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University takes proactive approach to student behaviour

Monday, 6 March 2017 10:16pm

Campus Watch team members Vicky Papahadjis and Milo Wink on Hyde Street delivering information about rubbish collection and rules to student flats. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

Campus Watch staff are personally visiting every flat in Dunedin’s student quarter to hand-deliver information about rubbish rules, regulations and expectations.

The visits, being carried out for the first time this year, are part of a series of initiatives the University of Otago is undertaking in collaboration with the Dunedin City Council (DCC), to eliminate antisocial behaviours and tackle glass and rubbish issues in North Dunedin.

Proctor Dave Scott says the University recognises that for many students, their first time in a flat may also be the first time in their lives they have had to put out rubbish.

“Our staff are hand-delivering information from the DCC about rubbish collection and also offering guidance and advice about rubbish related issues,” he says.

"Students are inundated with information at the start of the academic year, so the face-to-face interaction with Campus Watch staff is being well received."

“Students are inundated with information at the start of the academic year, so the face-to-face interaction with Campus Watch staff is being well received.”

In addition to the visits the University has also worked with the DCC to provide increased kerbside collection during February. The streets around the student quarter are being cleaned more frequently in the mornings to clear excess glass off footpaths and roads, and extra blue glass recycling bins are being provided by the DCC through Campus Watch to flats that have a high volume of bottles.

Mr Scott says the University also provides skips in the North Dunedin quarter every Friday of February and once monthly thereafter, at no cost to the ratepayer allowing students the free opportunity to keep up with their rubbish requirements.

“We meet with the DCC frequently to revise the situation and look at better ways to resolve rubbish issues,” Mr Scott says.

Poor choices meet consequences

For those who break the rules, there are consequences – including an average fine of $150 for students seen smashing bottles. If the behaviour is malicious, such as a student throwing a bottle at another, the penalties are harsher, including being sent to the Vice-Chancellor who, for repeat offenders can exclude them from the University.

“Campus Watch also visits flats where glass and mess is evident, and directs the occupants to brooms and cleaning equipment to ensure on-the-spot cleaning,” Mr Scott says.

The work pays off

This work is being reflected with results. In a recent report to the University Council, Mr Scott reports that the number of students wilfully breaking glass has steadily dropped over the last five years, from 93 in 2011 to 41 in 2016.

In addition, the number of fire-related incidents being dealt with by the Proctor has declined steadily and significantly over the same time period, from 246 in 2012 to 70 last year.

“The statistics don't lie and we are pleased that what we are targeting including student disorder, poor behaviour and fires is trending down. This is in part due to tougher penalties,” Mr Scott says.

Alcohol laws affect all of New Zealand

"The Student Code of Conduct outlines expectations of our students, and this is enforced."

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says many of the problems being faced by the University and DCC are fueled by alcohol – and are exacerbated by the fact that North Dunedin has a population the size of Oamaru, but aged 19 to 23.

“Current liquor laws, that we vigorously lobbied unsuccessfully to change, affect all of New Zealand when young people gather, not just in Dunedin.

“Most students have fun without overdoing alcohol, but sometimes boundaries are overstepped. The Student Code of Conduct outlines expectations of our students, and this is enforced.”

This year’s focus

Mr Scott says the University will continue to focus on fires, rubbish issues and bottle breaking this year, and will also be addressing issues with students climbing onto rooftops.

“This is a safety initiative seeking to keep our students safe, arising from occasions where students have sustained serious injuries from falling or jumping off rooftops in recent years.”

In addition, the University is working with the DCC to target emerging noise related issues.