Students and staff at the University of Waikato are disappointed with a proposal to scrap the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies, with one professor calling it a "white-streaming" of Māori issues.
More than 80 people gathered in a peaceful protest today over a re-structure which will see the faculty lose its status and fall under one of four new "super-divisions".
Outside of the Vice Chancellor's office, protesters were determined to let him know the Māori Faculty wasn't going anywhere without a fight.
Among them was Māori and Indigenous Studies student Moerangi Tetapuhi.
"Today, for me, [it] is historical. It shows tomorrow's generation and yesterday's generation that we aren't weak, we are prepared to fight, and obviously fight harmoniously and peacefully."
If the planned re-structure goes ahead, the Māori and Indigenous Faculty will re-locate under the Arts and Social Sciences Division.
It will also mean the faculty will no longer report directly to the Vice Chancellor.
But Ms Tetapuhi said Māori and Indigenous Studies was unique and should have its own independent body.
"For me, the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies means autonomy. I feel like as a university, we are leading in indigenous studies," Ms Tetapuhi said.
"The Faculty of Social Science also means autonomy in its respective fields of study so that's why we are out here, to keep them as their own separate and unique faculties."
University of Waikato associate professor Leonie Pihama said the proposed move could be labeled an example of "white-streaming" of Māori issues.
"We've seen a number of reports in the past few years, particularly from the tertiary education union, around issues of what they're calling 'white streaming' which is the re-mainstreaming of Māori positions and parts of institutions into a mainstream model again."
Waikato University was the first institution to establish an independent school for Māori studies in 1996.
It only gained faculty status 18 months ago.
Dr Pihama said taking it away would be a huge step-back.
"This faculty really has a great history that goes back in being first for many things Māori. What we don't want to be is a first for the retrenchment back - that's not a first that we want for this faculty."
Vice Chancellor Neil Quigley said the changes would not take away the autonomy of the faculty.
He said he would consider the views of everyone before he made a final decision.
But Associate Professor Te Kahautu Maxwell said submissions from staff and students who opposed the re-structure were rejected last week.
"The Vice-Chancellor came back and said he had taken into consideration all submissions and the submissions that were made by the faculty of Māori and he decided against - that he wouldn't take any of that advice on board and would still move ahead."
A final decision on the re-structure will be made early next month.