25 Sep 2020

Waikato University review finds racism claims were 'incorrect, inaccurate'

9:19 pm on 25 September 2020

An independent review into allegations of casual and structural racism at Waikato University has concluded the claims are "incorrect, inaccurate", and reflective of differing perspectives.

Six senior Māori academics made the allegations earlier this month in a letter to the Ministry of Education.

The allegations included Māori expertise being ignored, tokenism, lower pay for Māori staff and no meaningful commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi.

Although the university had already publicly rejected the allegations, the council of the university unanimously agreed for an independent review, led by Sir Wira Gardiner and Hekia Parata, to look into the matter from 7 September.

The findings of the review - which received 96 submissions - and recommendations was released by the university today.

It found that because New Zealand's public institutions, including universities, adhere to western traditions and cultures, there is a case for structural, systemic, and casual discrimination at the university.

The reviewers say this report should form the first step in the process of "urgent and serious action, in pursuit of not just improvement, but transformation".

The report acknowledged initiatives undertaken "as part of a Te Ao Māori commitment" but added that "the good intent of individuals and groups are insufficient to redress this situation".

It recommends the university engage in a future-focused process to determine how to apply the Treaty of Waitangi, and to refresh its relationships with iwi.

The University Council says it agreed with the recommendations and expressed its confidence in the Vice-Chancellor and the university's management.

The university says a taskforce will be set up to develop a plan of action to address the issues raised, and would be followed by consultation before being put into place.

It will be co-chaired by Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Alister Jones.

Vice-chancellor Professor Neil Quigley said the taskforce gives the university a chance 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."

The taskforce will operate over the next three months, with implementation projects set to follow in 2021.

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