Allegations of sexual assault at Knox

On March 17 2019, the OUSA student magazine Critic published an article citing allegations from students, who were past residents at Knox College, that: sexual assaults not only occurred at Knox, but went undisciplined, and that the culture at Knox at the time was not conducive towards sexual assaults being reported. 

The Presbyterian Church's Council of Assembly has rightly expressed its concern over the allegations and invites any past students of the College affected by the type of behaviour and culture at Knox College described in the Critic article to contact Sally Peart and Stephanie Pettigrew, partners at Marks & Worth Lawyers, on a no-cost, confidential basis.  Sally and Stephanie are independent of Knox College and they will impartially listen to the experiences of past students and explore how the Council can help and provide support to them.

Here are the contact details:

Sally Peart and Stephanie Pettigrew 

Marks and Worth Lawyers

Level 2, 115 Lower Stuart Street,

Dunedin 9016;

PO Box 1116, Dunedin 9054;

Ph: 03 474 9272

The college fully supports this initiative. In a message from the Master to our current residents immediately following publication of the Critic article, the following sentiments were expressed:

The Critic article cites the perspectives of four young women on their experiences of being at Knox around 2016. We must not get defensive or try to correct perceived inaccuracies in the article or downplay the significance of the allegations The fact is, the experiences of those women will resonate with the experiences of many, many women across many institutions, including other residential colleges, not just Knox. International studies tell us that is the case.

So what does that mean for us here at Knox? At the very least it means having honest conversations not just about our traditions, but also about the kind of underlying culture we believe it's important to cultivate. And those conversations need to take place not just between the Knox College Students Club and college management, but within the Knox College Students Club itself. It's not enough to merely cite tradition as a reason for doing something. To its credit, the article does acknowledge recent changes at Knox (albeit not as much as I would have liked), but it also presents us with a challenge about what else we need to look at, and it raises an uncomfortable question: are we moving fast enough?

It also means we need to be constantly reviewing our processes and procedures. Are they serving their intended purpose? Do they protect and serve the interests of the most vulnerable? Do they provide a safe environment for allowing those who have been hurt to come forward? This is an issue for other residential colleges too, not just Knox.

In conclusion, my own reaction to the article is one of both sadness and resolve. Deep sadness that these sorts of things may have happened in Knox’s recent history, and a resolve to continue the process of change. I hope that others are similarly resolute.

University of Otago's 150th anniversary celebrations, 2019

In 2019, the University will celebrate 150 years of "daring to be wise". The main celebrations will take place over Queen's Birthday Weekend, 1-3 June. As part of those celebrations, Knox College will open its doors to its alumni on the afternoon of Sunday 2 June, starting with lunch from 12:30 pm, continuing with afternoon tea from 3 pm, and concluding with a choral performance by the college choir in the Ross Chapel at 4 pm. Alumni are most welcome to visit the college any time between 12:30 and 5 pm that day. Current students will be on hand to welcome alumni and show them around. Then, on Monday 3 June, we hope to have a Cameron Shield sporting event (possibly the rugby) for alumni to attend. The details of that event, which the Knox and Selwyn student executives are currently working out, will be made available closer to the time. 

Knox Alumni Event: Auckland

On Friday 26 October, around 50 Knox alumni and guests gathered in the historic Pah Homestead in Hillsborough. Host for the evening, and Knox College Fellow, Sir James Wallace, welcomed everybody and talked a little about his longstanding interest in, and support for, the arts in this country. Sir James was followed by the Chancellor of the University of Otago, Dr Royden Somerville QC, who shared something of his experience of being a Knox resident and encouraged everyone to come down to Dunedin for the University's 150th anniversary celebrations over Queen's Birthday Weekend next year. Finally, Professor Nicola Peart, speaking on behalf of the Foundation for Knox College and Salmond College, talked about opportunities to support the college financially, especially in regards to the provision of scholarships.

All in all, it was a very pleasant evening, something which we hope to repeat in a couple of years' time. Until then, our focus will be on hosting visiting alumni for the University's 150th anniversary celebrations in 2019.

Knox Alumni Event: Wellington

On Wednesday 4 July, more than 120 Knox alumni gathered in the Grand Hall of Parliament in Wellington for the first college alumni event since the College Centenary back in 2009.

The Master of Knox College, Dr Graham Redding, hosted the event. National MPs the Hon Tim Macindoe and the Hon Nikki Kaye welcomed the alumni to parliament and shared some personal memories of when they had been residents of Knox College in the early 1980s and late 1990s respectively. The current Vice-President of the Knox College Students' Club, Jack Saunders, spoke in glowing terms about what the current Knox experience is like, and a Trustee of the Foundation of Knox College and Salmond College, Professor Nicola Peart, talked about the work of the Foundation in helping fund new developments, including the provision of more scholarships to make Knox affordable for those of limited financial means, and potential building developments.

A good spread of ages was represented among the alumni, including three alumni who had attended Knox College in the 1940s: Wyn Beasley, Colin Fenton and Denzil Brown (pictured below)

Also pictured below are the Hon Nikki Kaye and the Hon Tim Macindoe with the KCSC Vice-President Jack Saunders and Sub-masters Alec McWhirter and Juliana Costa.