As Dunedin flat initiations have come under fire, students on the rowdiest street in town have rushed to their defence. They say the leading story, about allegedly being forced to bite the feet off a live duck, is “not what we’re about at all”.
Critic Te Ārohi spoke to one student who’d just been initiated into a prominent Castle Street flat, who requested to remain anonymous. He said that “99% of the time [initiations] are fun events that bring everybody involved closer”, and that there are “a few sick individuals that take things too far, however this shouldn’t reflect initiations as a whole.”
First-years are given a sort of “shopping list” of items they’re meant to bring to their initiation. Only one of these lists (that Critic has seen) has called for a live duck. We were able to get in touch with a boy who knew the flat, who told us that the reason the duck was included was not so that its legs could be bitten off, but rather as a sort of guaranteed failure. The boys involved with that particular initiation were invited to comment but chose not to.
For every item the first-years fail to bring, they receive a punishment. The whole idea of the duck, according to this student, was that it was a sort of guaranteed failure. Who would bring a live duck? Apparently this years’ first-years, because when they showed up with a duck in tow, the hosts were a bit confused. He says the animal was promptly released, but this hasn’t stopped the flat from being the target of “the rumour circulating unfortunately… Pretty ridiculous considering we didn’t even have to take a duck, let alone harm it.”
The student said that “once the media starts reporting and the masses all pick a side, it’s hard for people to speak out as they feel like they’ll be crucified for having an opposing point of view or opinion.”
He also insisted that “throughout [my] initiation we were asked if we were okay and reminded multiple times that we were ‘free to leave at any time’,” something that multiple sources have pointed out. Another flat’s initiation starts with the chant “consent, consent, consent”. And while consent in a group setting with high peer pressure is murky at best, according to the Crimes Act 1961, “consent, including an honest belief in consent, is preserved as a defence to assault”. R v Lee says that "where injury was intended or where the perpetrator was reckless, consent is still a complete defence, provided what occurred comes within the scope of the consent." And yet, some students have told us that they didn't feel they could honestly tap out. Not that they wanted to, apparently.
Boys’ flat initiations usually involve lots of vomit, lots of bare skin, being pelted with eggs, wrestling, and hundreds of dollars of booze. What they don’t usually involve, say students, is live animals. Another recently-initiated student said that involving animals was “beyond cooked”, and that whatever flat bit the ducks had crossed a line.
Not everyone seems to agree, though. Another flat on Castle told our reporter that they had “no comment” about the duck initiation or animal abuse in general, and one of the boys in the flat asked “what if we DO support animal abuse?” We’ve chosen not to name the flat.
If you have any information about the duck incident, get in touch with email@example.com. We will never publish your name or your flat’s name without your permission.