The VC is Dead, Long Live the VC

The University of Otago will see a changing of the guard this week, as departing Vice Chancellor Sir Professor David Skegg steps down from the role on the 31st July after almost eight years heading the University.

Skegg has overseen an era of significant change in the culture and practices of the University, with most commentators lauding his reign as highly successful. During his time Otago topped the Performance Based Research Funding (PBRF) rankings in 2006, being rated as the New Zealand university with the highest quality research.

He also oversaw significant growth in the enrolment at the University, culminating in moves last year to cap the number of places available to domestic students as demand for places outstripped the number of government-funded domestic seats.

However, his tenure in the vice-chancellor’s job was not without controversy, with prominent issues among the student population including the controversial adoption of the student Code of Conduct and a perceived move to clamp down on the ‘scarfie’ student culture in the city.

Large scale rioting during the Undie 500 events over a number of years, which caused the event to eventually be moved away from Dunedin, also tarnished Skegg’s reign. International media outlets covered the face-offs between drunken students and police which resulted in hundreds of student arrests.

In addition, two historic student bars, The Gardens Tavern and The Bowling Green Tavern, were bought by the University, with many students believing that the purchases were intended to combat student drinking.

Taking Skegg’s place will be deputy Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne, who will step into the top job in August when she returns from overseas. A Professor in the Psychology department, Hayne gained her BA from Colorado College, before gaining her MS and PHD at Rutgers University in New Jersey. In her academic career she has been awarded numerous prizes and honours, and she stated in a press release that she is looking “forward to expanding on the existing strengths of Otago and to identifying new ways in which the University can contribute to issues of local, national and international concern.”

Critic contacted the University media office to enquire whether Prof Hayne was a regular reader, but received no response. However a source told Critic that Hayne had previously described Critic as “banal”, so it’s safe to say she probably doesn’t read the magazine all that regularly.

Posted 4:02am Thursday 28th July 2011 by Gregor Whyte.