On Friday 2 September, postgraduate students and staff across Otago campuses were allocated 15-minute slots to re-enter campus and retrieve essential research material. Office plants were explicitly forbidden to be rescued.
Some postgraduate students are reportedly “devastated” by this. “I get that plants aren’t ‘essential’, but if I’m already in the office, why can’t I grab them anyway?” said postgraduate student Tabitha. “My peace lily is perishing. Otago, you have blood/chlorophyll on your hands.”
The University’s response stated that “the Strategic Emergency Management Group have advised that retrieving plants and non-essential items was prohibited as the University only wanted staff entering campus to obtain essential items needed to undertake work from home.”
“There needed to be a limit to the number of people on campus during this alert level to ensure that when people did register to attend a site, it was essential and they could get what they needed quickly.”
Alongside plants, students were unauthorised to remove desks, shared stationery, large or dangerous items that required assistance, and anything that would require more than one trip to move.
CCTV was monitored, and building access was audited, to ensure compliance. The University’s email stated that “If arrangements are abused by staff, it will compromise our ability to continue this access arrangement or any other future dispensations that may be offered and the buildings will be fully locked down again.”
Students and staff were required to follow Chernobyl-esque guidelines, such as “DO NOT STOP AND TALK TO ANYONE” and “GET IN AND OUT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE”. Scheduled times were allocated based on the initial of your surname, e.g ‘P’ for ‘Tabitha Pläntmurderer’.
Otago students on Wellington campus were unable to collect essential items due to ongoing seismic issues. Auckland-based students were likewise unable to retrieve items due to Level 4.