Otago University students find ways to celebrate despite called off graduation ceremonies

Otago University students are still finding ways to celebrate graduating despite ceremonies being postponed due to a security threat.

Last week, the University of Otago postponed several graduation ceremonies and parades due to an electronically-received threat. Police are investigating and, on Monday, the university announced this week's four graduation events would also be called off.

Vice-chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne acknowledged students would be gutted after a particularly difficult year.

"In the wake of COVID-19, our students have overcome huge obstacles to stay on track and complete their degrees this year. Moreover, many of our students and their whānau have made significant sacrifices to travel to Dunedin so they could be a part of these very special celebrations," she said.

"I share in the disappointment that everyone is feeling. However, I have every confidence that our graduands will find ways to celebrate."

Jack Manning, the President of the Otago University Student Association, told MagicTalk's Breakfast with Ryan Bridge on Tuesday that many students were still hanging out on campus, taking time to recognise their achievements.

"[There] are still hundreds of students out on campus with their families, still taking photos, still wearing their regalias, still carrying their flowers, still celebrating basically," he said.

"[They're] still finding a good time to actually acknowledge their accomplishment that they have been working towards for years, even if it is not exactly what they had in mind.

"We have seen makeshift graduations getting put together by students on Castle St. We have seen people finding really creative ways to still mark the day."

The vice-chancellor said she has seen "many, many examples of the true Otago spirit as people took the opportunity to celebrate, marking their achievements in their own very personal ways".

"They have demonstrated these characteristics throughout this year and their response to the graduation postponements is just another example of how truly remarkable they are."

Manning didn't have specific details of what the security threat was, but it has been reported it was a threat of a bombing and shooting. He understood the decision to postpone the events was made in the interest of student's safety.

"It is justified to feel gutted by this. It is really disappointing… no one is happy here."

The university said on Monday that all associated graduation events would still be able to take place on campus and that graduands will be able to pick up their certificates.

Professor Hayne paid tribute to the police on Monday.

"Police continue to take this threat very seriously and we are grateful for their support and expert guidance."