Specific claims not supported, but the need for transformational change clearly articulated
The reviewers commissioned to assess public claims of racism at the University of Waikato have presented their final report to the University Council.
Sir Harawira Gardiner and Hon Hekia Parata had full access to all University files relevant to the issues raised, held individual and group meetings with 80 people and received 96 submissions. The report is being released in full by the University today.
The Parata Gardiner report finds that specific claims against the University made in the Protected Disclosure to the Secretary for Education dated 29 May 2020, and provided to the media by its signatories, are “incorrect, inaccurate, or reflect differing perspectives or opinions”. On the basis of these findings and their own investigation of evidence relating to the claims made in the public domain, the University Council expressed its full confidence in the Vice-Chancellor and management of the University.
However, the report finds that because New Zealand’s public institutions, including universities, are founded in our settlement history and adhere to western university traditions and cultures, there is a case for structural, systemic, and casual discrimination at the University of Waikato.
The report says that “a number of positive initiatives have been taken by University leadership as part of a Te Ao Māori commitment” but that “the good intent of individuals and groups are insufficient to redress this situation”. The reviewers note that their report should be the start of a process of ongoing engagement with “urgent and serious action, in pursuit of not just improvement, but transformation.”
In unanimously agreeing to the recommendations in the report, the University Council thanked the Reviewers for completing an extremely helpful report in a very short time frame. The Council has supported the recommendation for engagement in a future-focused process to determine how to apply Te Tiriti as the basis for a bicultural platform for the University, and for refreshed relationships with key iwi stakeholders. The full list of resolutions made by the University Council on the report can be found here.
The transformation process is to begin with the establishment of a taskforce that will develop a plan of action to address the issues raised, which will follow a consultative process with full resources to support its implementation. The taskforce will be co-chaired by Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Alister Jones.
Professor Tuhiwai Smith is an international leader and authority in Indigenous Studies and kaupapa Māori education. Professor Jones is an internationally recognised university leader with a deep understanding and experience of the University of Waikato.
The taskforce will operate over the next three months, with implementation projects to follow in 2021. The timeframe will also provide scope for ongoing consultation with the University community and external stakeholders.
University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor, Professor Neil Quigley, says:
“The findings of the report and the establishment of the taskforce present the University with an opportunity to consider how to address these structural and systemic issues of discrimination and racism.
“We genuinely embrace the opportunity for transformational change and to embed Mātauranga Māori more deeply in the University. We thank the many students, staff and stakeholders who have expressed concern and support for the University, and acknowledge the resilience that the University community has shown in the face of adversity.”