A graduating University of Auckland student has accepted her degree wearing a shirt protesting what she calls the institution's inaction on racial harassment.
Politics and media studies major Pearl Little walked on stage to accept her arts degree yesterday wearing a shirt stating, "UOA: Complicit in white supremacy".
The message was in protest against issues with "growing alt-right and white supremacy movements that have been bubbling for the past few years", Little said.
"This came to a head a few weeks ago, just before the mid-semester break, where quite a few students were experiencing harassment in the arts grad-lab," she said.
"We thought as a collective that the university wasn't doing enough to be mindful of the concerns of the students."
Little's protest comes after a group of students wrote an open letter earlier this month, saying there was "clear evidence that there is indeed a presence of white supremacist activity, and a number of students have experienced this very directly".
This included white supremacist graffiti, posters and stickers being left around the university recently.
Some students also told Radio NZ there had been threats made against students and that a complaint was made against one student wearing Nazi symbols 5-6-years ago, but that person was still going to class and intimidating others.
However, university vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon said at the time it was "utter nonsense" to claim there was a growing white supremacy movement on campus.
"There is absolutely no evidence of an increasing problem and where concerns are raised we act quickly to ensure student and staff safety.
"The university took complaints very seriously and, in both instances, students were offered support and were met with, even prior to formal complaints being laid."
University spokeswoman Lisa Finucane today said the stories the university had been hearing from students were "anecdotal and often historic".
"There have been two separate cases of individuals whose beliefs conflict with many people at this university," she said.
"They are both subject to formal complaints [about their actions] which the university continues to investigate, as well as addressing the behaviour that some students found intimidating."
She said that with about 40,000 students and 6000 staff, the two complaints did not "constitute a widespread or growing problem".
But Little said she acted because McCutcheon's initial response was inadequate.
"I thought it would be a good chance at the graduation to explain how I felt about the university and their handling of these cases," she said.
She said her graduation shirt was a one-person protest although, she had a lot of friends supporting the stance.
Finucane said Little "was of course absolutely free to wear" whatever she chose at her graduation.
"Our commitment to freedom of speech means people are free to express those views, so long as they don't cross a line into harassment or intimidation of others," she said.
"Robust discussion is at the heart of this university."