Uni bank-rolls thugby

Sponsorship controversy

OUSA has expressed its support for the University’s sponsorship of the Highlanders rugby union team, despite the University facing backlash from the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) who branded the sponsorship as a “gimmick.”

TEU deputy secretary Nanette Cormack elaborated on the Union’s opposition, speaking to Radio New Zealand National. “We see the role of the University of Otago, and of all public education institutions, in New Zealand to be about providing quality public education and research, not about funding private sports teams.”

OUSA President Ruby Sycamore-Smith disagrees. “If the University has been honest when they say the sponsorship agreement comes from the existing marketing budget, not an extra allocation of funds, then we’re supportive of the move as it is a new and innovative way of promoting the University both nationally and internationally. We might also say that any money not spent on another year of the ‘Take your Place in the World’ campaign could be seen as a good thing.”

Vice Chancellor Harlene Hayne has expressed particular enthusiasm for the opportunities the sponsorship holds in bringing the University closer to the Dunedin community as a whole. Sycamore-Smith agrees. “The University is a big player in the Otago community and this is another way to further establish a bond with, and support for, the local region. No marketing strategy and, in fact, no move the University makes ever pleases everyone, and we’re usually the first to call them out, but in this instance we see the promise of the sponsorship.”

The move is not without precedence, with the University of Canberra’s sponsorship of the Brumbies, and Otago Polytechnic’s sponsorship of local cricket team the Otago Volts. However, the TEU have questioned whether the University of Canberra’s sponsorship is a good template to follow. The TEU’s sister Union in Australia, NTEU, have criticised the “progressive imposition” of demands from the rugby franchise which culminated in a five million dollar university-funded training facility for the Brumbies “under the guide of remaking the University of Canberra as a ‘sporting university.’”

Despite a lack of support from the TEU, Sycamore-Smith can see a relationship between the University and the Highlanders blossoming. “Students are already big supporters of the Highlanders, and OUSA has been including them in our Super Passes and Orientations for a number of years with great success.”

Hayne has refused to disclose the value of the sponsorship, though she remains insistent that she “is pretty convinced it’s a good decision.”
This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2014.
Posted 6:57pm Sunday 23rd February 2014 by Thomas Raethel.