A group of Pasifika law students at Auckland University of Technology have raised concerns about the lack of support for Pasifika in its legal studies programme at the Manukau campus.
The concerns have been brought to the attention of the faculty, but the students believe that they are still being ignored.
AUT began offering courses for its Bachelor of Laws degree at its Manukau campus in 2016, telling news programme Te Karere that part of the reason was to help increase the number of Māori and Pasifika lawyers.
Despite promises from AUT of mentor programmes and meaningful support, some students have told RNZ Pacific such assistance was never forthcoming.
Annette Collins is now in her fourth year studying law at AUT and feels the university has misrepresented the degree of support available to Pasifika students.
Collins said that she had heard from a couple of students that one of the reasons they had enrolled was the possibility of support from Pasifika Law Students Association.
Despite AUT's prospectus and website still referring to it, Collins said AUT staff had confirmed it is a "defunct association".
After discussing these issues with other senior Pasifika law students, Collins now believes the lack of support for Pasifika is not new.
"From the years that I've been enrolled in the programme, since 2018, and discussions that I've had with fellow students as well as those who have either been enrolled since 2016 or at the same time I was enrolled, there's been a great number of concerns over the lack of Pasifika support."
Concerned about the struggles of first-year Pasifika law students, Collins approached the faculty.
She has had meetings with several AUT law faculty members to discuss ways to support new Pasifika law students, but she said these have not yielded any meaningful additional support.
Collins and other senior Pasifika law students tried to start their own mentoring programmes for junior students and despite contacting the Pacific Advancement Office, Collins felt that the promised support, such as resources to run workshops, room space, or even whiteboard markers did not materialise.
"Even though I reached out to a staff member, I was met with, 'look I will get in contact with you' and that just never happened."
With the help of another student, Collins ran a two-day workshop aimed at training senior students to mentor Pasifika and non-Pasifika law students, but says she still feels disheartened and discouraged.
"We know law is difficult, and we don't want the answers, but what we would like is for AUT to meet us halfway."
Fourth-year law student Michelle Unasa Va'afusuaga Maua, won a scholarship to study law at the South Campus and enrolled expecting "massive support" and mentoring.
"It has not been my experience at all, if anything there has been no support for Pasifika students."
The Māori and Pasifika Law Association (Mapla) was there early on, but disbanded in 2016.
The following year the Pacific Island Law Student Association (Pilsa) was created, says Maua, but also was short-lived.
"And after I signed up for it, there were no initiatives run by the Pilsa group. It's been inactive since 2017."
Maua, Collins and a few other students have come together to voluntarily support first-year students.
"So we had come together to run with our own money on a voluntary basis, [to provide] support for Pasifika students in their first year."
One guest lecturer she approached was willing to write to the dean highlighting the lack of support for Pasifika students.
"We got to talking and that's how the initiative of us volunteering our time to kind of mentor the first year students through their exams came about."
Another first year student, who did not want to be named, said that without the support of Collins, Maua and Brown, she wouldn't have continued her studies. She said the only reason why she applied to study at AUT was because of its campus in Manukau.
She said she did not expect to be spoon-fed the material, but a support or mentoring programme would have made a huge difference.
AUT Law School student support and success associate head Alison Cleland said the South Campus tried to "offer an accessible, friendly place to study law".
However, AUT Law School associate professor Khylee Quince said students needed to be more engaged.
"The establishment and operation of student associations are a matter for students. The association for Pacific students at AUT law has been non-operational for several years due to a lack of student commitment," Quince said.
"Until 2016 Māori and Pacific students operated a joint association, when they devolved into separate bodies - the Māori association has continued, the Pacific one has not, despite periodic prompts from staff. Academic staff work with student associations, but are not involved in their operations.
"Pacific students have been welcomed into Te Aro Ture, the Māori law students' association and the general students' association AUTLSS (AUT Law Students Association).
"The school and faculty provide academic and pastoral support to all students in association with these established bodies.
"I am not aware of any independent student-driven initiatives that have been mooted outside of existing bodies and processes. We are committed to providing appropriate support for all students, and to hearing any concerns students have."