Otago University Students' Association

The Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) is the Students' Association of the University of Otago, New Zealand. OUSA was founded in 1890 to advance student interests on campus.[1]

Otago University Students' Association
MottoAudeamus (Latin)
InstitutionUniversity of Otago
LocationDunedin, New Zealand
PresidentMichaela Waite-Harvey
Chief ExecutiveDebbie Downs
Vice presidentEmily Coyle
Membersc. 20,000
AffiliationsNew Zealand Union of Students' Associations
WebsiteOfficial Website

Today, OUSA provides a combination of representation, welfare, advocacy, recreation, fun and events for its members. Notably, it runs student support services, supports clubs and societies on campus, and organises the University of Otago Orientation and Reorientation weeks.[2]

OUSA fully owns and partially owns a number of subsidiary companies, including Planet Media Dunedin Limited which funds Critic, the student magazine, and Radio One, the student radio station.



As well as providing facilities and student representation on university committees, the students' association began to provide services and facilities for its members. The first Student Union building, providing meeting rooms, men's and women's common rooms and a cafeteria, was established in 1904 in Allen Hall, which is today the university's theatre department. In the 1960s a much bigger Student Union was built, and in the 1980s an adjoining building was added to house the OUSA offices, Radio One, Critic and Student Job Search. The Clubs and Societies building provides a home to over 100 student clubs and a variety of activities, with fitness and recreation opportunities provided at Unipol, jointly owned with the Otago Polytechnic Students' Association. OUSA also owns the University Book Shop and Student Job Search.

Over the years the Students' Association has had its share of controversy, frequently around risqué activities during Capping (graduation) week. In 1990, student parties spilled over into the infamous "Dunedin Riot",[3] which badly damaged public opinion of students at a time when student politicians were actively lobbying and protesting against the introduction of tertiary tuition fees. The arguments against tuition fees included researched predictions of massive graduate debt and increased "brain drain" – graduates leaving the country for lucrative overseas positions. OUSA and students' associations around the country protested vigorously – up to 5,000 people marched in Dunedin alone – but were unable to stop the fees which were introduced in 1991.

In July 2010, the OUSA executive was controversially restructured. Initiated by President Harriet Geoghegan, the new executive would have ten members: President, Administrative Vice President, Finances and Services Officer, Education Officer, Welfare Officer, and five general representatives each holding a portfolio: Postgraduate Students, International Students, Campaigns, Recreation, and Colleges and Communications.[4] A referendum on the issue resulted in a 72.19% vote for the new structure caused a large number of complaints, none of which were upheld, and divided the existing OUSA Executive.[5][6]

The introduction of tuition fees has led to an increased focus on quality of education, with improvements to the student representative system and more student input on teaching and assessment. At the same time, the growing student population has meant that OUSA services from recreation facilities to student media have become businesses in their own right.



Under the Education Act 1989, membership in OUSA was compulsory for students enrolled at the University of Otago.[7] However, since 2011 the Government made all students' association in New Zealand voluntary membership. The OUSA now maintains a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the University, which sees a proportion of the compulsory student services levy used to pay for OUSA services for students, this allows for the ongoing financial viability of the Association.


The Association is headed by a twelve-member executive led by the OUSA President.[8] The Executive consists of the President, Administrative Vice-President, Finance and Strategy Officer, Welfare and Equity Representative, Academic Representative, Political Representative, Clubs & Societies Representative, Residential Representative, International Students' Representative, Postgraduate Students' Representative, Te Roopū Māori Tumuaki and the President of University of Otago Pacific Islands Students' Association. Executive meetings are held weekly or fortnightly, and are open to all members, Student General Meetings (SGMs) are held periodically throughout the year to consult with and engage the wider student body in a more formal context.

Executive Position 2021 Officeholders
President Michaela Waite-Harvey[9]
Administrative Vice-President Emily Coyle[9]
Finance and Strategy Officer Josh Meikle[9]
Academic Representative Michael Evans[9]
Welfare and Equity Representative Maya Polaschek[9]
Political Representative Mhairi Mackenzie Everitt [9]
Clubs and Societies Representative Dushanka Govender[9]
Colleges Representative Jack Saunders[9]
International Students' Representative Geraldi Ryan[9]
Postgraduate Students' Representative Sophie Barham[9]
Te Roopū Māori Tumuāki Karamea Pewhairangi[9]
University of Otago Pacific Islands

Students' Association President

Melissa Lama[9]


Elections are held annually to select the incoming executive for the following year. Election weeks typically involve candidate forums for questions and debating between individuals running for office.

In September 2008, president-elect Jo Moore was disqualified from becoming the 2009 president after a complaint she came within 20 m of a polling facility during voting was upheld.[10]

Student Services

Annual Events

The OUSA is responsible for organising the annual Orientation week events held at the beginning of the university year. A number of well-known artists have performed at these events including Macklemore, Tinie Tempah, Empire of the Sun, Flume and Shapeshifter. At the beginning of the second semester, in July, OUSA organises the equivalent Reorientation events.

The Hyde Street party, also known as the Hyde Street Keg Party, is an annual event held in Dunedin in the first semester for students from the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic, where many participants wear fancy dress.[11] The infamous event originated in 1995, starting as a post exam celebration organised by residents. The first event saw roughly 3,000 people and attracted bonfires, riot police and 13 students were arrested. It has since become a become a regular part of the Otago University social calendar. Since 2013 OUSA has organised the ticket sales and the health and safety surrounding the event.[12]

Other regular events organised by the OUSA include market days, art week, diversity week, the Capping Show, The Dunedin Craft Beer & Food Festival and an annual Battle of the Bands competition.

Clubs and Societies

The OUSA Clubs and Societies Centre at 84 Albany Street is a hub for students, clubs and societies.

As the largest student association at the University of Otago the majority of on campus clubs and societies affiliate to the association. Notably the Otago University Debating Society, now an affiliated club, pre-dates the formation of the Association, and it was members of the debating society that initiated the formation of OUSA in 1890. There are a number of long-standing clubs and societies on campus including the Otago University Rowing Club, the Otago University Rugby Football Club and the Otago University Medical Students Association . Today there are more than 150 clubs and societies affiliated to OUSA, representing a huge range of ethnicities, religions, politics, sports and interests of Otago students.[13]

At the centre of the clubs and societies on campus is the OUSA Clubs and Societies Centre. This centre houses the staff that manage the various clubs and societies and the recreation programmes organised by OUSA. Facilities within the centre for students include a sauna, study rooms, music rooms, dance rooms, storage for clubs and an exercise hall. A number of recreation classes are organised and run from the centre, encompassing everything from arts, crafts and cooking, to music, sport and dance. Cheap lunches are available at the centre daily during University semesters, and these are organised and provided by Hare Krishna Dunedin and Community Sai Youth. Notably the Hare Krishna Dunedin group have been providing cheap lunches for over twenty years.

Student Support

OUSA owns and maintains a department that provides support and advocacy for students. This includes class representation, queer support, a hardship fund and advocacy for a number of grievances.[14]

Student Media


Critic Logo
Critic is a University of Otago-based student magazine funded and supported by OUSA through its subsidiary Planet Media Ltd.

Critic is the official magazine of the Otago University Students' Association. It is freely available around both the university's campus and selected sites in Dunedin city weekly during term time. Critic is New Zealand's longest-running student newspaper, having been published since 1925. Weekly circulation is 5,000 copies, with an estimated readership of 21,000.

Critic is a member of the Aotearoa Student Press Association (ASPA), and was awarded Best Publication in the annual ASPA awards in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013.[15]

Critic has caused controversy on a number of occasions in the past. In 2006 the Office of Film and Literature Classification banned an issue of the magazine, due to it containing a "how-to-guide" on drug rape.[16] Possession or distribution of this issue was deemed illegal. In 2010 The Press Council upheld a complaint against Critic over the article 'The Bum at the Bottom of the World', which depicted three people the publication deemed homeless and vagrant.[17][18] In 2013 Critic's Editor Callum Fredric received a $35,000 payout after a series of personal disputes with OUSA General Manager Darel Hall. Fredric was suspended by Hall on Friday 3 May, and was trespassed from OUSA buildings by Hall after attending a meeting on Monday 6 May to explain the situation to staff, before being asked to leave by Police. After filing legal proceedings, Fredric accepted a $35,000 settlement package from OUSA on Friday 17 May, and resigned as Editor.[19][20][21]

Radio One

Radio One, or The One, is a student radio station operating from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. It broadcasts on a frequency of 91.0 MHz. The station is run largely by volunteer announcers, with a small paid staff. It runs a wide variety of general interest and specialist shows to audiences not catered for by other Dunedin radio stations, such as New Zealand music show The Local and cannabis law reform radio show Overgrown. It is run by Planet Media on behalf of Otago University Students' Association.

In the station's early years, Radio One was broadcast from a 100-watt ERP transmitter atop the 11-storey Hocken Building (now Richardson Building) - then the tallest building on the university campus. In the late 1980s, the station moved their transmitter to Dunedin's main FM radio transmitter atop Mount Cargill, north of the campus. This gives the station a range which covers much of coastal Otago, from Oamaru to past Balclutha. Radio One can now be heard anywhere in the world as it streams all content in 128 kbit/s stereo mp3 over the Internet.

The impetus for the station began with an open letter to the President of the Association (then Phyllis Comerford) from Alastair Thomson, who had worked on the Waikato University student radio station. This letter brought together other interested parties including members of the bands Netherworld Dancing Toys and The Verlaines. With a grant from the OUSA of approximately $12,000, the station first went to air in early 1984 broadcasting from the OUSA's former boardroom.

The station ran on a part-time basis during the university year until the mid-1990s, from which time it has been operating round-the-clock throughout the year in a new annex to the Student Union building which was specifically designed to house the station, the OUSA's offices, and the university's student newspaper Critic. The station celebrated its 25th birthday at the beginning of 2009.[22]

Radio One alumni include Shayne Carter, Wallace Chapman, Charlotte Glennie, Sam Hayes, Jan Hellriegel, Lesley Paris, David Pine, Brent Hodge, Sean Norling, Chris Armstrong and Ria Vandervis. Aaron Hawkins served as Radio One's breakfast host from 2006 to 2013 and music director from 2011 to 2013 before standing for the Dunedin mayoralty and being elected a Dunedin City central ward councillor. [23][24]

Notable alumni

Past Presidents

Three well-known past presidents of OUSA. Grant Robertson, Wellington Central MP for the New Zealand Labour Party, Sir John Arthur Stallworthy, Nuffield Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Oxford, and Te Rangi Hīroa, renowned doctor, military leader and Māori politician.

Past Executive Members

  • Barry Allan, Treasurer 1986 (Contract Law and Torts Law Lecturer at the University of Otago)[25]
  • Lady Nola Holmes, Women's Vice-President 1946-47 (The first Women's Vice President to receive honorary life membership)[26]

Life Members


  1. ^ Sam Elworthy (1990). Ritual Songs of Defiance. Otago University Students' Association. ISBN 978-0-473-00899-4.
  2. ^ Otago University Students' Association. "About OUSA" . Retrieved 28 March 2011.
  3. ^ W.S. McCallum. "New Zealand Student Politics 1980s–1990s" . Retrieved 19 December 2008.
  4. ^ "Elections – OUSA Otago University Students Association" . Retrieved 9 August 2010.
  5. ^ Hollingworth, Julia (26 July 2010). "OUSA Surviour contest turns nasty" . Critic (2010/17): 8. ISSN 0111-0365 . OCLC 173348156 . Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  6. ^ Hollingworth, Julia (9 August 2010). "Referendum: Will. Not. Die" . Critic (2010/19): 9. ISSN 0111-0365 . OCLC 173348156 . Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  7. ^ "Section 229A" . Education Act 1989 No 80 (as at 01 February 2011). New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
  8. ^ "The OUSA Executive" . Otago University Students' Association. Archived from the original on 30 July 2008. Retrieved 9 September 2008.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Association, Otago University Students'. "OUSA Student Executive" . OUSA - Otago University Students' Association.
  10. ^ "OUSA president-elect stunned at dumping" . New Zealand Herald. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 9 September 2008.
  11. ^ Mann, Brittany (20 March 2015). "Thousands expected for infamous Hyde St keg party" . The Press. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  12. ^ Elder, Vaughn (8 April 2013). "Moves to increase safety at Hyde St keg party" . Allied Press.
  13. ^ "Recreation and Clubs – Otago University Students Association" . Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  14. ^ Otago University Students' Association. "Support - OUSA" . Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  15. ^ "Excellence in student media recognised" . Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  16. ^ "Student drug-rape magazine banned" . New Zealand Herald. 1 February 2006. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  17. ^ "Case Number: 2144 OTAGO MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT TRUST AGAINST CRITIC-TE AROHI" . New Zealand Press Council. October 2010. Archived from the original on 5 February 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  18. ^ "Complaint over vagrant article in 'Critic' upheld" . Otago Daily Times. 9 November 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  19. ^ "'Critic' Editor Steps Down" . Otago Daily Times. Tue, 21 May 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  20. ^ "Critic Editor Receives Payout" . Salient. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  21. ^ "The Critic Payout" . Kiwiblog. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  22. ^ Dignan, J. (19 February 2009). "Pilots of the airwaves still" . Otago Daily Times. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2009.
  23. ^ "Aaron Hawkins" . Daily Blog. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  24. ^ "Councillor Aaron Hawkins" . Dunedin City Council. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Life Members – Otago University Students Association" . Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  26. ^ "OUSA celebrates 125 years" . Retrieved 17 October 2016.

External links


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