Student Safety Policy to be Released in Light of Sophia Crestani’s Death

“The Sophia Charter”, a policy named after Sophia Crestani and developed by the University, will be signed into effect this Wednesday. 

The Charter is named after Sophia Crestani, the Otago student who died at a flat party in October of last year.

“Full details will be forwarded to media on Monday – but yes The Sophia Charter will be officially signed on Wednesday next week, and media will be invited to the signing,” said a spokesperson for the University of Otago.

The final version of the Charter was approved on 26 February by the University Council Standing Committee. The University originally planned to release the Charter in April.

The Charter has been in development since November last year. On 25 November 2019, the Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Group considered “initiatives suggested by the family of student Sophia Crestani aimed at increasing student safety at off-campus social events and enhancing community responsibility in North Dunedin”, according to minutes released to Critic under the Official Information Act.

A hui to develop the Charter was held on 13 December 2019. Attendees at the hui were the Crestani family, the University of Otago, OUSA, the Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, and the Otago Property Investors Association. “All groups were involved in the hui … and had input into the drafting of the Sophia Charter,” stated a spokesperson for the University in the OIA release. 

“I note that the hui included discussion of flat signage … and large scale parties such as the Hyde St party,” the spokesperson said. 

Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne, on 21 February, emailed the groups consulted. “We are delighted to be formalising this collaboration to maximise the high level of communal energy and engagement as we continue to work towards making North Dunedin a safer environment for our student community,” she wrote. 

OUSA President Jack Manning told Critic in February that: “Both James [Heath] and myself were integrally involved from the start of the discussions around the Charter. I have continued to play a key role on behalf of OUSA as things have progressed. The Charter has made significant positive progress, and should continue to do so with student input.”

Due to controversy around a leaked early draft of the Charter from November last year, Critic was not allowed to publish stories about the Charter until now.

This article first appeared in Issue 12, 2020.
Posted 2:07pm Sunday 26th July 2020 by Erin Gourley.