University of Auckland vice-chancellor rubbishes reported rise in white supremacist activity as 'utter nonsense'

Students at the University of Auckland have rubbished the vice-chancellor's insistence claims of increased white supremacist activity on campus are "utter nonsense".

The university on Thursday said the claims were the result of "an increased awareness of racism and offensive behaviour" following the Christchurch attack, and vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon reiterated that view on Friday.

"We are currently dealing with two separate issues confined to one faculty and involving a small group of students, that is being conflated by social media and a naturally enhanced sensitivity following the Christchurch mosque attacks.

"There is absolutely no evidence of an increasing problem and where concerns are raised we act quickly to ensure student and staff safety."

More than 600 people have signed a petition, reportedly started by an undergraduate, calling on the university to "take complaints relating to harmful behaviour seriously and take disciplinary action against all those who cause harm".

The university said Thursday was the first time formal complaints had been laid against any student over alleged white supremacist activity, and it "acted" right away.

But Newshub has been supplied copies of emails students sent to university officials, including the proctor, which contradict this claim. A few were sent in the first week of April, and Newshub has been told some date back to March 20 - just days after the Christchurch attack. 

A meeting was also reportedly held on April 1 where complaints were made to several university officials about white supremacist activity in the university's graduate labs, which was followed up by a meeting with the proctor on April 5.

In an anonymous statement sent to media, students said the racist activity on campus dated back six years, and nothing had been done. They said the vice-chancellor's response showed he is "not equipped to understand that white supremacy constitutes a threat".

"There has been evidence of increased activity and increasing confidence of two students in particular, but as the Christchurch mass murder illustrates, it can take only one person. There has been evidence that some of the individuals in question are affiliated with others who recently had weapons confiscated by the police."

That was likely a reference to Adam Holland, previously involved in the controversial Auckland University European Students Association, which disbanded in 2017 after posting a Nazi quote on its Facebook page. Police confiscated two guns and a crossbow from his Queenstown residence in March.

"Many of our most vulnerable students, including those who are no longer coming to classes because they are too scared, are not willing to come forward and make formal complaints. They do not feel confident that the University of Auckland can guarantee their safety, or even keep their complaints anonymous. "

McCutcheon said this was not the case, with students "offered support and were met with even prior to formal complaints being laid".

"Of course, I am sorry that anyone feels threatened or unsafe. We do not condone any sort of harassment and we will always act."

Stuart McCutcheon
Stuart McCutcheon. Photo credit: University of Auckland

McCutcheon said some of the examples of alleged "fascist graffiti and posters" shared on social media were two years old, and there has been no increase lately.

"It is standard practice that all graffiti is removed by security as soon as they become aware of it."

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand has also called on the university to take a stronger stance.

"The cancer of neo-Nazism needs to be excised by Auckland University management," it said in a statement."