Toxic culture of sex, alcohol and bullying uncovered at New Zealand’s top broadcasting school

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Teachers at New Zealand’s top broadcasting school did not harass, bully or discriminate against students, according to an independent report.

But external review by a leading lawyer at the New Zealand Broadcasting School in Christchurch reveals a toxic learning environment where sexual harassment, bullying and harmful behavior were rampant among students – with tutors failing to control it .

The students interviewed described a “lord of the flies” atmosphere, where bullying, harassment, and excessive drinking were commonplace.

Although outside the scope of the review, the culture at Otautahi House – the broadcasting school’s main accommodation block – has been heavily criticised, by students and by the authors of the report.

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Hazing and binge drinking at “initiation” events have also been found to cause harm.

The report advised Ara to discourage such events — held at the beginning and end of the academic year — because they encouraged underage drinking and dangerous behavior.

In one case, a student said a lack of pastoral care meant bullying and harassment were allowed to grow at the broadcasting school, and described his experience as “traumatic”.

The New Zealand Broadcasting School is considered the best school of its kind in the country.

Peter Meecham / Stuff

The New Zealand Broadcasting School is considered the best school of its kind in the country.

Others said a “boys club” atmosphere emboldened much of the bullying and sexual harassment of male students, a number of whom would “ogle” girls and make derogatory comments.

“[I]If you are not into the ‘party culture’ or choose to wear ‘alternative clothing’, you have become the target of the so-called ‘cool group’,” a student told the survey.

One said a pyramid chart ranking students by popularity had been taped to the wall and must have been seen by tutors, but not removed.

The five-month review, by Christchurch QC Richard Raymond, also found that the Ara Institute of Canterbury, which runs the broadcasting school, had inadequate policies and processes for bullying and harassment and made the hard-to-find help for students in need.

In his report, released Thursday, Raymond said he received “no information” about harassment, discrimination or sexual harassment from school guardians.

There was, however, evidence from a number of interviewees of sexual harassment by male students at the school, he said.

The findings of the report were presented to NZBS students at a nationwide video meeting at midday on Thursday. A student, currently an intern at a major media organization, said he was “furious” after the meeting, where little about the report was discussed, they claimed.

Students’ questions went unanswered and important issues such as sexual harassment were “skimmed over”.

“It was very unfair,” said the student Thing.

Raymond criticized media reports of the allegations at the school, saying the New Zealand Herald published a report in October 2021 alleging that “multiple formal complaints of bullying and one of sexual harassment have been made by students against staff members in recent years.

The report was “false” and the tutors had been “unjustly slandered”, Raymond said.

But the report found a “large volume” of evidence to show that the environment at the broadcasting school had allowed a culture to exist “that allowed sexist, racist and inappropriate comments to be made… mainly by students but also by a minority of tutors”.

Ara bosses say they accept the findings and will come up with a series of recommendations.

Peter Meecham / Stuff

Ara bosses say they accept the findings and will come up with a series of recommendations.

The review covered admissions from February 2019 to October 2021 and interviewed 51 people, including current and former staff and students.

The acting chief executive of the Ara Institute of Canterbury, Darren Mitchell, said in a statement that Ara accepted the findings and would implement all 60 recommendations.

They include:

  • “Heavy” discouragement of “initiation” and “disinitiation” events where students are teased and encouraged to drink heavily
  • Mandatory harassment and bullying training for staff and students
  • Mandatory diversity training for staff, including on LGBTQI+ issues
  • Training on how to help students with mental health issues
  • An overhaul of Ara’s policies, including the development of stand-alone harassment and bullying policies
  • Easier access to information for students seeking help with harassment and bullying
  • Better mental health services for students

Mitchell said every student and staff member has the right to have their health, safety and well-being prioritized by Ara.

“It is simply not acceptable that the type of behaviors reported to Mr. Raymond should take hold and go unchecked by staff in our organization,” he said.

Mitchell said Ara doesn’t yet know how much the exam cost, but will “answer that question later.”

The Ara Academic Staff of Canterbury (AASC), which represents some of the Broadcasting School’s staff and tutors, said it was pleased to see that the serious allegations made against staff have “proved to be unfounded and, in some cases, completely false”. ”.

“AASC members were very concerned about the issues that were raised and wanted these issues to be properly investigated.

“AASC members support a best-practice learning environment and look forward to further engaging in the recommended training topics, all of which are important to them, including addressing mental health issues and student welfare.

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