Massey University decided on a different path for a graduation ceremony hosted in Palmerston North, with reports suggesting they may have spent upwards of $2million on the event.
The Palmerston North graduation was advertised heavily through Massey University’s Grindr account, promising graduates and attendees to “expect something fun and funky”.
The graduation ceremony occurred on May 10, with Massey University opting to host the event inside a Palmerston North trampoline-themed amusement park as opposed to The Regent, the usual location for Palmerston North graduations.
American rapper Vanilla Ice served as the MC and keynote speaker of the event, telling graduates during his address to “fuck the haters” and “reach for the Milky Way”.
Ice’s 1991 hit single ‘Ice Ice Baby’ replaced ‘Gaudeamus’, the traditional university song, with Massey University Chancellor Chris Kelly taking to the stage to lead the song alongside Ice.
Kelly, a Wellington businessman, surprised many by arriving on the back of a bejewelled chariot to the event, something he said was “essential” as it matched the “simply gorgeous” Michael Jackson-inspired blazer he wore throughout the day.
His welcoming address was described by one attendee as “a bit different”, with Kelly spending most of his speech outlining Massey University’s ten year plan, something that included “learning lessons from our community partners” and “learning lessons from the lyrics of Mr Ice”.
Attendees were all provided with a goon sack of red wine and a mardi gras mask at the entrance, and were told to “embrace the good times and funky vibes” on a specially-designed graduation program designed by The Bachelor NZ star Fleur Verhoeven.
Massey Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey could not attend the event, owing to prior work commitments.
Despite his no-show, a pre-recorded speech from Maharey was played to attendees.
Maharey thanked all those from the Massey University community who had supported him during his time as vice-chancellor, and described his new job as a petrol station attendant at a Shannon BP as “a lot more stress for a lot less money”.
Several family members of graduates spoken to by Massive expressed their shock and surprise at what had occurred, with Barry Bigfellow, a 55-year-old part-time pigeon racer from Levin, labelling the event “disgraceful”.
“How can Massey justify that? $1.5 million for Vanilla Ice’s appearance fee, $200,000 spent on goon sacks – what a shambles. I don’t even like red wine. I’m sending my next child to UCOL.”
Opinion was not universally negative, with Mavis Cooch, an 84-year-old professional stuntwoman from Marton, calling the day “marvellous”.
Cooch was particularly fond of Kelly’s performance, labelling him “an extraordinarily talented performer” and a “safe pair of hands”.