26 Sep 2019

Students call for minimum hostel standards after death at Canterbury University residence

10:55 am on 26 September 2019

The national students' union says something has to change to stop a repeat of the case of a student whose body lay undiscovered in his hostel room for weeks.

Sonoda Christchurch campus building.

The privately-run Sonoda Village for Canterbury University students. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

The young man's body was found on Monday at the privately-run Sonoda Village for Canterbury University students.

The New Zealand Students' Union (NZUSA) wants minimum standards for all tertiary institutes' student accommodation spelling out what level of care can be expected.

NZUSA acting president Caitlin-Groome said it was tragic it took so long to discover the body and something had to change.

"We definitely need to see a minimum standard implemented around student accommodation and what actually is best care, and what does partial care mean when that's advertised."

Police and the university are investigating the death.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said it was a failure of both the university and the Campus Living Villages, the company that runs the hostel.

"No student should be left for that period of time unattended, uncared for when they're living in a hall of residence or a hostel.

"There's a duty of care that goes with operating a hall of residence or a hostel and clearly they haven't lived up to this situation.

The Sonada Villiage website said it fostered smaller close-knit communities and offered pastoral care, including two residential support staff.

Campus Living would not be interviewed but a company statement said it was deeply saddened by the death.

Last night a memorial service was held at the Sonada Villiage during which where some students performed a haka. Many have been advised by the university not to speak to media.

Police are investigating the death, and university vice-chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey is promising an independent investigation.

Mr Hipkins said he would wait on the outcome of investigations before making any decisions.

Canterbury Students' Association president Sam Brosnahan says the student care team is supporting those directly affected.

He said there was a sombre mood across the whole university, and people were distressed and surprised such a thing could happen within their tight-knit university community.