Our University Proctor Simon Thompson makes no apology for his team at Campus Watch not tolerating behaviour that leads to people getting hurt. Like all staff, the team at the OUSA and in fact most Dunedinites, he wants nothing more than for students to play and stay safe, have fun with their mates, and graduate having had the kind of experience Otago is famous for.
He doesn’t want to see a young person fighting for their life in hospital, disfigured after an accident, sent home with study plans in tatters, convicted in Court, or psychologically scarred after an initiation event that went horribly wrong. Here he shares some examples of dangerous initiation events, the likes of which he never wants to see again:
They didn’t know the “target” had a health condition
“A young man was spending his first year at the University of Otago and was immersed in all the fun and antics of life at his college. He had a heart problem but he hadn’t told any of his new friends; five months earlier he had major surgery and was on heavy-duty drugs to aid his long-term recovery. While looking for a flat for his second year, there was a knock on the door of his room. He was told to attend an initiation at his would-be flat, where the current flatties would make him do “necessary” tasks before he could be allowed to rent the flat. He was given a bong to smoke, a bottle of red wine and a large amount of beer. He lost consciousness, fell to the floor and began to froth at the mouth. A flatmate called an ambulance and paramedics worked on him while everybody hoped like hell he’d come around. The first-year student had a long stay in hospital, where he realised how close he had come to dying. He remained very sick and missed lectures for a month. What he didn’t know at the time was that it was all a prank; the current flatmates had no power to decide the flat’s future renters.”
Cut up skux…
“The red card for a male third-year told him to walk along the top of a corrugated iron fence after smashing a six-pack within a short time limit. He attempted the task, but lost his balance, and fell over the jagged iron fence, slicing through an arm and a leg. His science lesson for the day was that alcohol does not promote balance or dexterity. The wounds were so deep and the bleeding so profuse that an ambulance was called. He was taken to hospital and stitched up. The disfiguring scars that remain on his body are an ugly reminder of one very foolish moment in his life. And another chunk of emergency department time was taken up by alcohol related problems, instead of dealing with a truly sick individual.”
Pulling the GB card…
“A third year female who was not a heavy drinker, usually the sober driver, felt she needed to make up the numbers for a red card that had been served on her flatmates. She was not keen to take part as often happens she didn’t want to let the other girls down. As she drank the “required” amount she began to realise how much more she was drinking than usual. Next she was given straight spirits, something she never usually drank. Her legs wouldn’t work and she ended up in a heap, struggling to breathe and unable to move. She no longer knew where she was. Someone called an ambulance, while around her, flatmates were vomiting. She spent the night in Dunedin hospital. When she met with the Proctor afterwards who often checks up on cases such as this she admitted she has never felt so scared; the experience of being paralysed and struggling to breathe was truly terrifying.”
Not pretty right now
A group of first year girls’ initiation before being allowed to take over the lease of a flat the following year was to attend the flat and have lurid and derogatory names scribbled in permanent marker all over their faces. They were then made to return to their college, sit in the dining room and endure their indignity. Their laughter at the time was said to be more of the nervous, “I can’t work out if people are laughing at me, or with me,” variety. The “initiation” humiliated them in front of their peers, and ultimately left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Especially so when the girls learned that it had all been for nothing. They had wrongly believed that the flatmates could veto their lease if they didn’t comply. In fact, the only person with that sort of power is the landlord.
Cupboard “lock ins”
A young man’s red card was to agree to being locked in a cupboard – unable to be released until he had consumed a large amount of booze. He choked on his vomit in a confined space and with no-one around to save him, he came close to death. The Proctor believes there is a serious risk from such lock ins and warns every student to be very careful of any situations like this.
Conviction = Job and Travel issues…
A young student’s red card was to steal a dairy product from someone’s house. He broke into a property and stole a bottle of milk from the fridge. But the people in the house he entered heard the intrusion, were frightened and called the Police. The student was arrested for burglary. He found out the hard way that it is burglary, actually, when you break into somebody’s house and steal something! No fun in the end; Court and a potential conviction for dishonesty could ruin the student’s future career prospects.
Epilogue from the Proctor:
“Initiations are fine, as long as they are not dangerous, illegal or objectionable. There are a million-and-one things that extremely bright young people can do that are imaginative, and that don’t involve someone getting hurt. Don’t be fooled - and protect yourself; no-one can make you do anything you don’t want to do!”
It’s your call
If you are feeling pressured to take part please remember it is your call. You do not have to take part and any student who applies pressure upon you to do so does not have your best interest at heart. It is also forbidden under the Student Code of Conduct to organise initiation events or ceremonies requiring the consumption of alcohol or the use of drugs, and there are severe penalties. Have a read of the Student Code of Conduct here.