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May 3, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Ding-Dong Design is Dead

The University of Otago has announced their Design Studies School will be disbanded, after a closed-door meeting of the University Senate on Wednesday last week.

Senate meetings are always off-limits to the media and public, but Critic understands that Vice-Chancellor Sir Professor David Skegg made a long-winded speech spelling out the need for the closure of the department. The speech also indicated that other departments will come under similar scrutiny in the future.

The closure of the department was deemed necessary after a loss of $5 million at the university. “We need to be creative,” said Sir Professor Skegg regarding budgeting issues, presumably without a sense of irony.

This meeting came amidst strong student opposition to the changes, culminating in a 300-strong silent protest outside the Clocktower before the Senate meeting.

“The protest definitely helped—you could see the staff feeling guilty as they walked past,” protest organiser and third-year design student Zack Hogg told Critic. This was a sentiment confirmed by Geoghegan, who told Critic that the protest noticeably affected the tone of the meeting, and brought home to senate members the fact that these changes would have a significant effect on students.

The protest had a ‘blackout’ theme, designed to reinforce the notion of a bland and colourless university in the absence of an active Design department.

Hogg said, “I’ve lost respect for Otago University… I’m not sure how much a degree from them is worth after this undemocratic behaviour.”

Sir Professor Skegg was dismissive of the idea that the university was being undemocratic, saying “I don’t think anyone is pretending the university is a democracy” during the meeting.

Geoghegan told Critic, “We tried really hard to ensure a more open process was followed, but unfortunately the proposal was pushed through.” Geoghegan is now working with the university to set up a meeting to inform design students of the impact of the closure, and to ensure that students would receive one-on-one meetings to assist with course planning.

Who’s Editing the ODT?

Last weekend the Otago Daily Times were given a “leaked document”, ran with the story, and misinterpreted a point or two. When the university saw it on the Otago Daily Times’ website, they were less than pleased.

When contacted, reporter John Lewis said that Vice-Chancellor Sir Professor David Skegg contacted Editor Murray Kirkness and demanded it be pulled. “He didn’t want a correction, he just wanted it taken down,” Lewis says. But why wasn’t a simple correction made? “You’ll have to ask the editor about that.”

So we did. He wasn’t as talkative. Among a bunch of “no comments” was this gem: “It is not my place to have to explain a story.”


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