Dr Royden Somerville QC
University of Otago
BY EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
RE: Removal and destruction of latest issue of Critic magazine by University of Otago
We are writing to express our deep concern over the recent decision by the University of Otago to remove and destroy copies of the latest issue of Critic from campus.
Universities, as you well know, are places of learning. They should be environments where knowledge and thoughts are shared openly, where students and lecturers alike are free to express their minds and debate ideas. Otago’s student magazine, Critic, is a vital extension of this.
The decision by the University to confiscate without warning Critic’s latest issue is directly contrary to these ideals. It imposes the beliefs of a few onto the majority. Indeed, we agree with Editor Joel MacManus that it is equivalent to censorship and goes against the ideals of openness and debate that the University should represent. By removing and destroying the copies, the University silenced the magazine and removed any opportunity for discussion.
Since 1925 Critic has been an integral part of university life at Otago. It is a bastion of freedom of expression on campus where topics are discussed without fear of interference or restriction from the University. Critic’s independence has always been fiercely protected, which makes this intervention by the University all the more shocking.
There are, of course, limits to freedom of expression, and there is content that most of society would find it hard to defend. Critic’s latest issue, which was dedicated to the worthy, and often taboo, topic of menstruation, does not fit this description.
While the illustrated cover featuring a person menstruating was a bold design decision, it was the Editor’s choice to make. If the University had objections to the magazine’s cover or its content, removing the magazine without warning was an inappropriate way to deal with the matter. Instead, they should have taken the appropriate avenues available to any member of the public: first raise the issue with the Editor, and if still unsatisfied, complain to the New Zealand Media Council, of which Critic is a member.
We ask the University to apologise unreservedly for the decision to remove and destroy the latest issue. We also urge the University to assure Critic — and the student body — that it will not take similar actions again, and that it remains committed to freedom of expression.
Given Critic’s long history of journalism that raises questions and pushes boundaries, this is unlikely to be the last time that the University takes issue with a topic covered by Critic, or the manner in which its editors chose to cover it. Next time, we urge the University to follow appropriate avenues for dealing with content that it deems inappropriate.
Victor Billot, Co-Editor, 1995
Paul Dagarin, Co-Editor, 1995
Fiona Bowker, Editor, 2000–2001
Patrick Crewdson, Editor, 2002–2003
Hamish McKenzie, Editor, 2004
Holly Walker, Editor, 2005
John Ong, Editor, 2006
David Large, Editor, 2007–2008
Amy Joseph, Editor, 2009
Ben Thomson, Editor, 2010
Julia Hollingsworth, Editor, 2011
Joe Stockman, Editor, 2012
Sam McChesney, Editor, 2013
Zane Pocock, Editor, 2014
Hugh Baird, Editor, 2016
Joe Higham, Co-Editor, 2017
Lucy Hunter, Co-Editor, 2017
Copy to: Harlene Hayne
University of Otago
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BY EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org