The stereotype of the couch-burning student is quickly becoming a thing of the past as University of Otago's tough stance on fire-lighting and other antisocial antics pays dividends.

The university's annual disciplinary reports showed the proctor dealt with 483 offenders last year, down from 576 the previous year.

The most dramatic drop was in the number of fire-related incidents, which had fallen from 128 in 2015 to 70 last year.

The drop is part of a continuing trend, which has seen the number of fire-related incidents fall every year since 2011, when there were 258 incidents.


Proctor Dave Scott told the Otago Daily Times the reports showed the university's efforts were working.

"The statistics don't lie and we are pleased that what we are targeting, including student disorder and poor behaviour, is trending down.

"This is in part due to tougher penalties," Mr Scott said.

In his report, he said traditionally busy celebrations, such as St Patrick's Day, the Melbourne Cup and Guy Fawkes, were quieter than in previous years.

"The Hyde St [keg party] followed the trend of recent years in being a well-organised and supervised event that drew little adverse media attention."

Each year minor changes were made to improve the event.

Last year a one-way door policy was put in place from 1pm.

Police resourcing of the event was halved from previous years with "no discernible effect".


Willowbank Senior Station Officer Pete Douglas agreed students' attitudes towards lighting fires were changing as they became increasingly aware of the consequences.

Students were also less likely to throw missiles or cause hassles for firefighters when they did go into the student quarter to fight fires.

So far it had been a "quiet start" to the student year, with only a small number of fires lit.

"Hopefully O-Week will follow suit and it doesn't get to busy for us."

The number of students fined last year dropped from 177 to 34, due in part to a change which allowed Campus Watch staff to verbally warn students for transgressions at the time of an incident.

Mr Scott said this practice was later reversed as the warnings proved "difficult" for Campus Watch staff to administer consistently and fairly.

The total value of fines dropped from $21,380 to $6814.

The number of the most serious cases, which were referred to vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne, increased from 12 to 21.

The increase was largely because eight students were referred to Prof Hayne for bottle-smashing incidents, previously dealt with by either the provost or proctor.

Five incidents resulted in expulsions, including one involving five students who behaved in a "disorderly manner causing considerable emotional distress to the occupants of a car, and extensive damage to the car".

All five were excluded from the university for the first semester of this year.

In another case, a first-year student arrested by police for making an intimate visual recording of a fellow student was excluded for all of this year.

A second-year student who assaulted a staff member who was dissuading him from throwing eggs at participants in the toga party during last year's O-Week withdrew from the university, but would be subject to completion of the disciplinary process should he seek to re-enrol.