outside the University that Professor Henaghan is liked and respected. He is due to move away from Otago shortly (to Auckland University).

Crirtic – Opinion: Are We Making Excuses for Inappropriate Behaviour?

The first time I met Professor Mark Henaghan he put his arm around me and kissed me on the cheek. I was 17 years old in my first week of University and he was the Dean of the Law School. It was a University event so the official photographer probably has photos of me looking very uncomfortable.

That was not a good introduction to law school.

Recent media scrutiny has resulted in Law Camp being cancelled, and suggested that Professor Mark Henaghan was involved in skits that involved naked, drunk 20-year old females. It is right for questions to be asked. A Law Dean has standards to uphold.

Professor Henaghan attended the student-driven Law Camp because he’s a legend among students and they want to invite him.

I believe Professor Henaghan is a genuinely kind-hearted person. He’s a passionate lecturer, a leading voice on children’s rights in New Zealand and an important supporter to generations of students.

I’ve heard similar.

But, that’s no excuse for unprofessional behaviour.

I agree, but it seems that unprofessional behaviour has been excused for a long time.

I was in LAWS101 lectures where Professor Henaghan made leery jokes about the drinking, sex and general debauchery of students. He hugged female lecture theatre technicians coming to help him out and put his arm around female students asking questions after class. We were told by older students to use pink highlighters in our exams because “Mark likes girls”. It’s part of his humour and charm, but still leaves a slightly sleazy taste in the mouth.

Some students sat there asking, ‘was that appropriate?’ But we were told ‘that’s just Mark,’ so we just put up with it.

One person’s acceptance or enjoyment of personal attention from someone in a powerful position can be invasion of another person’s personal space. It can be a welcome squeeze, or unwelcome sleaze.

Obviously, there is a line between unprofessional behaviour and sexual harassment. The University is a place with solid processes for dealing with sexual harassment or assault. As far as I know, no formal complaints of sexual harassment have been made.

Creating an environment where we “just put up with it” at law school doesn’t help change the culture. In fact it makes it harder for people to identify what inappropriate behaviour really looks like.

It’s so easy to make excuses for people. “He could just have no boundaries.” “He’s just a super affectionate person.” “Maybe he doesn’t realise it makes people uncomfortable.”

But, how long do excuses hold up for? Didn’t #metoo start because people have been making excuses for too long? Isn’t it about being able to stop for a moment and ask, “is this normal?”

Fair questions. They can be difficult to have answered when the person making some people uncomfortable is generally liked and popular.

Despite how touchy he may be with people he knows in his personal life, the Dean of the Law School has responsibilities to uphold professional conduct with students.

One would expect and hope so. Apparently not in this case.

Professor Mark Henaghan is loved by generations of Otago students. But, nice people still do inappropriate stuff. It just feels hard to call them out when they’re right there. Maybe this dilemma is why people stay quiet for so long.

If people stay quiet for so long the inappropriate unprofessional behaviour of a university dean remains unaddressed, and year after year students are made to feel uncomfortable about what they feel as sleazy conduct.

It’s worse than one person in power abusing his position, whether knowingly or inadvertently.

It sounds like Professor Henaghan has effectively given University approval to an annual event, by his presence at the summer camp, to student that some are repelled and appalled by.

And his behaviour on campus has given an air of approval to men in power being able to be as physically personal as they please with students, including students he meets for the first time.

Two contrasting views:

Thomson Reuters (8 August 2017): Mark Henaghan – The Legal Luminaries Project

This is the third in a series of in-depth interviews with our esteemed legal leaders; our legal luminaries. Professor Mark Henaghan looks back over his life in the law, speaking candidly about his achievements, offering advice for younger lawyers and discusses what he thinks are the most important legal issues right now.

This is a free forum for Henaghan to talk about his own life and career. It includes:

When you look back what memories come to the fore?

It’s always my first year law classes. I love the openness and interest of the students. They have an endearing mix of naivety, hope, freshness, and exhilaration. It’s the next generation coming through and it’s a thrill and privilege to teach them. I relish the range in those classes. They are lovely young people.

What are your top 3 tips for young lawyers?

  1. Always be courteous to everyone, treat people with kindness. That has a great ongoing positive impact for everyone, including oneself.

What are your survival tips for dealing effectively with stress at varying stages throughout a career in law?

As a young person?

Have people around you. Put support teams in place to protect yourself and others. Be aware enough to know you need to have checks and balances in your life.

ODT (5 March 2018) – Mother ‘disgusted’ at dean’s presence at law camp

The mother of a former student who stripped and took part in jelly wrestling at one of the now notorious University of Otago law camps says she was disgusted the dean of the law faculty seemed to condone the event.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said she was disgusted when she found out her then 18-year-old daughter had been encouraged to jelly wrestle at the camp in 2012, but even more so when she learnt faculty dean Prof Mark Henaghan was present for part of the camp.

Her daughter had been chosen to take part after losing a game of paper, scissors, rock.

“She said everyone was peer pressured to do by other people in her group.”

While Prof Henaghan was not there for the jelly wrestling event, his attendance sent a message it was a sanctioned camp, she said.

“Students get up to a lot of stuff, but the fact that the dean of the school was there made it seem like it was sanctioned  by the school.”

At the time the woman said she thought about making an official complaint to the university, but decided against it.

The summer camp has been severely reprimanded, and Professor Henaghan will no longer be at Otago so won’t attend again

But the overstepping of professional lines by Professor Henaghan (and he wasn’t the only staff problem in the law faculty going by reports) is something that Otago University should address, publicly.

They shouldn’t make excuses for inappropriate behaviour of staff, nor ignore it.

But a liked person being to personal and in some senses sleazy (to some students) may continue to be swept under the campus rug.

Russell McVeagh, law faculties under fire

The spotlight on inappropriate behaviour in legal circles continues, with more distancing from law firm Russell McVeagh, and the Auckland University joining Otago in the firing line.

Women’s Law Journal: Russell McVeagh & NZ Women’s Law Journal

Until now, we have not commented on the complaints of sexual assault against Russell McVeagh. Russell McVeagh is one of the Journal’s sponsors and we have taken this time to consider our relationship with the firm.

The complainants have faced trauma two years ago and again with recent publicity. Our go out to the women involved. You are not alone: we and many others stand with you and hope to support you however we can. Russell McVeagh, the profession and society have failed you by enabling a culture in which these assaults could happen.

We have had a frank conversation with Russell McVeagh about the complaints, the firm’s culture and the steps the firm has taken subsequently. Russell McVeagh seem to have genuine concern for the complainants and have told us of their endeavours to do best by them and ensure this never happens again.

In spite of this, we feel it is best for us to put our relationship on hold so that Russell McVeagh can review its policies, practices and culture.

The events of the last few weeks show that the problem is far broader than Russell McVeagh. It is not an issue of working long hours and alcohol-fuelled social events, which are a normal part of professional life. The issue is deeper than that: it is about the sexist thinking that people have failed to challenge for far too long. Anything else is a scapegoat. We believe that now is the time for the leaders of our profession to take responsibility and initiate change.

We are deeply disappointed by many of the responses from senior members of the profession in recent days. The women involved and anyone who has suffered because of the inappropriate actions of others deserve our support. They also deserve a comprehensive, creative and paradigm-shifting response.

There have been heartening and proactive responses from other members of the profession.

We support these positive actions and would like to lend a hand wherever we can. Of particular note, we would like to mention the Wellington Women Lawyers’ Association, Elizabeth Hall and Zoë Lawton who have taken it upon themselves to institute fora where anyone can speak out about their experiences and be heard. In the coming months, we will also be taking action to help change our profession for good.

We will not be silent any longer.

NZH: School debating competition drops law firm Russell McVeagh after sexual harassment scandal

School debaters have dropped their sponsoring law firm Russell McVeagh, as public reaction continues to mount over alleged sexual harassment of the firm’s female interns.

NZ Schools’ Debating Council vice-president Nicholas Cross said the council had put its relationship with the firm “on hold”.

“Russell McVeagh has been the major sponsor of the NZ Schools’ Debating Council for 18 years and has been a valued and supportive partner throughout this time,” he said.

“The council was very concerned by these recent allegations. Our policy is zero tolerance for any kind of harassment.”

All six of New Zealand’s university law faculties have already distanced themselves from Russell McVeagh, but Auckland has joined Otago in the hypocrisy spotlight.

ODT: Law camp cancelled after claims

The University of Otago student law society has cancelled the law camp run for second-year students, following a series of allegations of nudity and jelly wrestling. The camp was scheduled to be held this weekend.

The camp has been highly scrutinised by former students for the levels of alcohol consumed and the activities run during the weekend.

The camp is organised by The Society of Otago University Law Students (Souls), and has been running for at least the past 10 years.

Souls had vowed to clamp down on drunkenness and ban ‘full nudity’. But yesterday it put out a statement saying the pro-vice chancellor and the university were not prepared to support the camp, previously held at Camp Iona, near Herbert.

“Without this support, regrettably, Souls is unable to run the camp this year.”

Souls president Tim Austen said the event had relied on the support of the law faculty and wider university, which provided assistance with security, while the proctor signed off an event management plan.

Faculty dean Prof Mark Henaghan has attended parts of previous camps as a guest but could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

NZH: Familiar tale of binge-drinking and nudity at Auckland University’s annual law camp

Binge drinking, skinny-dipping, and dirty-dancing competitions with extra points for nudity have occurred at the University of Auckland’s annual law camp, students claim.

The weekend-long camp on Motutapu Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, run by the Auckland University Law Students’ Society (AULSS), has come under scrutiny after the University of Otago student law society scrapped its law camp following allegations of nudity and jelly wrestling.

Students say that daylight hours featured healthy team-building and bonding exercises and games including obstacle courses, raft building, and orienteering.

But the evenings were dedicated to raucous parties with drinking games, vomiting, sex and seedy skits.

No staff were present but the 200-odd students were overseen by sober student leaders.

One self-described conservative, teetotal student spoken to by the Herald was shocked by the antics.

“I’m not really used to that whole situation so I kind of just assumed that’s what happens when you go to normal uni parties,” said the student, who wished to remain anonymous.

She was unfazed by the rampant binge-drinking and sex, but when her group was asked to go skinny-dipping, and then perform “racy” dance shows, she became “super-uncomfortable”.

“I wasn’t drinking but before we did the skit thing, our leaders said, ‘This whole thing would probably just be easier if you were drunk’,” the law student said.

“The more dirty the skit, the more clothes you took off, the more points you would get, at least it seemed that way. It was uncomfortable because it encouraged you to strip or be vulgar and that’s very not me.

“There was a skinny-dipping game where if you went completely in the nude then you got more points, but the entire team had to do it. That was where I felt kind of peer pressured by the sort of thinking that I have to do it because everyone else is doing it.

“It was very out of my comfort zone. But I am also the kind of person to be open to almost everything, so I was feeling really weird, I never do these kinds of things, ever. I was kind of in the head space thinking, ‘Well, what everyone else does, then maybe I should do it too’.”

She added: “I’ve always wanted to experience being drunk or doing something crazy. But I didn’t expect it to be at law camp.”

When they arrived on the island, condoms were handed out, the student said.

Throughout the weekend, she said, couples snuck off to have sex.

“There were lots of people puking, people stripping naked or taking off whatever and just dancing,” she said.

Another student posted on an online forum that they will pull out of this year’s camp after hearing that it’s “all about getting laid and drunk” and that it “should be renamed STI camp”.

University students will inevitably let their hair down and ditch their inhibitions – many are away from home for the first time in their lives, and almost all have recently been legally been able to buy and drink alcohol.

What they do in their own time is up to them.

But university organised or sanctioned over-imbibing and debauchery is inappropriate, irresponsible, and is a disservice to those students who get caught up in and pressured by group excesses.

Back to where the inappropriate legal fraternising story began, Newsroom: Ex-Russell McVeagh lawyer moves on

The man at the centre of the serious sexual assault allegations involving Russell McVeagh is no longer sharing offices with several other lawyers. He left Russell McVeagh following the allegations of serious sexual misconduct against summer clerks.

One of the lawyers at those offices confirmed to Newsroom the man at the centre of the allegations was no longer working from those offices and information about him has disappeared from the venue’s website.

Meanwhile, Russell McVeagh told Newsroom an internal project team is working towards making an announcement regarding the appointment of a non-legal external reviewer early next week.

Since Newsroomrevealed the allegations on February 14, Russell McVeagh has claimed it undertook a detailed internal investigation and the two lawyers accused by the clerks left the firm. It claims it adopted a Zero Tolerance policy to sexual harassment and abuse but will not say when that came into effect.

Newsroom also understands that ILANZ, the In-House Lawyers Association of New Zealand, has agreed with Russell McVeagh that the firm will withdraw as a Premium Sponsor of the ILANZ Conference 2018.

ILANZ president Erin Judge said it is appropriate for Russell McVeagh to focus on the external review that they have commissioned and implement the recommendations made.

“As a collective of in-house lawyers, we need to consider how inappropriate sexual conduct affects our part of the legal profession and what we are going to do about it.

“The upcoming conference provides us with an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to a safe and healthy work environment and to encourage discussion of these issues. Continued sponsorship by Russell McVeagh would be a distraction from this important discussion.

“Sexual harassment, assault and unsafe working conditions are not limited to one firm or one part of the legal profession. We all have a role and responsibility in driving change. We are mindful of this as we finalise our conference programme and continue to focus on the best interests of our membership.”

Some soul searching required in both business and education legal circles.

United States “is a deeply divided nation”

Political experts talked about deep divisions in the USA at a Fulbright New Zealand forum hosted by the University of Otago last night.

ODT: Next president would preside over ‘deeply divided America’

Otago University politics professor Robert Patman told the audience at the College of Education auditorium that no matter whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump prevailed, the next president would preside over a ”deeply divided America”.

Despite a sustained economic recovery, changes to healthcare and combat troops leaving Afghanistan and Iraq under President Barack Obama, the signs showed ”many Americans feel alienated from their country’s political system”.

”For an increasing number of US citizens, the optimistic American dream … seems to be increasingly beyond their reach.”

Racial division had widened and economic inequality continued to deepen.

”Even the winning candidate is likely in reality to have a limited capacity to govern a polarised country and manage its relations with the rest of the world.”

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have high unfavourability ratings so whoever wins will have have a hard job gaining confidence and support.

Assistant professor and Fulbright scholar Simon Nicholson from American University, Washington DC spoke (via a pre-recorded video) about how divided the USA was on climate change.

Whereas in the past there was bipartisan support for environmental causes, the stance on climate change was now split on Republican and Democratic lines, Dr Nicholson said.

This meant the election was a ”big deal” for climate change and if Mr Trump was elected it would be a ”severe blow” to international efforts to battle it.

I don’t see the chasm between mainstream climate consensus, and strong scepticism and opposition, changing.

Carla Lam (Otago University)…

…said a Clinton win would be a victory for gender equality, but would not bring ”substantive change” on gender.

”That there is even any doubt that Hillary could win, given the alternative, to me says enough about gender politics.

”Consider for a moment what would be made of Hillary Clinton as a candidate if she were known to be married to a man 24 years her junior, married twice before, and as someone who openly declared sexual attraction to her child in his presence on national television.”

There’s no doubt that Trump seems to get a free pass from many on things that Clinton would be absolutely trashed for if they applied to her.

However Clinton may be seen more as ‘establishment candidate becomes President’ than being a huge victory for gender equality. That the first woman with a chance of making the top job in the White House has emerged from an established political family is barely a ‘woman makes it to the top on her own merits’ victory.