Best Headline: “Mel B Gets Face Deep in Geri’s Zigazig-ah.”
I really shouldn’t have to explain this one. Close runner-up was “Historic Victory: Craccum Sweeps UOA FIlmSoc’s Pub Quiz” (for bar-tab related reasons).
The Guy Williams Award for the Best Shit Chat News Story:THE MEASLES.
The real infection story of this year was the epidemic of shit jokes that broke out across campus as a result of the measles fiasco. For about three weeks straight, I couldn’t go one day without someone pointing to a person with a cold and telling me they had the measles.
Girl sniffling on the train to uni? It’s THE MEASLES.
Guy coughs in the back of the lecture theatre? It’s THE MEASLES.
Someone hospitalised with a cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash? Oh no, THE MEASLES.
Comedy fucking gold.
Honestly, grow up. If you cracked the “is that the measles, eh?” joke more than once this year, go home, look yourself in the mirror, turn around on the spot, click your heels together, and give yourself the biggest one-handed uppercut you can muster. Then call your mother and apologise for subjecting her to 9 months of suffering for this.
The AJ Hackett Award for the Biggest Plummet Followed by the Biggest Rise: University of Auckland’s international rankings.
If I learned anything this year, it’s that global university rankings are arbitrary, meaningless, and prone to constant fluctuation.
The year started off pretty much as expected, university-rankings wise. A report released by Quacquarelli Symonds said UoA had slipped in international rankings – from a quite-respectable 82nd position in 2018, to a literally complete dogshit unacceptable 85th position in 2019. At the same time, Times Higher Education (THE) announced the university had fallen out of their top 200 spots for the first time in history. Cue Craccum’s “University of Auckland Slightly Shitter (According to International Polls)” article.
But only a few weeks later, the absolute bastion of ethical and accurate journalism that is Craccum had to 180 like Tony Hawk on a slippery carousel, when THE had a schizophrenic episode and released another university rankings list. This list had different, environmentally focused ranking criteria – and placed the University of Auckland in that sweet, sweet number one spot. “University of Auckland Best in World”, Craccum declared. The article was quickly followed by “University of Auckland Has Highest Concentration of ‘World Class’ Academics in Country, Research Claims” and “University of Auckland Climbs in Global Rankings”, as other institutions revised their opinions of the university upwards.
The Shortland Street Award for The News Story That Just Wouldn’t Die: the Victoria University name change debacle.
It started in March, with rumors that the university was still discussing changing its name to University of Wellington (as reported in “Victoria University Still Debating Name Change?”). Stupidly, I dismissed the rumors. Hadn’t Guildford’s proposed name change already been shut down by Education Minister Chris Hipkins in September of 2018?
But Guildford isn’t the Prince of Persistence for nothing.
Just two weeks after Craccum off-handedly dismissed the rumors, Vice-Chancellor Guildford stood before a crowd of reporters and strongly suggested he would be taking his name change to court (as reported in “Victoria University Poised to Attempt Name Change Again”). Guilford told the crowd he had already consulted with several lawyers on the matter, and was confident he could get the court to overrule Hipkins’ decision. He was ready to see this name-change through to the bitter end.
Unfortunately for Guildford, he was forced to back down on his statement when other, saner members of the university council convinced him that taking the government to court for refusing to grant a name change which had drawn more than 10,000 petitions from student and staff opposed to it probably wasn’t the most responsible thing to do (as reported in “Victoria University Officially Backs Down on Name Change (Again)”).
But if Vice-Chancellor Guildford is good at anything, it’s persisting – like a middle-aged mum refusing to leave until she speaks to the manager, or a creepy breather who just won’t stop grinding on you in the mosh pit of Bar 101, Guildford doesn’t stop until he’s pissed off everyone within a five-mile radius.
Just when it seemed like Guilford’s unerring persistence in the face of rationality was doomed to fail, Guilford was able to force through a logo redesign that basically renamed the university (reported in “Victoria University Changes Name of Business Faculty to Wellington School of Business and Government in Logo Redesign”). Removing ‘Victoria’ from the name, the logo was simply the word WELLINGTON plastered in block capitals across a blank white background. Touché, Guilford.
The Rocky Balboa Award for Taking The Most Punches, But Still Managing To Get Back Up (Just in Time to Get Punched Again): Stuart McCutcheon.
I’m not sure that this one counts, for two reasons: 1) most of the punches were self-administered, and 2) Stuart McCutcheon didn’t ever really get back up – he just kind of lay there on the mat asking for more. But I’m counting it anyways, because I’m the news editor and I like arbitrary enforcement of my powers.
Stuart had a pretty rough time of it this year.
It started early in the first semester, when he called reports of white supremacist posters on campus “utter nonsense” in a press release sent to the public. Shortly after the statement was circulated, more posters were found, students filed a complaint against an allegedly Neo-Nazi post-grad, and police were called to O’Rorke because a student threatened to exterminate “locust” Asian students living in the hall (as reported in “Police Called to O’Rorke Hall After Threats of Assault and Genocide”).
The police had obviously missed the point: the biggest threat to the university seems to have been Stuart McCutcheon’s inability to speak to press without publicly shitting the bed.
A few months after the first white supremacy debacle, McCutcheon met with Craccum to discuss an article of ours. The article, “Rags to Rags, Riches to Riches: The University of Auckland’s Unfair Scholarship Programme” argued that the university’s scholarship system disproportionately favored the rich. Using data obtained under the Official Information Act, we were able to show that the richest 10% of students were awarded five times as much in accommodation grants as the poorest 10% of students. His response: “giving a student a scholarship to go to med school when they’re not going to pass year 11 maths is a complete waste of time.”
He followed this up by telling Craccum that the university would not condemn or remove white supremacist posters from campus for fear of violating free speech – another McCutcheon homerun.
The Iron Giant Award for the Article Headline that Made Me the Most Sad: “Weeks After University of Auckland Deny Communicating With China Consulate, Documents Suggest They Have.”
In August of this year it was revealed that the China Consulate had tried to strong-arm AUT into denying a pro-Tibet protest group access to university grounds. Intrigued, I wondered if the University of Auckland had experienced anything similar.
I was about to make an Official Information Act request asking the university if they had contacted the China Consulate when I noticed someone else had already done so. The university had replied to that request only a few days earlier, saying there hadn’t been any contact – so I decided not to ask, and deleted about two pages of notes I had already written up.
Two weeks later, Stuff revealed the university were lying: there had been contact between the consulate and the university. The university justified their earlier statements by saying the contact wasn’t with the university, but with university staff.
I’ve never felt so betrayed in my life. Not cool guys.
The RSPCA Award for Most Abused Literary Device: square brackets.
I have a problem with square brackets. I know that. [I apologise.]