Pacific Media Watch

27 May 2018

NZ: Students protest censorship, sexual assaults and job cuts at Otago uni

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Students protest over censorship and staff cuts at Otago University. Image: Screen shot from ODT video

By Elena McPhee
DUNEDIN (Otago Daily Times/Pacific Media Watch): About 170 students braved freezing weather to march on the University of Otago clocktower brandishing signs opposing the disposal of editions of Critic magazine, university job cuts, and too much of a focus on marketing at a protest.

Chanting "1,2,3,4, we know what we're fighting for and 5,6,7,8, freedom to communicate'' the students marched from the Union Lawn to the clocktower on Friday, watched by members of Campus Watch, and members of local and national media.

The protest was organised by the Student Voice group following the removal of 500 coopies of Critic magazine featuring a menstruating person on the cover.

READ MORE:   Student group believes Otago Uni represses free speech

Representatives of the group Students Against Sexual Violence also spoke at the protest, about what they perceived as an attempt to censor them from speaking out about sexual assault on campus.

Students spoke about the importance of raising awareness about menstruation, and of having enough sanitary bins on campus.

The protest was attended by members of the law faculty Andrew Geddis and Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere and Dunedin City Councillor Aaron Hawkins, who spoke in support of the students but made it clear they were attending in their personal capacity.

Protesters signed a petition to be presented to Education Minister Chris Hipkins, asking for greater freedom of speech, more independence for the Otago University Students' Association and Campus Watch to be better informed about their legal role.

Placards at the protest read:
"Apologies are not enough"
"Happy to bleed"
"People first brand second"
"Support don't suppress"
"The university is the "redacted" of society"
"No more bloody censorship, period."

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