Universities

Universities hit back at after-death criticism in hallways

The statutory body representing the country’s universities ‘categorically’ rejects comments that none of New Zealand’s universities have implemented the Code of Pastoral Care following the death of a student at Canterbury.

A University of Lincoln student was found dead in the halls of residence on the first day of the new semester on Monday.

The student’s death is not being considered suspicious and will be forwarded to the coroner, a police spokesman said. Police were unable to say how long she was dead before her body was found.

The student is thought to have been in her late teens and first year of school.

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In response to the student’s death, Greens Higher Education spokeswoman Chlöe Swarbrick said questions to the Education and Labor Selection Committees revealed that none of the eight universities had implemented the pastoral code.

The code was extended and updated after the death of Mason Pendrous. Pendrous had been dead for nearly a month when he was found in his room at the University of Canterbury’s Sonoda Village on September 23, 2019.

On Wednesday, Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan said the student’s death was “felt across the sector”.

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An inquest into the student's death is ongoing.  (File photo)

ALDEN WILLIAMS / Stuff

An inquest into the student’s death is ongoing. (File photo)

“We categorically reject the claim that none of the universities have implemented the Pastoral Code which came into effect on January 1, 2022.”

All universities indicated that they were compliant in “most areas of the code”.

“Where they are still working, as the code allows, individually or collectively, to implement certain outstanding aspects, it mainly concerns new requirements to gather and report publicly on their performance in areas such as complaint resolution, the voice of the students and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Universities were providing the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, as administrator of the code, with regular reports on progress made in closing these remaining gaps, he said.

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“To date, there has been no suggestion that progress is insufficient or that the outstanding shortcomings create an undue risk to the safety and well-being of students.”

Lincoln University had its mid-year break from June 27 to July 15. Semester 2 started on Monday.

The university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Grant Edwards, said earlier that the university was “deeply saddened” by the “unexpected death” of a student in his room.

“We are working closely with the family, who have requested confidentiality, and with our community of students and staff.”

Lincoln University has seven fully equipped residence halls, all owned and operated by the university. Each hall has at least one housing assistant living on site.

In 2019, Education Minister Chris Hipkins introduced the Bill to Amend the Pastoral Education Bill after Pendrous’s death.

His death sparked a major overhaul at UC and an independent investigation by former High Court judge Kit Toogood QC, which found that the company that runs Sonoda, Campus Living Villages (CLV), has not dismissed concerns about Pendrous’ academic commitment and left no staff behind after organizational restructuring.

Eve McMahon, deputy chief executive of quality assurance at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), said the authority was collecting information to understand what happened in relation to the death at Lincoln University, but had no concerns about the progress made in the universities in implementing the Pastoral Code.

“All eight universities are implementing the code to the extent that they have conducted gap analyzes and identified some gaps in practice against the new requirements that they are working to address,” McMahon said.

“These relate to strengthening the voice of the learner and a holistic approach to provider pastoral care – processes which by their nature will take larger organizations longer to implement well and are likely to be an area of ‘continuous review and improvement.’

Things approached each of the eight universities in the country to obtain comments on the Pastoral Code.

University of Waikato student services director Mike Calvert disagreed with Swarbrick’s comments and said much of what was in the code was already in place at the time. university.

“The university has undertaken many initiatives since the code came into effect as part of our program of continuous improvement in learner well-being and safety.”

Initiatives included the adoption of a mental health first aid training program that equipped participants with the skills needed to support someone experiencing “a mental health challenge or crisis”.

Five university facilitators were trained to deliver the course covering mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and problematic substance use, and mental health crises, including trauma, psychosis and uncontrolled self-harm. suicidal. By 2023, nearly 300 university staff will have completed the program.

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor David Murdoch said they were “highly compliant” with the code.

“The vast majority of the code relates to things the university already had in place, including at our residential colleges and in supporting international students, and has been done in most cases for many years.”

University of Canterbury director of student welfare Gilbert Taurua said the university had made early changes in line with the interim code. “The changes included increased measures for care at the ten UC-affiliated student residences. UC also implemented a new success framework focused on the transition from high school to college.

Having already implemented changes before and in line with the interim code, there were only minor changes after government updates to the pastoral code in 2022, Taurua said.

“UC offers many student support services and a wellness center is centrally located on the Te Pātaka campus.”

The other universities have not yet responded.