Statement from Professor Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor | Tumu Whakarae

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Coroner Johnson has today delivered her finding on the cause and place of death of University of Canterbury (UC) student Mason Pendrous. We are devastated by the findings and once again we express our sincere condolences to Mason’s family and friends. In Coroner Johnson’s report we understand that the place of death is now confirmed and that tragically his cause of death is undetermined due to decomposition.

The University is committed to taking whatever action is necessary to make sure this never happens again. The independent report by Hon. Kit Toogood QC will provide us a set of findings and recommendations and we are ready to implement these as soon as possible.

Pending that report we have internally reviewed our processes and have already put in place further steps to ensure that appropriate pastoral care is available for all UC students in UC-affiliated accommodation.  Our updated standards and compliance obligations, in line with the incoming Code of Practice in the Education (Pastoral Care) Amendment Bill, will be updated and take effect in new agreements with all of our accommodation partners.  Our students, parents, whānau and schools can be assured that we take the health, safety and wellbeing of our students very seriously.

In 2020 UC will not support the offering of semi-independent accommodation packages for first-year students. Apartment-style accommodation will only be available with enhanced support; which includes Residential Advisors (RAs) living onsite at a 1:25 ratio. In addition, UC will introduce new measures in 2020 to further improve student support for all students on campus, not just those in residential accommodation:

Early Alert System
For 2020 UC is implementing a new dashboard platform that will provide students and staff with an enhanced real-time view of engagement with learning systems and academic progress. Dedicated UC resources will be responsible for monitoring and escalating issues as they arise. This will enable students who need more support to be identified and followed up more quickly.

Social Connectivity (Buddies)
In the lecture theatres and beyond, and in collaboration with the UCSA and student clubs, UC will also introduce a “Connection” programme available to all first-year students to participate in a buddy system to help each other as they transition into a new life situation.

Orientation+ Programme
An expanded induction programme covering support services, the student code of conduct, consent awareness, belonging/inclusiveness and alcohol/drugs/risks for first-year students will be offered. The goal is to increase understanding and awareness for first-year students to maximise their wellbeing and ensure they understand how to access all relevant support services available.  

We have formally requested accommodation provider Campus Living Villages (CLV) to respond to a number of areas of concern. We also anticipate other policy, process and procedural changes being identified in Hon. Kit Toogood QC’s findings and recommendations.  Our expectation is that any issues will be addressed before commencement in 2020. 

We await the final independent report being prepared by former High Court Judge Hon. Kit Toogood QC and we will share those findings with Mason’s family, friends and our communities as soon as possible. We understand that the Hon. Kit Toogood QC will make a statement today about the timing of completion of his report. 

Professor Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor | Tumu Whakarae

 -ENDS-

A face-to-face update and interviews will be made available with the release of the independent investigator’s report. UPDATE: Following the Coroner’s prohibited publication orders unfortunately this is no longer possible.