Gender progress at Otago University

This year Otago University has widened their gender options, and at the same it is reported that 60% of domestic students are female.

ODT: Uni adds gender options

Whereas in the past students could choose female, male or X for indeterminate, students this year can identify as “gender diverse”, and, if they want to, specify whether they are a male or female, a transgender man, a transgender woman or non-binary transgender.

There is also the option of calling themselves Mx or Id in addition to the titles Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms – and students can change their gender in their student details without having to provide any supporting paperwork.

So you can fairly freely choose how to identify your gender. Anyone who doesn’t like the new options doesn’t have to use them.

This looks like gender is getting complicated, but it is complicated for some people.

OUSA former queer support co-ordinator Hahna Briggs said she was “really happy” students could now use those options to express their identity.

“Students were able to change their gender marker after enrolment to M, F, or X (X for indeterminate) but they had to provide a statutory declaration or an updated passport to make this change. Now this process is so much easier”.

OUSA president for 2019 James Heath said the new university process was “in line with common practice”.

“From an OUSA perspective we welcome, and celebrate, openness with regards to gender diversity with a goal to make Otago the most inclusive campus in NZ.”

Feedback about the change from students online was very positive, describing the move as “awesome” and “fantastic”.

Most young people should be quite open and liberal about this – but there could be some complications regarding use of gender assigned facilities and qualification for gender separated sports.

Also from ODT:  Uni women outnumber men 60:40

A gender studies specialist says the 60:40 split of female and male domestic students attending the University of Otago last year is part of a trend across most Western countries — though it might be slightly higher at Otago than at other universities due to the emphasis on health sciences.

Gender disparities were “subject-specific” and last year there was a slightly larger difference at Otago than usual, probably because of the role of health sciences at the university, Fairleigh Gilmour said.

Generally, men tended to outnumber women in engineering and IT, while women tended to dominate in health-related disciplines.

There are now many more female medical and dental students, but other health fields will lean even more heavily towards female numbers.

Statistics seemed similar at most other universities around the country for students. 2017 splits:

  • Victoria University 55% female, 45% male (all students)
  • Auckland University of Technology 61% female, 39% male (domestic students)
  • University of Auckland 57% female , 43% male (all students)
  • Massey University 60% female, 40% male
  • University of Waikato 58% female, 42% male (all students)

One bucked the trend…

  • Lincoln University 49% female, 51 male (all students)

…but that could reflect on the Lincoln specialising in agriculture.

Why are significantly more females going to university than males? It may in part be due to trade qualifications being done at polytechnics. More males may get into work without qualifications. And there could be more males unemployed or in other sorts of training.

But it is clear that as far as university education is concerned females are dominating the numbers.

Knowledge is power in a number of ways.

Q+A – Bridges would punish universities who ‘interfere with free speech’

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges was interviewed on Q + A last night. He said “Universities could face funding cuts in extreme cases if they interfere with free speech”.

One thing worse than Universities deciding what could be freely spoken on campus could be politicians making financial threats over what could be freely spoken on campus.

haven’t had time to listen to the interview, but the headline from it is not flash.

Victoria, Wellington

Victoria University is considering a name change, it says to avoid confusion with similarly named universities in other parts of the world (including in Victoria University in Melbourne).

It has been suggested it be renamed University of Wellington with some te reo tacked on.

Stuff: Victoria University of Wellington looking to change name to avoid overseas confusion

Victoria University could be renamed the University of Wellington as the tertiary institute tries to eliminate confusion for potential overseas students.

Vice-chancellor professor Grant Guilford said a name change was on the cards to provide “clarity” and avoid other universities taking credit for work done at the Wellington campus.

Hutt South MP and Victoria University alumni Chris Bishop said he initially opposed the idea. However, he understood the university’s reasons for a name change having copped years of confusion while competing overseas with the debating team.

“There’s an emotional connection to the place. There will be people who say that you’re giving up the 100-plus years of a brand and the integrity and credibility behind it.”

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, who was consulted with on the idea, said it was a good strategic move that he wholeheartedly supported.

Victoria University alumni Ian McKinnon said the name meant “a great deal” to him but he would not stand in the way of change that was supported, and in the best interests of the institute’s future.

Any name change will be put before Education Minister Chris Hipkins to gazette the changes. Hipkins said he could not comment on the potential name change.

It has been pointed out the while ‘Victoria’ is dated and largely irrelevant in modern New Zealand, so is Wellington.

Te Herenga Waka, which translates to the hitching post for your canoe, has been suggested.

That seems like an odd choice.

What about one of the three Māori names for Wellington?

  • Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara – ‘the great harbour of Tara’
  • Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māui – ‘the head of the fish of Māui’
  • Pōneke – derived from Port Nick, short for Port Nicholson (refers to the southernmost part of the North Island)

The first two on their own (or tacked on) could also be confusing internationally.

Why not University of Aotearoa?

Currently a Stuff online poll asks: Should Victoria University of Wellington change it’s name?

  • No. It’s sacrilege to change more than 100 years of tradition – 0%
  • Yes. It will stop confusion and focus on Wellington’s global brand – 0%
  • Maybe. But there has to be a better alternative – 100%

But don’t rely too much on online polls, especially when there has been only 1 voter (I had to vote to see the results).



Freedom of speech in universities

There has been a lot of discussion in media about free speech in universities after 27 “high profile” New Zealanders wrote an open letter. It took a while to find a copy of the actual letter:

Freedom of speech underpins our way of life in New Zealand as a liberal democracy. It enables religious observance, individual development, societal change, science, reason and progress in all spheres of life. In particular, the free exchange of ideas is a cornerstone of academe.

Governments and particular groups will from time to time seek to restrict freedom of speech in the name of safety or special interest. However, debate or deliberation must not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most people to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.

Universities play a fundamental role in the thought leadership of a society. They, of all places, should be institutions where robust debate and the free exchange of ideas take place, not the forceful silencing of dissenting or unpopular views.

Intellectual rigour must prevail over emotional blackmail.

Individuals, not any institution or group, should make their own judgments about ideas and should express these judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas they oppose, without discrimination or intimidation.

We must ensure that our higher learning establishments are places where intellectual rigour prevails over emotional blackmail and where academic freedom, built on free expression, is maintained and protected. We must fight for each other’s right to express opinions, even if we do not agree with them.


Assoc Prof Len Bell, Dr Don Brash, Dr David Cumin, Sir Toby Curtis, Dr Brian Edwards, Graeme Edwards, Dr Gavin Ellis, Sir Michael Friedlander, Alan Gibbs, Dame Jenny Gibbs, Bryan Gould, Wally Hirsh, Prof Manying Ip, Sir Bob Jones, Prof Pare Keiha, Assoc Prof Hon Luamanuvao, Winnie Laban, Dame Lesley Max, Gordon McLauchlan, Prof Paul Moon, Sir Douglas Myers, Assoc Prof Camille Nakhid, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Prof Edwina Pio, David Rankin, Philip Temple, Dame Tariana Turia, Prof Albert Wendt.

Paul Moon followed this up with an opinion piece published by Stuff:

Freedom of speech in New Zealand’s universities under attack

A plea for free speech in our universities might seem about as unnecessary as a demand that all people be treated equally under the law.

After all, the Education Act asserts clearly the right of academics to speak as critics and consciences of society – supposedly securing universities as bastions of independent thought and open expression.

Yet, recent events at home and overseas are endangering freedom of speech at our universities.

Threats against minority communities in New Zealand, and in other Western countries, and terrorist attacks in Europe are having a chilling effect. A recent study of 115 British universities found only seven had not experienced some sort of censorship, ban or intervention which curbed free speech.

The right to free speech is so ingrained in New Zealand’s ethos that today a diverse group of 27 high-profile New Zealanders has released an open letter warning of “the forceful silencing of dissenting or unpopular views” on our university campuses. Its signatories include not only academics, and business and community leaders, but some of our most outspoken commentators, including Sir Bob Jones, Dr Don Brash, Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Dame Turiana Turia.

Of course, with rights come with responsibilities. Freedom of speech must have some constraints; that’s why it is a crime to incite hatred and violence. And damaging someone’s reputation – outside the privileged protection provided at universities and Parliament – can end in a defamation suit. Just as the courts and the media must always jealously guard freedom of speech from state controls, so must our universities.

The pretext of avoiding offence is regularly hauled out as the basis for curtailing free speech on campuses.  If a group is offended by an idea or argument, it is increasingly – and misguidedly – believed it is better to ban or “disinvite” the causers rather than ruffle sensitivities or risk the speaker being drowned out by vigorous protest. This patronising sanctimony continues to gain ground along with an absurd notion that universities should provide intellectual “safe-spaces”.

There is no inalienable right not to be offended. It is paradoxical that those who clamour for such “safe spaces” often seem untroubled by the intimidation being used to shut down unpopular speech.

It is precisely these intellectually dangerous or subversive spaces that academics and students must enter and explore. Political dissent, artistic deviance and intellectual rebellion are at the heart of a healthy and progressive society, and universities have traditionally played a leading role in challenging conventions and ushering in new ways of thinking and doing.

The forced closure of a student club at Auckland University recently – and threats to their members’ safety – is a slippery slope we should all be wary of. Kneejerk calls from Police and the Human Rights Commission to introduce hate-speech laws after recent abuse against ethnic communities will have the unintended consequence of suppressing free speech.

Education, open debate and understanding will change racist and intolerant views – not censorship.

A vibrant society permits heretic views to be expressed. A country where the state – or universities for that matter – determines what is a permissible thought and what isn’t is a dictatorships, not a modern democracy.

History shows that it is fear and intolerance that drives suppression of free speech, rather than free speech causing fear and intolerance. Those who attempt to suppress free speech, tend to do so out of fear and intolerance. Censorship is a crude tool used to replace healthy counter-argument.

That we think and believe different things is something to be cherished, not smothered, and different ideas and opinions are something to be welcomed. That is how we learn and progress.

Universities teach people how, not what, to think. Now more than ever, they must protect the very core of their work – free expression.

Paul Moon is Professor of History at Auckland University of Technology.

Trump settles ‘university’ lawsuits

Donald Trump had said he wouldn’t back down on the Trump University lawsuits against him as he ‘always won in court’, but has decided to settle.

RNZ: Donald Trump to pay $25m over ‘phoney’ university

US President-elect Donald Trump has agreed to pay $25 million ($35m NZD) to settle his Trump University fraud lawsuits, but he will not admit wrongdoing.

During his presidential campaign, he claimed the US district judge overseeing two of the cases, Judge Gonzalo Curiel, was biased because he was of Mexican descent.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the settlement.

He said it followed repeated refusals by Mr Trump “to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phoney university”.

Students claimed they were they were lured by false promises into paying up to $35,000 to learn Trump’s real estate investing “secrets” from his “hand-picked” instructors.

Three lawsuits relating to Trump University will be covered by the deal: two class actions suits in California and a New York case brought by Schneiderman.

Judge Curiel must approve the deal.

Mr Trump will not admit any wrongdoing under the agreement.

His attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, said the settlement demonstrated Trump’s desire to set his personal feelings aside to work on issues facing the county.

“It’s time to move on,” Petrocelli said.

I’m not surprised Trump wants to move on, it would have been distracting and embarrassing to continue in court.

Wikipedia has the history of the lawsuits.

Trump University LLC (formerly the Trump Wealth Institute; later named Trump Entrepreneur Initiative LLC) was an American for-profit education company that ran a real estate training program from 2005 until 2010. (A separate organization, Trump Institute, was licensed by Trump University but not owned by the Trump Organization.)

After multiple lawsuits, it is now defunct. It was founded by Donald Trump and his associates, Michael Sexton and Jonathan Spitalny, in 2004. The company offered courses in real estate, asset management, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation.[

The organization was not an accredited university or college. It did not confer college credit, grant degrees, or grade its students.

In 2011, the company became the subject of an inquiry by the New York Attorney General’s office for illegal business practices that resulted in a lawsuit filed in 2013, which remains ongoing.

Trying to make it sound like a win.Trying to make it sound like a win.TTTcxppv_2veaeovue

Trying to make it sound like a win. If it can be called a win quite an expensive one.

But contradictory – says that the outcome was better than ‘the potential award’, as if conceding there was merit in the case.

World University Rankings

NZ Herald reports on the latest QS World University Rankings in New Zealand universities confirmed as world-class.

The QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) rankings assess universities across four areas: research, resourcing, graduate employability and internationalisation.

The QS Rankings considers 3800 institutions worldwide and ranks the top 916.

  • University of Auckland 81
  • University of Otago 169 (up 4)
  • Canterbury University 214
  • Victoria University 228
  • Waikato University 324 (up 77)
  • Lincoln University 343 (up 68)
  • Auckland University of Technology 450 (up 60)

Chris Whelan, the executive director of Universities New Zealand, said the rankings are an extraordinary result and “something that New Zealanders should be proud of”.

“We are the only country in the world to have all our universities ranked within the top 500. If you are a young New Zealander thinking about where to do a degree, you can be confident of getting a world-class education at any of our universities.”

Whelan said an increased focus on funding high quality research contributed to the success of New Zealand rankings.

Non-students causing Otago problems

Past ‘student’ riots in Dunedin are known to have been in part at least stoke up by non-student troublemakers, and not all of them were from Dunedin.

Out of 12 arrests so far this year only 2 have been Otago students.

Newshub reports: Non-students causing problems during Otago Uni orientation

Otago University campus police are generally happy with the behaviour of students during orientation week and say outsiders are causing the issues.

There have been more arrests in Dunedin overnight, with orientation week well underway.

Four people were arrested after couches were set alight on Castle St, where around 150 students were partying.

Police say only two students are among the 12 arrests they’ve made since Saturday night, and they’re seeing a growing number of non-students in the area.

“Unfortunately it is a time of the year where the students can get a little bit out of control, but generally they’ve been very well-behaved this year,” says John Woodhouse, campus constable for Otago University.

There’s about 20,000 students at Otago, with about 4,000 First Year. Most are from out of town. That’s a huge influx into a city or about 120,000 (I’m not sure if that is with or without students).

A number of problems were caused by non-students joining in, including high school students, unemployed people and people coming from outside Dunedin specifically for orientation week.

Non-students who like to party, and a minority non-students who like to cause trouble.

A 16-year-old was arrested over the weekend after allegedly threatening another man with a craft knife.

Unlikely he was going to university.

Generally there’s little sign of trouble and a lot of sign of an injection of vibrancy.

Dunedin is quiet after Christmas as a lot students go home or elsewhere to work for the summer, and many residents go on holiday.

It slowly gets busier through January, and goes up a gear as school starts back around the end of the month.

Soon after that the buzz builds as the uni students gradually return, and by now the city is at it’s busiest as the new academic year kicks off.

So far 0.01% of the students have been arrested.

Otago shooting threat – hoax or not it’s a problem

Yesterday an anonymous person posted a threat on the 4chan bulletin board of a shooting massacre at Otago University on Wednesday. It was then copied to Reddit and Facebook.


Whether this is a stupid hoax or a serious threat it is causing a lot of problems and anxiety.

What is 4chan?

4chan is a simple image-based bulletin board where anyone can post comments and share images. There are boards dedicated to a variety of topics, from Japanese animation and culture to videogames, music, and photography. Users do not need to register an account before participating in the community.

Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured 17 at Virginia Tech in 2007.

This afternoon the police put out a statement:

Otago University threat

National News

Dunedin Police are aware of a threat made via an online post that relates to the University of Otago.

Specialist staff are actively investigating the post with assistance from the High Tech Crime Group in Wellington.  Police are also working closely with the Vice-Chancellor and the University.

“Police would like to reassure University staff and students, and the wider Dunedin community, that appropriate measures are being taken in relation to the post,” says Inspector Mel Aitken, acting Area Commander: Otago Coastal.

“Police take any threat seriously while its source and authenticity is being assessed.

“Our advice at this time is to be alert and vigilant but not alarmed while our investigation is ongoing.

“Police will be maintaining a high visibility presence in the area and taking other appropriate steps which we are unable to discuss publicly.

“We are also asking those in the University area to report any suspicious behaviour immediately to Police.

“We understand that a threat of this nature could be concerning to some people. Police, University of Otago and Campus Watch staff will be available to speak with anyone who has concerns.

“Police is experienced at assessing a range of threats and we investigate any matter of concern which comes to our attention. We are also mindful of the possibility of “copy cat” threats following high profile events which occur overseas.   We will deal firmly with any individuals associated with any such copy cat threats.

“Police will communicate any further advice necessary as our investigation progresses, and we will continue to work closely with the University of Otago.” said Inspector Aitken.

So will life go on as usual in Dunedin tomorrow? There are many students and staff at Otago, some of them will have some real concerns for obvious reasons. I know people personally with close associations with the University who have concerns.

Whatever the intent and motives of the person who posted the threat the effects of something like this can be huge.

It shows that in a normally boring old backwater like Dunedin one person can cause major problems without even doing anything real.

And if the person is serious the problems increase substantially.

A state of peaceful living can be easily and quickly be overturned.