Law camp a safe, exciting weekend, student petition says

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 6 March 2018, 10:40AM
The University of Otago's camp for second year law students has been cancelled in the wake of scrutiny around drunken antics in previous years. (Photo / Stock)
The University of Otago's camp for second year law students has been cancelled in the wake of scrutiny around drunken antics in previous years. (Photo / Stock)

A University of Otago student is launching a petition to have an annual law camp reinstated, after it was cancelled amid concerns about debauchery in previous years.

The university met the Society of Otago University Law Students (Soul) yesterday to discuss the future of the camp and review concerns raised by students.

The meeting resulted in the camp being axed, which the student behind the petition has described as a "low blow".

The meeting followed Herald revelations of excessive drinking, jelly wrestling and nudity at previous years' law camps.

The university is investigating after a former student, who did not want to be named, said she attended a second-year law camp in 2012, which descended into "an American fraternity house".

Meanwhile, a former University of Otago law student has claimed members of the law faculty have acted inappropriately towards women for years.

The camp, which is organised by Souls, was due to be held this weekend.

Mhairi Mackenzie Everitt said Souls was unable to follow through with the trip after the university withdrew its support.

Everitt said students had been assured organisers had made huge amendments to the way the camp would be run.

"I believe that most of us felt comfortable that we would not be pressured into anything we felt uncomfortable with," she said.

"Instead we thought we were in for a safe, exciting weekend getting to know our peers."

The student acknowledged recent revelations about sexual misconduct in the university's law faculty but said the chance to "grow as a cohort" should not be taken from the group.

"It should not be too much to ask to have a great trip away to get to know one another, be young and escape the student-made confines of North Dunedin," Everitt wrote.

The petition, which was launched yesterday, has attracted more than 250 signatures.

The aim was to reach 500.

Just days ago, the Herald on Sunday reported on claims of drinking and nudity at the camp in previous years.

Professor Tony Ballantyne, Pro-Vice Chancellor of humanities, said the concerns had been addressed.

The university went on to say that staff members attend the camp: "Mostly the person who attends is the Dean of the Law Faculty as an invited guest."

The university said it had also previously received complaints from two parents — one about excessive drinking and another about "nudity during a student performance".

The move to cancel the camp comes as the culture of the legal profession in New Zealand is put under intense scrutiny.

Male Russell McVeagh employees have allegedly engaged in sexual acts with female interns.

Last week, all six New Zealand law schools cut ties with Russell McVeagh in the wake of sexual harassment accusations.

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