April 29, 2019
Issue 04 2019

Massey concerned with public image over student wellbeing

Massey has found itself at the centre of another censorship saga after student organisers say staff weren’t clear about what was allowed to be on display for Sex Week 2019.

The event featured stalls in the Pyramid on the Wellington Campus with free STI checks and reproductive health information.

An erotic artwork display originally meant to be held in the Pyramid was moved to the Flax and Fern room after complaints from event coordinating staff.

MAWSA Vice President Jacob Paterson said that the university should be concerned first and foremost with the welfare of its students rather than with censoring important discussions.

“I understand the concerns, but this is a university and Massey needs to show its commitment to its students first rather than operating like a business.”

“It’s super important to bring this discussion into public consciousness. The kaupapa of the event was about promoting safe, healthy, consensual and pleasurable sex.”

Paterson said Massey needed a clear policy on sexual violence. The Thursdays in Black initiative is completely student-run, whilst the university itself has no official initiative against sexual violence.

Sex Week was run in collaboration with Victoria University and the Wellington City Council.

Victoria University Student Association’s Welfare and Vice President Rhianna Morar, who organised Sex Week this year, said that their university staff had become socialised into the idea last year.

“Last year VUWSA was presented with much more complaints from University staff about the connotations of an event focused on sex. This year the University increased its funding for Sex Week 2019 which I believe sent a clear signal of change and further support of the kaupapa.”

“We advertised Sex Week in the staff newsletter and received no complaints – we have only heard positive feedback.”

Massey’s communications director James Gardiner said he thought the artwork was “relatively unremarkable” but not suitable for display on campus.

“The artwork shouldn’t be in a public area where school groups might be coming through and seeing it.”

Gardiner said he understood the event and the display was about getting people to think.

“While there’s no point in being deliberately offensive, we also want there to be open and free expression. It’s not about censorship, it’s about what is age appropriate.”

He said any breakdown in communication between staff and students over the issue was “regrettable.”