Readership of Otago University's student newspaper, Critic Te Arohi, skyrocketed this week thanks to an unseemly row over its menstruation issue, which was there one minute, gone the next.

News that some 2000 copies had been seized by the proctor, moved many people to ask: What the hell's a proctor?

Apparently there was concern the edition might be offensive to women, among others. Anyone who thinks there's still much of a taboo around talking about menstruation obviously doesn't take in a lot of stand-up comedy.

Editor Joel MacManus explained the rationale for the themed issue on the Spinoff website: "The decision to do a menstruation issue was made after a suggestion by the Otago Women's Club, all the menstruation-related content was written by female or non-binary contributors, and the cover artwork (which was of a non-gendered person) was done by a woman."


Which explains all those captions describing the cover as showing a "person menstruating".

The magazine featured some sharp, sit-up-and-take-notice writing, with far fewer puns than you might have expected.

Stories headed "Sexing It Up in Shark Week" and "Bloody Hell: 18 students share their best period stories" would have informed anyone who needed informing about lesser-known aspects of a basic fact of nature, even if they occasionally lapsed into stating the obvious: "Bleeding like a stuck pig for approximately 1/6th of our lives (which is around 15 years of solid bleeding, btw) isn't an awful lot of fun."

The university has admitted it was wrong, apologised and would like everyone to move on, please. It really does believe in freedom of expression and respects people's right to talk about things freely and candidly.

Criticism would no doubt have been expected but stealing and destroying publications is an extreme way to make your point.

That said, at least Otago only dumped one edition of a magazine. It's not like they were planning to close the largest fine arts library in the Southern Hemisphere as Auckland University appears hell-bent on doing.

Social and other media were aghast a few weeks ago when it was announced that the music, fine arts and architecture libraries, along with a couple of branch libraries, were to be "amalgamated" with the main library, and books that are now freely available would be put into storage.

Petitions, rallies and all manner of brouhaha ensued. Meanwhile, the authorities remained stoic and silent, confident in the knowledge that it would all blow over.

And indeed, as is the way of such matters, the roar has ceased and as the semester comes to an end the authorities will almost certainly get on with doing what they intended to all along.

Criticism of authorities at Otago and Auckland is based on a misunderstanding of what universities do. Many people are mired in an anachronistic view of them as places of learning and the quest for knowledge, of inquiry and intellectual exploration for its own sake.

But universities are no longer academies; they are corporations. Once tertiary fees were introduced, the priority shifted to growing revenue, not minds. The threatened libraries, as a spokesperson said, represented "significant operational costs for a small amount of users". Tsk.

In order to keep revenue up, as many young people as possible are now expected to get a degree, often in fields which are already oversupplied.

Profit-driven universities like Auckland have expanded their offerings in commercially oriented subjects, which young people will study in the mistaken belief that they will emerge with a job-getting qualification. It's a cruel trick to play on young people. At least no one studying for an arts degree is under the delusion there will be a job waiting for them at the end of it.