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University grieves student, offers support

Tuesday 8 October 2019 10:30am

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Flowers in the hedge outside the flat in Dundas Street where second-year student Sophia Crestani died on Saturday night.

The University’s student and staff communities are in a state of shock and grief, following the death of second-year student Sophia Crestani at a party at a Dundas Street flat on Saturday night.

A drop-in centre opened this morning in the Main Common Room of the University Union for students and staff, and will remain open today and tomorrow. Any students or staff affected by the weekend’s events are encouraged to attend for support.

Supportive messaging has this morning been circulated to students and staff, reminding all to stay in touch with flatmates, colleagues and friends, and take care of each other in the coming days ahead.

"Our hearts go out to the family and the friends of Sophia."

In addition, the University is developing a streamlined process to help affected students to access Special Consideration for their upcoming examinations.

On Dundas Street, students, staff and members of the community have been adding flowers to the hedge outside the flat where Sophia died, and have gathered there in small groups to mourn and support one another.

Sophia grew up in Wellington. Her parents flew to Dunedin yesterday morning.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne met with them before addressing media outside the University’s Clocktower building.

She described them as “simply remarkable people”.

“In the midst of their own grief I admire their courage and their generosity in helping us to look after the students who are most severely affected by this tragedy.”

Professor Hayne said Sophia’s death had severely affected the University community.

“Our hearts go out to the family and the friends of Sophia.”

She said the University’s main focus is on looking after the student community.

“I’d like to acknowledge the incredible support that we have received from the Police, from the Dunedin Hospital, from Campus Watch and the Proctor’s office, the residential colleges, Student Health, the Chaplaincy Services, OUSA and many, many other groups who have come together to help us look after the health and the wellbeing of our students.

"Most significantly we urge our students to be there for each other. Reach out to your friends and flatmates. Talk, listen and show the strength of our community."

“I’d also acknowledge the incredible resilience of our student community and I’d also like to note how well they have been looking after each other.”

Professor Hayne acknowledged it was nearly exam time, and said the University would be offering compassionate consideration to those in need.

“While we already have Special Consideration processes, our goal is to ensure that these are adapted to the current situation, and that there is straightforward access to Special Consideration for students affected by this event.”

OUSA President James Heath also addressed the media, speaking of the need for students and staff to support one another and not point fingers of blame.

“Now is the time to be supporting our community and that is our top priority, and we are holding off on any wider discussions.”

He urged grieving students to visit the newly created drop-in centre, OUSA Student Support, Student Health, the Chaplains or to free text or phone 1737.

“Most significantly we urge our students to be there for each other. Reach out to your friends and flatmates. Talk, listen and show the strength of our community.”